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Beyerdynamic DT 48 E (25 ohm)

Posted

Pros: Timbre accuracy, transparency, detail, resolution, flat, imaging,

Cons: Bass impact and extension, comfort, long mental break in.

  These headphones are not really meant for casual music enjoyment or pleasure. They are more of a tool for critical listening, or monitoring.  

 

 The DT48 sound like how water tastes. Very plain, clear, tasteless, boring but still technically correct and perfect. Sennheiser and Denon are like a tasty Coke or Pepsi by comparison. The soda tastes great on first sip. Water (DT48) is boring and can be gross depending on the container its held in.

  

The DT48 really takes time to mentally burn-in because they lack the toe tapping "party" factor that most headphones have. They don't attempt to help you enjoy the music, and it actually can be a challenge to listen to and interpret the music with them because of their lighting speed. They can seem claustrophobic sounding with background music. The DT48 require full concentration, high volume, and critical listening skills or else the musical groove gets lost. Your brain has to be in "monitor" mode.

 

 The DT48 are extremely neutral and uncolored. They sound machine flat, not human ear flat, neutral instead of natural (but can sound extremely natural with good clean recordings). The sound is very normal and plain, with no glamour to the sound. They can sound very bad with certain recordings, and simply brilliant with others.  

 

 The sound is very refined and precisely tuned, like a headphone that's been in production for over 70 years.  Beyerdynamic said in a nutshell: "The sound of the DT48 sets the reference for which other headphones can be judged". This does not mean they are the best sounding headphones in the world. Instead they are a standard headphone that is just a reference, so that other headphones can be  interpreted. They are a great tool for when I'm doing headphone reviews. These headphones have taught me what the music should sound like. 

 

They are used everywhere from studios, to audiologists, acoustic investigators, research facilities, sound labs, and now by audiophiles. They will never be available at Best Buy, your average consumer hates their sound.

 

 

 Bass: Only goes to 55 or 60 Hz before rapidly dropping off. The bass is very precise in timing and never blurred or sloppy, never bloated. The attack is ultra fast, double bass kicks sound great on them. They have almost no decay in the bass, which is partly why they are bass light. There is no mid bass emphasis at all. You can hear the bass timbre decently and it comes through very clean and undistorted, ultra low harmonic distortion. No ear cup resonance, rattling sounds or air whistling. Just very pure tone. There is almost no slam to the bass. You can hear the bass but not feel it. Its a little 1 dimensional due to lack of ultra low sub bass. The bass is like listening to very very high end bookshelf speakers, but without a sub. Not much LFE, and not a lot of air/pressure being pushed by the drivers. You could say the bass takes a back seat to the rest of the sound, but it can be full and engaging with the right recording. In fact they are capable of going deep when the low end of the recording is emphasized to begin with. It will tell you if the recording is bass heavy or not.   

 

 Mids: The best part IMO. These headphones are tonality and timbre monsters. Voices, guitar, electronic sounds, piano, sax, everything sounds right. No matter the singers name, synthesizer effects, guitar amp used, mic, it all gets presented consistently fair and with correct tonality and timbre. By far the best mid range Ive ever heard. The "impact" and physical force of the sound waves  is quite small. It has the loudness but not the intensity. Its like plugging in a usb cable straight to your brain and listening to the music like that. You can hear the start and stop of every detail, and the microphones clicking on and off, extremely subtle recording flaws. Basically, the mid range is absolutely effortless. 

 

Treble: Unfatiguing yet present and not rolled off to my ears. Its in your face, very headphone like. It is not smooth sweet treble like speakers with a tweeter. There is tons of detail and speed. It is never harsh. I can listen to these headphones at high volumes with little fatigue. It extends further than my hearing does, which is good enough for me. And much like the mids, the cymbals sound very correct timbre-wise, and their is a lot of air and ambiance to the sound for a closed headphone. But again, there isn't much attack or authority to the highs and cymbals. This is probably why the highs are unfatuiging. It will reveal bad mp3's with ease. There is still a treble spike around 8khz that is very typical for almost any headphones. 

 

Soundstage and imaging: The soundstage is somewhat small but is extremely precise and is capable of depth and space, again when the recording calls for it. I find other headphones stretching out the soundstage too much and trying to reproduce a soundstage similar to loudspeakers in a room.. The DT48 has a more traditional headphone soundstage that is very accurate. It feels like a small orb engulfing the outside of your head. Most other headphones make you feel like your in a permanent artificial concert hall or club. With the DT48, every instrument/sound has their own little space and shape to it, and imaging is pinpoint accurate and sensitive.

