Reviews: Audio

Stunning sound quality from a light earphone package

The $1,599 Xelento Remote is Beyerdynamic's most expensive in-ear earphones and might give serious audiophiles pause.
The $1,599 Xelento Remote is Beyerdynamic's most expensive in-ear earphones and might give serious audiophiles pause.PHOTO: BEYERDYNAMIC

Venerable German audio brand Beyerdynamic, best known for its high-quality professional sound engineering hardware, has released its most expensive in-ear earphones to date.

The $1,599 Xelento Remote takes the best bits of bulky studio monitor headphones and distills them into a portable in-ear monitor (IEM) package.

But itshigh price tag might give even serious audiophiles pause, even though buyers will get what they pay for.

Everything about the Xelento remote screams industrial-grade premium quality, from its three- layer, metal earpiece shell, to its Kevlar-sheathed wire, and its snug comfort and lightness in your ears.

Getting the right fit on the eartips is essential to having the best sound quality.

Once that's done, the Xelento's seal is amazing, blocking out a good portion of outside noise.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,599

    DRIVER TYPE: Dynamic Tesla driver

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 8Hz - 48kHz

    WEIGHT: 347g (without cable)


    RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

I took them on a long-haul flight to New York recently and the passive noise cancellation was top-notch, keeping me blocked off from the constant thrum of the engines and even the snoring of the passenger next to me.

The Xelento's sound quality is classic Beyerdynamic - very neutral, clear and incredibly clean.

Every chime, every drumbeat, every subtle intake of breath is picked up and presented with startling clarity and detail.

The flat mid-range presents vocals beautifully, full of lush detail and spookily transparent.

The harsh trebles that turn some listeners off Beyerdynamic products have also been greatly alleviated in the Xelento, which is great news for those who may have found them a bit too shrill for their liking.

What you are also paying for is Beyerdynamic's proprietary Tesla drivers, a mainstay of its high-end headphones which lets them replicate a very wide range of frequencies, even at low power.

This means the Xelento sounds good even on a regular smartphone or iPod, although its performance is substantially enhanced with a dedicated digital audio player.

The Xelento can handle any genre of music you throw at it, from electronica to rock to classical, which is a testament to the earphones' versatility.

Electronic music duo Daft Punk's critically acclaimed 2013 album, Random Access Memories, sounded great across the mix, with each sonic layer presented distinctly and clearly, letting you easily pick out individual instruments while not drowning out the vocals.

But the Xelento might be too good at what it does, and is analytical almost to a fault. In fact, it's so analytical that every flaw on poorly mixed tracks will jump out in ways that other more forgiving earphones might gloss over.

Indeed, this level of intensity and near-surgical precision of the soundscape might turn off those looking for a bit more character in the earphones.

Furthermore, I found the intense cleanness of the earphones to be rather fatiguing on the ears after extended listening, despite the physically comfortable earpieces.

These are easily one of the best studio-grade IEMs on the market. Sound engineers and audio purists who demand the most balanced of mixes will love the clarity and precision in such a small package.

The high price of the Xelento Remote will no doubt turn off those who don't require such clarity or sound quality, but it's hard to return to muddier-sounding earphones once your ears have been exposed to these.

Lester Hio

• Verdict: The Xelento Remote brings the best of Beyerdynamic's headphone technology to a light, portable earphone package, with stunning sound quality that justifies its high price tag.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Stunning sound quality from a light earphone package'. Print Edition | Subscribe