Mike loves earbuds and I kind of see them as some sort of curiosity, a curiosity akin to something like, “will it burn if I light my nose?” And yet here I am, not Mike, with Astrotec’s latest earbud, the Lyra Nature.
Surprised? Well, I figured if I like then it must be good because I find very few earbuds worthy of a mention. You may differ on that. Earbuds enthusiasts are like some sort of hardcore cult lurking in the shadows of the audiophile world. They know stuff we do not.
Mind you, the Lyra Nature is no ordinary ‘pop them out of the box’ spare set of cheap buds that emit noise. They retail for $169 so that’s $164 more than a set of VE Monks, a pair of earbuds I really did enjoy and bought about 10 of them after for gifts.
I do happen to have the Lyra 6 also. I have no clue how they got here but I do actually like those and that is the primary reason why the “Nature Boy” has landed on my table. They have got to be better than the Lyra 6, right?
There have been tons of Lyra’s from Astrotec down through the years. The mere fact I already have one with the number 6 might give you a clue how many they have brought to the market.
The previous one, the Collection is a good deal more expensive at $299 and came in both 32Ω and 150Ω edition. Mike actually reviewed the 150Ω version last year and you can find his full review here.
This time the 16mm dynamic driver inside the new Lyra Nature comes with a 32Ω rating only so this set of buds is by no means the hardest to drive and will pair nicely with most sources on paper at least. Its SPL is a pleasing 110dB also so the current demand is quite a bit lower than I was expecting.
The other big tech development and one which caught my eye right away is the use of MMCX connectors and a detachable cable system. I do not know if that is a rare thing but certainly, I have yet to experience an earbud with detachable cables.
I know the DIY scene is awash with detachable earbuds creations so good to see Astrotec take that onboard. Cable rolling will be fun with the Lyra nature.
I have to admit the packaging is very clean and professional looking though possible a bit on the big side. If I remember the Lyra 6 was quite nice but this is clearly a step up in packaging. It is not overcooked though, rather, I just like the ‘classic chrome’ Fuji style coloring and minimal display inside.
Simply put, it does not feel overly boutique and thankfully avoids that overindulgence in black that many a Chinese manufacturer seem to like for their boxes.
You get a fairly decent set of accessories with the Lyra Nature package. Inside you will find the following inserted into a protective foam layer, carry case, and cardboard container box:
MMCX Silver Plated OFC Cable
Silicone ear hooks (m/l)
Silicone ear guides
3 black donut foams
The actual driver units are on display just above the case and accessories box.
The carry case I believe is the same as the Collection series and I have seen a few companies use this type of box before. The is fairly compact and deep rather than a wide case with a stiffened exoskeleton under a stitched beige/tan PU leather finish. There is just enough space inside the case to carry your cable and earbuds but not much more.
The Lyra Nature earbuds have a very attractive design in my eyes. Sure they follow some of the tried and tested design principles of a lot of other earbuds such as the bulbous nozzle and cylindric chassis to the rear but the Nature design is much more refined than that.
The polished aluminum-alloy body is finished with a very nice hurricane grey and light champagne gold finishing on two rings and the MMCX round connector. It feels rock-solid with zero cheap plastics anywhere in the build. The front opening has a rubber apron for some additional grip and a series of fairly aggressive vented slim and long openings to the rear.
I especially love the integrated MMCX stem integration and the finishing on the outfacing plate. I believe that is the much-vaunted Lyra series labyrinth filter using a high-density copper ball die-casting to the rear.
It is quite a striking visual and a unique finish compared to more regular buds such as the Monks which have nothing like this. The whole filter system is supposed to act as a filter for the sound waves to reduce refraction and any other audible nasties.
Cable & Connectors
This I like connection system a lot. This is my first earbud system with a detachable MMCX connector system. And it is not a shady bolt-on either. Rather I find the integration of an MMCX into the main driver housing to be very elegant and refined yet robust at the same time.