 

Other thoughts: It seems like the amount of detail is unlimited, almost too much sometimes. Its not the fake type of detail like treble happy Grado's, it does not force anything down your throat. The midrange is done right and the most critical frequencies are crystal clear. The sacrifice is in the bass response. The sound in general has little personality/musicality, and that's why they are so uncolored, so honest. They just display the recording as is. The sound is so "normal", but in a perfect crystal clear way. 

 

 

 A lot of people are put off by the lack of slam and impact in the bass, and the lack of musicality. The thing is, they lack personality and musicality without sounding cheap or colored (which is actually their charm). It just lets the recording display its own musicality (or lack thereof). As far as bass, you must remember they are headphones, not speakers. Headphone drivers are very small and cannot move much air to begin with, so cannot do bass like a real sub. In order to make headphone drivers sound like a subwoofer, you have to skew the frequency response and add purposeful reflections and resonances in the ear cups to make up for the loss of rumble. Most headphones do this to simulate a real sub woofer. The DT-48 does not attempt to reproduce a sub woofer or real kick drum. If you want to simulate the feeling of a sub, I recommend the DT770. If you EQ the bass up on DT48, it ruins the sound IMO. They are "bass light" for a reason. 

  

  If you want to be transported to the live event and feel like your physically "there" with the band, like your seeing them live, the DT48 is not for you.

 

 The DT48 instead shows you what was recorded with the microphone. When you compare different recordings, sources, amps, the DT48 really shows you what is going on. It is chameleon like, and can be overly recording-dependent for many people. After all, they are studio monitors. One recording will sound completely different from the next with these. Very accurate.   

 

Comfort on these is not so great, not unbearable but a little bit uncomfortable compared to most headphones because of their clamping force and weight. They take some time to get used to. If your concerned with comfort don't get these. If you never really cared about comfort with headphones (like me), they are just fine.   

 

They are VERY picky about the fit and seal. If you wear a hat or eyeglasses while listening, or cover your ears with hair, wear your beanie, etc... you will be disappointed. They are IEM-like in regards to fit and seal. You gotta adjust them and wear them properly to actually get the right sound. Again, seal is critical with these. The pads will warm up over time and create a better seal the longer you wear them. With the DT48, its best to stay still, minimize movement, and just concentrate on the music instead of head banging. They require all the seal they can get.  

 

Isolation is pretty decent. The data sheet says 12db noise reduction. Not quite the level of a good IEM. But it blocks enough important noises such as your AC, light traffic noises, distant TV's in other rooms,  etc... When the music is on, disturbances are pretty minimal, and the other person usually has to yell (but not scream) to get your attention.  

 

As far as amping, they are not hard to drive power wise. But they really respond to better gear. A portable will drive them fine but will not do them justice. Source is the same. Crap in, crap out applies to the DT48 very much so, in both the amp and DAC. This does not mean you must spend a fortune to make them sound good, it just means they are a window to the recording and gear used. By the way, amping them does not make them bass monsters or anything. It just makes them better at what they are already good at. Don't waste your money on upgrades if you dont like the general sonic signature of them.

 

The sound of these headphones is not for everyone. Many new audiophiles are told by others to look for uncolored and flat response to achieve the best sound. These new people need to take a closer look at their priorities and what they are trying to achieve. Neutral is not always natural.  

 

If you want any and every song to sound amazing, do not buy these. They are tremendously honest. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: low level details, sense of depth, instrument separation & imaging, dynamic, sense of presence & musicality

Cons: confort, heat, sub 50Hz quantity

If you are reading this review, you are certainly familiar with the fascinating historical background of the DT48. The first headphone ever created to very high standards based on the 1937 Eugen Beyer “Berlin” design. They are officially launched to the public in 1950 and still manufactured after 60 years, giving the DT48 one of the longest life for a consumable good of our times. According to Beyerdynamic, the DT48 are primarily intended for professional use, be it sound engineers, broadcasting, studio use, research laboratories, audiometric studies, etc…

 

The DT48 have been designed from the ground with sound fidelity in mind to achieve as close a perfect tonal balance as possible across the entire frequency range while minimizing cup colorations, and providing an excellent resolution and true dynamic range. They are primarily professional tools. With its unique design fully made of metal and aluminum, its sturdy construction build to very tight tolerances, the DT48 is a true heritage to the German engineering know-how. To emphasize the outstanding build quality, an individual FR chart is provided with each DT48A, where drivers FR are matched within 1dB over the entire audible range. It is also to the best of my knowledge the only headphone in production today to use aluminum drivers.

