Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC review: Imperfection at its finest

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Beyerdynamic takes on Sony and Bose with one of its latest projects, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC. This nearly $400 pair of headphones sets itself apart from the rest with a light-guide system, informing listeners of the headset’s connection status, battery level, and more. Other than that, it’s similar to what we’ve seen from other ANC headsets and boasts stellar sound quality to boot.

Editor’s note: this review was updated on March 2, 2020, to address firmware update 1.1 that promises to improve ANC performance.

Who is the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC for?

The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC is marketed toward travelers and explorers. These noise cancelling headphones mitigate external sounds well, making it easier to nap on a long flight or crowded Amtrak trip. The lightweight, foldable form factor means they hardly take up room in a bag. If you’re that tight on space, you can always loop the case to the outside of your luggage or a backpack.

Noise cancellation is a great feature to have as it helps prevent hearing loss: by actively negating external noise, we’re less likely to increase the volume to dangerous levels.

What’s it like to use the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC?

Onboard controls of the Lagoon ANC.

The buttons, inputs, and touch panel are all crammed onto the same (right) housing.

Using the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC is straightforward. It has a hybrid control system comprised of both touch and button controls. Once you memorize its menu of gestures, you can manage playback, volume, calls, and voice assistant commands. The buttons lie on the outer edge of the right ear cup, the same one which houses the touch panel. They allow you to adjust noise cancelling intensity, enter pairing mode, and power the headset off. I wish Beyerdynamic placed the buttons on the left ear cup. There were a handful of times I accidentally hit the touch panel when increasing ANC.

The build is sturdy despite it being predominantly plastic. Swiveling ear cups rotate at the yokes for a comfortable fit, but you may run into issues with the band size. With the headband completely retracted, set to the smallest size, it’s a tad too large for my head. This misfit places undue pressure on the crown of my head. I suspect most adult noggins won’t run into this problem, though.

Our unit randomly ceases music playback, occasionally requiring a complete un- and -repair process to get it to resume normally.

Beyerdynamic inserted sensors into the Lagoon ANC, which allow it to recognize when it’s inactive. Most of the time this works flawlessly: set it on a table and playback pauses. However, if you’re looking down for a few seconds it will register this as inactivity and pause music playback. This was annoying when I sewed my cat’s toys back together and did minor home improvement projects.

Screenshot from the Windows application for the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC.

The Windows Beyerdynamic Update Hub application.

Oddly enough, the headset seems to enter sleep mode after 45 minutes of playback. According to my phone, the Lagoon is still connected and playing music, however, the headphones aren’t actually emitting any noise. A quick fix for this is turning ANC off and back on, but this doesn’t always work. Half the time, I would have to power the Lagoon ANC off and on, and if that didn’t work, re-pairing was the next step. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s a strange, annoying dysfunction nonetheless.

Fortunately, this seems like something which is easy to remedy via a firmware update. In order to update your headset, download the Beyerdynamic Update Hub app for Windows or Mac. The requirement for a desktop app seems silly since other companies, Sony and Bose, roll out firmware updates via their respective mobile apps. Beyerdynamic has an iOS/Android app, too, called MIY. It lets you take a hearing test to customize your hearing profile and enhance audio playback. While you can factory reset the headset from the app, you can’t update it.

Breaking down the light-guide system (LGS)

Aerial view of the ear cups which are white and red (lit by LEDs).

The light-guide system is neat but I didn’t find it very useful.

Beyerdynamic’s LGS is one of those things that seems handy on paper but is more effort for the user than its worth. Below are a majority of the indicator combinations, save for a breakdown of battery percentages. After two weeks with the headphones, I never got the hang of what the colors meant. This made me realize how much I prefer voice prompts, which the Lagoon also provides. To make use of the LGS, I had to remove the headphones, wait for the ring lights to attempt to communicate something to me, and decipher what the color patterns meant. It’s a run-on sentence of a process and feels gimmicky.

  • Picking up the headphones: right ear cup glows red, left glows white
  • Pairing mode: the right and left shells alternately flash blue
  • Successful pairing: a blue light fading in
  • Standby mode (10 seconds of inactivity): no LGS indicators
  • Battery almost depleted: red flash occurs four times
  • Bluetooth connection active, also indicates media playback and current call: both ear cups glow orange
  • Bluetooth connection lost: Slow blue flash of both ear cups, which is interrupted every three seconds
  • Firmware update in progress: both ear cups glow pink
  • Display of “sound dosage” (stress on hearing): a scale between green and red is displayed for three seconds

How long does the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC’s battery last?

