REVIEW: BEYERDYNAMIC LAGOON ANC HEADPHONES
The active noise-cancelling headphones market just had a new contender arrive in the form of Beyerdynamic, and its Lagoon ANC is worthy of the crown. Read on for the detailed review.
Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones
AUD $599 RRP
The noise-cancelling headphone market has become hugely contested with so many high quality and popular offerings from the likes of Sennheiser, Audio-Technica and Bowers & Wilkins. Finding the right pair of noise-cancelling headphones is definitely not the easiest task for the average consumer.
With so much competition, even Bose, arguably the titan of noise-cancelling headphones, had to refresh its own flagship line-up, dropping a new juggernaut on a travel-hungry audience with the release of the Bose NC700.
Beyerdynamic, having produced some of the best headphones on the market for audio engineers and audiophiles alike, the German microphone and headphone manufacturer never even dipped its toes into the noise-cancelling pool.
That is, until now. The Lagoon ANC is the new Bluetooth over-ear noise cancelling travel companion from Beyerdynamic. More affordable than the B&O H9i ($749) but costing slightly more than Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT ($499) and the Bowers & Wilkins PX ($549), the Lagoon ANC comes in at $599 RRP.
With some rich audio heritage behind the brand name, as well as some never-seen-before bells and headphone tech, the Lagoon ANC headphones took me by surprise in several ways.
But how does it stack up?
There are two different colour varieties for the Lagoon ANC, each with their own title: 'Traveller' for the black model, and 'Explorer' for the black/brown trim. Aside from the colour, these two models are identical.
Both models of the Lagoon ANC are made from high-quality plastics to keep them lightweight (which is vital for a travel companion headphone) and feel solid to the touch. The contoured pads are soft, thick and juicy.
The outside of the right headphone cup features a touch panel for controls, including the noise-cancelling switch, as well as the power switch.
Aside from Bluetooth connectivity (more on that later), the Lagoon ANC offers a 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C connection. These two inclusions immediately tell me that the boffins at Beyerdynamic have done their research before delving into this release. Many brands are either dropping the headphone jack entirely or still using Micro-USB for charging in 2019!
The young teenager inside me was very excited to discover one unusual feature of this headphone: a neat ring of LED lights inside each headphone cup. The LEDs will glow, pulsate and change colour a status according to the state of the headphone, indicating a range of information to the user.
The included hard case eats up a generous portion of bag space but is contoured neatly to fit into smaller pockets to mitigate its size.
Inside the headphone
The 1100 mAh battery powering the Lagoon ANC is rated for a whopping 45 hours without ANC, and 24.5 hours with ANC switched on. This is light years ahead of the current Bose flagship offering (the Bose NC700, which is rated at 20 hours maximum). Charging time is less than four hours for a full battery.
Each enclosure contains a 40mm driver, with a microphone on the right cup for taking calls. This microphone includes Qualcomm's cVc technology, which employs a range of algorithms to eliminate ambient noise such as road traffic or people chatting nearby.
On the codec front, we have SBC, AAC, mSBC as well as aptX, and aptX LL (Low Latency). All of this is surprisingly utilised by Bluetooth 4.2 (not Bluetooth 5.0). This limits the range of use to about 10 meters from the source device.
And if Bluetooth isn't your thing, I discovered that the Lagoon ANC has an unadvertised feature: you can also connect your audio device directly via USB-C to the headphone. Neat!
The digital noise-cancelling function has two separate settings, each of these can be toggled with the physical switch.
Using the headphone
Even without ANC turned on, the headphones isolate incredibly well, much stronger than most closed-back headphones that I've used recently. This is likely due to a combination of thick, contoured pads, a firm (but not excessive) headband clamp, and probably some intelligent German engineering as well.
When switching them on, a chirpy voice will cheerfully inform you that the headset is connected and that the battery level is high. The first time you hit “play” on a track, the voice quickly lets you know that the aptX codec is currently active. As an audiophile, I absolutely love this feature as headphones rarely indicate which profile they are using, and often hide this information away.
The touch panel controls can have their sensitivity adjusted through the accompanying app. The controls aren't terribly confusing, and you won't need too much training to learn the basics of volume adjustment and track skipping. I didn't have any problems with false touches, and these touch controls felt more fluid and intuitive than most others.
