Beyerdynamic’s new wireless headphones put the LED lights on the insideAugust 31, 2018
The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC headphones come with a neat lighting trick: instead of having exterior LEDs spoiling their aesthetic, they have internal lights to inform the user of their status. It’s such a simple switch in thinking, executed with a smidgen of flair, yet its effect is profound. When you think about it, the only time you want to see a status light on your headphones is when they’re off your head, and you probably want to see that light without ambiguity. So Beyerdynamic has done what’s obvious in hindsight by illuminating the inner periphery of the cups with informative colors.
When you first pick up a Lagoon pair that’s already on, the left ear cup will glow blue and the right one will glow red — because that’s when you’ll want help differentiating between the symmetrical left and right ear cups. When they’re in Bluetooth syncing mode, the headphones will pulsate in a matching blue, alternating from cup to cup. When successfully paired, orange, Beyerdynamic’s brand color, will indicate that the headphones are connected and ready for use. Red alerts will show up when the battery is about to run out, and charging is accompanied by a graduating palette of colors, with the lights first blinking red, then orange, then yellow, and finally green when fully charged.
It’s not often that I spend so much time talking about how headphones look and behave when they’re not on someone’s head, but this feature has been really growing on me in the hours since I first saw and tried it at Beyerdynamic’s booth. It’s just thoughtful. Someone took the time to consider how wireless audio users really use their headphones and tailored a solution specifically to the challenges faced by that (constantly expanding) crowd.
When worn, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon are comfortable, though not as stupendously light and luxurious as Sony’s latest 1000Xs or Bose’s QC35s. Those are two of the most prominent noise-canceling over-ear headphones, and Beyerdynamic is clearly picking a fight with them (rather than, say, Bowers & Wilkins’ PX, which is heftier and less compact).
There’s a touch of creakiness to the demo Lagoon models I saw here at IFA, though I’m told that’s only because they’re early units built specifically for the show. The final headphones will also have replaceable pads, according to Beyerdynamic. In terms of other basic features, the Lagoon is a close match to its Sony and Bose rivals: all three models have collapsible designs and come with a rigid carrying case included. Sony and Beyerdynamic, having the more recent models, also gain the edge on Bose by offering USB-C charging.
The battery life promises made by Beyerdynamic with the Lagoon are eyebrow-raising. With active noise canceling turned on, these headphones are rated to last 24 hours — and when it’s switched off, they’re supposed to last for 46 hours. If these numbers are even close to reality, the Lagoon will wind up being the most forgiving pair of headphones for people who make a habit of forgetting or misplacing their charger.
I’m still not a fan of touch controls on headphones, which is what Beyerdynamic has implemented on the Lagoon. During my testing at IFA, the Lagoon’s controls were especially finicky and irritating, not recognizing my double taps to play and pause the music, but I’m willing to accept that as an understandable imperfection of a demo unit. Beyerdynamic will have to nail this in the final retail product, much as Sony finally perfected the touch controls on its 1000X M3s.
Aside from an accompanying app that lets you tailor the sound to your preferences, Beyerdynamic has also smartened up the Lagoon with an automatic play/pause facility that recognizes when you take them off and put them back on. That already works with great accuracy. A long press on the right cup’s touchpad will launch either Google Assistant or Siri, depending on your phone’s operating system and your own choice. I’ve found practically every new pair of wireless headphones launching this week has USB-C charging and a digital assistant trigger. These are good trends; I’m not complaining.
Beyerdynamic plans to release the Lagoon ANC later this year at a price of €399. They’ll have to prove their worth on the strength of their noise canceling, battery endurance, and sound quality, but we’ll have to wait for the final review units to judge those aspects.
Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge