Accutone Lyra: The Sweet Spot

Greetings Head-fi!

Today we are looking at the Lyra, a single dynamic driver earphone from Accutone.

The Lyra is another earphone from Accutone’s ‘Standard Line’. They’re advertised as having a balanced presentation which is somewhat unusual when it comes to budget earphones. At this price point manufacturers seem to be laser focused on bass presentation and how monstrous it can be, so Accutone’s take on the Lyra is a refreshing change of pace.

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Angus with Accutone for providing the Lyra in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I am not receiving any financial compensation for this review and all comments and views within are my honest opinions. They are not representative of Accutone or any other entity.

The Lyra currently retails for 29.00 USD: http://www.audio.accutone.com/lyra

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A Little About Me:

Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread and being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own reviews. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, and Meze. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done.

The gear I use for testing is pretty basic composing of an HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. An XDuoo X3 has recently been added to the crew and was used for the majority of my testing. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. When it comes to signature preference I tend to lean towards aggressive and energetic, but I try not to limit myself to one signature only. I also tend to listen at lower than average volumes.

Enough preamble. Let us dive into the good stuff shall we?

Packaging and Accessories:

The Lyra uses a similar packaging setup as the Pavo, their dual-driver model. The outer sheath contains an image of the product on the front. The statement “Audio-balanced noise-isolating headphone with microphone” is printed on either side. On the back is a brief paragraph explaining the product and it’s purpose; to “offer excellent audio balance, with smooth and round transition of trebles and bass”. The Lyra’s package did not contain the sheet of paper protecting the housing as was found with the Pavo, or as in shown in other reviews. A small inconsistency but not one that really matters much, if at all.

While this style of packaging worked fine with the Pavo, I’m not quite sold on it with the Lyra. The distance between the earphone housing and the remote on the Lyra is quite short. Due to the way the remote is displayed with the cable wrapped tightly around a small cardboard slit, some extreme bends were forced near the remote’s strain relief. If left like this long-term, it seems like there would have been some potential for damage to the cable.

Included with the Lyra were three sets of silicone tips; two pairs of white single flange tips in small and large sizes, and a completely different style of black medium silicone tips that come with a number of KZ earphones. Another odd little inconsistency, but again is one that doesn’t really effect anything. I must comment that the small and medium tips chosen seem like a poor match. The nozzle is very stubby and as a result the tips press into the housing causing them to deform. This prevented me from getting a consistent seal. The large tips work just fine because they are large enough to pass over the housing.

The Lyra pairs exceptionally well with Comply foam tips and the unique set included with the Pavo and Taurus. If they stopped including silicone tips entirely and instead gave you two sets of foams, either Complys or their own unique set, I would be entirely content. Either that or go with something similae tothe tips included with Huawei’s Honor AN12 earphones. That earphone features a similarly short nozzle but include tips that fit it perfectly.

Finally, the included carrying case is quite nice and the same found on Accutone’s higher end offerings from the Pavo to the Gemini HD, to their flagship the Pisces BA. It looks to be made of pleather, but has a nice leathery smell to it. It is very similar in design to the case that came with my Sony XBA-2, but is thinner and stiffer offering better protection. It seals with a satisfying magnetic “snap!”.

Overall the packaging and accessories are quite nice, but not devoid of a few missteps.

Build, Design, Comfort, Isolation:

The Lyra’s housings are made of aluminum and feels very nice in the hand. They’re light and robust with a minimal design that has a few curves thrown in to add dimension. I generallybuy my equipment and gear in black, grey, or gunmetal, but the shade of Rose Gold Accutone chose is very subtle and quite attractive. Mid-way down each housing is a colored ring. Accutone missed a good opportunity to use these rings to tell left from right channels as both rings are red. Instead, they’ve relied solely on tiny L and R letters printed on the strain reliefs.

