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Astrotec Lyra Classic Review – Lens

Pros –

Terrific build quality, Tonally excellent, Spacious yet layered soundstage

Cons –

Mediocre bass extension, Smooth high-end can miss some smaller details

Verdict –

The Astrotec Lyra Classic caters towards vocals lovers and those searching for an earbud with a neutral tone without the associated thinness.


Introduction –

Alongside Sennheiser’s infamous MX980 and Yuin’s PK1, Astrotec’s Lyra was one of the first to illuminate that the earbud form factor was brimming with life, potential and capability. The Lyra especially intrigued with its hybrid driver configuration making it one of the most advanced on the market. Since then, the market has matured, premium offerings are more abundant and we’ve seen greater refinement of single driver designs. The Lyra Classic is a testament to Astrotec’s bold original, utilising a 15mm single dynamic driver and the same gorgeous satin silver housings with micro-mesh filters and copper sound cavity. Moreover, Astrotec has reduced the asking price to $140 USD years later where most have succumb to inflation. You can read more about the Lyra Classic and purchase one for yourself here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Astrotec very much for providing me with the Lyra Classic for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earbuds free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories –

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The Lyra Classic has the same unboxing experience as the higher end Lyra Collection, with a clean outer sleeve adorning a magnetic hard box. Inside are the earbuds well protected within a foam inlet and the same terrific pleather hard case as included with the Collection.

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I’m sure users will appreciate how the foam inlet routes the cable in a loop, pre-forming the wire to sit over the ear upon unboxing. Astrotec includes a variety of accessories to ensure an optimal fit and flexible sound. Of note, the Classic comes with an aeroplane adapter, 3 pairs of donut foams and 3 sizes of wings in addition to ear guides.

 

Design –

The Lyra Classic is mostly similar to the Lyra Collection I reviewed at the end of 2017, with identical dimensions and, by correlation, fit. The buyer is flattered with the same gorgeous aluminium housings that feel absolute in their solidity. I was also highly impressed with Astrotec’s level of finish; when pixel peeping my photos, they were almost flawless where the majority of metal earbuds show small flaws up close. Their striking design is garnished in a mature titanium grey, and I subjectively prefer the Classic’s more subdued colour scheme to the blue Collection.

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The Lyra Classic is a fairly wide earbud, protruding slightly from the ear. As a result, it isn’t perfectly comfortable for sleeping, but the smaller diameter of the face (similar to the Yuin shell) enables a more flexible fit than most, especially for smaller eared listeners. As with the Collection, I found the Classic to be comfortable for hours on end, with no hotspot formation. Their over-ear design also provides a little extra stability over most earbuds. As they create minimal seal, the Lyra Classic barely isolates and will leak sound at high volumes, just like any other earbud.

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It’s unfortunate that Astrotec has omit the excellent cable on the Lyra Collection, instead opting for a more typical rubber unit as employed on their cheaper in-ears. This cable is just passable, it has a tacky texture that I’m not a fan of, and it’s also fairly stiff and springy on top. Despite this, microphonics don’t irk due to the earbud’s weak seal and the cable is well-relieved at its terminations. Still, it’s not nearly as compliant as the Collection’s gorgeous 8-braid unit and its texture makes it difficult to untangle.

 

Sound –

Tonality –

The Classic is the Collections’ more neutrally toned sibling, pursuing a mostly well-balanced signature with a hint of extra body. Bass presence varies greatly with fit depth so the Lyra Classic can be categorised as either a slightly mid-forward or L-shaped earbud as opposed to the more U-shaped Collection. Paired with a smooth, unfatiguing high-end, the Classic appeals to vocal lovers, delivering enhanced midrange clarity without neglecting lows or thinning note body. It also does so without sounding overly forward nor is it especially bright. The Lyra Classic received over 200hrs of burn-in prior to review to ensure optimal performance during evaluation. All comments will be using the included donut foams as I found them to be the most balanced.

