Beyerdynamic has been rolling out a lot of new products lately just in time for the holidays. Coming as a huge addition to their professional reference headphone line, the DT 1990 is a open-back version of their acclaimed DT 1770 closed-back reference headphone. Having not been a huge fan of the DT 1770, favoring Fostex’s TH610 for a closed back reference in that price range. I wasn’t expecting much out of the headphone, so I fired up my tube amp and first reference track then before I knew it I was halfway through my music library. From being lost in the comfort and sound quality I was quickly changing my mind about Beyerdynamic’s reference line. Their engineers found a fine line between analytical detail and musicality that has constructed an incredible pair of cans.
Out of the Box
From opening up a lot of audiophile headphones I start to feel like I’m owed goodies from the moment I open the box. Luckily for Beyerdynamic they usually don’t disappoint in this category. Coming with the usual hard-shell case for transporting the headphones. The box includes two sets of cables: a 3 meter straight cable and a 5 meter coiled cable, both with screwable 6.3mm adapters connected. Also in the box is two sets of velour earpads, both with different sound qualities one being a detailed set and the other with a balanced sound quality which adds a little more bass extension. And of course the usual paperwork, manual and warranty booklet.
If your have ever seen or worn the DT 1770 then the structure and design will be very familiar to you, just being an open-back version of the DT 1770. Coming with a well padded headband and two comfortable velour ear-pads. The clamping force is pretty neutral and unnoticed during long term listening sessions. While they don’t weigh in too heavy they aren’t as light as some similar range Sennheisers. The connector is a removable mini-XLR which unfortunately can only run an unbalanced signal configuration, which is something I want to start seeing less of in premium audiophile cans. And last but not least the DT 1990s are running the latest version of their Tesla drivers.
Before knowing about the different ear-pads I felt like the DT 1990s had a little too much low end coloration to be considered a true reference-class headphone, this is a term I hold at a unreasonably high standard. But their sound quality was still fantastic and detailed. Then while reading through the manual, guys always read the manual.. seriously do it, I figured out that I was listening for the entire first day with the ‘balanced’ ear-pads which add a little extra to the low end. Upon learning this I switched out the pads, again see the manual on how to install them properly, to the ‘analytical’ version and got more of a response I was expecting from a mixing grade headphone.
Tonally the headphones have a pretty neutral sound characteristic, with a slight dip in the mids taking it into the range of a v-shaped headphone. While listening to them with the balanced ear-pads this sound characteristic shifts slightly into the domain of a warmer headphone. I am not sure of which ear-pad comes installed on the headphone by default, but like I mentioned mine was the Balanced (bass extension) ear-pad. Now to the part everyone skips to.
Without taking any ear-pad into consideration the headphones by default offer a deep and defined representation of low end content. The bass isn’t sluggish or muddy, with a good extension into sub-bass content. When listening with the balanced ear-pads the low end gets an additional bit of shape and clarity from the boost. Taking it lower and louder this flirts with making the low end more muddy, but it still retains it’s low end integrity. Bass is fast and accurate, while kick sounds loud and full bodied.
There is a slight recession in the mid range allowing more room for the low and high end to breath and develop. The mids are still crisp and defined in the reproduction of content. Thanks to the great soundstage/imaging the headphones offer a great separation of detail when the mid range gets overrun with content. There is a good amount of transparency in this frequency bracket that allows even the most veiled Donald Fagen tracks to be fully experienced with missing no notes or sweeteners in the back of the track.
There cant be any compromises in the frequency response of a true reference grade headphone, and luckily it doesn’t begin here. Strings are allowed to sing to their upper limits and horns can scream late into the night without becoming too brittle or sharp. There is a nice upper air to the headphones that allows this extension and decay of high end detail.
While not as massive as other open-back headphones there is still a large amount of room and space to the headphones, that allows for some precision and quality panning of signals. Tracks that try to hide sweeteners and other small production details are revealed by the large sound field.
This is a quality built headphone that is of true reference grade quality. The sound quality is solid and retaining a neutral and slight v shape with the right pads on. Their design and build is also quality in appearance and feel. With the removable ear-pads adjusting frequency response you get both work and pleasure out of the headphones.
While it’s easy to disregard many headphones that are in this mid-range audiophile zone, with many people polarizing to the budget lower end or ultra high-end pairs of cans. I have been continuously surprised by Beyerdynamic’s recent releases and glad to see a company I was viewing as losing steam to be on the contrary, building and stronger than ever. And for that I award it the majorhifi gold award.
|Headphone design (operating principle)||Open|
|Headphone impedance||250 ohms|
|Headphone frequency response||5-40,000 Hz|
|Nominal sound pressure level||102 dBSPL (1mW/500Hz)|
|Construction||Circumaural (around the ear)|