If you hold the centre of the touchpad down, it will activate either Siri or Google Assistant (depending on your source device).
Despite having two levels of noise-cancelling adjustment, there didn't seem to be any audio passthrough or ambient mode on the headphone. I'm hoping Beyerdynamic might add this popular feature with a firmware update.
Speaking of noise cancelling, this deserves a special mention here. Both levels of ANC are absolutely class-leading, isolating not just low frequencies, but a wide range of frequencies overall. It didn't bring any weird pressure feelings or audible artefacts. Very commendable, and terrific for both air and land travel.
Microphone and call quality were above average compared to similar noise-cancelling releases, but for some people, I imagine it might be a little unsettling to make phone calls with this much isolation.
A big part of the marketing surrounding this release is the inclusion of the sound personalisation features included with the accompanying app, 'MOSAYC'.
According to Beyerdynamic:
Our sense of hearing is unique and changes over the course of our lives. Like a mosaic, some pieces of the sound picture get lost or they fade. The unique MOSAYC sound personalisation by Mimi Defined™ compensates exactly this development and adjusts itself precisely to your hearing ability.
The app allows you to adjust the swipe sensitivity of the touch panel of the headphone but doesn't have any adjustments for tone or noise cancelling.
The app also takes your hearing health into consideration; it takes note of how loud you are listening, and for how long. It will provide feedback on your current volume levels, and will advise when you are listening too loud, or for too long. It helpfully doesn't just keep this information buried in the app but will also relay this information to the LED lights inside the ear cups as well.
The stand-out feature is the hearing personalisation though. While Beyerdynamic has offered this on its previous releases including Amiron Wireless and Aventho Wireless, the inclusion in its first active noise cancelling headphone offering is welcomed.
After a short hearing test via the app, a personalised sound profile is created based on what the user can (or can't) hear. This can then be applied and stored within the headphones. You can also dial in the amount of personalisation you want to be applied.
Having such a considerable amount of isolation without ANC even turned on really sets the stage for this headphone. When a headphone can block out the world so effectively, it really leaves a blank canvas for the 40mm Beyerdynamic drivers to paint on.
It starts off this painting with a deep, layered, textured bass response, full of body and presence. This doesn't just bring a booming and fun bassline for hip-hop, but this dynamic low-end also presents an active and warm low end for acoustic or gentle pieces as well. The bass emphasis is linear and wide, rather than having a specific narrow mid-bass hump.
The next brush strokes are the lower mids, which are slightly more pronounced than you'll find on Bowers & Wilkins' PX. While the low end is incredibly strong, it doesn't drown out the lower mids as collateral damage.
The entire midrange is detailed and delicate but without any honky or offensive shrill moments.
It's a similar story at the top end of the spectrum. Despite having the slightest amount of sizzle around the 7Khz mark, the Lagoon ANC presents a clean tonality in the midrange, with very little grain. The soundstage is excellent, even for a closed-back headphone.
The sound signature here reminds me in some ways of other Beyerdynamic headphones, such as the DT1990 and DT770, especially with the low end. These headphones don't present a flat, clinical and sterile frequency response; instead, it's more of a fun, enjoyable experience that I personally find much more endearing.
This warm, heavy bass mixed with some focused and detailed upper midrange is what makes a lot of Beyerdynamic fans so obsessed with this sound flavour.
With the ANC switched on, there are thankfully no weird pressure issues. The sound signature is very well retained, with no significant flaws becoming apparent when switching this on, other than the faintest hint of white noise when you're in a silent room. My hat goes off to Beyerdynamic for this sound quality; many headphones start sounding a bit nervous or wonky when the ANC comes into play, but the Lagoon ANC holds its composure neatly.
It might feel like a high asking price, but the sound quality alone is worth it.
Combine that with some incredible isolation, excellent noise cancelling ability and downright ridiculous battery life, and I would say that Beyerdynamic's first foray into the noise-cancelling realm has been a very successful one.
If you have the budget and want the best active noise-cancelling headphones on the market, your list of potential candidates had better include Beyerdynamic's Lagoon ANC.
For more information, visit Beyerdynamic.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.
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