 

I have owned a 25 ohms version of the DT48E (year 2009), a vintage 25ohms version of the DT48S (silver year 1968) and for more than one year now, a modern 5 ohms version of the DT48A (made to order) with E vinyl pads, the S model being by far the most deceiving one (maybe a  damaged unit after some 43 years of use and abuse) and the A version being by a fair margin superior to the E version. The DT48 is pretty easy to power, given some care is given to match amplification, especially for the A version, since 5 ohms can prove to be too difficult a load for modern opamps based circuits. Since the A version is so sensitive (5 ohms and 110dB/mw, equivalent to 134 dB/V on par with the most sensitive IEM out there) you want a very quiet discrete amp with lowest possible gain or a higher impedance output to drive them.

 

The original Eugen Beyer "Berlin" and my DT48A side by side:

 

Eugen Beyer Berlin.jpg

 

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My playback system is composed of the Lavry DA11 connected to a Macbook feeding the asynch USB/SPDIF converter Audiophilleo 2. EAC ripped files are stored on an external firewire drive and read using the Pure Music software. USB cable at the moment is top of the range Monster, very solidly build. The DT48A are powered by the cautivating Graham Slee Ultra Linear connected to the Lavry through a pair of Oyaide QAC-212 interconnects (Hitachi Long Cristal OFC). Power line is dedicated for audio, and a PS Audio Duet Center is used for power conditionning. Power cables are Furutech OCC DIY for the Graham Slee amp and the PS Audio Duet Center to the wall. The Lavry is powered by a Shunyata Research Sidewinder CX. I shall add that both amp and DAC are resting on small Ayre Myrtle wood blocks for vibration control.

 

There is little doubt the DT48 will prove to be a difficult headphone for quite a lot of people. There are indeed several caveats that you seriously need to consider before getting started:

 

Clamping & isolation: the DT48 clamp relatively strong on your head to achieve their high degree of isolation. This is not extraordinary by any mean, as I read that Edition 8 would also put some pressure on your head. According to Beyer, ambient noise are reduced by 12dB which certainly contribute to portray this characteristic black background, feeling at times like if music was played in an anechoic room. Remember your eardrums are not used to that unnatural level of silence and this sensation can be disturbing at the beginning, especially when you are already listening in a quiet environment. As a consequence of the moderate clamping force, comfort might become an issue for some people with larger heads, especially if you intend to wear them several hours straight. They certainly loosen up with time though, and clamping force has never really been an issue for me, in line with the HD650 clamping force for comparison.

 

Heat & sweat: The vinyl pads utilized in the newer E versions are very soft and non-irritating to the skin. However, and provided you get a good seal, heat can become an issue like most of closed cans offering a high degree of isolation, especially if you are living in a humid and hot climate (or above 28ºC ambient temperature). Even when room temperature is adequate, some moisture can develop after 30 minutes of listening on the inside of the cup, next to the drivers. I usually take a small break every hour and then to wipe the sweat with absorbing clothes.

 

Bass extension & quantity: probably the most criticized sound aspect of the DT48, bass is often said to be missing or severely rolled off below 100Hz. Here are a few recommendations worth to avoid major deceptions:

·    A perfect seal is mandatory. Fiddle with the pads until good results are achieved. The vinyl pads will warm up after a couple of minutes and mold to your head shape better.

·    For the E versions, a nominal output impedance of 120 ohms should be used for the amplifier as indicated by the manufacturer. It will increase the bass response compared to a low output impedance.

·    I believe break-in plays an important role in the bass response behavior of the DT48. Note that the aluminum cone suspensions are also made of aluminum, hence very stiff. Bass need to be properly broken-in with specific track material at high SPL. There are plenty of break-in CD tracks available for that purpose. Really, just give it a try for 24 hours. Here is an example of download link to a track that should shake those aluminum suspension Helicopter. And don’t assume your DT48 bass is broken in because they are 2 or 3 years old.

