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Beyerdynamic DT 990 Premium 32 OHM Headphones
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- The famous DT 990 Premium, 32 ohm version; Stereo Headphone for MP3, iPhone, iPod and home audio applications, analytical, true sound reproduction
- Made in Germany, innovative "Bass reflex" system for excellent audio performance
- Open design, includes carry case, 11 oz light weight
- Gold vaporized stereo 3.5 mm mini-jack & 6.35 mm adapter
- 2 year manufacturer warranty only when purchased from an authorized beyerdynamic dealer.
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From the manufacturer
It all started with the talkie: electrical engineer Eugen Beyer started his own company in Berlin in 1924 to build cinema speakers. Today, beyerdynamic is the the world leading manufacturer of headphones, microphones and conference systems.
DT 990 Pro Open Back Headphone
Professional acoustically open headphone for monitoring, gaming and studio applications.
- Open diffuse-field studio headphone
- Extremely lightweight diaphragm for superb impulse performance
- Excellent sound reproduction
- Velour Ear Pads for luxurious comfort
- Made in Germany
Why Open Back Headphones?
Open or Closed Headphones refer to the ear cup. Typically headphones are closed and the ear cup is sealed. Sound does not get in or out of a closed headphone much. With our DT990 the ear cups are 'vented' or 'ported' allowing sound to escape and sound in the room to get in. This feature creates a very 'open' sound allowing sound energy to interact with the outside environment. We recommend to you try some for your critical listening, gaming or studio monitoring applications. It is a very unique experience.
Made-to-Measure from Germany
The 'Made in Germany' quality promise applies to product development and manufacture: the designs of beyerdynamic engineers and designers in Heilbronn are then built by approximately 180 highly qualified employees in Germany – mostly by hand.
All products and key technologies are developed in Germany at the company headquarters in Heilbronn. Instead of outsourcing design assignments or purchasing finished solutions from third-party manufacturers abroad, beyerdynamic retains the know-how of its personnel in-house.
The 32 ohm version of the DT 990 Premium line. Excellant choice for MP3 and iPod/iPhone use as well as robust enough for home audio and PC applications. Handcrafted in Germany, the DT 990 is a perfect combination of design and function. This headphone features a true sound definition with phenomenal bass response and the open design.
Top Customer Reviews
That aside, let me start off with the build quality: The DT990-Pro is made entirely of ABS plastic, save for the headband and the forks holding the cans, which are made of metal (aluminum, I'd say, from the weight of it). The head-band is covered with a soft black plastic material held in place by four small clasp-buttons. The DT990-Pro is surprisingly light and extremely comfortable (in this it rivals the other "most-comfortable" headphones I have here, the Sennheiser HD-598). Overall I'd rate the build quality as top-notch, save for the somewhat under-designed cable strain relief (located on the left can). The cable is about 3m log, it is coiled and it ends with a 1/8in jack. A screw-on 1/4in jack is also provided. The strain-relief of the cable at the can attachment point seems (to me) a little too small because the coiled cable is very heavy and with use (given sufficient time) I can see it failing and leading to cable/connectivity issues. Also (this is just a minor personal quibble) the silver velour pads may seem dirty depending on how the light hits them (but again, no big deal, especially since black-velour or leather pads for it are available on Amazon or elsewhere).
On to sound quality: Computer/audio gear used during my listening tests:
MacBook-Pro w/ Mac OS X 10.6.8
XMOS USB 2.0 Audio Reference Design Asynchronous DAC (44.1-192kHz/24bit),
HiFiMeDIY Sabre USB DAC (32-96kHz/24bit),
Matrix M-Stage Headphone Amp,
FiiO E12-Mont Blanc Headphone Amp
Beyerdynamic DT990-Pro Open Headphones (250 ohm, 96dB/mW)
Audio-Technica ATH-A900 closed-back headphones (40 ohm, 101dB/mW),
Superlux HD-681 semi-open headphones (32 ohm, 98dB/mW), and
Sennheiser HD-598 open headphones (50 ohm, 100dB/mW).
