Disclaimer: B9Scrambler was kind enough to provide me with a handful of IEMS that I had not had a chance to audition yet. Amongst them was the Astrotec Lyra Classic. Thanks to B9Scrambler for his generosity and if you haven’t visited the Contrationist’s blog yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Its a good read.
I recently did a couple of reviews of earbuds from NiceHCK and while discussing them with B9Scrambler, it was suggested that if I liked the EBX, I would be interested in the Lyra series from Astrotec. So, the subject of this review is the Lyra Classic which retails at approximately $150 USD
Unboxing / Packaging:
I received the Lyra in a small hard case with a magnetic closure. Very nice little package but cannot comment on the unboxing experience as I did not receive the retail packaging.
The Lyra Classic is a mostly metal shell with a plastic/ceramic (can’t tell) grill. The grill itself is a nice touch as all the sound vents are + shaped instead of the typical circular vents. I’m not sure this has an impact on sound, but the aesthetic is nice. The overall shape is similar to the EBX I recently reviewed with a barrel shape with a wrap around it and a protruding block that holds the cable connection. For the EBX that connection was mmcx, here on the Lyra it is permanently attached. Both sport two large slots on the reverse of the grill but the Lyra uses an interesting technology rather than using the typical solid shell with a pin hole for venting. The entire rear face of the barrel is a pressed copper material that forms micro-pores through the material. Astrotec’s claim is that this technology allows for the bass of a more closed back design with the soundstage of an open back and to some degree, I think they pulled that off. The one drawback I can see to the pressed copper fitting is that cleaning it is impossible so if you live in an area prone to dust or animal dander, this might not be a good fit for you.
The driver in the Lyra classic is a 15mm dynamic driver with a listed impedance of 32Ω and a sensitivity of 108dB/mW which makes it easy to drive on the go.
The one cost cutting measure on the Lyra Classic when compared to other models in the series is the cable. Rather than use the cable of the other models, Astrotec chose to use a rubber coated cable that is sadly not anything special and reminds a good bit of the Kz cables (pre-upgrade). It is sticky rubber which I am not a big fan of and that combined with being a bit stiffer than preferable takes away from an otherwise great build. On the upside, the cable does have good strain reliefs and the 90° jack that I prefer for portable models.
I found the Lyra sat more comfortably in my ear than the EBX even though the designs are very similar. The Lyra sits just enough deeper from face to cable connector to allow a more natural fit. This will of course vary depending on ear size but for those with larger ears a foam may be needed to get a good fit.
All of my listening notes are done without any foams installed. If you use the Lyra with foams, except some differences between my notes and your listening experience.
Bass on any earbud is difficult to discuss as they are so position sensitive. With the best seal/positioning I could get, I found the bass to be adequate but certainly not forward and extension to be only average at best. Sub-bass is for all practical purposes non-existant and mid bass while while textured is still fairly light. Those looking for a bass heavy design would do well to look at other members of the Lyra clan.
This is where the Lyra classic shines. Great details, good tonality and excellent timbre. For those looking for an earbud for vocals, this is a great pick. All of the things its bigger siblings do well are retained here. Both male and female vocals are well rendered and come across as very natural rather than being overly thick or too thinned out.
Treble extension is good but again not spectacular and some smoothing of the high end seems to have been done purposefully to remove any hint of sibilance or harshness. Even on tracks prone to sibilance, I could not get the Lyra to behave badly. That being said, I do think that this tuning has lost some detail in favor of a more polite treble.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Here again we have one of the strong suits of the Lyra Classic. Soundstage is large and open with good depth and imaging and layering are extremely well done. This gives each instrument its own place on the stage and it is easy to envision the orchestra seating as you listen. The one drawback is of course the bass light nature means that spatial cues for things like footfalls of games that are predominantly lower tones are not as well rendered or as easily identifiable as spatial cues voiced in the mids or treble range.
vs MrZ. Tomahawk
bass is more controlled on Lyra with less bleed than Tomahawk but Tomahawk has more of it.
Tomahawk is more forward treble and may be harsh at times.
Layering and imaging are way better on Lyra
Vs NiceHCK EBX
Lyra Classic has slightly better tonality then EBx.
EBX has considerably better bass extension than Lyra Classic.
Details are better on the EBX when compared to the Lyra Classic.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
Overall, I think the Lyra Classic is a study in compromises, great build, average cable, great mids and smooth treble, less bass and a bit smoothed over. I think the Classis is the Lyra to reach for if you are interested primarily in vocals but other members of the family bring more punch and more upper range detail albeit at a higher price tag. It would be easy at this point to say you get what you pay for, but with the Lyra Classic you get a lot. maybe just not quite everything you get from its pricier siblings.
Pros: great tonality, good build quality, large soundstage with good layering
Cons: only average extension at both ends, loses some details in favor of smooth signature.