 

Bass –

Bass takes a slight backseat to the Classic’s midrange, but draws the listener’s attention through its full, punchy notes. This is mostly derived from slight mid-bass emphasis that imbues additional body. On the contrary, the Lyra Classic has a mostly inexistent sub-bass presence that enables greater focus on higher elements. It does still deliver hints of rumble and perceptible impact though, of course, traditional sealing in-ears have a considerable advantage and no listener should expect a visceral low-end from any earbud.

Upper-bass has just slight emphasis if any at all, paving the foundation for a tonally transparent midrange. Through this style of tuning, the Lyra Classic doesn’t sound explicitly warm or organic, but rather lightly full-bodied. As bass control is on the higher side, this culminates towards a well-defined low-end with clearly delineated notes; no doubt aided by the Classic’s very open form factor. The Classic also keeps pace well with faster tracks and bloat is never an issue despite its mid-bass focused tuning as the Classic remains tight and controlled at all times, ensuring appropriate note decay.

 

Mids –

The focal point of the Lyra Classic’s presentation, mids are clear, present and slightly full. Lower-mids have a hair of emphasis, but as upper-bass is fairly neutral, the earbuds are simply well-bodied without added chestiness or muffle. The centre midrange is the most prominent aspect of their signature and is most responsible for their vocal first presentation. This is augmented with a moderate upper-midrange bump that enhances clarity and places greater emphasis on female over male vocals. As its lower-treble is smooth, articulation and sibilance are subdued, maintaining natural voicing. Combined with their slightly greater body, fatigue is successfully mitigated fatigue despite their brighter tuning. General midrange resolution is also on the higher side, though again, they don’t resolve quite like a similarly priced IEM.

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In return, listeners are granted a very separated, layered presentation that recreates atmosphere like few in-ears. Timbre is also quite pleasing and, as with the Collection, I found myself impressed by the Classic’s midrange tone that avoids becoming overly cool like the VE Asura 2.0 (without foams as intended by LEE) or warm like the majority of other earbuds. In fact, the Classic is more tonally neutral than the warmer Collection as its upper-bass is more reserved and its upper-midrange more forward to compensate for its low-end warmth. Instruments remain laid-back relative to vocals and though their portrayal isn’t perfectly realistic, Astrotec does a better job than the vast majority who are perhaps struggling to embrace the earbud form factor.

 

Highs –

With a smoother foreground set to a slightly brighter background, the Lyra Classic does prioritise midrange timbre, but it certainly doesn’t compromise high-end engagement in so doing. Lower-treble is well-detailed helped, in part, by an elevated upper-midrange that supplements instrument body in addition to a complete lack of peaks. It does take a backseat in the sound though highs never come across as fatiguing as a result. Hints of crispness remain which, combined with the aforementioned upper-midrange elevation, retain pleasing detail presence even if the earbuds don’t flatter genres such as acoustic and rock. On the flipside, middle-treble has a touch of emphasis that aids air, contributing towards the Classic’s spacious, open presentation.

Through such tuning, the earbuds achieve quite an organic treble reconstruction; cymbals are well-bodied and strings textured, high-hats sound pristine if slightly thin at times. Decay is natural and detail retrieval is high, though micro-details aren’t the Classic’s strength as its smoother character can glance over fine nuances. This impression is reinforced by good but not outstanding treble extension and a generally more subdued upper-octave. In accordance, resolution is pleasing, enabling the Lyra Classic to resolve without resorting to lower-treble aggression. Sparkle is fairly muted, though the Classic does impress with its air, thereby creating a presentation that prioritises refinement and background detail over crispness.

 

Soundstage –

With an especially open design, the Lyra Classic carries similar stage properties to the Collection. As its midrange is more forward and its treble less extended, dimensions aren’t quite as expansive. But this remains one of the most spacious and immersive earbuds I’ve tested yet. The Classic’s stage expands beyond the head in all axis. Its presentation is slightly width biased with forward vocals bringing the centre closer to the listener. Imaging is fairly accurate though directional cues aren’t always well resolved and bass tends to take a backseat to vocals. Still, layering is excellent, with clear distinction between the foreground and background without drowning out smaller details. Separation is also a strength, aided by a generally faster sound and well-sized notes that occupy nothing but their rightful place. Vocals do have occasional tendency to overshadow other details, though even then, the Classic’s large dimensions enable easier distinction of layers and details.