·    It is in my opinion mandatory to match the DT48 with an amplifier and source able to deliver powerful foundation to the music. That doesn’t mean you need a colored system at all, but one that is able to deliver full, deep and solid bass response, no matter the load.

Despite all those care, you might still not be overwhelmed by the low frequency output of the DT48. That is because unless the immense majority of modern headphones, they are not tuned to increase the perceived lower frequencies (sub 50Hz) information that our body is not receiving when listening through headphones. Remember they are first design for research lab, etc… and accuracy is key. Don’t expect a speaker like experience, nor a HD650 bass response. However, when properly set up, the low frequency on the DT48 only starts rolling off below 50Hz. And 20Hz is still present, although much attenuated compared to what your body would expect. Think K501 bass response. I even remember my electrostat Lambda SR-303 to have a very similar bass response below 50Hz in quantity and extension. So unless those lower octaves fundamentals are very present and meaningfull in the music you listen, bass response with the DT48 can be worked out to a very satisfying degree.

 

Treble: the consensus seems to indicate that the treble of the E version is somewhat slightly recessed, though having a good extension. I would definitely agree with this statement. On the other side, the A version improves on this aspect with no apparent roll off in the higher frequencies. Of course, you need to take into account individual HRTF that can affect significantly your perception of the treble response in any headphones. The DT48 E version treble energy would be for me more similar to an HD650 or Fostex T50Rp, and the A version would be more aligned with K501 or T1, while headphones like HD800, DT880 and especially K701 have a significantly higher energy in the treble response.

 

High Fidelity: The DT48 are ruthlessly revealing. They are indeed much more revealing than the Tesla T1 as a matter of comparison, and to me, they are even more revealing than the HD800, which constantly imposes their own house sound to the music. The DT48 will let every recording speak for itself, along with our own playback system. And this can of course lead to completely misguided conclusions on the DT48 sound. We know recordings are all colored in some ways, but at the same time, we often forget that our own playback system becomes an inner part of the music we are listening to and imparts its own sonic character. So before accusing the DT48 for their horrible performance, take the opportunity to take a closer look at the sound of your system and ask yourself what aspect of it you do not like ...Jitter, noise, excessive colorations or analog signal degradation are quite common in our systems. Don’t be afraid to start a long journey, because the DT48 will always let you know when you are stepping out of your way. As an audiophile, this is probably to me the most exciting quest we should strive for.

 

So now that you have been warned of the many pitfalls to avoid with the DT48, let’s take a closer look at what in my opinion make their sound so remarkable and unique in many ways.

 

Texture & low level resolution: Thanks to their sense of transparency, high degree of isolation and low level resolution ability, the DT48 respect more than any other headphone I have tried until now the unique texture of each instruments, conveying consistently their complex harmonic richness as they were recorded. The T1 for me simply fails to do this with a rather metallic voicing and lack of low level information. The HD800 did not impress me neither, as higher harmonics were systematically over-dampened and decay lost, creating a uniform and house sound projected in all recordings. The DT48 let you see effortlessly into the complex vibration sound generated by a string instrument, brass or the slightest modulation of a voice, determining its texture and its own distinctive timbre. Each recording and instruments will have their own personality. Many listeners are first stroked by the incredible resolution of the DT48 in the mids, especially with voices, but as you spend more and more time with them, you realize this level of transparency is simply consistent across the entire audible frequency range.

 

True sense of Depth: With their superior resolution ability, the DT48 will also let you perceive how much distance sound waves generated by instruments or voices have been travelling through the air, as higher harmonics get attenuated before reaching the microphones. This will contribute to generate a sense of true depth if present in the recording. I say true depth because the DT48 will never intend to play with depth or to trick the listener with added reverberations, giving the illusion of a bigger soundstage than what was actually recorded. The DT48 convey depth as it was recorded. Reverberations of the own acoustic room, studio or hall will be present if recorded and reflected sound will be perfectly conveyed to the listener, allowing him to mentally picture a very accurate dimension of the recording location. You can distinctively feel the free field openness of a live concert, or the atmosphere and acoustic of different studio rooms. Of course, listening to tracks recorded separately and mixed together on a console will not provide this true sense of depth, but can allow the listener to recreate an artificial impression of depth if intended by the sound engineer. In any case, the DT48 ability to reveal depth and authentic spatial cues present in each recording is for me one of the key feature that set it apart of other headphones.