While the housings are wonderfully crafted there was one area that caused problems for me, that being the extra short nozzles. Combined with a somewhat broad housing, it was exceptionally difficult for me to get a consistent seal with the majority of silicone tips tested and I ended up spending more time adjusting the earphones than listening to music. I know there are many out there that will have no issues with this, but it’s worth mentioning for those that tend to run into fitment issues with this particular ergonomic choice. With Comply foam eartips it was easy to get a seal and comfort was outstanding. Your mileage may vary when it comes to comfort.

The cable is pretty great, especially for a budget product. It looks fantastic with a clear sheath that allows you to view the winding cable within. It has absolutely no memory and is very flexible and compliant. Microphonics (cable noise) are a little intrusive, but wearing them cable over-ear remedies that issue. Strain relief is also pretty good, present everywhere but at the top half of the y-split leading up to the housings. There is no chin cinch which would have helped with microphonics when wearing the cable down.

While I found the inline remote to be built to a higher standard than any other in Accutone’s lineup, using solid plastics and featuring well-defined buttons with a very tactile feels, microphone performance failed to impress. My voice came across muffled and unclear to my callers, something I was able to duplicate in recordings. I also seemed exceptionally quiet in my recordings, though callers never made this observation.

I was expecting more from the Lyra here because the housing is fully sealed, but isolation is only about average for a dynamic, maybe slightly average below. I’m going to blame this on the shallow fit. Even with music playing you’ll hear some outside noise bleeding in. On the plus side, the remote worked perfectly with my HTC One M8, and functioned fine with all your standard behaviours; starting/stopping music, answering/hanging up calls, etc.

Driver flex was very intrusive out of the box, but it seemed to clean itself up nicely after many hours of play. With silicone tips it is still present, but has reduced to light crinkling instead of the loud popping it started as. With foam tips you hear no flex at all whatsoever.

Overall the Lyra’s housings are very comfortable with the right tips, quite light, and they feel well-built. The cable was smartly chosen and is backed by good strain relief from top to bottom. Microphone performance is underwhelming but the remote works really well.

Sound:

Tips: I’ve already gone over that the stock tips didn’t work for me. After trying a variety of options, I found that the Huawei Honor AM12 tips paired very well, as did my ancient Skullcandy mushroom-like single-flange tips. Both of these are wide bore options that let the Lyra’s treble shine. I really liked how Comply’s sport ear tips paired with the Lyra. They showed off just how smooth yet detailed the Lyra can be. This was my preferred pairing because the two complemented each other so well. Outstanding comfort AND sound quality.

Amping: Mmmmmm. Yup. Amping is glorious with the Lyra. They already have pretty tight and snappy bass, or ‘firm’ as Accutone puts it but with an amp it gets even better. Treble also seems to tighten up further and loses the edginess displayed when played straight from a smartphone.

My first impressions of the Lyra were admittedly pretty poor. First it was the cable being bent so sharply in the package, then it was the tips not fitting properlyand poor sound being dumped into my ears as a result. This got me thinking that the Lyra might be somewhat disappointing. Luckily, once I finally had the chance to really sit down and spend some time with them by tip rolling, source matching, and listening critically with my favorite songs, I realized this was a hidden gem in Accutone’s lineup.

Bass on the Lyra suffers from early roll off, but that’s the only negative I can pitch at them and it’s really no worse than what I experienced with the Pavo. That means it still digs deep enough to mostly satisfy my preference for boosted sub-bass with dialed back mid-bass. It’s fairly quick and nimble, though it could stand to be more punchy and impactful. Bass kicks start off well but fade just before the real meat of the hit takes hold. As a result of this lack of “oomph” you hear some bloom at high volumes, lessened by amping. The Lyra will also distort if you start eq’ing in some extra low end, so leave it as-is for the best experience.

The Lyra’s midrange takes an aggressive step forward and in my opinion is the star of show. It’s got weight, presence, and a surprising amount of texture for a budget earphone. Vocals are intimate, natural, and guitars are aggressive and crunchy. They work equally well for hip-hop and EDM as they do for rock and metal. DJ Shadow’s “Nobody Speak” feat. Run The Jewels does a solid job of showing this off with a fun combination of lyrics by EL-P and Killer Mike with DJ Shadow’s funky guitar, brass, and bass driven beats.