 

Driveability –

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The Lyra Classic has a fairly palatable impedance of 32ohms and a 108dB sensitivity, making it one of the easier earbuds to drive to high volumes. That said, AB testing with an in-line switcher revealed that the Classic scales quite nicely with dedicated sources. For instance, switching from an iPhone 6S to the Fiio Q5 yielded noticeably tighter lower-frequencies and slightly more resolving highs aided, in part, by increased separation and expansion of the soundstage. Less powerful sources produce a warmer sound and a generally slower bass presentation which negatively impacts separation and transparency. Still, from a decent smartphone, the Lyra Classic is perfectly content, some may even prefer a little additional bass warmth. But to reap maximal benefit from their spacious, well-layered presentation, a dedicated source is recommended.

 

Comparisons –

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Shozy Cygnus ($90): The Cygnus is a more U-shaped earphone with greater bass presence and a more vibrant high-end. The Cygnus’ bass extends slightly further and it sounds noticeably warmer and fuller on account of its larger mid-bass emphasis. The Lyra Classic is more tonally neutral and less bloated, it also holds a fairly significant advantage in terms of tightness and control. So though it lacks the richness of the Cygnus, the Classic provides considerably greater detail and definition. The Cygnus has a pleasant midrange characterised by a slight emphasis on clarity and articulation combined with a moderate amount of warmth as a result of its emphasized bass. On the contrary, the Classic has a more neutral bass/lower-midrange transition and a smoother high-end presentation.

Its midrange is more forward on a whole, but it doesn’t fatigue due to its refinement. The Cygnus has greater upper-midrange presence and lower-treble, counteracting its warmth while enhancing clarity (more so than the Lyra Classic). Details are more present on the Cygnus as a result, though its treble sounds somewhat peaky compared to the more linear Classic, which retrieves more raw detail. The Cygnus rolls off fairly quickly above with the Classic providing noticeably greater extension and resolution. This is especially noticeable with regards to soundstage where the Classic has a huge advantage in both size and imaging. It also has a significantly more layered presentation and greater separation throughout due to its more neutral tone and greater resolving power.

Penon BS1 Official ($100): The venerable BS1 Official has been hyped to the heavens as an engaging U-shaped earbud that also has some impressive technical traits. It’s a noticeably more vivid earbud with greater sub-bass extension and impact. Its mid-bass is fairly emphasized but also well controlled, delivering punch without too much bloat. Though it isn’t as tight or defined as the Classic, the BS1 Official will suit those wanting greater impact. The BS1 Official has a slightly sucked out upper-bass/lower-midrange transition creating a slightly cooler midrange tone. Combined with a forward upper midrange/lower-treble, the BS1 Official sounds very clear and separated.

The Lyra Classic on the other hand, is more linear, balanced and natural with a more realistic timbre. There’s noticeably more nuance even if it lacks the clarity of the BS1. The BS1 Official has a noticeably more vibrant treble response, with slightly aggressive foreground detailing in addition to a modest middle-treble emphasis that creates a bright, airy background. The Lyra Classic extends further and sounds both cleaner and more refined, as it’s more linear, it’s also slightly more detailed though it also isn’t nearly as crisp and pristine sounding. The BS1 Official has slightly more width than the Lyra Classic though it lacks the same depth and layering due to its more sculpted tuning.

Rose Masya ($110): The Masya is a brighter earbud than the Classic with a more robust bass response. It extends deeper, delivering greater impact and slam. The Masya has a slightly fuller mid-bass combined with a natural upper-bass hump. It’s nicely controlled though not quite as tight or defined as the Classic. The Masya has a warmer midrange with great upper-midrange presence enabling very high levels of clarity. The Lyra Classic is more balanced and more neutral in tone, it can be considered the more transparent earbud. The Lyra Classic is more vocal forward, though the Masya is the more forward sounding earbud on account of its greater upper-midrange emphasis and brighter background.