Playback software: Audacity, iTunes, VLC
Source quality: standard CD 44.1kHz/16bit, and native HD 88.2-96kHz/24bit
Audio cables: 3.5mm to RCA (3ft), and RCA-to-RCA (3ft), AUVIO and Monoprice brands
The Sound (overall conclusion both DACs/HP-Amps): Good dynamics, detail and clarity, well staged and with good imaging. In terms of frequency response these headphones are tuned such as to emphasize/boost the low and high ends. Perhaps the best way to summarize the DT990-Pro sound by comparison with the other three headphones I have here would be this: The DT990-Pro nearly matches the Superlux HD681 in bass impact without sacrificing dynamics, it easily matches the Sennheiser HD598 in mid-range sparkle, staging, and imaging, and gives the Audio-Technica ATH-A900 a good run for the money in terms of highs extension.
The closest of my other headphones in terms of overall SQ would be the Sennheiser HD598. However, despite the slightly more neutral presentation of the Sennheiser's, I find the DT990-Pro sound far more preferable. The DT990-Pro has a much better low end, and has smoother, more extended highs without that slight veil characteristic to Sennheiser headphones (clearly the Sennheiser HD-598 are decent cans but somehow I could never get too excited about their sound, hence my search for a different pair of open-back headphones). Also, the DT990-Pro manages to present the high end with what I'd call more "precision" than the ATH-A900 without sounding as grainy, and with just as much aplomb as the Superlux without sounding as (excessively) bright. Note: The DT990-Pro are both high impedance (250ohm) and relatively less efficient than the other cans I mentioned here (they only manage 96dB/mW) and thus amping is a must for anyone wishing to get the most out of them. For instance, my iPod Shuffle 1-st Gen (max output: 0.57Vrms) cannot drive them to any reasonable listening level (without severe clipping) and only manages a lifeless, distorted, garbled presentation, while the MacBook-Pro sound card (1.4Vrms) drives them to sufficiently loud levels but with pretty obvious distortions (for an overall harsh, fatiguing presentation.) Based on my experience with such sources I would not recommend these cans for use with portable devices without a proper amp. Also to note: the DT990-Pro do require at least 8-10hr of initial break-in to start sounding right (before that the sound is overly bassy, and somewhat unfocused/cloudy). As of this writing I have 30-35hrs on it and for sound quality I'd break things out like this:
Bass Extension: 6/10
Bass Impact: 7/10
Bass Texture: 7/10 (solid)
Mids Quality: 7.5/10
Highs Extension: 8.5/10
Highs Quality: 8/10 (vivid)
Highs Texture: 7.5/10 (soft)
Detail/Transparency: 8/10 (clear)
Dynamics: 8.5/10 (natural)
Isolation: 2/10 (open design)
Design/Aesthetics: 9/10 (classic Beyerdynamic design)
Build quality: 9/10
Portability: 5/10 (fairly large size)
Improvement w/ Amplification: 8.5/10 (Note: Amping is recommended!)
Value at MSRP: (9/10) [I gave it a 9/10 here only because, by comparison, the $30 Superlux HD681 is still a better bang for the buck!]
To conclude, the Beyerdynamic DT990-Pro are near reference headphones which sacrifice some neutrality for the sake of a more natural sounding, or rather, a more fleshed-out acoustic presentation. As far as I'm concerned, it suffices to say that the DT990-Pro is the only headphone I have here that I can listen to (with any kind of music) without EQ and not feel that I might be missing something (and that, I think, says a lot). All in all, a remarkable offering from Beyerdynamic, highly recommended!
** FOR MUSIC TRACKS TO TEST BASS RESPONSE AND OTHER DYNAMICS OF THE DT990 EDITION (32 Ohm), SCROLL DOWN TO SEE MY TEST PROCEDURE AND MUSIC SELECTIONS **
INITIAL IMPRESSION: The miracle of these headphones is their smooth but strong detail, taking good clean signals and effortlessly conveying a panorama of sound and imagery. It is impossible to say, "These are bright!" or "These are boomy!" or anything like that. If they have a personality, it is that they do everything well, without complaint or coloration. Listening to the DT990 headphones, I want to personify them, admire and respect them. They seem to know what they are about and don't need to be told what to do because it knows more about itself than you or I ever could. Don't educate it, don't direct it, don't admonish it, don't teach it. It doesn't need your help. It is already light years ahead of you, but is polite enough to not rub it in your face. They are like a British double-agent that can lay waste to 10 thugs in the kitchen, brush himself off, and walk unperturbedly and perfectly groomed into the dining room to greet a lady. These headphones sound and feel that composed, that sophisticated, that powerful.
