Beyerdynamic isn’t quite a household name when it comes to personal audio, but it is one of the most well-known brands in the audiophile community. The long-standing German manufacturer harbors such classics like the awesomely bang-for-the-buck DT 770 and open-back DT 990. More recently, Beyerdynamic’s prized piece belongs to its full-fledged flagship over-ear headphone, the T1, which at its heart is the company’s uniquely developed Tesla acoustic driver.
But this left its in-ear segment lacking in a correspondingly awesome offering. That changes today. Dubbed the Xelento, Beyerdynamic did what it had to get similar, top-end performance into a small package – miniaturize the Tesla driver ten-fold. Was it a successful effort? This Synopsis sums up what you can expect from the Xelento flagship in-ear headphone.
It’s safe to say that the Xelento don’t look like any other earphone on the market. And it’s a good thing in this case. You’ll be dropping a good chunk of change on this “investment”, and it’s always good to be left feeling like you got what you paid for. The jewerly-like design of the Xelento does provide that, and fortunately, it’s not just a facade. This earphone feels high quality from head to toe, like one at this price should (but doesn’t always).
- Uniquely designed and high quality construction
- Generous packaging and contents
- Very comfortable and secure wear
- Changeable cable (using common MMCX standard)
- Premium, tangle-resistant, thin cable
- Masterful acoustic performance
- Earpiece chassis feel like plastic in-hand
- Sound isolation is average
- Noticeable driver flex
- Remote control unit weird on Android
What it’s like to use
- Pricing of the Xelento isn’t for the faint of heart. These are part of the high-end group that near $1K (which today, actually isn’t the highest-end you can go). So despite the Xelento highlighting an in-line remote for quick playback control, we’d say that if you plan to pair these in-ears with a mobile device, then look elsewhere. Unless said device has a dedicated HiFi DAC (like the LG V30), then won’t be getting your money’s worth.
- Many times, manufacturers of these high-end earphones focus more on sound quality than design, but that’s not the case with the Xelento. Its exterior sports a luxurious sheen and the construction is immaculate from head to toe. We’re fortunately not talking about an extravagant design (which wouldn’t suit a lot of people). Despite being covered with a silvery, jewerly-like enclosure, the earpiece actually don’t give off a lot of flair when donned. A brushed-metal cap on the outward surface stylishly tones things down, while providing the “Beyerdynamic” look that the Xelento are otherwise missing.
- Like many high-end earphones, the Xelento are wore around the ear. It’s not as convenient as the typical stick-in and let-the-cable-fall method, but it’s worth it in regard to comfort, cable/earpiece security, and microphonics (eliminating it).
- The Xelento’s packaging is fantastic. You get an elegant presentation, but more importantly, a generous amount of accessories. Part of that are a wide variety of ear tip sizes, and even foam tips.
- The design of the silicone ear tips are…interesting. They have a unique bell shape. But it does make sense considering the design of the earpieces. Their short nozzles don’t go deep in the ear canal, like many other in-ears. So Beyerdynamic made the tips widen out to ensure that you get a seal. That’s fine and all, except that going deep is beneficial for sound isolation. So the Xelento are average is this respect. Fortunately, you have the option of the included foam tips, if noisy environments is a concern for you.
- When we push and adjust the earpieces in our ears, there’s a noticeable amount of driver flex. That is, you hear a clinking kind of sound as the nozzle and attached driver push against the chassis. This occurrence isn’t limited to the Xelento, quite a few earphones exhibit it, even at this price range (we noticed it in the similarly priced Shure SE846, though not to this level). And it’s not just because we got unlucky with this review unit – it’s noted in many other reviews. It’s hard to tell if it’s a concern or not without seeing if the Xelento stand the test of time. But one thing’s for sure, it’s a negative mark against the solid construction that the Xelento otherwise portray.
- The stock cable is fantastic. It’s one of the best we’ve used and we don’t see much reason to change it (unless you want a special capability, like Balanced output). Despite being notably thin, it’s as tangle-resistant as you’ll get. The construction is also immaculate: solid MMCX connectors, shimmery silver woven wires within tight, translucent shrinkwrapping (matches the earpiece aesthetic perfectly), and brushed metal for the attached bits (Y-splitter, chin slider, and right-angle 3.5mm jack).
