Beyerdynamic Xelento Wireless In-Ear Headphones Review
True wireless IEMs are now officially a thing, and they are here to stay. Apple stole the headline with its AirPods, then Sennheiser redefined it with the Momentum True Wireless. Has Beyerdynamic got what it takes to claim the crown? Let's find out.
The hype train has officially left the station, and the craze is real. True wireless IEMs are now officially a thing, and they are here to stay. Apple stole the headline with its AirPods, then Sennheiser redefined it with the Momentum True Wireless.
The industry has been yet to see a real juggernaut in this arena yet, and nothing has been released that trumps the rest and commands a flagship price.
That is, until now.
It takes a company like Beyerdynamic to step up to a challenge like this. After all, the first ever dynamic driver headphone was released from this German brand; a gamble that paid off in spades.
The Beyerdynamic Xelento IEM dropped in 2017 boasting Tesla drivers, stunning looks and remarkable German craftsmanship. This year, Beyerdynamic has decided to “cut the cord” and re-release the Xelento IEM with an included Bluetooth option.
Tesla drivers? Check. German engineering? Check. Critically acclaimed sound signature from one of the world's most famous headphone brands? Check and check.
With a hefty price tag of $1,699 RRP, this product is reaching out to a very particular demographic; one that appreciates a lot more than just audio quality. Has Beyerdynamic done enough to satisfy this specific flagship market?
What’s in the box?
- Enough tips to sink a battleship (7 pairs of silicone tips, 3 pairs of Tx-500 comply foam tips)
- Bluetooth cable with remote control
- Wired cable (3.5mm headphone jack)
- Clothing clips (one for the battery cable, and one for the wired cable)
- A leather storage pouch
- 1 spare pair of protective grills
Hiding inside an immaculate display box (complete with magnetic closing latches), the 7-gram silver IEMs sit in such an aesthetically pleasing manner that I almost feel bad taking them out for a listen.
The hand-assembled enclosures have a mirror finish, similar to the Beyerdynamic and A&K T8ie IEMs (released in 2015). While this finish does invite the occasional fingerprint, it looks stunning.
The leather style pouch is neat: with a magnetic latch, it can comfortably store the IEMs with either the Bluetooth or hard-wired cable (or maybe both, if you squeeze them in).
Each of the two included MMCX cables have silver-plated conductors and snap into place with a confident sounding “click”. The wired cable is a no-frills, 4-pole cable with a remote. The Bluetooth variant, however, is a much shorter (but slightly heavier) cord, which is punctuated at the end with a AAA battery sized power pack.
This power pack is USB rechargeable (Micro USB, not USB-C) and has a clothing clip, which offsets the slightly added bulk and weight of having a battery hanging out of your ears.
Upon closely inspecting the build of these IEMs, the sheer quality and attention to detail are striking. It’s the tiny details that matter the most: even the small little clip that holds the two IEM cables together appears to be a smooth, polished metal-style finish. Top notch stuff.
Featuring the same internals as the critically acclaimed Xelento IEMs, the 16ohm Tesla drivers are this time being driven by Bluetooth hardware from Beyerdynamic.
Beyerdynamic tells us that the miniaturised Tesla drivers have:
Tiny yet strong magnets and particularly delicate coils create a sonic image defined by precise impulses, exceptional transparency and an acoustic balance ranging from tight bass to detailed highs.
The 130 mAh battery pack which powers the Bluetooth hardware is rated to last up to 8 hours, and during my testing I found this to be fairly accurate.
The real selling point of the wireless system here is the inclusion of aptX HD. Allowing for playback of up to 24-bit/48kHz with resolution up to 576kbps, this is one of the few times I’ve seen this codec being used for headphones. Of course, for those who aren’t equipped to play with fancy high-end codecs, there is also regular aptX and AAC here as well (but no aptX-LLC).
This is where things start to get downright nuts. I've seen apps for personalising sound for headphones before, but the MIY Beyerdynamic app is next level. Upon opening it, it prompted me for my age and insisted I take its inbuilt hearing test.
Yup, a hearing test. Beyerdynamic has teamed up with Mimi Hearing Technologies to create an enhanced listening experience, tailor-made for each user. Beyerdynamic says that:
Mimi's technology simulates the signal processing, which happens in the human ear (especially within the Cochlea). In doing so, some information is emphasized in order to support the brain with discerning between different sound elements and processing those. Instead of adapting volume in a frequency-selective way, Mimi's sound personalization replicates processes within the human ear, which decrease naturally over time and ensures a clear, full and high-contrast sound.
This is different from a traditional EQ, as there aren’t specific bands that can be adjusted and tweaked by the user. Instead, the app itself makes the changes based on the user feedback and then stores the preset in the IEM itself (so you don’t need to keep using the app to recall it).
Unfortunately, I had some problems getting the “hearing test” component of the app to work, but I was still able to tinker around with some of the inbuilt presets of the app itself, which worked excellently.
Using the headphones
Finding the right fit is easy with this many tips, and I almost found myself wanting to continually swap them out to find a fit that was even better.
With a shallow insertion fit and an over-the-ear cable, these are a breeze to pop in quickly. I didn’t find myself constantly adjusting them at all but did notice a bit of driver flex on the odd occasion.
The IEMs are lightweight and comfortable, and the weight of the aluminium battery pack is quickly and easily mitigated with the attached clothing clip.
The inline cable remote worked fine with both Apple and Android devices and didn’t get in the way during extended listening sessions.
When switching the headphones on, a smooth voice guides you through the pairing process, and the LED light on the cable will indicate current pairing status. Once paired, the IEMs had no trouble connecting and disconnecting to my source device, and I didn’t experience any dropouts or audio issues.
Stunning good looks and a boatload of accessories are welcome, but essentially that means nothing if the audio quality isn’t up to the task.
Thankfully, Beyerdynamic has kept the famous Xelento drivers and sound signature intact for this release.
Even when using Bluetooth (via aptX-HD), the signature is warm and full-bodied, with plenty of midbass to boot. The bass extension is strong, and reaches right down low, punching all the way down to 40Hz before rolling off sharply.
There is plenty of emphasis around the 80Hz mark, giving plenty of depth and body to bass guitars and kick drums.
Having the right fit is essential for getting the full texture and visceral nature of the Tesla drivers low-end. But even when the perfect fit is found, the bass is controlled, tight and not overwhelming.
For the rest of the spectrum, things are equally as impressive, with a smooth and refined signature. Vocals come through with plenty of clarity and don’t have any painful hissing or squawking.
There is plenty of sparkle up top, similar to the Beyerdynamic AKT8ie IEMs from a few years ago. With plenty of bite around the 4-5kHz mark, snare drums have a snappy crisp hit to them, without giving off too much fatiguing sizzle or ringing.
It’s the kind of sound signature you can listen to for hours; healthy amounts of fat midbass, plenty (but not too much) upper mid, and a relaxed high-end. It’s a relatively gentle signature, with a soundstage that is utterly huge.
Due to the shallow insertion and lightweight metal bodies, the isolation factor isn’t too strong on these IEMs. If I’m wearing them in my ears with no music playing, I’m able to have an (admittedly awkward) conversation with someone standing in front of me. However, when I have music playing, outside noises aren’t too much of a bother.
With a refined, relaxed yet dynamic sound signature with plenty of controlled punch down low, the Xelento Wireless retains all of the parts that made it originally a favourite among reviewers when it first came out.
With the addition of aptX-HD and generous battery life, the Xelento range is now more accessible to a broader audience than before. A few extra hundred dollars may have been added to the RRP, but this is justified by the extra bells and whistles that have been added too.
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.