Beyerdynamic Lagoon Around-Ear Bluetooth/ANC Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jun 29, 2019.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Youtube review:

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone_XsMax/Headphone_Beyer_Lagoon_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Beyer_Lagoon.jpg

    Sources: iPhone XsMax with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Red DAC/amps, various computers using the Meridian Explorer2/AudioQuest DragonFly Red/DAC-amps.

    Review note: My first impressions of the sound of the Beyerdynamic Lagoon headphone ('Lagoon' hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (Full-size closed-back Bluetooth/ANC), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the Lagoon (i.e., my objectives and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the technical issues.

    The basic tonality of the Lagoon impressed me as extremely smooth and a smidgen bassy in my early listening after a dozen hours of burn-in time. Later on I came to conclude that a modest recess in the "presence" region around 3 to 4 khz was the cause of that impression, and that the bass, midrange, and treble above 4 khz were indeed remarkably neutral. In fact, these very common (but modest) lower-treble recesses may become the new audiophile standard, if they haven't already. My judgements are based not on hearing per se, nor on personal taste, but on direct comparison to many other premium headphones and the sound of live acoustic music. The clarity, impact, and tonality of the Lagoon is very impressive, and the price is a bargain in my view on passive/wired listening alone. Audiophile headphones like the AudioQuest NightHawk, NightOwl, and the Focal Elear are tuned darker than the Lagoon. Older audiophile headphones like the Sennheiser 600/800 series and the Beyerdynamic T1/T90/T70 series are tuned brighter than the Lagoon. Which of these tunings will eventually dominate will depend I suppose on the body of available recordings. Personally, I'm thrilled that the Lagoon seems to occupy the midpoint between these tunings.

    I won't spend more time on the Lagoon's sound for now, for these reasons:
    1) The music tracks listed below, which were included in my tests of the Lagoon, feature a wide range of music tonalities that highlight any sonic weaknesses in the headphone.
    2) The signature is essentially the same in passive/wired, Bluetooth, and ANC modes.
    3) The sound is much better than I expected, and far better than competing brands I've tried.
    4) I'm not reviewing the advanced DSP/App features, since audiophile neutrality is my only objective.

    The Lagoon comes with pleather earpads, which are my favorite because they don't tend to accumulate sweat and oils that can change the sound over time. The downside for some users is that the earcups can get a little warm, and sweat may accumulate in high outdoor temperatures. In such a case - especially in very warm environments - I'd recommend taking the headphone off every so often and wiping out any sweat, so it doesn't get into the drivers. The Lagoon's earcups are oval like many headphones, the openings are slightly larger than the v-moda's I've reviewed, so most ears should fit into the openings as well as mine do. The Lagoon's earcups are not particularly deep**, and if a users's ear pinnae should contact the small driver guard that's covered by the fabric liner, they might need to adjust the fit or increase the internal padding.

    **This is generally a good thing, as deeping the earcups often leads to a hollow-sounding coloration, as I found to be the case with the B&W PX headphone.

    The Lagoon's passive isolation is moderate - good enough for most home use and outdoor use where it's not extremely noisy, but probably not good enough for public transport unless the ANC is switched ON. Leakage is low enough that playing music loudly in a quiet office might work, unless someone sitting very close-by hears the sound faintly and objects. The Lagoon comes with two cables - a USB-C charging cable, and a 4-ft 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable for passive/wired listening. The headband is luxuriously padded, and the headband's range of adjustment is generous - at least 5/8 inch smaller and larger on each side than where I set it for my head. The Lagoon can be worn around the neck all day if need be, by pulling the earcups all the way down and rotating them flat against the chest. The small flat zippered carry case supplied with the headphone is just large enough to accomodate the headphone with the earcups folded, so it's an easy fit in carry-on luggage, and probably OK for most backpacks.

    In previous reviews I've included the following music samples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the Lagoon compares with each individual track. These tracks were evaluated with and without the EQ setting noted above (or at my website under Photos/Audioforge). Note that whatever EQ I use is not to "personal taste", but rather to approximate the headphone sound to the sound of live acoustic music.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has great detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The Lagoon plays this extremely well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the Lagoon.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel some of the weight they carry with the Lagoon.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The Lagoon plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the Lagoon.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The Lagoon plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are bright, crisp, and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The Lagoon reproduces the space and detail very well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the Lagoon renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The Lagoon plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sounds very realistic - much better than what I hear with most headphones.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The Lagoon reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The Lagoon plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the Lagoon plays this music very well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The Lagoon plays this track extremely well.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce fairly well with the Lagoon. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The Lagoon provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the Lagoon plays those extremely well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The Lagoon plays this with enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2015, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the Lagoon is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is subtle with the Lagoon.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the Lagoon renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The Lagoon's reproduction of the 'clop' sound is rather light.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The Lagoon conveys that experience pretty well. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the Lagoon renders the tones and transients extremely well.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The Lagoon's reproduction is excellent, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The Lagoon delivers the impacts with good weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
     