Of course, this does mean the Lyra Nature is primarily an over-the-ear earbud which might be controversial for hardcore earbud users who like to wear them down. I am fit agnostic on buds, if they are comfier over the ear then I am good to go.
Certainly, for IEMs that is the way to go to reduce microphonics and keep them steady. To that end, Astrotec has supplied a set of silicone ear guides to assist with running the cable smoothly over your ear.
I am on the fence at the moment with these guides as the cable keeps popping out and the whole system feels easier and quick to stick on or off without them. Still, options are good.
The Lyra comes complete with a detachable silver-plated OFC Cable housed in a translucent silicone/rubber jacket and matching matte silver finished right-angle jack and splitter barrels.
The connector barrels are clearly marked with red and blue rings for each channel matching also. Strain relief seems decent enough with some additional flexible rubber finishing on the 3.5mm TRS jack barrel and connectors.
The cable is dead quiet below and above the splitter which does not surprise me since the Lyra Nature is quite an open design. You will hardly find any wire noise travel into your ear much as you would find with an open-back headphone design.
It does have a little bit of memory retention when unwound but the cable does relax after a few minutes of use and those kinks gradually work themselves out.
I am pretty sure this is a 4-core or 4-wire cable around 26 or 28AWG so I am keen to hear variants with a bigger gauge and wire count as well as some different materials such as pure copper or pure silver.
Comfort & Isolation
The Lyra Nature comes packed with plenty of options on how to fit them on your ear, without which is quite uncomfortable. It is a reasonably large diameter so the donut foams come in handy to soften the pressure on the ear when you adjust them constantly to get that sweet spot.
Over the ear works well for me personally. They feel very steady, even without the silicone ear guides and in-ear hooks. The ear hooks take the steadiness to a much higher level which most will find useful if they are more active when using them. They will not fall out with the hooks which come in medium or large depending on your ear size.
Once you start using hooks plus the silicone cable guides the whole ensemble starts to get a little clumsy for me. There is just too much to manage to get them sitting right. The Lyra 6’s built-in ear hook system feels sturdier and simpler though I understand people have more choice on how to wear the Lyra Nature with the detachable hooks and guides.
The Lyra Nature presentation is an impressively wide and tall soundstage with a forward and slightly euphonic vocal timbre as well as a fantastic level of treble articulation.
That open-back design really makes its presence felt and will make a lot of in-ear monitors sound relatively dark and closed in as a result. That’s the strength of the Lyra Nature and it sounds gloriously strong with midrange instrumental layering and complex imaging. You really feel a strong sense of immersion akin to a decent open-back headphone.
But here is the weakness and one that most buds suffer from, and that’s the lack of bass weight. Positioning is always key with buds but you may think you are getting a lean, linear tight bass but move them a tiny bit and suddenly you are getting nothing at all.
It sort of reminds me of an electrostatic headphone experience in terms of bass delivery. Not huge on weight, not terribly deep sounding but, in keeping with the mids and treble, fairly articulate and pacy for a large dynamic driver.
The timbre is the star of the show with the Lyra Nature. Its sweet-sounding with a hint of warmth from a slight mid-bass rise. The forward smooth vocal tones benefit from a smooth treble tuning also. It is not a sharp top-end at all yet somehow it remains impressively airy with plenty of headroom.
This is how I like my timbre, a hint of sweetness, not overly warm, and enough off-harmonic crispness to keep it from sounding dull or dark.
Of course, I am a relative noob for earbuds but I have had enough exposure to know what I like and patently dislike about them. The Lyra Nature still has some things I quibble about in an earbud but the quality of the sound is impressive. It does seem like a step up from the older Lyra 6.
Cable rolling to see how much of a difference balanced 4.4mm and thicker 8-wire larger gauge cables can bring is adviseable. Getting some different foams just to see what happens would be useful also. I know foams can mask some detail at times but the comfort is undeniable for longer listening sessions.