 

Instrument separation & power of imaging: the DT48, despite a relatively small soundstage (slightly smaller than DT880), shines at conveying spatial cues contained in the recordings providing a very stable three dimensional image. Its low level resolution and ability to differentiate distance and texture allow for an accurate and pinpointed instrument separation, no matter how complex the message is. It achieves a truly superior instrument separation than headphones like DT880, HD650 or K501. But it does achieve this while retaining the cohesion of the overall performance, as you perceive the air in motion between the performers. The HD800 as a matter of comparison is also extremely good at instrument separation, but it actually isolates them from each others by sucking the air around the instruments (lack of decay and higher harmonics), leading to a very unnatural musical experience. The T1 offers a much wider soundstage and provides a fantastic instrument separation (probably even sharper than the DT48) but fails on the coherence of the soundstage with what seems an artificial sense of depth and distances (angled drivers?). As a side note, and in my experience, the DT48 responds extremely well to crossfeed, to achieve an even more natural presentation of the soundstage, avoiding extreme stereo effects and slightly pushing the soundstage forward. As a matter of fact, with crossfeed enabled and when the recording calls for it, the DT48 simply disappears on my head and allow me to enjoy the raw performance without any extra brain consuming processes required to visualize the scene. This allows for a very relaxing and non fatiguing listening experience.

 

Dynamic range: the DT48 offers outstanding dynamic ability, probably on par with HD800 or T1 which is truly exceptional considering the age of its design. The drivers respond always very quickly to attacks and transients, and are able to convey naturally a very wide dynamic swing even for the most demanding recordings, without sounding artificially fast (boosted highs). Unless many other lesser headphones (HD650, K501, etc..), the DT48 can play very loud without any hint of distortion while it can also play at the same time very low level signals thanks to the lower background noise floor achieved through isolation. This combination provides for a truly dynamic experience. I personally prefer listening to music with the DT48 close to realistic levels, where I feel the DT48 really shines. At higher volumes, Fletcher Munson curves suggest than our hearing is subjectively more linear, allowing for a better perception and integration of the lower  and higher frequencies that can suit very well the slightly “n” shaped FR of the DT48. Reaching realistic or moderately loud levels never feels like if the DT48 is pushing too hard or introducing distortion. Of course, I you listen to an album dynamically compressed, victim of the volume war, such realistic levels can’t be reached, because then everything seems to be shouting at you. The DT48 is overly sensible to dynamic compression and many “digitally produced hot” albums will sound very artificial and fatiguing.

 

Sense of Presence: someone called it the “true blue” sound, others just call it life like experience, but all agree the DT48 conveys a unique sense of presence and density to the notes. General consensus seems to agree that the main aspects of a sound are composed of its frequency, timbre, dynamic and duration. Those are all areas were the DT48 excels, which might explain what the ear perceives as a very realistic reproduction of sounds. With its accurate frequency response, the DT48 will not modify or color the pitch of an instrument. With its great low level resolution, the DT48 will let you hear perfectly the timbre and complex harmonic structure of different instruments, as well as their natural decay and duration. With its outstanding dynamic abilities, the DT48 will reproduce and follow accurately the intensity variations of a note. All those aural cues help the listener to recreate this true sense of presence, making for some really magical listening moments and an authentic feeling of being there. The DT48 is often said to be in a class of its own among dynamic headphones, and this may very well be one of the main reason for it.

 

Musicality: Though the DT48 are very often described as an analytical tool for monitoring purposes and ultimately lacking musicality, I have to completely disagree with this statement. I do not believe the DT48 should be restricted to some specific genres of music as often said, but I would however agree they really shine with recordings produced with little and appropriate intervention from the mastering engineers, in opposition to computer assisted recordings heavily mixed and tweaked that will sound very unnatural to the ears. However, I think it is important at this point to remember the different aspects of musicality that different camp value in a headphone. While some are considering the headphone as an instrument, looking for musicality or colorations in its own sound, I believe in the headphone being merely an open window that would let the music flow through it. If you are looking for enjoyable colorations in the DT48, you will most likely be deceived. The DT48 are not musical per se, but will be faithful to the music being played through them, within the limitations of your own system. Probably more than many other headphones, the DT48 require some serious attention to the rest of your system - and in my experience, particularly the source where the fundamental conversion from digital to analog takes place - in order to achieve the most musical sound to your ears. Of course, a dedicated system is for me a must with the DT48, as you simply can not plug & play them and expect to be overwhelmed by the musical experience. This is why the DT48 can not be truly appreciated in meet conditions. We all have different background, experience and sensibilities, references and ways to listen to music. I believe your system should indeed reflect those preferences that will be clearly heard through the DT48.

