Neckband earbuds aren't dead yet – and at this price, I'm lovin' the cord

Beyerdynamic Blue Byrd ANC (Gen 2) worn by two different men, walking around town
(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

It's a constant dilemma for the music-loving athlete: do you opt for some of the best wired earbuds (and feed those pesky cables around your body during your run), the best true wireless earbuds (and accept the occasional puddle/sidewalk sacrifice), or even some of the best bone conduction headphones and take a hit on immersive bass?

Well, there is still another option. If you thought neckband earbuds had been lost to the sands of time, think again! Beyerdynamic is back with a brand-new neckband design, now with noise cancellation, called the Beyerdynamic Blue Byrd ANC.

A quick recap of the firm's previous true wireless designs won't take long: the company's inaugural truly wire-free 'buds arrived just over a year ago (yes, that is relatively late to the party considering Apple's been in the true wireless game since 2016, with its original Apple AirPods) but because the Free Byrd are styled like guitar picks I deemed it instantly forgivable. Then, there's the 2018 Blue Byrd, the only wireless set in a trio of Byrds which also comprises the fully wired Beat Byrd and Soul Byrd. (Anyone else now singing "Gimme the Beat Byrd and free my soul"?)

The 2018 flagship wireless Beat Byrd was the first time a Beyer headphone did away with the wire to your device in favor of a Bluetooth connection, although the earbuds themselves were still linked – and that is what we have here in the Blue Byrd ANC, but with an added reinforced band meant to sit comfortably around your neck, plus active noise cancellation. 

Analysis: thoroughly modern spec-sheet, refreshingly humble price tag

Beyerdynamic Blue Byrd ANC

Beyerdynamic has levelled up the mic array to boast ANC, transparency and clear call-handling  (Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

As you'd expect, a year on since the Free Byrd landed (and nearly five years since the original Blue Byrd), Beyerdynamic has levelled up the spec sheet for the Blue Byrd ANC. 

The built-in battery now offers up to 14 hours of playtime (versus six hours in the first-gen Blue Byrd, or 11 in the Free Byrd); and although the original Blue Byrd and this new model both offer Mosayc sound personalization, which fine-tunes the sound to your hearing via a two-minute app-based hearing test, Beyerdynamic claims that when combined with the new Blue Byrd ANC, its MIY app takes sound personalizastion to the next level. Why? Because you now get noise cancellation and transparency modes too. 

The Blue Byrd ANC supports Bluetooth 5.2, multipoint connectivity to two devices, Qualcomm aptX Adaptive, regular aptX and Google fast-pair too. A 10-minute charge nets you two hours of playtime, there's an IPX4 water resistance rating, an in-line remote on the neckband and a premium cVc mic array for call handling. 

Personally, I like a neckband design for comfort and security at my desk – and although the spec-sheet has been improved, it's nice to see that Beyerdynamic is sticking with its 2018 pricing strategy, because the new Beyerdynamic Blue Byrd ANC have launched at the same price as the 2018 model, aka €129 (around $150, £115 or AU$205), even with five ear tip options included.

Might our best earbuds buying guide soon feature a new model? Or could Beyer even break into our best noise-cancelling earbuds roundup with this fresh set of 'buds? After all, any audio outfit that can list the excellent DT 770 Studio/Pro (a wired headphone revered by sound engineers) or the equally talented Amiron Wireless on its books deserves our attention. Watch this space. 

Becky Scarrott
Senior Audio Staff Writer

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.