When you think of Beyerdynamic, your first thought could be that it’s one of the oldest audio companies still operating. Or, maybe, that it has been the trendsetter in cinema sound systems, microphones and headphones for almost 100 years.
That it might deliver a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones reminiscent of the inside of a nightclub probably won't spring to mind.
The Lagoon ANCs are Beyerdynamic’s most concerted effort yet to grab some of the premium wireless, noise-cancelling, over-ear action. On paper, they have everything they need to compete, and compete strongly. But on paper, of course, it’s impossible to see their unique selling point in all its questionable glory.
The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANCs are, like virtually every one of their realistic competitors, an over-ear, closed-back design constructed almost entirely from high-quality plastic, aluminium and faux leather.
Like most of their nominal rivals, they swivel and fold to be as portable as possible, and are supplied with a hard-ish carrying case. And like almost all of their opponents, they double down on their portability by weighing as little as possible – in this instance, a flyweight 283g.
Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC tech specs
Type Closed back, circumaural
Impedance 20 ohms
Battery life 45 hours (24.5 hours with ANC)
Frequency response 10Hz to 30kHz
But as expected of a product from this brand at this sort of money, the Lagoon ANCs feel sturdy and built to last.
The parts that are meant to move do so smoothly and quietly, and the parts that aren’t feel solid and secure. The plastics feel robust and are of obviously superior quality, while the faux leather of the earcups and headband is both comfortable and slow to warm.
And unlike one or two rivals we could mention, when their headband setting is at its smallest the Lagoon ANCs are actually quite small. The more petite head will be more comfortable here than in, say, the Sennheiser Momentum 3s.
There are two finishes available, but they are more similar than Beyerdynamic’s names might suggest. ‘Traveller’ is an all-black finish, while ‘Explorer’ adds some brown pleather accents.
In terms of wireless connectivity, the Lagoon ANCs are a combination of the sublime and the not-quite-so-sublime. They use Bluetooth 4.2, and though it’s been a while since that represented the cutting edge, they also support aptX, aptX Low Latency and AAC. So, file streaming from the likes of Tidal Masters is on the menu, as is exemplary syncing between audio and video when streaming from Netflix, for example.
Like the majority of its rivals, Beyerdynamic wants you to interact with its headphones using the right earcup, and the Lagoon ANCs are operated using a combination of physical and touch controls.
Wireless pairing is initiated using a switch that's also used for powering on or off. There’s also a switch for active noise-cancellation, a 3.5mm analogue input and USB-C input. Touch controls are used to adjust volume, play/pause, answer/end calls, and summon your voice assistant.
On the left earcup, there are mics for Qualcomm cVc, which promise exemplary call quality, as well as mics governing noise-cancellation. And behind the memory-foam and pleather earcup there’s a 40mm full-range dynamic driver, just like on the right-hand side.
Battery life is a claimed 45 hours from a single charge (with noise-cancellation switched off) and 24 hours with it on. In practice, this proves a little optimistic, but if you consider 19 or 20 hours with ANC as par for the course, you shouldn’t be disappointed. From flat, the Lagoon ANCs can be fully charged in three hours or so, and a five-minute burst should hold you for an hour.
Beyerdynamic offers some worthwhile customisation of your audio experience via its MIY app. Unlike some other apps, MIY doesn’t just pretend it knows all about you simply by seeing a photo of your ear. Instead, it asks your age and then plays a series of tones, buried in pink or white noise, to each ear in turn. Having established the state of your hearing, it adjusts the Lagoon ANCs’ EQs to compensate. It’s a commendably thorough and effective process.
The accelerometers fitted to the Beyerdynamics are equally well-judged. There are plenty of rival designs with accelerometers like a hair-trigger and some that have to be removed from your head and turned upside down for half a minute before they get the message. But the accelerometers here were specified by Goldilocks – they’re just right.
But there’s a big, multicoloured elephant in the room. The Lagoon ANCs are fitted with Beyerdynamic’s Light Guide System – illumination inside each earcup, which is invisible unless you take the headphones off. It is possible to understand what the Lagoon ANCs are up to by interpreting the colours.
Pairing mode, for example, is betrayed by pulsing blue lights; a firmware update is pink; and music playback or call in progress is orange. However, it is almost entirely useless, especially as there are voice prompts to let you know what the headphones are up to. It manages to lower the tone of an otherwise-classy product to that of a provincial nightclub.
We watch the LGS modulate from flashing blue to indicate pairing mode, then a steady blue light fading in to indicate successful pairing followed by orange light to indicate the Lagoon ANCs are active and ready to go. We play a Tidal Masters file of Pixies’ In The Arms Of Mrs Mark Of Cain and put the headphones on so we don’t have to look at the lights any more.
Tonally, the Lagoon ANCs are winningly neutral. Many noise-cancelling headphones at all price-points like to ramp up the low frequencies in the name of excitement. The Beyerdynamics, on the other hand, value even-handedness, and their lack of undue bass-end prominence allows them to sound quite fast and agile.
But while the low end is kept in check, it doesn’t go short of detail. There’s plenty of information regarding the texture of the bass guitar sound in this recording, and good attention paid to the start and stop of individual notes. The Lagoon ANCs don’t hang around where the bottom end is concerned, and their promptness allows the bass to integrate smoothly with the midrange riding above it.
There’s plenty of detail laid out here too, and the difference in the singer’s voice as he switches between a close-mic’d croon and full-throated shout from further away is made obvious. And as the midrange gives way to the top of the frequency range, there’s substance and brilliance to treble sounds - but they never threaten to become splashy.
Switching to a 16-bit/44.1kHz file of David Bowie’s Fashion allows the Beyerdynamics to show off their abilities with soundstaging and timing. This is a complex recording with competing sounds of many different textures, but the Lagoon ANCs are explicit and detailed, describing the grind and grime of the guitars just as fully as the bite and shine of the rhythm section. The song is laid out in the most coherent, easy-to-understand way, but still has the compact unity of performance that makes it sound like a single piece rather than a collection of unrelated sounds.
As far as the three-step noise-cancelling goes, position ‘1’ offers worthwhile isolation from the world outside without impacting too heavily on the music you’re listening to. Position ‘2’ pretty much banishes external sounds altogether, but introduces noticeable hiss, as well as the dreaded ‘ears popping’ sensation of cabin pressure. There’s also a slight, but definite, narrowing of the audio presentation.
The only areas in which the Beyerdynamics don’t give an assured account of themselves are excitement and, ironically, dynamics. The Lagoon ANCs try their hardest to sound ‘correct’, and as a result can come across as just slightly analytical.
There is palpable restraint in the way they deliver music, and hedonistic thrashes, such as Peru Drift by Planetary Assault Systems, lose a bit of impact as a result. A little more exuberance would carry the Beyerdynamics even further into contention.
A unique selling point is sometimes ‘unique’ for a reason – so you’ll need to look beyond the daft visual control system here to see that the Lagoon ANCs have plenty to recommend them. They’re not the last word in excitement, but if you value a judicious and thoughtful presentation, they could be just the ticket.
- Sound 4
- Comfort 4
- Build 5
Read our Sony WH-1000XM3 review