 

Finally, I sincerely hope this review gave you a deeper sense of what the DT48 are capable of achieving as well as their limitations and what in my opinion really sets them apart from other headphones. Remember, the DT48 is not a musical device per se, but it will serve respectfully the music being delivered through it, and as such, it is the rest of your system and the quality of the recordings that will matter the most. My dream at this moment is to upgrade my source to a NAGRA DAC, for the ultimate musical experience. NAGRA an the DT48 have had a long partnership history. For what it is worth, the DT48 have completely cured any remaining headphone upgraditis in me, although I would still be willing and curious of course to listen to some other serious references as Ed8, O2 or R10 if life is kind enough with me to give me this opportunity. But in the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying my DT48A…

Posted

Pros: Crystal clear sound

Cons: Bass shy

The current DT-48E sounds much different than the DT-48 of the mid-1970's, which had the same oval circumaural cushions. The difference in the lower midrange and bass I attribute to the thicker cushions on the current model, and the fact that the cushions are sealed onto the driver units. With the 1970's model, the cushions could be rotated 360 degrees and were easy to remove, and I suspect that the low frequencies leaked accordingly. In fact, I can make the current model sound much like the 1970's model just by yawning, and thus compromising the seal between the cushions and my head. The difference in the high frequencies is more difficult to account for, and my best guess there (aside from whatever contribution the better seal might make) is that Beyer may now have superior manufacturing technology for the DT-48 diaphragms.

 

I've read many posts and articles about the DT-48 series, and much of that is speculation or people's experiences with modifications to the headphone itself. With this review I'd like to list what facts I've gathered in my own experience.

 

I first heard of the DT-48 series via Stereophile Magazine's Recommended Components section circa 1972, in which they listed the "DT-48S with round cushions" as a Class B headphone (i.e. second-tier, or next to the best), having "Extremely tight and well-defined bass".

 

The first DT-48 I bought was the DT-48 (no letter following the '48'), which was black and came with oval circumaural cushions. My first reaction was "Where is the sound?", since they sounded to me like a pocket-size radio played through its own speaker - perhaps a little better than that, but not a lot better. After listening at some length and letting the cushions seal better, the sound seemed to improve slightly, but next to headphones like the Koss ESP9 or Pro4AA they sounded rather lo-fi - extremely shy in the low and high end.

 

Going back to Stereophile's Recommended Components (and not having an Internet or BBS to research these issues), I noted that it specified round cushions and a DT-48S model, which I then ordered from my dealer. When the DT-48S arrived with a beautiful carrycase made of something called "Skai", I was shocked to discover that what little bass I had with the DT-48 was entirely absent from the DT-48S. So, with great patience I ordered a set of oval cushions from Beyer, and after removing the round supraaural cushions and placing the oval circumaural cushions on the DT-48S, the sound became essentially the same as the DT-48. At this same time I had a Soundcraftsmen equalizer and could equalize the DT-48 to sound exactly like the Koss ESP9 on a given song, within one decibel of accuracy. I did not detect any difference between the DT-48 and the DT-48S using the same type of cushions.

 

Apparently there was a special version of the DT-48 in the 1970's and before that, which used the same round cushions that came with the DT-48S. That version of the DT-48 came with different cable terminations, most commonly open-ended from what I surmised. But since Stereophile didn't refer to it, and given my experience with the DT-48S's round cushions, I avoided looking into that model.

 

Fast forward to 2011 and my new DT-48E with oval cushions, which looks more or less the same as the DT-48 of the 1970's, except that the DT-48E has a single-sided cable configuration, whereas the old DT-48 connected directly to each driver unit from the 'Y' split in the main cable.

 

I've described the differences in sound between the current DT-48E and the DT-48's of the 1970's in the first paragraph, and now I'll describe how the current model compares to conventional modern headphones like the Sennheiser HD-800. To begin with, I was surprised to find the new DT-48E comfortable to wear for hours at a time, although I take one-minute breaks every 30 to 60 minutes to remove sweat from the earcups, exactly like I did with the 1970's models. I could certainly argue that the HD-800 is more comfortable since the head pressure is much lighter, but due to the thicker cushions on the DT-48 compared to the 1970's versions, I don't feel any specific discomforts like I did with the old models, which pressed on the outer ear parts and could even be painful.