- The only drawback (though minor) of the tangle-resistant material is the cable’s springy nature. When routed around the ear, it’s so light that it doesn’t stay perfectly/tightly in place. Not that it jumps out and off the ear, but there’s noticeable movement when you shift or turn your head. Tightening the chin slider helps, but doesn’t completely eliminate the movement.
- As implied by the “Remote” part of the Xelento’s name, there’s a remote unit on the cable for some playback controls and a microphone for taking calls. Being in-line on the right channel portion of the cable, we were at first worried it may cause an uneven weight distribution. Fortunately, the piece is extremely light (it doesn’t appear to be made of metal but lightweight plastic). You don’t really notice it there.
- The three-button form of the remote is typical but not the function. The top and bottom buttons are strictly for volume (instead of switching tracks). The middle button primarily plays/pauses but also doubles for switching tracks. Double-pressing goes to the next track as expected, but triple pressing doesn’t move backwards. You hold it to go to previous tracks, where normally holding it down should toggle the smartphone’s voice assistant (i.e. Siri or Google Assistant). At least, this is what it did on our Android phone. We can’t say if it works differently on an iPhone.
- The Xelento isn’t technically the first of its model. It actually started as the T8iE and carried Astell & Kern (maker of premium HiFi players) branding through a partnership with Beyerdynamic (which built it). That project ended and Beyerdynamic took complete ownership of the earphone, which is where we are today with the Xelento. That said, it’s not the same earphone. Beyerdynamic reworked it not just outside but in. Meaning, the sound is tuned with how the company thinks it should be.
- We did get the opportunity to hear the T8iE and liked what we heard for the most part. It was a very lively and full sound, but leaned on the warm side (noticeably accentuating bass). The Xelento has a more balanced sound signature, but not quite “reference” – and that’s a good thing in this case.
- One of the most standout qualities of the Xelento’s sound is its sub-bass. It clearly has a dominating presence relative to the rest of the spectrum, but not overbearing. We’re not talking about a domineering boom like you’d find on bass-heavy Beats headphones. Beyerdynamic keeps the full-bodied sub-bass well controlled and contained, making it easy for the user to recognize how much definition it has, of which there’s not just power but depth and dimensionality. Additionally, it’s not a “party mode set always to on” situation; you get the punch when the track calls for it.
- The mid-bass, on the other hand, is noticeably more tame. We don’t mind Beyerdynamic’s weighty sub-bass tuning, but would’ve preferred a smoother transition as you move up. It’s not that the mid-bass is flat; on the contrary, there is similarly great definition and clarity. But being back-to-back with the sub-bass, it is prone to being perceived as recessed. You can get a mildly disjointed sense when you hear hard-hitting bass from one end and not the other.
- The frequency response feels like it slightly raises when you get to the mid-range. We’re glad that Beyerdynamic didn’t opt for a definitively V-shaped sound signature like many other single dynamic driver earphones do. The mids have ample authority in the overall sound, and we especially appreciated the open/spacious execution (reinforced by the driver’s excellent separation) and notably airy vocals. These qualities makes the dynamics in this area admirable.
- To our ears, the Xelento overall trades a little bit of sharp clarity for smoothness and listenability. This is most apparent in the treble region. It’s really present and detailed (even picking up a good amount of the higher-end sparkle that many headphones struggle with) but a picky ear will detect an ever-so slightly smeared delivery. It’s up to the user if this is a good or bad thing. The good is less chance of fatiguing, but audiophiles at this price range may want as crystal clear reproduction as possible nevertheless. Personally, we think Beyerdynamic struck a great balance between listening enjoyment and accuracy. But if you’re a very analytical listener, the Xelento may not be your best choice.
- Lastly, the soundstage of the Xelento is memorable, but not what we’d deem astounding. You’ll get a nicely-sized oval around your head, and like we indicated before, the dynamics do an exemplary job filling the space (height and width). But it’s not largest stage you’ll find at this price-point.
There’s a lot to think about with the Xelento. Actually, there’s plainly a lot to think about when dropping nearly $1K on a pair of headphones. It’s not everyday that happens. But we’ll say that you’d be in a good place with the Xelento. Where most earphones of its class distinctly excel in some areas and not so much in others, the Xelento are almost completely a job well done, from its eye-catching design, superior construction and materials, to its well balanced and skillfully engaging sound. The few gripes that we pointed out were minor and not deal-breaking, and that’s a commendable achievement on its own. You can’t go wrong with the Xelento.
Also See: Shure SE846 High-End Earphones Synopsis