Beyerdynamic’s new earphones are designed to lie comfortably flat in your ears

Beyerdynamic announced a new line of earphones at IFA yesterday that are all coming soon. The Byrd line of earphones are notable for having a flat design so if you lay on your side, they supposedly won’t protrude into your ear.

First in the collection is the entry-level, in-ear, wired Beat Byrd earphones (pictured above). They have an orange cable, and they look pretty standard besides the flat casing. Beyerdynamic claims they’ll have solid bass. The Beat Byrd earphone will be sold exclusively online on the company’s website for €24.90 ($28.89) starting at the end of September.


The midrange Soul Byrd earphones.
Image: Beyerdynamic


The premium Blue Byrd earphones.
Image: Beyerdynamic

Beyerdynamic also made the midrange wired Soul Byrd earphones, which come with five sizes of ear tips. They also come with a three-button remote with an integrated mic so you can summon Siri or Google Assistant while listening to music. The Soul Byrd earphones cost €79 ($91.65) and will go on sale by mid-October online and in stores.

Lastly, the Blue Byrd are Beyerdynamic’s wireless option that wrap around your neck. The company claims the earphones have a battery life of up to six hours on a single charge, which sounds low compared to the charge times offered by Anker’s budget audio brand Soundcore, for instance. The Blue Byrd earphones have a USB Type-C port for charging, and they run a low-latency audio codec that promises to match up audio with the video that’s playing with less lag. The release date for the Blue Byrd earphones is the most vague, and because it’s premium offering, as expected, it commands a hefty sum. It’ll be available at the end of the year for €129 ($149.68).

AptX Adaptive is Qualcomm’s latest solution to bad Bluetooth audio

If you stream music from an Android phone to a pair of wireless headphones, there’s a very good chance your devices are relying on a compression algorithm known as AptX, which is supposed to squeeze high-quality sound into the limited bandwidth provided by a Bluetooth connection. But existing AptX options have their limits, so Qualcomm — the company behind AptX since 2015 — is introducing a new version that’s supposed to grow and contract the size of audio data to meet the demands of whatever and wherever you’re actually streaming.

The new version of AptX is called AptX Adaptive, and its key feature is the ability to compress audio at a variable bitrate. That means if you’re in an environment with a lot of competing wireless signals, your phone will be able to compress your audio into a smaller file size so that it’s easier to stream to your headphones. And if you’re in an empty room listening to music, AptX Adaptive will allow your phone to send a higher bitrate file so that you get better audio quality.

Qualcomm says AptX Adaptive’s abilities go beyond just responding to signal strength. The codec will also take into account what kind of audio you’re streaming — if it sees the audio is coming from Netflix, it’ll know it’s a movie or TV show, for instance — and can adjust its settings according to the situation’s needs. This will all happen behind-the-scenes, Qualcomm stresses, without any need for users to select a mode on their phone or identify what they’re listening to.

AptX Adaptive is meant as a replacement to traditional AptX and the newer AptX HD. Its bitrate can actually go lower than normal AptX (down to 280kbps, whereas AptX was a flat 384kbps), but it can’t reach quite as high as AptX HD (only going up to 420kbps, instead of 576kbps). Chris Havell, senior director of product marketing at Qualcomm, says that the limit doesn’t mean worse audio because compression improvements have allowed AptX to achieve the same level of quality in a smaller file size.

“We basically improved the codec so what you were getting at 576 you now get at 420,” Havell says. Reducing the bitrate also means more bandwidth for resending data that didn’t make it over to your headphones, meaning the connection could be stronger, too. Havell also says AptX Adaptive isn’t stuck at just those two points — 280kbps and 420kbps — it can fluctuate anywhere in between as the situation demands.

AptX Adaptive is supposed to be built into Android Pie, so phones coming out over the next year will have support for it. Havell says he expects headphones with AptX Adaptive support to arrive in the first half of 2019. Those headphones will be backward compatible with older versions of AptX, too, so they’ll work even if your phone isn’t on the latest version of Android.

Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn’t support AptX, so this upgrade will really only impact Android phones. Beats headphones don’t use AptX either, which means customers of one of the most popular wireless headphone brands will miss out.

If you’re buying wireless headphones in the future though, you can always check the box to find out if they support AptX. Companies have to license the technology from Qualcomm, and part of the deal is a requirement that it be advertised on the box, so you’ll know it’s there.

Beyerdynamic’s new earphones are designed to lay comfortably flat in your ears

Beyerdynamic announced a new line of earphones at IFA yesterday that are all coming soon. The Byrd line of earphones are notable for having a flat design so if you lay on your side, they supposedly won’t protrude into your ear.

