Astrotec Lyra Collection (32Ω): Prime Clarity
Today we are checking out the all new Lyra Collection earbud from Astrotec.
Astrotec isn’t new to the audio scene and has been producing products in one form or another since 2004. When I was first getting into the hobby, they were one of the few companies producing affordable hybrids and unique flagship earbuds like the original triple-hybrid Lyra. The version of the Lyra we’re reviewing today eschews the complicated triple driver setup of the older model and takes things back to basics with a single, expertly tuned 15mm dynamic. This earbud’s crisp, detailed sound and luxurious build quality more than warrant the 300 USD price tag Astrotec has attached to it. It is a premium experience from start to finish.
A big thanks to Astrotec for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Lyra and for arranging a complimentary review sample. The thoughts within this review are my own and are not representative of Astrotec or any other entity. There was no financial incentive for writing this and I was given free reign to share my honest opinion.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer unique examples of signatures I enjoy.
For at home use the Lyra was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, HiFiMan MegaMini, or Shanling M1. The Walnut F1 also made it’s way into the rotation at times. While this version (32 ohms) of the Lyra is pretty easy to drive, I found it more dynamic and lively when amped and as a result it was at it’s best paired with the TEAC and Walnut.
- Driver: 15mm dynamic
- Impedance: 32 ohm
- Frequency Response: 15Hz-40kHz
- Sensitivity: 108dB/1mW
Packaging and Accessories:
The packaging has a luxurious air to it’s design starting with the exterior sleeve which features a simplistic gray and white colour scheme and wire frame image of the Lyra on the front. Text advising this is a ‘Lyra Collection earbud’ is written in cursive, a style of writing that sadly seems to be fading away. In the bottom left corner and sticking out due to it’s bold yellow and black colouring is an official ‘Hi-Res Audio’ certification logo, earned though the Lyra’s wide frequency response of 15 Hz – 40 Khz. Flipping to the back of the sleeve nets you discussion of some of the Lyra’s features and a specification list. Some notable features are Astrotec’s use of a special filter module that utilizes micro beads to purify “unpleasant frequencies and suppress internal reflection.” The cable is also not only drop dead gorgeous, but is also a quality piece fusing 6N crystal copper and silver plated copper cores, 8 cores in total, into a braided masterpiece of construction. This cable screams quality with it’s only downfall being that it is permanently affixed to the Lyra, something that will undoubtedly be a deal-killer for some potential buyers.
Removing the exterior sheath reveals a plain textured gray box, adorned only with the Astrotec brand name. Cut the security seal and flip back the magnetic flap and behold, another slip of cardboard. This one thanks you for choosing the brand;
“Thank you for choosing Astrotec and we hope you enjoy the listening experience.”
Underneath this final insert you are presented with the Lyra itself, safely nestled within a foam pad. Below is Astrotec’s premium protein leather earphone case which gives Campfire Audio’s gorgeous case a run for it’s money. In general the construction of Astrotec’s case is quite good with cleanly stitched lines and a lid which clasps securely closed via a fairly strong hidden magnet. The remainder of the accessories are tucked into a cardboard enclosure neatly hidden beneath the foam pad. It’s a pretty comprehensive accessory kit too, giving you plenty of opportunity to secure an ideal fit;
- 3 pairs of foams (1 solid, 2 donut)
- 1 pair of silicone ear guides
- 3 pairs of silicone ear fins (s/m/l)
- leather cable strap
- airplane adapter
The airplane adapter is a somewhat odd inclusion in my opinion. Being the Lyra is an earbud, it does not isolate at all and as a result using it in such a loud environment would net a severely compromised listening experience. The volumes you’d likely need to listen at would also mean sound would be bleeding into you environment. I’m sure your music is fantastic, but guaranteed not everyone around you will be in the mood for it.
Build Quality and Comfort:
As already mentioned, the cable on this thing is glorious. Not only is it perfectly braided and with contrasting silver and copper cores that make it very nice to look at, nearly everything else impresses too. First of all, microphonics are basically non-existent regardless of whether you choose to wear the Lyra cable up or down; either orientation works perfectly well by the way. Despite it being fairly thick with it’s eight individual cores, it’s extremely supple and flexible. Strain relief is excellent too, well, everywhere but the y-split that is. There you get a very effective chin cinch instead of strain relief.
This impressive build continues to the ear pieces themselves which are all metal, painted in a soft blue and accented tastefully in black and silver. There were some glue artifacts left over from the manufacturing process, but once that was easily wiped off with a smooth swipe of my finger some top tier fit and finish shone through. Gaps between parts are nonexistent and everything fits together with precision and accuracy. I especially love the attention to detail paid to the grills covering the back and driver. The rear grill is made up of finely pebbled metal that really gives the Lyra a unique aesthetic. The front grill does much of the same with the vents made up of a series of small + signs. I fully expect both of these areas to be dirt magnets and tough to clean without a small brush, but really, who cares when it looks this good?
In terms of comfort, the Lyra offers up pretty much what you’d expect from the earbud form factor. The 15mm driver means it has a wide and fairly deep footprint, though it’s not quite as thick as other buds like the OURART Ti7 or Penon BS1. They fit me well and I find them stable and easy to wear over long periods. The Masya and Mojito from Rose are better for me in terms of comfort, but those earbud’s unique design seems to be somewhat divisive in terms of fit.
