Beyerdynamic has launched their first active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones in Singapore and I’m really excited to get my hands (and ears) to do this headphones review. The 95-year-old company has undergone a corporate rebranding with a new logo and brand positioning which appears more welcoming to the younger crowd. The Lagoon ANC retails at S$599, putting it at the same price range as the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the new Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
Unboxing and Details
The Lagoon ANC comes in 2 colours, and beyerdynamic distinguishes then with the names. Lagoon ANC Explorer is brown, while Lagoon ANC Traveller is black. Unboxing the retail package is straightforward: the headphones is already packed in the hard case, ready to be used. The only other accessories are the USB-C cable and the 3.5mm wire, as well as the quick start guide.
The case is in an asymmetrical shape, so you can only store the headphones in one way, which is to fold the left earcup inwards. The hinges are quite loose, just grab the headband and the headphones will unfold in place.
All the switches, controls and connections are located on the right earcup. There is the power-Bluetooth switch, the ANC mode switch, USB-C charging port, the 3.5mm line-in port, and the touch panel. I like that the touch panel can adjust volume quickly and fast forward tracks by sliding and holding onto the panel, instead of swiping multiple times. But I dislike the switches that are small and hard to slide accurately. It requires muscle control to slide the ANC switch to Mode 1, and quite often I over-slide. Another bugbear is that I sometimes slide the wrong switch, turning off the headphones instead. And the startup sequence takes almost 12 seconds before I get to hear the streaming audio again. I recommend disabling voice prompts from the app so that every setting change will be faster and less disruptive to the listening experience.
I noticed that the ear cushion is thicker at the bottom rear of the earcups to contour around the back of the lower ear. It is a nice attention to detail to achieve better seal. When you replace the earpads, make sure you fit the correct sides. The soft artificial leather and memory foam offers the right amount of comfort for me.
Battery life is 24.5 hours with ANC and 45 hours without, more than adequate to last you an entire flight. If battery runs out, switch to passive mode by connecting the audio cable directly to the source.
The Light Guide System inside the earpads is an interesting implementation, keeping the operational notification discreet, but very obvious when not wearing. Unlike other headphones where the LED indicator is too small to be noticeable, you will know whether the Lagoon ANC power is on. The LED light inside the ear cups will pulsate with various colour indicators, which you can learn from the link here.
It takes a while to remember what the lights mean, but you will get more familiar as you use more often. For starters, when you remove the headphones, it will show continuous orange to indicate it’s on Bluetooth mode. After 10 seconds, the light will turn off. If you touch the headphones, the light will turn on, the left side will be white-purple and the right side will be red (useful when trying to wear the headphones in low light. During charging, the lights will pulse in various colours from red to green to denote the battery level. If you think it’s annoying, just face the earcups on the surface.
The MIY app provides some information on the headphones like firmware version, and can do factory reset. It informs you on your listening stats and warn you if your ears need a rest. It can also adjust the touch panel sensitivity, disable voice prompts, and to change the default LED colour. With the latest firmware update, it can also disable the auto-pause sensor, which I find is not as reactive as other brands like Jabra Elite 85h, because Lagoon ANC uses gyroscope sensor instead of proximity sensor. That is, if you turn the headphone 90-degrees forward, it will auto-pause. It does not pause if you turn the headphone backward, the position when you lean backwards in a sleeping position.
The main feature of the app is to personalise your sound profile by going through a hearing test, which determines how well you hear each frequency range. During the test, the headphones will play very soft frequency tones and you will press the on-screen button if you can hear it (I recommend you to do this exercise in a quiet area). The test will be done one ear at a time. After the test is completed, I can activate it from the app. For me, the difference on the tuning after the test is that the tweeter frequencies are made more transparent. Personally, I prefer without the upper boost as it is less fatiguing for me, but from this test, I get to understand my hearing deficiency.
While the app notifies you of a firmware update, you can only do so from the Update Hub software on the Windows or Mac (download instructions here), when most other headphones already support over-the-air updates through the smartphones. It would be good to have OTA, but not a deal breaker for me since firmware updates are not frequent.
The Lagoon ANC dynamic drivers can handle 10 – 30,000 Hz frequency range, and there are many listening options, from passive audio to digital audio to wireless audio (SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX LL), from non-ANC and ANC.