First in the collection is the entry-level, in-ear, wired Beat Byrd earphones (pictured above). They have an orange cable, and they look pretty standard besides the flat casing. Beyerdynamic claims they’ll have solid bass. The Beat Byrd earphone will be sold exclusively online on the company’s website for €24.90 ($28.89) starting at the end of September.


The midrange Soul Byrd earphones.
Image: Beyerdynamic


The premium Blue Byrd earphones.
Image: Beyerdynamic

Beyerdynamic also made the midrange wired Soul Byrd earphones, which come with five sizes of ear tips. They also come with a three-button remote with an integrated mic so you can summon Siri or Google Assistant while listening to music. The Soul Byrd earphones cost €79 ($91.65) and will go on sale by mid-October online and in stores.

Lastly, the Blue Byrd are Beyerdynamic’s wireless option that wrap around your neck. The company claims the earphones have a battery life of up to six hours on a single charge, which sounds low compared to the charge times offered by Anker’s budget audio brand Soundcore, for instance. The Blue Byrd earphones have a USB Type-C port for charging, and they run a low-latency audio codec that promises to match up audio with the video that’s playing with less lag. The release date for the Blue Byrd earphones is the most vague, and because it’s premium offering, as expected, it commands a hefty sum. It’ll be available at the end of the year for €129 ($149.68).

Jaybird’s new X4 Wireless Sport Headphones are even more water and sweatproof

Jaybird’s updating its X line of workout headphones today with the announcement of its new X4 Wireless Sport. They’re pretty similar to the X3s, although this time around, the X4s are very much waterproof and sweatproof. The company says they’ve received an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means you can submerge them in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes without damage. You previously couldn’t submerge the headphones at all, but they were water resistant. Of course, you still wouldn’t want to take these swimming with you, and right now, Jaybird doesn’t sell any headphones that would work for that use case.

Apart from that addition, there really aren’t any major changes to the product. Like its predecessor, it’ll last for up to eight hours of playtime. It’ll even cost the same as the X3 at $129.99. You can preorder the headphones now through Jaybird’s website, although they’ll go on sale at some point in September.

Earin’s second-generation wireless earbuds finally arrive with Google Assistant

Earin was one of the first startups to ship truly wireless earbuds back in 2015, though they were marred with problems. The second version of Earin’s buds, which were originally teased in early 2017 and are supposed to fix a lot of the first pair’s issues, are finally being released. They include one big surprise, too: built-in Google Assistant.

The M2 wireless earbuds are on sale today in the US for $249, available in black or white (with more colors on the way). They’re also on sale in China and Japan, and they will hit Europe later this year.

I got to try a prototype of the M2s at CES 2017, and I liked what I heard and saw in my limited time with them. They were especially small and light, and the company seemed to have directly addressed a number of the biggest annoyances with its original earbuds, the M1, like the carrying / charging case.

Earin has added two new features in the year and a half since that demo. The headliner is that they have Google Assistant built in, which is activated with a long press on either earbud. And there are no dedicated left or right earbuds; you just pop them in your ears, and Earin says accelerometers figure out which is which. It’s a very small headache that they claim to have solved, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.

Otherwise, the M2 earbuds are pretty much what was advertised at the beginning of last year. Beyond Google Assistant, they’re very simple, with just a few touch controls and no fitness tracking. They’ll offer around three hours of battery life, and the case carries an extra 14 hours worth of juice.

While they connect to your phone using Bluetooth, the Earin buds talk to each other using Near-field Magnetic Induction (NFMI). This technology, typically used with hearing aids, was first employed by Bragi in its wireless earbuds, and it helps cut down on a few big problems with wireless earbuds that rely solely on Bluetooth — namely signal delay, sound quality, and connection dropouts.

NFMI can be a bit tricky to work with, and the tech relies on the earbuds being as close to each other as possible, so it has its limitations. It’s also not cheap, which is probably part of the reason why the M2s cost $249. That was a more palatable price tag two years ago when only a few companies were in this space (and AirPods were still brand-new). But now, just about every audio company has their own truly wireless earbuds, and many of them cost way less.

Still, it’s a nice surprise to see the M2 finally make it to market. Not only was the product plagued with delays, the brand’s future also seemed in doubt when it was bought up by Will.i.am’s company i.am+ in the middle of this year’s CES. And let’s just say i.am+ doesn’t have the most sterling reputation when it comes to hardware.