We encountered plenty of wireless headphones at CES, from noise-canceling over-ears to true wireless buds, and even “hearables” that allow you to control your own sonic environment by augmenting the sound around you. But this year, it was trusty old sonic engineering (wires and all) from the veteran headphone gurus at Beyerdynamic that really got our hearts pumping with the new Xelento remote in-ears.
An adaptation of a little known in-ear jewel that Beyerdynamic created for hi-res audiophile brand Astell & Kern dubbed the AK Ti8E, the Xelento uses a shrunken-down version of the company’s storied Tesla dynamic moving coil driver. The driver, which is a 16th the size of its over-ear predecessor, creates an elegant and thrilling sonic experience — even when heard from the Las Vegas Convention Center’s noisy showroom floor.
First developed for Beyerdynamic’s audiophile and studio-grade headphones, the Tesla driver is defined by its extreme efficiency and transparent sound signature all the way across its massive 8Hz-48kHz frequency response. The driver is contained within a three-layered, water-and-solvent-resistant metallic shell, while the sound source is delivered to the earphones via a silver-layered removable cable sheathed in kevlar — including both a straight cable and one with (of course) a remote mic piece. The cable is extremely light, though it did sit just a tad awkwardly when we flipped it over our ears.
The performance we heard in our short audition was impressive, re-creating instruments and vocals with sterling accuracy and gorgeous fluidity from end to end. There’s an especially intriguing touch of sparkle in the treble that is distinct from the vast majority of Hi-Fi headphones we review, most of which use a grouping of balanced armature drivers to achieve their small size and zippy transient response, which are then grouped to cover the bass, midrange, and treble registers. While we’ll need a much longer audition for a definitive evaluation of the Xelento remote, we walked away not just impressed but excited about what Beyerdynamic has been able to accomplish with its special single-driver setup.
Those who want to get their hands on the Xelento remote will pay a pretty penny to do so, as the earphones are priced at a cool $1,000 — not outrageous for audiophile in-ears, but certainly no clearance sale. With an absolutely gorgeous sound signature, an efficient driver system that’s easy to push from even your smartphone, and handmade construction that’s tailor-made to stand up against the elements, this pair of in-ears could just be your next audio obsession. They did enough for us, in fact, to garner our CES 2017 Best Headphones award.
Beyerdynamic’s new Xelento remote in-ears are expected to be available in February.
- Exquisite treble response
- Fluid and accurate sound signature
- Gorgeous, durable design
- Great accessory set
- Cable a tad awkward with earphones in