Their treble presentation continues to impress with a satisfying mix of detail, texture, extension, and aggression. It also comes across as a little more realistic than similarly tuned earphones, like the Brainwavz Jive. It tilts slightly towards the bright, thin side (but is neither bright nor thin), and should be quite pleasant for all but those who are sensitive to more forward treble.

The Lyra’s soundstage is about average, extending just outside of your ears. The slightly boosted treble counteracts for forward midrange nicely, taking maximum advantage of the soundstage. Imaging is well done with clear transitions between left and right, and everything in between. Separation is also pretty good, managing to handle convoluted speed metal tracks pretty well. I think metal-heads looking for a decent budget earphone would enjoy these quite a bit. They’re not as good as JVC’s HA-FXH30 with this genre, but they certainly hold their own.

Overall the Lyra features a nicely refined, mid-forward signature backed by slightly aggressive treble and snappy bass that would benefit from some extra kick.

Select Comparisons:

Brainwavz Jive (28.00 USD): The Lyra and the Jive have similar signatures, though the Lyra surprisingly ups the Jive in a number of areas. It has better resolution, quicker and less mid-bass presence, though the Jive extends into sub-bass regions with more authority. The Lyra has leaner, cleaner, and more accurate treble with and a significantly smoother midrange. The Jive almost comes across veiled in direct comparison, something I never thought I would say about them.

The Jive does present itself as the more refined product when you take into account the entire experience. Better packaging, higher quality and more accessories, and similar features with the addition of a chin cinch. If sound quality was your primary concern, the Lyra would be my recommendation as it is the better sounding earphone. If you don’t have a ton of spare tips lying around, I would recommend the Jive because it’s a complete package and works perfectly as-is.

Accutone Pavo (51.00 USD): Sorry Pavo, but I think Accutone’s sweetheart in the lineup may be the Lyra. Performance between the two is quite similar with the Pavo just barely earning it’s keep. I think it’s the more technically competent of the two, though I can see the added warmth of the Lyra drawing in more fans.

The Pavo pulls ahead in clarity and speed. It’s bass also has the punch the Lyra is missing. Mid-range presence between the two is quite similar, but the Pavo’s more boosted treble takes it out of the spotlight. The Pavo’s dialed down mid-bass presence and warmth allows it to show off it’s more impressive detailing but also makes it more fatiguing.

The Pavo comes with the same carrying case and a complete set of ear tips that fit properly. They also include a pair of foam tips. The Pavo also fits properly into its packaging so there was no worry of the cable being damaged upon unboxing.

Suggestions for Improvement:

Find more suitable stock tips – The stock tips just don’t jive (no pun intended) with the Lyra. They fit that stubby nozzle too poorly and make it unnecessarily difficult to get a good seal. Maybe try to find something with a longer core that extends past the flange. It would also be nice to see a pair of foam tips included as they pair so well with this earphone.

Longer nozzle – This would go a long way towards making the Lyra easier to use. It would open it up to compatibility with a ton of additional tip options and for those with ear canals that essentially force deep insertion, would improve comfort greatly.

Overall:

The Lyra is a fantastic sounding earphone. It’s fun to listen to, but also surprisingly technically adept and versatile across a number of genres. The only real fault I have with their sound is in their sub-bass extension and punch. When dipping into the low end they fall off too early, and lack the kick that would give their bass that extra bit of addictive energy. Still, this is a minor complaint and as is there isn’t much that can go head-to-head with them in this price range and clearly come out on top.

When it comes down to it, they are one of the better earphones I’ve heard at this price. As long as you can deal with somewhat useless stock tips and limited accessories, I would have no issues recommending these as an excellent alternative to the Brainwavz Jive.

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Test Albums

BT – This Binary Universe

Gramatik – The Age of Reason

Incubus – Movement of the Odyssey Parts 2/3/4

Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Skindred – Roots Rock Riot

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

The Crystal Method – Tweekend

Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Culprate – Deliverance

“Nobody Speak” feat. Run The Jewels – DJ Shadow

Havok – Time is Up

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