Well, enough of that. Before I go any further, let me tell you that the equipment in my audio chain includes a Windows 7 PC, an Audioengine D1 DAC, a Carver C-4000 preamp, and a Sony Dolby Pro-Logic IIx headphone amp. I did most of my critical listening through the Audioengine D1 by itself. ** See below for test music I used and how I configured my audio chain for critical evaluation. **
SO, WHICH VERSION TO BUY? 32 OHM or 250 OHM (600 OHM not considered): The differing impedances made me question sound quality. If the 32 Ohm was for portable devices, then did that mean they had dumbed it down? Would the 250 Ohm leave me stuck with something I couldn't use because it required more powerful headphone amps than were in my audio chain already? So, I consulted the engineer who refurbished my Carver preamp a couple years ago, asking if the headphone amp in my C-4000 was powerful enough for the 250 Ohm version, or if I would be better off with the 32 Ohm version, that my aim was to not sacrifice sound quality but nonetheless not be stuck with headphones my equipment could not power strongly enough. As well, I got the opinions of some members of the Audioholics online community. Regarding sound quality, everyone I asked said the 32 Ohm version would sound great for any kind of listening, that there would be no discernible, real-world difference between the 32 Ohm and 250 Ohm versions. Even Beyerdynamic's website indicates, "In general, it can be stated that the resolution and precision of the high mids and highs is slightly better at higher impedances.... The sound differences between the various impedances are very slight and most people can only actually hear them when the sounds are compared directly.... The low-resistance, 32-ohm headphones are also an absolutely high-quality variant with excellent transmission characteristics that match the best competitors in the price class." More importantly, Beyerdynamic's website, and the individuals I contacted above, all said it was the ability of the amp to power the headphones that mattered. So, in my case, the decision to buy the 32 Ohm DT990 really came down to what my equipment could drive. Since my current headphones were 24 Ohms, it was a cinch to go with the 32 Ohms. Plus, I didn't want to end up with 250 Ohm headphones, run into a situation where they could not be used, and find I'd have to buy 32 Ohm headphones anyway. See more about impedance in the next paragraph.
TECHNICAL INFORMATION REGARDING IMPEDANCE: In my research I discovered what appears to be the main concern regarding headphone INPUT impedance. It is related to an amp's OUTPUT impedance and how the amp achieves optimal damping of the speaker. Called the "damping factor," this indicates how well the amp controls the speaker motor assembly and diaphragm so that the speaker's movements accurately replicate (i.e. track or resolve) the electrical waveform. It also concerns how ably the amplifier limits the voltage created by the speaker's own movement, achieving this limiting by allowing current to pass from the speaker back into the amp unimpeded, or almost so. (Sort of like shoving somebody, and when they try to shove you back, their arms pass through you.) Let's stop for a moment and think about this in terms of wires and magnets, volage and current: remember in school, when you took coiled wire and turned it inside an array of magnets? You produced electricity, right? When a speaker moves - even if you do it by hand, because its voice coil is in a magnetic field it will PRODUCE electricity and send current out to whatever is connected to it. If that current coming from the speaker goes back to the amp while it is operational, and meets any meaningful impedance, voltage back at the speaker then rises and interacts with the speaker's magnetic field, thus introducing unwanted additional movement in the speaker itself. Not good. But how do engineers fix it? Again, good damping is needed. To optimize damping, the first rule is that the INPUT impedance of the speaker should be 10 times (some say 8) the OUTPUT impedance of the amp. The second rule is that an amplifier must have output impedance below 1 Ohm for best performance. Sounds like that could be a problem, causing every potential headphone consumer to track down the output impedance of any headphone amp before making an informed purchase, right? Well, not really. Since the OUTPUT impedance of solid state amps is almost universally very low, it is fairly easy and safe to make headphones with low INPUT impedances which allow for excellent damping by just about any decent amp. Another way of putting this is that low impedance headphones can sound great if solid state amps are designed with the above rules in mind - and practically all of them are. How can you be sure? Well, just check the manufacturer's amp specs for the lowest impedance headphones the amp will drive, regardless of whether they publish the output impedance of the amp. (Publishing the output impedance of a solid state amp is like being a tire manufacturer and publishing that your tires hold air.) That spec will as a general rule reveal the underlying design approach, which should be very low amp output impedance. For instance, my Audioengine D1 has no listed specs for its amp output impedance, but they do publish that the D1 accepts headphones as low as 10 Ohms. With the above in mind, I was confident both that the D1 effectively drives and controls (i.e. dampens) headphones with impedances down to 10 Ohms, and that the internal amp is at or below good design criteria for an amp's output impedance, which is 1 Ohm or lower. Decision time: the 10 Ohm minimum headphone input impedance stipulated for the Audioengine D1 amp is below the DT990's 32 Ohms - with plenty of room to spare. Furthermore, the DT990 has low enough impedance to be easily driven to loud volumes, which I desire. Problem solved! Let me grab my wallet.