 

After listening to the DT-48E for about three hours, I put the Sennheiser 800's on in the middle of a track, and my immediate impression was that of a shift to a lower register, tonal-wise. I don't have a good explanation for that, since both headphones reproduce the same music at the same pitch, albeit with different emphases in different octaves. It was as if I could take just the midrange between, say, 130 hz and one to two octaves above that and tilt it to the right for the HD-800 (warmer or more distant), or to the left for the DT-48 (cooler or closer).

 

EDIT: In a second listening session, I played several specific tracks such as the Beatles' Here Comes The Sun, the Blues Project's Caress Me Baby, Bob Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Boz Scaggs' We're All Alone, Buffalo Springfield's Kind Woman, Catherine Wheel's Black Metallic, Nena's 99 Luftballons, and some tracks by New Order. Beginning with the HD-800 each time and switching to the DT-48, I finally concluded that the DT-48 has significantly less output in the lower highs, perhaps around 4000 to 6000 hz which is just a guess. It's my impression that the DT-48 is a little closer to the sound of live music of this type, but I can empathize with the headphone manufacturers as well, since most of their customers prefer a livelier sound.

 

The bass with the DT-48E is not as strong as the Sennheiser 800, even though the HD-800 does not have a pronounced bass, or "bassiness". I was inclined to think that the DT-48's bass rolled off below 100 hz, and was probably near-nonexistent at 30 hz or thereabouts. But such is not the case. The bass is lower in level than the HD-800's below 100 hz, but does not fall off that much, so depending on how good of a seal you get with the oval cushions, what you hear could vary from "tight and well-defined" to very weak if the seal is inadequate.

 

The midrange of the DT-48E is marvelous, to put it very simply. Compared to the Sennheiser 800, the DT-48's midrange is more forward or pronounced, but has none of the "nasal" or "honky" effect I've experienced with other headphones. It simply sounds "there" and very clean, with one possible undesirable effect for some applications: Playing "Day In The Life" from Sgt. Pepper - the acid-trip "Ahhhhhhh...." following "Somebody spoke and I went into a dream", the DT-48 makes the soundstage narrower than some other headphones, which was a little disappointing. In exchange for that, you get that fabulous clear midrange that's rare even with headphones costing twice as much as the DT-48.

 

The high end of the DT-48E is difficult for me to judge. My hearing seems to be flat to about 10 khz, with about a 3-4 db dropoff at 12 khz and perhaps 8 db at 14 khz. Generally, the high end sounds fine, but if you have source material that has sibilants or other such things that are borderline irritating on other headphones like the Sennheiser 800, they may cross that borderline and be irritating on the DT-48. Based on my experience of a few days and a few hundred music tracks of many genres, I don't experience that problem with good source material at substantial volumes, only with a few bad recordings played fairly loud.

 

EDIT: In summary, I see three significant differences between the DT-48 and the HD-800: One is the bass response of the DT-48, which would not please people who require their bass at "full strength". Two is the DT-48's response in the lower highs, which might also be unappealing to people who aren't familiar with the sound of live acoustical music (or who don't care). Three is the relative coolness of the DT-48 compared to the HD-800, which is already somewhat cool compared to many of the bass-centric headphones being sold today.

 

If I could rate the overall qualities of the DT-48E on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best), they would be: Sound = 9, sensitivity (25 ohm) = 7, comfort = 7, durability = 10, looks and styling = 9. I've seen comments to the effect that the DT-48E needs a good amp to achieve the best sound, and while that's true insofar as the better amps do sound better than an iPod or other pocket media player, those pocket players will drive the DT-48 to very loud levels with most source material, and with comparable balance of bass and highs.

 

There is one other feature of the DT-48E that I alluded to in the first paragraph with the "yawning" comment: The sound, particularly in the lower midrange and bass, will change significantly if you yawn, turn your head far to either side, or otherwise move around in a way that compromises the seal between the ear cushions and your head. For me, this tends to force me to sit still and actually listen to the music, rather than do other things such as typing this review. And for me that's good, but your experience may vary.
 

Posted

Pros: Transparency. Speed. Detail. Resolution. Clarity. Neutrality. Imaging. Separation of instruments. Sound stage coherency.