This also stems from its high-end which is characterised by a fairly significant middle-treble emphasis. It also has a nicely crisp lower-treble that aids detail presence, though the Masya is neither as linear nor as detailed as the Classic. In return, it’s a lot airier, a hallmark of the Masya. The Classic actually extends a little further, delivering higher resolution, and its more restrained middle-treble emphasis grants it a cleaner background. The Masya is immensely spacious, more so than the Classic. However, this does come at the cost of imaging, with the Classic being significantly more precise in its placement and layered in its presentation. The Classic also separates better due to its more neutral tuning in addition to greater linearity and higher resolution.

Shozy BK ($160): The BK is slightly more balanced than the Lyra Classic with a more natural tone and realistic timbre. The BK extends a hair further at the very bottom but neither earbud excels with bass extension. The BK has slightly more mid-bass, it’s slightly more detailed though the Classic is cleaner in tone. The BK’s midrange is a touch warmer, it has a little more upper-bass and more lower-midrange presence. Compared to the Lyra Classic, it is more linear, delivering a warmer but also more natural presentation; to my ear, the BK has the best midrange timbre of any earbud I’ve tested to date. The BK has a lifted lower-treble that increases its midrange clarity despite having less upper-midrange presence than the Classic. As such, the two lie equally on the opposite ends of the scale, the Classic is clear but smooth, the BK natural with enhanced articulation, thereby achieving similar overall clarity.

As such, the BK is clearly crisper within its treble where the Classic is quite smooth and subdued. Both are equally well detailed, the Classic being more full-bodied and organic up top, the BK more aggressive, but also a little spikier in its signature, losing some micro-detail. The Classic extends further than the BK, delivering greater resolution and air, even if its smoother signature doesn’t make this immediately apparent. The BK has a fairly intimate stage for an earbud, but it’s coherent and well layered with well-placed instruments. The cooler Lyra Classic is more spacious and also more separated, but it lacks the coherence of the more linear BK, even if it is coherent in isolation.

Lyra Collection 32ohm ($300): The Lyra Collection is more U-shaped yet more engaging with greater end to end extension. It has significantly greater sub-bass extension and a noticeably deeper, more impactful low-end. Mid-bass is slightly more present as is upper-bass at the expense of a little definition. Still, the Collection is just as tight and controlled as the Classic, with similar bass detail despite greater emphasis and extension. Mids are slightly warmer on the Classic, but redeemed by a more present treble that trades the Classic’s smoothness for a slight vibrance. It isn’t quite as transparent nor as clear, and vocals are slightly laid-back as opposed to being slightly forward. However, the Lyra Collection remains natural and well-voiced, assuming a more organic approach.

The Collection also has a slight upper-midrange lift that retains pleasing if not outstanding clarity through its slightly fuller presentation. The Lyra Collection has a slightly crisper treble, but most notably, greater extension. It has higher resolution and superior staging properties in addition to a noticeably greater foreground and background detail retrieval. The Classic is notably smoother though both transition nicely from the upper-midrange to provide high levels of detail and appropriate instrument body. The Lyra Collection has a cleaner background and greater sparkle. It has a larger stage aided by its more laid-back midrange and superior extension. However, though it layers slightly better, separation can actually be worse than the more neutrally toned Classic.

 

Verdict –

The Lyra Classic really surprised me in a lot of regards and it goes without saying that this is a well-priced earbud considering the performance and build quality on offer. Again, buyers searching for the most resolving, detailed sound will want to look towards an in-ear, but the earbud form factor definitely has its merits. I think many will be surprised that the Classic provides a lot of the same experience as the very premium Collection at just half the price; buyers receive the same flawless build quality, excellent tone and spacious presentation but will have to contend with a fairly mediocre fixed cable.

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And in some regards, the Classic’s tuning is actually more transparent than the Collection and its midrange cleaner. Where Astrotec’s flagship provides most benefit is with regards to technical performance, providing a significantly more extended bass response and greater resolution, in addition to what I would consider to be a more accessible tuning. The Classic may not have the most vivid sound, but it thrives through balance and a very natural sense of clarity. It, therefore, caters towards vocals lovers and those searching for an earbud with a very neutral tone without the associated thinness.

The Lyra Classic is available from Amazon (International) for $140 USD at the time of writing. Please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.

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