OPEN vs HALF-OPEN vs CLOSED-BACK: I chose the open-back DT990 Editions because I actually wanted the room ambiance that bleeds through with open-back headphones. (I adopted this preference after I got a pair of Koss Porta Pro headphones over 25 years ago.) Aside from overall preference, the specific reason I wanted the open-back DT990 Edition is that I mostly watch movies. The added sense of space via the room's subtle ambient noise coming through the back of the headphone cups, and the better bass extension, form an appealing approach to movie watching. Plus, I am confident of Beyerdynamic's electrical and mechanical driver damping. I do not worry the diaphragm is going to get sloppy because it is in free air.
LOW FREQUENCY EFFECTS IN MOVIES (MUSIC IS REVIEWED BELOW): I put in the Telarc "The Great Fantasy Adventure Album" CD to demo five tracks which Telarc says have low frequency content all the way down to 5 Hertz. I wanted to see how the DT990 headphones would stand up to those five tracks, how the cans would handle the thunderous T-Rex from Jurassic Park, the arrows being shot into a wooden target in Splitting Hairs, and the more traditional fantasy/techie The Anvil of Crom, Cybergenesis, and the Terminator Theme. After listening to these with the DT990, all I can say is, "Wow... and ouch!" While such low frequencies can't be heard, with the DT990 you will feel lots of pressure, and the ear cups may seem to move a bit, producing something akin to an itch or buzzing sensation on or around the ear. Hold the cups in your hands while playing an extended low frequency selection from the above, or from John Wick, Total Recall (2012), or the first five minutes of Prometheus to see what I mean. What I listen for when evaluating low frequency extension, aside from amp clipping, is the rattling and slapping of headphone driver diaphragm breakup. However, with those kinds of low frequencies the DT990 headphones were clean and smooth no matter what I threw at them. The bass is so strong, I find I have to turn down the bass to 10 o'clock below 40 Hz for nearly all of my movie listening. For music, I put the bass back to 12 o'clock, except for those musical pieces which are truly bass heavy (see below). Please be aware that because the DT990 plays frequencies as low as 5 Hz, there is a potential risk of harm to your hearing. (NOTE: If you are using a Windows computer as your source, and you are not getting the low frequencies you expect to hear, make sure your audio playback device is configured for "full range/large speakers" instead of "satellite/surround" speakers, which is the default.)
COMFORT: Mine felt a bit tight. I believe others said the Pro versions were tight. That makes sense. But I don't recall any reviews which said the Editions were tight. Well, mine were tight. But, it was an easy fix: I did a bit of anxious (un)bending of the headband to get them to loosen up a bit, and now they are fine. I do agree that these are quite comfortable. Neither did they make my head or ears feel warm.
MAINTENANCE AND CLEANING: I keep a handkerchief on the headphones when they are in their Luxa2 E-One headphone stand I got from Amazon (see link above). I do this to keep dust off them, and because it looks nice. I do plan on buying a set of replacement ear cushions. For, while the velour of the ear cushions may be cleanable and could last a long time, I read that the foam deteriorates more quickly. For interim cleaning, I think I will just use a wash cloth dampened with a diluted alcohol and water solution to get the oil off the pads.
