Pros: Highest fidelity. Very low distortion. Clean & un colored sound. Mind numbing detail, resolve, & clarity. Neutrality. Transparency. Mid range.
Cons: Overly analtyical. Not made for music. Bass is overly source dependent. Severe high roll off. Treble extension seems to be muted. Small sound stage.
The DT48a was my first taste of the DT48. These are audio metric headphones. They sound vastly different then non audio metric DT48 models. Some could argue they sound 'laid back,' 'polite,' & lean on the dark side IMO. Usually headphones get burned in. The opposite is true with the DT48a. They burn in your ears. At first listen I didn't know what to think of them, but they reminded me of the K1000 in certain ways.. I found that odd since in some ways they are the total opposite of each other.. But both share great transparency, instrument timbre, neutrality, & offer a very life like mid range.
I listened to the DT48a for 4 days straight. After this I listened to the 650/Sextett/SA5000. All 3 sounded fake & un natural in comparison.. The DT48a trained my ears. Acoustics are scary accurate. They are made for acoustic investigations & it shows, while other phones like the 701 present acoustics in a more pleasurable manner with a slight layer of warmth. The DT48a just presents them how they were recorded. One can argue accuracy all day long. But the DT48a was made for scientific studies, ENT doctors, hearing test, & used in hospitals.. So I'm more inclined to believe they are highly accurate..
The DT48a is very un forgiving, over analytical, dry, & 'suck the emotion' out of music. But they offer a glimpse into the music few if any headphone can. The SA5000, as detailed as it is, is like examining the music, the DT48a takes it a step further. It's like you are performing a autopsy on the music. Every note, string, piano key have their own identity.
The Sound stage is small, but no headphone can do more per space then the DT48a IMO.. The sound stage is the most coherent I have heard.. For a sound stage to be so small, yet be able to place the instruments where they should be is short of amazing. Each instrument has their own sense of space.. You can easily follow even the most obscure & faint instrument through a song. Instrument separation is excellent, especially when you consider they are closed & have a small sound stage. The instruments & notes stay in tact & full bodied. The sound stage is very flat, but the imaging is very real & 3D like. It's like playing a video game where the environment is 3D but the characters are 2D
Detail. Resolve. Transparency. Mid range. Separation. Are on a much higher plane then the price you can get for them used. On the down side, they are even more polarizing then non audio metric DT48's. They sound like a very clear AM station with a hearkened sense of fidelity. Bass for the most part can sound a bit anemic, but certain songs can waken them.. Some Rap/R&B. Bass is still of good quality & very fast & snappy.. It blends in near flawlessly with the music.
One of the best qualities of the DT48a is the fact that nothing stands out. Every instrument falls into place like a piece to a puzzle. Great balance. To sum it up, it just sounds right.
Comfort is bad for long periods. It took me two weeks of my ears burning before they got used to the rubber padding.. Now I can listen pain free for 3-4 hrs.. Bass impact does increase with pads that cover the entire ear, but they are made to stay put since the DT48a rubber padding has a slit that connects to the headphone. The DT48e ear padding has a sticky substance that sticks to the headphone. Some have found a way to over come this. I choose to keep the rubber padding. YMMV.
The DT48a is not shy about exposing every single flaw in the recording.. Even flaws that are so insignificant will show up. Studio quality, mic placement, sibilance, artifacts, etc.. If a flaw is there the DT48a will find it.
The Mid range is the DT48a bread & butter.. Very authentic when it comes to human voices.. Realistic & natural sounding comes to mind.. The DT48a puts a magnifying glass on the mid range on a hot sunny day.. They will expose any nuance in the vocalist. I find them to be very faithful. The DT48a mid range is a bit more prominent then the DT48e
The DT48a is the definition of genre specific headphones.. Folk. Opera. Jazz. Classical. Or any music that focus' on voice & acoustics.. They excel in the above areas.
The DT48a are ultra transparent. One member feels the DT48e is more transparent & neutral then his K1000.. & the DT48a ups this by a good margin. Give it a bad recording, & they can at worst sound like 20.00-30.00 headphones.. With pristine recording I find the sound to be price less. They scale very well to upstream components, & will easily expose the weakest link in your system. They also demand ample drive to sound their best.. Even at only 5ohms, feed them with a quality, high powered amp & you will be rewarded.
If you love to evaluate, dissect, & examine your music, IMO the DT48a can't be beat by another dynamic headphone in the under 1,000 range.. This includes the new DT48 models. You really need to listen to them over a long period to fully understand & appreciate them for what they are. Their technical merit far exceeds many high end headphones today (minus the HD800/4070/010 & a few others) They are a niche product for a certain group of audiophiles who dare to use a medical instrument as a form of musical entertainment.
There has been many advancements since 1937.. The DT48a still being in demand today by specialist is a testament to their quality, accuracy, success, & sound. If there was a better alternative I'm sure they would be used instead. Apparently there is none, which just helps to solidify the DT48a as a true legend in a demanding hi tech world where advances are made daily.