  3. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Continuing my review with a few additional music samples, the following are some of the "odds and ends" I've picked up in the process of reviewing headphones. The sound of most of these tracks is good enough to complement any decent headphone, but they show off the Lagoon's sonic qualities as well as anything I've heard. Some of these may be hard to find, particularly in the exact mix/remix listed here.

    My last post will be the EDM tracks I test with. The interesting thing is, I started this review using my Pioneer HDJ-X10c review as a template, then rewrote the main body for the Lagoon. Most of the music samples have agreed in sound (both headphones EQ'd), but still, some bass lines sound better on one and some sound better on the other. Not so much with the treble since I get those extremely close. The mids is where most of the personality of each headphone asserts itself, so I make adjustments there only when a coloration just doesn't sound natural.

    Le Voyage Dans La Lune: Soundtrack to a hand-painted color movie. A terrific variety of sounds that show off the excellent audio qualities of the Lagoon.

    Muse - Madness: Strong bass line with mass vocals. Clearly delineated by the Lagoon.

    Mylene Farmer - Desenchantee: French vocal over a driving bass beat. Very enjoyable with the Lagoon.

    Robyn Hitchcock - Autumn Is Your Last Chance: Acoustic/electric guitar with compelling vocal. Pure class as reproduced by the Lagoon.

    Samantha James - Amber Sky: Reverberant instrumentation and ethereal vocal. Dreamy stuff that sounds amazing on the Lagoon.

    Satchmode - Best Intentions: Atmospheric vocals over a very decent bass line. Exquisite reproduction by the Lagoon.

    Sneaker Pimps - Underground (Nellee Hooper Mix): Slow-paced club music with female vocal and subtle but very effective bass impacts. The bass in this track will be fully appreciated only in a quiet listening spot.

    Soliquid - Shibuya (Paul Keeley Remix): Eight minutes and 50 seconds of heavenly beats and awesome musical synth effects as heard with the Lagoon.

    Stones and Bones - Love Lockdown: Ibiza 2014 track with a very spacious atmosphere and a bit of contrapuntal vocal. Outstanding on the Lagoon.

    Susanne Sundfor - Accelerate: High-ambiance noise with decent bass impacts and reverberant vocals. The Lagoon makes this track come alive.

    Third Sex - Monster Snack: One of the best of the Goth/RiotGrrrl genre, available on the Free To Fight CD. Somewhat primitive sound with aggressive vocal, but there ya go - as good as it gets with this headphone.

    Three-11 Porter - Surround Me With Your Love: Pleasant male-female vocal mix against a big-ambiance backdrop. Lush presentation by the Lagoon.

    Visage - Fade To Grey: Atmospheric and reverberant recording supported by a luscious synth line. The Lagoon plays this perfectly.

    When Saints Go Machine - Love And Respect: Super-energetic music with reverberant vocal counterpoint. Strong bass impacts delivered cleanly by the Lagoon.

    Yaz - Situation: Bright pop-EDM music from the past. Played exquisitely by the Lagoon.
     
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    One more thing before I review EDM tracks for the Beyer Lagoon headphone: Now playing Pink Floyd's DSOTM album - a CD rip (WAV format) of the latest master stored on my 256 gb iPhone XSMax. Whatever magic is happening here (see below), this is the best sound I've ever gotten from this album.

    From the iPhone we go to the Apple Lightning-to-USB-A adapter**, then to the DragonFly Red DAC, then to a heavily-shielded 6-inch 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter, then to a Lehmann headphone amp, then through a Marshall headphone cable to the Lagoon headphone. The headphone cable has gold-plated plugs and strain reliefs on both ends.

    **The Apple adapter also has a charging input, but I never use it since simultaneous charging can affect the sound. The reason for this particular adapter is because it's had a firmware update, and many users claim it sounds better than the Apple adapter that doesn't have the charging input.