According to our testing, the 1100mAh battery lasts 20 hours, 8 minutes. Although this falls short of the cited 24.5-hour battery life with ANC on, it’s worth noting we had ANC level II active rather than ANC I. You’re afforded a longer runtime with less demanding ANC processing. When it’s absolutely drained, just plug the headset into the included USB-C cable; a full charge requires three hours.

Light-guide system battery indicators:

  • 0-30% interior LEDs flash red
  • 30-70% interior LEDs flash yellow
  • 70-99% interior LEDs flash green
  • 100% interior LEDs display solid green

How do you connect the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC to your phone?

The headphones partially folded with the right ear cup facing the lens. It has markings indicating touch controls.

You can pair via NFC or the traditional Bluetooth process.

Most of us will opt to connect via Bluetooth, rather than by wire. The headphones support NFC pairing as well as the traditional Bluetooth pairing process. They operate via Bluetooth 4.2, Class 1, and afford a 10-meter wireless range. While testing, I was able to push the boundaries of this closer to 11 meters, when unimpeded by walls. It’s unusual, perhaps for some unacceptable, to see premium headphones use an older Bluetooth firmware. You’re also limited to connecting to one device at a time.

You can only connect to one device at a time with the Lagoon ANC.

What’s more important than the Bluetooth version is codec support. The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC supports three high-quality codecs: aptX Low Latency, aptX, and AAC. The aptX LL support makes these a viable wireless candidate for PC gamers because the microphone quality is excellent too.

Related: Best aptX headphones

On March 2, 2020, Beyerdynamic announced firmware update 1.1 which is available through the Beyerdynamic update hub. Download the appropriate update tool (Windows or Mac) and run the program. From there, follow the applications instructions to experience improved noise cancelling performance.

What do the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC sound like?

The frequency response chart appears wonky, but don’t let that deceive you: sound quality is superb. The bass emphasis is preferred by most casual listeners and comes in handy to further attenuate external noise. What’s more, midrange emphasis benefits clarity of popular musical sounds such as vocals, guitars, and their harmonic resonances.

While the dip beginning at 3kHz looks severe, it’s a feature of the sound signature and is similar to how Sennheiser treats its headsets. By lessening this frequency range, you’re less likely to experience excess harmonic distortion as this frequency range doesn’t play kindly with the human ear canal.

Isolation and noise cancelling are both very good. You can choose between three ANC modes: off, level I, and level II. Low hums like air conditioning and an airplane engine may be mitigated. However, if you want better noise cancelling for less, look at the Sony WH-1000XM3 or the AKG N700NC headphones.

Lows, mids, and highs

Let’s listen to Maggie Rogers’ song The Knife. This song sounds fantastic through the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC. Cymbal hits are present throughout and emphasize the sharp, emotions Rogers documents in the ballad. The aforementioned 3-5.5kHz dip assists Rogers’ vocals especially during the “ohs” joining the initial chorus to the second verse (1:18). These reverberated vocalizations leave plenty of room for harmonic distortion, but the de-emphasis acts as a measure to prevent this.

The bass response, while emphasized isn’t going to cause any headaches, having much to do with how midrange frequencies nearly as exaggerated. The percussive elements recur as frequently as the cymbal hits but are less salient due to audio engineering coupled with the Lagoon ANC’s controlled emphasis.

If it isn’t apparent enough, I thoroughly enjoy the sound signature of the Lagoon ANC. While it isn’t a technically “flat” profile, it’s consumer-friendly without singling out a given frequency range and making its reproduction offensive.

Is the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC good for phone calls?

Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC headphones microphone frequency response chart.

The microphone is great for phone calls no matter how high or low your voice is.

It’s a great headset for phone calls. My voice was always relayed loudly and clearly to friends. It even performs well outside, assuming there aren’t any severely high winds blustering about. Just be sure you’re wearing the headset properly. One tired evening, I wore the headphones backward, right ear cup on the left ear, and the microphone quality was dramatically degraded before realizing my mistake.

Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC microphone demo:

Related: How to read charts

Should you buy the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC?

The headphones lying flat on a black surface.

The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC is a great travel companion with a few idiosyncratic quirks.

If you can forgive the intermittent and abrupt stops in music playback, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC is a wonderful headset for travel, casual and office use. Admittedly, the cost is unappealing, as is the outdated Bluetooth firmware, but sound quality is excellent.

Sure, the headphones aren’t the best bang-for-your-buck option out there, but they’re not marketed as such. These are the headphones you get if you want high-visibility user features. If you want a comparable experience for less, get the Sony WH-1000XM3.

Next: Best noise cancelling headphones

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