Astrotec Lyra Nature Limited Edition: Refinement

Greetings!

Today we’re checking out Astrotec’s newest premium earbud, the Lyra Nature Limited Edition (LE).

The lack of isolation, fitment oddities, bass presentation, and negative reputation built by crappy pack in earbuds that come with various electronics have left them as a niche product, though one that has its die hard fans. Just visit the Earbuds Anonymous group on Facebook, or earbud thread on Head-fi.org and you’ll be amazed at just how much people love this style of earphone, going so far as to heavily customize and personalize existing models, or just build and tune their own. This is typically done with more budget oriented models, however, and the LE does not fit into that category.

Astrotec is no stranger to high end earbuds, having been one of the few brands to stick it out and keep making them through the years. Their Lyra lineup is one of the oldest and most consistent that I can think of, seeing gradual refinement with each new release. Earbuds aren’t for everyone though, and premium ones even less so. Since the market for such a product is likely quite focused and narrow, a premium earbud can’t afford to be mediocre. Thankfully, the Lyra Nature Limited Edition is far from mediocre.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What I Hear

Foams: The Lyra Nature LE sounds quite thick and warm with a very full low end when paired with full foams. I found clarity and detail to take more of a hit than I’d like, so I wouldn’t recommend full foams. Donuts, on the other hand, find a nice medium. You get the extra bass and an increase in warmth without sacrificing clarity and detail. This was my preferred way to listen and what I used for testing. While I find the LE to sound at it’s best with donuts, performance with no foams at all is still quite good. Bass presence takes a step back as is to be expected thanks to a looser seal, but remains plenty punchy with good extension. Clarity, detail, and overall airiness are slightly improved over donuts. Without foams I enjoyed listening to the LE in quiet environments where I could really appreciate its technical qualities.

Amping: The Lyra Nature LE is a high impedance earbud at 150ohms. Sensitivity is reasonably average at 108dB so getting it up to volume isn’t too much of a challenge. However, it is recommended to amp and/or run it balanced. It doesn’t change the signature, but when amped the sound is more effortless and instrument separation improves. When plugged straight into a phone or basic dap, you miss out on the airiness the LE is capable of. 

One thing I love about ear buds is that they blend qualities of in-ear earphones (aka. iem) and headphones. From earphones they share their portability. From headphones, you get the feeling of a spacious, open sound that an iem can rarely replicate. The Lyra series has always done a fantastic job of this and the LE is no different. Countless times over the last few weeks I would forget I was wearing an earbud and when moving to stand up from my desk, would reach towards my ears as if to remove a pair of headphones, only to remember I was wearing the LE. The staging is wide and deep with an airiness that is less prominent on the regular Lyra Nature. Instrument separation is quite good, though congestion does seep in on very busy tracks like King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black”, at least when running the LE with the standard 3.5mm cable. Using the 4.4mm balanced option removes this flaw and leaves the LE with top tier separation that bests even their previous flagship, the Lyra 150ohm. Layering is stellar leaving it quite straightforward to pull apart a tracks construction and listen to individual elements.

The treble quality of the LE is fantastic. The tuning curve feels very similar to the original Lyra Nature with some slight adjustments that result in a more balanced sound, not unlike a more full-bodied Lyra 150ohm. The brilliance region has been lifted slightly giving the LE more shimmer and sparkle than I hear from the standard model. Lower treble still receives the most emphasis but is smoother with better note definition further enhancing the already excellent clarity and detail provided by the standard Lyra Nature. This is readily apparent on Steely Dan’s “Black Cow” and the live rendition of King Crimson’s “Cat Food” where fine details and quiet moments are more dramatic and obvious through the LE. The LE also sounds a little faster with improved note control resulting in a more energetic presentation. I really enjoyed the difference here with Infected Mushroom’s album ‘The Legend of the Black Shawarma’, and the tracks “Can’t Stop” and “Franks” in particular. Overall a very smooth, refined sound that improves upon the already excellent Lyra Nature and Lyra 150ohm.

The midrange presentation builds naturally upon that of the standard Lyra Nature. The warmth and meatier note weight is maintained and gives vocals a strong presence and powerful delivery. Just toss on Daft Punk’s “Touch (ft. Paul Williams)”, Celine Dion’s “Ashes”, or Diva Plavalaguna’s operatic display from The Fifth Element and you’ll be pulled in by their emotional, articulate performances. One thing I was not expecting was that the LE steps up clarity and detail to match that of the 150ohm. The Lyra Nature is no slouch when it comes to these qualities, but the extra density to the mids does hinder them somewhat compared to Astrotec’s prior, more premium offerings. The LE’s speed, finer note control, and more spacious presentation brings it back without resorting to the leaner, lighter demonstration of the 150ohm. Texturing is also another strong point with the guitars on Steely Dan’s “Haitian Divorce” sounding suitably funky. Lastly, timbre is outstanding and runs with the best I’ve heard. There is no metallic edge, dryness, roughness, etc., just accuracy and tonal precision.