Cons: Sounds like a headphone. Lacks a big sound stage. Genre specific. Rolled off highs & bass. Bass 'shy.' subpar bass extension

I guess it's fitting that I be the first one to review the DT48e. There are numerous versions. The model I am reviewing is the current one. This headphone brings out emotions that I never seen before. It seems peoples feelings towards the DT48e go to extremes. One person thinks they sound wonderful, another will tell you they are the worst headphones ever made. How is that for polarizing!!

 

First off, the new models are more conventional sounding then prior models. More audiophile friendly. I owned 12 pairs. I currently own 10. 8 of which sound different. This is both good & bad. You can say the new DT48e is a 'upgrade' over the older models. The highs are less rolled off. Treble is better extended. Bass is a bit more impactful. They also throw a better black ground, albeit, feels a bit manufactured. The tip of the highs sound a little too sharp or a bit artifical. Think of DNR applied to DVD/Blu ray. The mid range defines the DT48e. The model I'm reviewing does a wonderful job with vocals, but are a bit more restrained & conjested compared to other models I own. The word thick comes to mind. The mid range is un forgiving & resolves any nuances in the artist voice. Lush, sweet, romantic does not apply here. I do find their mid range to be authentic & faithful to the vocalist. Their mids won't give the listener a slight push to get a emotional response, or to better connect with the artist.

 

All audio is subjective. Give 10 musicans the same headphone & they will come to 10 different conclusions. In general I find the DT48e to be timbre accurate, especially with the piano, Sax, bongo drums, & tamberine. As one member puts it, they sound like real life. I agree. But many listen to music to escape from reality, & want a bigger, larger then life sound. That certain wow factor that makes music more fun, regardless if the sound of the music has been altered to get that desired effect. You get no wow effect upon first listen. You will more then likely give a WTF type of gesture.

 

The DT48e sounds very different then other headphones, especially the older DT48 models. The DT48e is just a blank canvas & scribes a picture to what it hears. They are truthful & unforgiving to the recording. You will hear everything wrong or right, mic placement, hiss, reverb, etc.. I know reference grade studio headphones like the 4070 do this better. But for dynamic & under a grand they are very hard to top in that area.

 

Their pedestrian & plain Jane sound won't win over many fans. They are for a niche market. They are a acquired  sound. They are more a enigma then anything else. Many regard them as cold, lifeless, & analytical. I disagree. I always felt the music along with the emotion & passion it brings transcends beyond the sonic characteristics of any headphone.

 

I truly believe the technical merits of the DT48e stand on their own, & bettered the SA5000/701/DT880 in speed, clarity, resolve, detail, & neutrality. I am amazed at the level of space given to each instrument considering their lack of a big sound stage & being closed headphones. You can follow each instrument & every instrument down to a individual string. This is due to their amazing speed. Smearing is a after thought. Complex passages? They ace. Are they as fast as the HD800? No. Upper end Stax? No..But I feel they are faster then the SA5000, & in terms of closed dynamic headphones, right up there with the Pro 900/W5000.

 

The DT48e is a metal beast high on testosterone. All metal, with nuts & bolts, that would make Iron man blush. Their drivers is encased in a 1/4 thick aluminum housing. Their durability is a thing of myth & legends. IE being run over by a car. Only suffering cosmetic damage. If you want to hear music after a nuclear holocaust, I fully endorse the DT48e.:)

 

Even though they are 25ohm, they do require more then a portable device to do them justice. They scale very well with upstream components, & will expose any weakness in your chain. The DT48e is a vintage headphone that is still in production. A span of 73 yrs. Beyers themselves admit their engineers out did themselves in making the DT48. I, for one, agree with them.

 

Beyerdynamic DT 48 E (25 ohm)
Description:

Beyerdynamic DT48 E (25 Ohm) - Closed Dynamic Headphones Details Closed headphone for ENG/EFP applications Beyerdynamic DT48 E (25 Ohm) - Closed Dynamic Headphones Features Dynamic monitoring headphone for all sound recordings Meets the standards set by Nagra recorders, DAT and MD portable recorders High degree of efficiency Flat accurate frequency response Good ambient noise attenuation Rugged construction Nickel-plated spring steel, adjustable headband Excellent comfort for long-term wearing Single-sided cable

Details:
DetailValue
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
DT48SS
DT48aa
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