As a reviewer, I’m incredibly privileged to test so many different headphones and earphones of varying price points but nothing has ever left me as perplexed as these Beyerdynamic Xelento Remote 2nd generation in-ear audiophile headphones. It’s not because they are handcrafted with 24-carat gold or the TESLA.11 dynamic driver for Hi-Res audio or even the fact that you can transform it into a wireless headset with optional neckband.
No, it’s really the shocking sticker price of AUD $1,499.99. Yeah, let that sink in for a bit. We can all agree that this is stupid money for a set of headphones, let alone earphones. But Beyerdynamic has a very particular customer in mind — The discerning audiophile who wants the very best audio in music and gaming and still want to be able to listen to lossless Tidal streams off their smartphone.
Basically, not me! But since I am a glutton for tech, I just had to go hands on with the Xelento’s and see whether they are worth getting a personal loan to buy.
XELENTO remote (2nd Gen) Audiophile In-Ear Hi-Res Headphones Review
The Xelento’s are in-ear headphones, more commonly referred to as Inner ear monitors or IEM’s but even more commonly known as earphones. To be honest, they seem rather odd in 2023 when everybody is using true wireless earbuds like Beyer’s own Freebyrd’s.
That said, they are far from the cheap, plasticky affair we used to get with our smartphones back in the day. These are something entirely on a different level. Beyerdynamic stresses that these are audio jewellery, made from the highest quality materials including 24-carat gold and silver.
And no doubt they are beautiful. They are a polished metal that catches your reflection and begs for constant cleaning with a microfiber cloth. The cables are made with silver-plated copper and have gold tipped connectors. You get two in the box; a 3.5mm with inline remote control for use with mobile devices, laptops and console controllers and a 4.4mm connector for use with high-end audio components like a DAC/AMP.
The earphones are completely detachable from the cables which means if you accidentally wreck the cable, you don’t have to shell out another $1500 for the who unit but rather, just replace the cable. In the box you also get a premium leather carry case and a whole bunch of ear tips — seven sizes to be exact; XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL.
If none of those work for you like they didn’t for me, Beyer includes three sizes of Comply Tx-500 memory foam tips which gently mold into the shape of your ear canal. I find these far more comfortable and offer a better seal than the silicon tips.
The odd thing about IEM’s is how you wear them. Unlike typical earphones, the Xelento need to be hooked over your ear and then seated into the canal. This ensures the buds remain secure in your ear and the connectors are designed to rotate so you can get a great fit. As good as this is, I found it immensely tedious to put them on and take them off — something to remember.
The 3.5mm cable has an inline remote control with three buttons for controlling your media playback and calls though you’ll be really hard pressed to find a modern smartphone with a 3.5mm port anymore. As such, I didn’t get a chance to test the microphone quality but it’s there if you need it.
Lastly, if you are the kind to work out with your earphones, the Xelentos are rated IPX4 for sweat and splash resistance though I’m not sure working out with a $1500 set of wired headphones makes sense in this day and age but hey!
Sound and performance
Let me preface this section by noting that with any inner ear phone, the fit and seal is absolutely critical to your audio experience. So, your experience of the Xelento 2 will be very different from mine. Even with the better fitting memory foam tips, the soundstage, imaging and clarity were exceptional but the bass was notably middling.
Beyer is using a new TESLA.11 — an 11mm dynamic one-way driver with a new acoustic filter which supposedly provides even more fine detail and lightness in the high-frequency ranges. Marketing spiel of course and since I don’t have any other IEM to compare with or any objective audio testing equipment to prove that, all I can say that the Xelento’s are the widest sounding, cleanest and most detailed earphones I’ve had the privilege of listening to.
Having watched a few Youtube videos from OptimumTech espousing the benefits of IEM’s in gaming, I decided to spend the majority of my time testing in games but also using the Xelento’s as my daily driver for music listening and work calls.
The earphones came as I was rounding out my playthrough of Horizon Forbidden West on PlayStation 5 via 3.5mm connection on the DualSense controller. HFW has an impressively layered soundscape with machines near and far, all doing different things in a lush, untamed environment strewn with waterfalls, rivers and natural fauna. The Xelentos pick up every single detail with impressive clarity and even more impressive positional accuracy. I had no problem identifying the directions each sound was coming from, even above and below.
After that, I played a lot of Returnal which has an incredibly moody, layered soundtrack but also rich environmental audio cues. From the bushes brushing past Selene to the various orbs of death hurtling your way to the live alien plants responding to your proximity. Everything sounded amazing with a surprisingly large soundstage and exceptional positional awareness so I knew where enemies were around me.
So, in games, the Xelentos are certainly impressive and although I don’t play CoD:Warzone or Apex Legends, I’m confident that you will get the best, clearest and accurate audio for competitive play. You will constantly be amazed at how wide the soundstage gets on these tiny buds, exceeding many full-size gaming headsets. It really adds a level of immersion that is hard to fault.
However, the biggest challenge I had with these $1500 earphones came from listening to other media. Just plugging them into my PC or MacBook and they sounded a bit too clinical without the oomph of bass that Beyerdynamic promises. The highs were sharp and detailed though which is great when listening to some classical music and the mids were lush and smooth while the bass was just always just somewhat out of reach.
Admittedly, I don’t have a dedicated DAC /AMP but even using the DAC of my Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro, I didn’t get much improvement in the audio. I suspect that using the balanced 4.4mm cable and connecting to a proper Hi-res audio setup will yield some mind-blowing results though so keep that in mind. Unlike me however, anyone who can afford to spend this kind of money on earphones would most likely already have said equipment on hand.
Intriguingly, the Xelento has a really low 16 ohms power requirement which means you don’t actually need an amplifier — hell, I got perfectly loud audio from a wireless console controller. But for the best experience, you’ll definitely need something a little more to drive it. Oh and a great ear fit too.
So, after my time with the Beyerdynamic Xelento 2 Remote, I can’t say they match the hype, or the price. The physical design, materials and packaging is certainly premium but the audio experience doesn’t match the price tag. Surprisingly, my much cheaper and wireless Beyerdynamic Freebyrd sound a whole lot better for most things than the Xelento.
Sure, you can’t game with them due to latency issues and for sure, the Xelentos perform beautifully in gaming. But there’s like, dozens of IEMs and gaming headsets that sound amazing for far less money. The Sennheiser 200 or Moondrop Aria sound amazing and cost a tenth of the Xelento.
So, let’s just take this for what it is, a high tech piece of 24-carat jewellery — a showpiece, a collectors item, something to aspire to but not really something that makes financial sense to the average gamer. I’d be keen to see Beyerdynamic release something similar but without the flashy materials and landing in the $300-450 price; now that could be something compelling.