One aspect of the Lyra lineup that really stepped up with the Nature was bass quantity. Even without foams in place, you got a good sense of rumble and physical feedback from some pretty decent extension. Tossing on foams just made it all that much better. The LE carries the torch with confidence offering up an enhanced experience regardless of whether you’re listening with foams or not. On classic rock tracks like Lynard Skynard’s “Free Bird” there is no lack of bass punctuating the wicked guitar solo. EDM is handled very well with the deep rumble on Darkzy’s “Get Mad” feeling great as it thunders along below the shooting synths. Heck, I was even satisfied with the LE on Ludacris’ “How Low” which through most earbuds sounds incomplete. In addition to having plenty of bass, the quality is good too. The driver is quick with excellent control leading to a punchy presentation. Texturing is aces as well with the LE handling the grunge and grit necessary for The Prodigy and Tobacco no problem. The HE 150Pro is still my benchmark for earbud bass quantity, but the Lyra Nature LE bests it when it comes to quality. Compared to the standard Lyra Nature the LE is better controlled and more textured with a more satisfying sub-bass rumble. The differences aren’t huge, but they are noticeable. The 150ohm is about as articulate and technically proficient, it just lacks the emphasis.

Overall I’m pleasantly surprised at how much Astrotec improved the LE over the standard nature. It maintains all the positive qualities of that model while bringing in the improved technical performance and refinement of their previous flagship, the Lyra 150ohm.

In The Ear The shells of the Lyra Nature Limited Edition are more or less unchanged from the standard Lyra Nature. With a new green colour scheme and gold accent bands wrapping around the top and middle of the ear pieces, they retain the premium look and high quality feel I have come to expect from this lineup of earbuds. The design of the LE provides ample ventilation for the large 15mm dynamic driver through a series of large vents around the base, along with Astrotec’s patented micro-pore, copper ball filter at the back. The distinctive filter system on the LE utilizes larger copper balls this time around giving it a slightly more industrial look. Carried over from the original Lyra Nature, the protrusion where the cables entered on the older Lyra models has been smoothed out and enlarged so they can accommodate the organically integrated MMCX ports, a feature that feels like it should have always been there. The materials feel expensive and the fit and finish of the component parts is nigh perfect. Overall the build of the Lyra Nature Limited Edition is about as good as it gets.

The standard single ended cable is pretty nice as far as secondary options go. While braided it remains fairly thin and light. The sheath does suffer from some memory and the braid is pretty loose, but in use neither of those things become an issue. The metal 90 degree angled jack is compact with excellent strain relief. Leading up to the y-split there is a lack of relief, but again, not really an issue since the split is quite small and only there to keep the division of the four strands organized as they divide and lead up to the MMCX plugs. A chin cinch is present and is always a welcome inclusion since it ensures a snug fit. The preformed ear guides are well done finding a welcome middle ground between being flexible while managing to maintain their shape and keep the cable securely behind the ear. The metal MMCX plugs themselves are quite compact with red and blue stripes to denote right and left channels. Overall a well-designed cable that looks nice and is comfortable to wear.

As nice as the secondary cable is, it doesn’t hold a candle to Astrotec’s 4.4mm balanced cable that is clearly the star of the show. The 8 strands are tightly braided with a pinkish hue that both looks and feels truly premium. This cable is quite weighty thanks to the sheer amount of material present, along with all the metal used for the hardware. Thankfully, it is not to the point of being detrimental to fit and comfort, something I experienced with the Penon BS1 Official a few years back. The hardware itself really adds to the premium impression this cable gives off. The straight jack looks fantastic with two chrome bands surrounding a silver carbon weave. Laser etched into one of the chrome bands, ensuring it will not wear off over time, is subtle Astrotec branding. The somewhat chunky y-split mirrors the chrome and carbon fibre design of the jack, though any form of branding is absent. Above it sits a cylindrical y-split that grips the cable firmly, but not so firm that it is tough to slide, or so loose it slides out of place. I have to say, I much prefer this to the beads that have been popular for a couple years now. They work well enough, but not this well. Leading into the long metal MMCX plugs are preformed ear guides. Just like on the secondary cable, they remain flexible without sacrificing the ability to keep the cable securely behind the ear. Overall a cable that feels befitting of the Lyra Nature Limited Edition’s 399 USD price tag.