Let’s start with the ANC modes enabled. There is deep bass response on the Lagoon ANC, not too massively boomy, but is sufficient to give impact without overwhelming. It’s telling you that “I’m here, you can hear me, but I won’t make a scene.” The midrange is also slightly elevated, though still not quite reference level warmth yet. This elevation adds support to the vocals and instrumental tonality. The treble is revealing, analytical, yet not too fatiguing. Piano pedal movements are so easy to be heard, and so are the subtle vocal crackles.
Sound staging is spacious, instruments are layered, and you can sense the room reverb through the detailed aftertones and echoes. It is easy for my ears to pick up the numerous instrumental details. Even when the volume level is high, the midrange-occupying instruments are still audible despite the prominent solo instrument. Still, as a closed-back headphones, sound pressure will build up at loud volumes, so it will not be as open-sounding.
Comparatively, the Bose QC35II achieves tighter sound staging, fuller mids which might be too intense for laid back enjoyment. The Sony WH-1000XM3 is pleasantly balanced but does not offer the musical details as readily as Lagoon ANC. The Master & Dynamic MW65 offers tighter enjoyable sound, but not as revealing. There are a lot of information and it takes an analytical ear to pick them up, which makes the Lagoon ANC a brain-teasing headphones for audiophiles like myself.
Active Noise Cancelling
The ANC effect on the Lagoon ANC could not reach the level of Bose or Sony, but beyerdynamic describes it as “relaxed silence”. For Bose and Sony, the silence might be too deafening for many. The ANC effect on the low frequency elimination is on par with Master & Dynamic MW65 except MW65 lets in a little more upper frequencies. But Lagoon ANC is less effective when spectacles are worn, while on other ANC headphones, my specs does not affect ANC.
With ANC off, the Lagoon ANC lacks sub-bass feel, giving the midrange slight improvement, with more warmth and more forward, vocals sound more chesty, the airiness reveals more without the bass fighting for attention. For audio purists, this might be a preferred mode as the bass is not artificially boosted. You can still hear the sub-bass, albeit less intense.
You can tell the quality of a pair of headphones when you listen to it in passive mode, which is turning off the power and connecting by wire to the player. The sound is more natural, less compressed, more resolving, than through Bluetooth wireless audio. The bass is not too forcefully loud, neither is the treble too sparkling. The beauty is in the musical details that I get to enjoy, true to beyerdynamic’s audiophile legacy.
One feature that is not often mentioned in other reviews is that the Lagoon ANC supports USB Audio. Plug the USB-C cable to the computer and you can listen to digital audio through the built-in DAC on the headphones. Volume can be controlled from the headphones, but not track changes and play-pause. Needless to say, the audio details is further improved. The other ANC headphones don’t have this feature.
There is a lot of goodness in the beyerdynamic LAGOON ANC. In many ways, the company wants to be innovative with their first ANC headphones, forging their unique style to appeal to a more discerning group. The audio quality is undeniable a league of their own, and the flexibility of audio transport – wired or wireless, analog or digital, ANC or without ANC – is fantastic. I like the ability to fast forward and change volume with swipe-and-hold, and with the loose folding joints, I can easily unfold and wear the headphones. The matt plastic offers lower maintenance compared to glossy or fabric surfaces.
New owners may experience some learning curve to familiarise with the overall usage. For instance, the asymmetrical casing requires the headphones to be folded in a specific way, the LED colour codes need to be remembered to make sense. My biggest issue is the tiny switches for ANC and power, but after a few days of constant usage, I have remembered the position of both switches and to push the ANC mode ever so lightly to get to Mode 1. As for the hard case, I am using my own cloth bag to store the Lagoon ANC, which as you can see from the photo below, is capable of achieving a much smaller footprint than the original case.
Is Lagoon ANC the best sounding ANC headphones? I would think so. There appears to be little compromises to offer exceptional sound quality with active noise-cancelling. While the ANC cannot match the incumbents, it is a good compromise for consumers who value audio premium over absolute noise-cancellation.
The beyerdynamic LAGOON ANC is available in the variants Traveller (Black) and Explorer (Brown) at local beyerdynamic retailers such as AV Intelligence, Challenger Stores, Musica by Challenger, Robinsons Heeren, TANGS Orchard, Stereo Electronics and online stores such as Lazada (beyerdynamic flagship store), Headphones.sg, Shoppee and TREOO.com. Its recommended local retail price is S$599.00.
- Exceptionally detailed sound quality
- Supports Digital Audio via USB
- Sound personalisation works for me without excessively artificial sound alteration
- ANC switch is prone to operating errors
- ANC does not work that well for spectacle wearers
- Build and design less premium feel than competitors