    Speak To Me has bass impacts that are very strong and impactful.
    Breathe has a liquid-like sound that's very spacious and clean.
    Time has some high-frequency harmonics and strong bass impacts that sound amazing on this headphone.
    The Great Gig In The Sky has some subtle vocalizations mixed between loud vocal bursts that remain clean at whatever volume.
    Us And Them (my favorite) is a softer more lyrical sound with strong vocal parts.
    Any Colour You Like has a lot of sound effects with a nicely-detailed bass synth.
    Brain Damage starts off much like Us And Them, with energy-filled crescendos of voice, instruments, and sound effects. I could wish that the instruments in these crescendos were better delineated, but the age of the tapes used in these masters probably limits the resolution.

    I also added Comfortably Numb to this listen, and the extended highs from the cymbals were very comforting to hear (pun intended).
     
  5. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    And now for phase 3 of my Beyerdynamic Lagoon ('Lagoon') Bluetooth/ANC headphone review. As noted above, I use a minimum amount of EQ with headphones that need it, in an attempt to bring them closer to the sound of live acoustic music**. This doesn't always succeed, either because the equalizer is too limited, or the curve I apply doesn't work for some reason. In the case of the Lagoon, it worked very well indeed.

    **I'd prefer that my headphones sound truly neutral, with as little EQ modification as possible, but in the end I get there only about half of the time. In the other cases, I either give up or settle for a "warm-neutral" result that's satisfactory for most genres.

    The ultimate test for me is when the headphone has good frequency extension on both ends with no apparent distortion, a tonally accurate midrange that blends well with the bass and treble, and plays equally well with all of my favorite tracks in multiple genres. The Lagoon does very well for me in this regard - all the more amazing given that it's designed to be a Bluetooth headphone with ANC.

    Above & Beyond - We're All We Need (feat. Zoe Johnston): A very nice tight but impactful bass with crystal clear vocals - the Lagoon plays this with great ambiance.

    Anamanaguchi - Planet: A complex mix of percussion sounds and hummed vocals. The bells and other high-frequency percussion are highly detailed, the bass line has average weight, and the bass detail is excellent.

    Armin van Buuren - J'ai Envie de Toi (Orig Mix feat Gaia): Good bass impacts, breathy vocals, lots of fun noise - the Lagoon plays this perfectly.

    Avicii - Feeling Good: Classic female vocal in movie-theme style - the Lagoon brings this to life like few other headphones I've heard.

    Carl Kennedy-Tommy Trash ft Rosie Henshaw - Blackwater (Original Master): Nice strong tight bass impacts, female vocal, rendered delectably by the Lagoon.

    Crystal Castles - Wrath of God: Atmospheric tune with vocal sound effects and strong bass line, plus some unique treble percussion sounds. The Lagoon brings these unique sounds to life.

    Digitalism - Pogo: A driving beat with a detailed bass synth and great vocals ("There's something in the air...") - the Lagoon makes this very enjoyable.

    Dino Lenny-Lino Di Meglio - We Will Make It: Atmospheric tune with mixed vocals - the female vocal is a special treat with the Lagoon.

    DJ Shadow - Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt: High-pitched tones and strong deep piano chords with a hummed female vocal - ultra-cool with the Lagoon.

    Fairmont - Poble Sec: Awesome detailed bass impacts with some nifty pingy guitar/synth effects. I discovered this tune at the time I purchased my 3rd v-moda M100 - the Lagoon makes this just as enjoyable.

    Giuseppe Ottaviani - Lost for Words (On Air Mix feat Amba Shepherd): Strong bass impacts behind a female voice - a large-scale sweeping sonic image reminiscent of epic adventures in an exotic land. The Lagoon is playing on a whole new level here.

    Hecq - Enceladus (With Skyence): Prodigious deep bass and clean at that. This tune's melody is more abstract than most of the others here, but the Lagoon makes it a real adventure.

    Katy B - Crying For No Reason (Tom Shorterz Remix): Oh myyyyy, I love Katy B. The vocal mix here is awesome and the bass is solid. This is the Lagoon at its best.

    Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch: I first heard this in The September Issue film and soundtrack, as the backdrop for the opening catwalk (watch Andre grinning at 1:51 - all you need to know) - the Lagoon plays this amazing tune perfectly.

    Lee and Malinda - Truth Will Set You Free (V-Moda Mix): Lee Kalt is the master, this is the masterpiece. The drum (or tom-tom) hits here have a very realistic skin-tone, the female vocal is seamlessly integrated into the driving beat, and the synth effects also blend well - the Lagoon just owns this.

    Markus Schulz - Mainstage: The granddaddy of bass is in this track, and the Lagoon plays it smooth and clean.
     
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