The Lyra sounds about as good as it looks too. With a treble and mid-range focused signature that leans towards a thinner presentation and is rife with detail, it makes for a truly impressive listen. It’s upper end is very well extended, as you would expect from a 40KHz rating, with no apparent roll off. Yet, somehow they’re non-fatiguing. It’s not overly sharp or aggressive, nor dull and lacking energy. It’s also a very tight and well-controlled presentation that I found very helpful with quick cymbal work and busy orchestral pieces. I’ve been using these a fair bit with film as well as game and movie soundtracks as of late. The control combined with a high level of layering the separation means every aspect of a track remains coherent.
The Lyra’s mid-range has a mild touch of warmth to it which combined with a forward nature gives it a very emotionally engaging presentation. On tracks like “Touch” from Daft Punk, Paul William’s vocal performance shines and allows you to paint a picture or a robot remembering what it was like to feel, or whatever your personal interpretation of the lyrics happens to be. On “The Girl is Mine” by Michael Jackson, his back and forth banter with Paul McCartney has a playful and genuine feel to it that is simply lacking through many headphones. Instruments have a weightiness to them as well that is especially apparent as you transition down into the lower mids. This carries over into vocals too with exceptionally deep notes reverberating beautifully.
The Lyra’s low end varies greatly in quantity depending on whether you’re running the Lyra free of foams entirely, with donuts, or with full foams. As you would imagine, foam-free nets the least bass presence and to my ears restricts extension slightly. Running them with donuts is my preferred method. It does not affect treble or mid-range presence and raises mid- and sub-bass quantities to be more or less in line with the rest of the signature. Full foams warms up the Lyra, increases mid-bass presence a touch more, and slightly reduces detail and clarity. Regardless of the foams you choose, or if you prefer to roll with none at all, the Lyra’s bass is extremely nimble and punchy with awesome texturing.
As you would expect from a open back earbud with additional and ample ventilation around the base of the housing, the sound stage is fantastic. I often find myself saying this a lot when reviewing earbuds, but music coming through the Lyra really does have a headphone-like presence to it. It feels open and airy with sounds travelling around in a vast space. Unlike other products with a great sound stage, the Lyra’s imaging is actually quite accurate. Add to that positional accuracy some impressive layering, separation and overall depth and you’ve got yourself a very immersive earbud.
vs. Rose Mojito
In a vacuum the Lyra is a wonderful experience, but how does it sound when you start introducing competition such as Rose’s Mojito? Pretty darn well actually. If you’ve read my review of the Mojito you’ll know it’s one of the best products I’ve covered this year. While the Lyra takes a very different approach to the TOTL earbud world, they both sit content at the top of the heap.
In terms of style and build the Lyra is pretty much untouchable. The Mojito’s 3D printed plastic housings with pasted on Rose logo plate simply feels cheap in comparison. Durable and perfectly functional, but cheap. The Mojito’s stock cable feels like a DIY inclusion (and looks it too upon close inspection) and cannot compare except for the fact that it is removable. It’s noisier, has poor fit and finish, and lots of memory and microphonics. The upgraded cable is a much better comparison for the Lyra’s, though it still doesn’t feel quite as premium.
In terms of sound the Mojito, with it’s dual dynamics (10mm + 15.4mm), offers a warmer, thicker and more lush experience than the Lyra’s single 15mm dynamic. The Lyra’s mid-bass, even with full foams, is less present. Treble clarity and micro-details are in the Lyra’s favour, along with overall control. The Mojito’s treble is far from splashy, but it lacks the tightness of the Lyra. In terms of mid-range, both are more or less equals. The Lyra has a slightly larger sound stage with more precise imaging, but the Mojito gives a better impression of depth and makes improvements in overall layering and separation. Dual drivers at work?
Choosing between the two comes purely down to preference I feel. If you like a more crisp and detailed sound with a treble and mid-range focus that’s supported by a massive sound stage and killer build quality, go for the Lyra. If you want a bit more meat to the low end and a thicker, more lush sound with improved technical prowess, go with the Mojito. I also find the Mojito more comfortable than any other earbud (except the Masya…same housing) but fit is very personal so that might mean nothing for you. Either way, they’re both TOTL earbuds and they certainly sound like it.
Handing someone the Lyra and telling them they’re holding a 300 USD earbud more or less nets a gasp of disbelief and them questioning why anyone would spend so much on “this”, proceeding to dangle the Lyra mockingly in your face. You show them the packaging and premium accessories. You let them hear it. Then you hand them their headphones and tell them to take a listen to let you know which is better. A smile crosses their face and they hand back the Lyra with the statement, “Those have no bass and they’re too quiet.”
The point of my little story is that these are not for your average Joe. Premium headphones and audio products are a hard sell to a regular consumer at the best of times. The Lyra is for someone that truly appreciates their music and the finer details a quality product can pull from it. It’s for someone who doesn’t mind spending that little extra to feel like they’re getting something special, even if few around them will know what it is or appreciate it like you do. This will only be a statement piece among your inner audiophile circle, and maybe to those that appreciate a piece of electronic art when they see one.
If you’re in the market for a premium earbud, definitely give the Lyra some consideration. It might also be good for those that was a detailed portable that has the sound of a headphone with the portability of an iem. As long as you don’t mind sacrificing isolation, earbuds kinda offer the best of both worlds.
Thanks for reading, and thank you once again to Astrotec for the opportunity to review this gorgeous new product.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)