FINAL COMMENTS: These are superb sounding, extremely well built headphones, that are easily-driven to very loud levels by amps with output around 2 volts. They are engineering marvels in one sense, art in another, fiscally responsible investment in yet a third. Overall, they are completely satisfying and seemingly impossible to regret. Continue reading below to do some testing of your own. I think you will agree these are outstanding headphones! Highly recommended!!
** DT990 TESTING PROCEDURE AND MUSIC SELECTIONS BELOW **
SOURCE MATERIAL: All songs ripped from purchased retail CD/DVD media and saved as lossless .wav files with bit depth=16-bit and sample rate=44.1/48KHz (CD/DVD quality)
SOURCE EQUIPMENT: IBM-compatible PC, Windows 7 SP1 (x64), Microsoft Generic USB Controller (Driver: 6.1.7601.18208)
- VLC Media Player (x64), ver. 2.2.1, surround=off, otherwise all settings at default
- Audioengine D1 Digital-to-Analog Converter Headphone Amp and Preamp
---- D1 Input used for testing: USB
---- D1 Output used for testing: Headphone jack
---- D1 Settings in Windows Playback Devices: Exclusive Mode (direct stream from VLC to D1)
- Beyerdynamic DT990 Edition, 32 Ohm version
- All hardware/software configurations at default or as above
- All volume settings at 65%-70%
BEFORE YOU TEST YOUR HEADPHONES: If using Windows, make sure Windows is not treating your playback device as being connected to "satellite/surround" speakers, which is the default. Be sure to configure your output device as if connected to "full range/large" speakers!
MUSIC USED: The music below highlights the Beyerdynamic DT990's ability to faithfully and forcefully reproduce bass and sub-bass (200Hz to below hearing) while remaining dynamic and composed across the entire audible spectrum. REMINDER: Do not listen at high volumes. Some low frequencies cannot be heard, but rather felt as pressure on the ears and head. As well, bass you can hear in these songs may have a much lower, indiscernible harmonic which itself poses a risk to your hearing.
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra w/Jesus Lopez-Cobos conducting, Bizet Carmen Suite Symphony No. 1 CD (Telarc)
- Carmen Suite for orchestra, No. 1, Act 1, Prelude: from the Telarc CD, this is a challenging test for any headphones... rich and very powerful
Korn, Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 CD
- Another Brick in the Wall, Pts 1,2 & 3: very heavy drums and bass guitar... meaner, darker than the original
Hayley Westenra, Celtic Treasures CD
- Let Me Lie: powerful, deep, poignant... listen for composed presentation, her voice should not break up
- Summer Rain: rolling bass at 0:45 is more felt than heard... the low bass contrasts nicely with her soaring voice
Ramsey Lewis, Boston Acoustics "Music for Bottom Feeders" CD
- People Make The World Go 'Round: prominent and sultry bass, sharp drums, smooth piano
Alanis Morissette, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie CD
- UR: bass is heavy, stompy... song builds around it nicely
Megadeth, Countdown to Extinction CD (Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs)
- Symphony of Destruction: torture test for punchy bass and low, crunchy guitar
Dave Weckl, Boston Acoustics "Music for Bottom Feeders" CD
- Heads Up: probably my number 1 demo track for demonstrating lively and tight dynamics... drums and bass are stellar
Extreme, III Sides to Every Story CD
- Cupid's Dead: phenomenally precise and punchy w/awesome vocals... a relentless groove
Dave Matthews Band, The Central Park Concert DVD, Disc 1
- Crush: superb recording, kick and snare drums are out of this world
Tool, Lateralus CD
- Reflection: hypnotic, percussion-laden track... one of a kind
Harry Gregson-Williams, Total Recall (2012) Soundtrack CD
- The Tripping Den: deep bass that sounds/feels like a wrecking ball has just dropped to the ground
Le Castle Vania, John Wick [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] CD
- The Drowning: it starts out very low, but then steps down... and down... and down
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