If you are familiar with earbuds and find them comfortable, there’s a good chance you’ll have no issues with the Lyra Nature LE. The LE’s shells are more or less identical to the regular Lyra Nature, and therefore the fit is too. Note that because they house large 15mm drivers, the earpieces are quite wide and reasonably deep. This limits comfort with smaller ears, especially if foams are installed, or those with a more textured outer ear. I prefer more slender, somewhat abnormal designs like those from Rose, but there is little to complain about here. Everything about the fit is standard earbud so you either like it or you don’t.

Earbuds by design do not isolate since they do not form any type of seal in or around the ear. The Lyra series is also open back. As a result sound is free to enter and leave at will and any form of passive isolation is virtually non-existent. Plus, if you listen at high volumes your listening experience will become a social event. They’re not ideal for public transit or in loud areas, but perfectly suitable for listening at home, when out on an evening walk, or in other situations where outside noises pose little concern.

In The Box Astrotec is nothing if not consistent with the packaging of their Lyra lineup of earbuds. The exterior sheath of the LE’s box is quite minimalistic. On the front you find the usual branding and model info, along with a bit of flair in the form of silver foil constellations dotting the bottom left corner. You may have noticed Lyra was spelled incorrectly on the sample I was sent. Don’t worry, that has already been addressed with Astrotec’s selected printer and won’t be an issue on retail copies. Flipping to the rear of the sheath you find specifications and features, along with contact information for the brand.

Sliding the sheath off you find a lovely textured box with Astrotec and nothing else printed dead centre on the front. Pulling back the magnetically sealed flap holding the lid in place, you find a cardboard slip securing the contents within. Removal reveals a dense foam insert containing the earpieces, leatherette case, and a smaller cardboard insert surrounding some other accessories. In all you get:

  • Lyra Nature Limited Edition earbuds
  • Leatherette carrying case
  • 8 strands, 128 cores 6N OCC Cable (4.4mm balanced plug)
  • 4 strands, silver-plated OFC Cable (3.5mm stereo plug)
  • Silicone ear hooks (m/l)
  • Silicone ear guides
  • Cleaning tool
  • Donut foams x3
  • Mesh carrying bag for the earpieces
  • Velcro cable tie

Overall a nice unboxing with a fairly comprehensive accessory kit. The carrying case is made from a very cushy faux-leather that feels great in the hand. The magnets that seal the lid shut are decently strong as well so unless you’ve overstuffed it, admittedly easy to do if using the 4.4mm balanced cable, it’s unlikely to open unexpectedly. I really didn’t make use of the silicone ear guides or hooks since both stock cables contain pre-formed ear guides. They’re still nice to have in case you swap to a third party cable that doesn’t have ear guides preinstalled. About the only thing missing is full foam covers. I wouldn’t consider this a major oversight or anything since full foams can be ordered dirt cheap through places like AliExpress or Amazon. Plus, in my opinion the LE sounds best with donuts so if full foams were included, I’d probably end up converting them at some point anyway.

Final Thoughts The Lyra Nature Limited Edition is more than just a Lyra Nature with a new colour scheme and upgraded accessories. It is a true upgrade to the Lyra Nature, and a proper replacement for their previous flagship, the Lyra 150ohm. The LE merges the best of the 150ohm and Lyra Nature to create a very versatile, well-rounded earbud, one that does a better job than the 150ohm could at justifying the price tag.

In addition to sounding phenomenal and probably the closest thing to a headphone that I’ve heard from an earbud, the 4.4mm balanced cable is drop dead gorgeous and actually serves to improve the listening experience. The earpiece design carries on the Lyra tradition of looking and feeling expensive, though ergonomics aren’t going to win over those who dislike how an earbud fits.

The Lyra Nature Limited Edition deserves to be a flagship earbud. If you’re in the market for one of those, you might want to add it to your shortlist.

Thanks for reading!

– B9

Disclaimer A huge thanks to Astrotec for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Lyra Nature Limited Edition, and for arranging a sample for review. The thoughts within this review are my subjective opinions and do not represent Astrotec or any other entity. At the time of writing the Lyra Nature Limited Edition was retailing for 399.00 USD: https://astrotecglobal.com/products/lyra-nature-limited-edition

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 15Hz – 40,000Hz
  • Sensitivity: 108dB/1mW
  • Impedance: 150ohms
  • Rated Power: 5mW
  • Max Power: 15mW
  • Cable 1: 8 strands, 128 cores 6N OCC Cable (4.4mm balanced plug)
  • Cable 2: Silver-plated OFC Cable (3.5mm stereo plug)

Gear Used For Testing LG Q70, DDHiFi TC35B, Earmen Sparrow, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501

Some Test Tunes

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam

Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams

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