Pros: Clarity; comfort; detailed sound; build quality; looks; versatility; fun factor of sound; etc.
Cons: Less-than-ample bass; price; non-detachable cable; isolation could be better.
I have been researching closed-back portable headphones for a couple of years, off and on. I sometimes have to drive a few hours to see family or travel to events, and I've found that the better the music I listen to, the more likely I am to remain awake at the wheel. Also, I recently gained a part-time roommate, as one of my very good friends is having marital difficulties and stays at my place about 50% of the time. We very rarely work the same shifts (we both work retail), and sometimes need to do our own thing in the same room. I have a pair of LCD-2s that I absolutely adore (one of my absolute favorite things I own), but if he is talking on the phone (or doing whatever), I can obviously hear him. Also, I tend to listen to music (or watch TV shows on my tablet) as I lay down to go to sleep, and I prefer to use headphones in deference to both audio quality and the poor SOB trying to sleep upstairs.
I find myself using my HD25 pretty frequently for different things in different settings (even sometimes at work, if I'm trying to box everybody out and really gear down into a project or something), so the utility of a pair of portable, closed headphones is pretty apparent to me. And being an audio nutjob gear whore, I naturally had a strong interest in the top-of-the-line offerings from a number of different companies. While the Fostex TH900 sounds like it would be absolutely amazing, that's simply a significant amount more than I'm willing to spend at the moment, so my search really came down to the T5p and Signature Pros. Each seems to have a lot of conflicting feedback from users, and both seem to incite both strong affection and strong distaste, so it was a bit difficult to figure out which way to go. Ultimately, I leaned towards the T5p, particularly after reading NZTechFreak's notes on how they sounded on metal in direct comparison to the Sig Pros. But I resolved to keep my mind open to whichever came up as a good deal first, and lo and behold, last week I saw a pair of T5p in the classifieds at a reasonable price, and pulled the trigger.
These thoughts were captured at various times throughout the day in different situations with different combinations of gear. This should hopefully explain the somewhat haphazard and disjointed nature of some of the comments below. To be clear: I am not a professional reviewer; I do not claim to have an absolute understanding of what these or any headphones sound like to anyone else; and my impressions do not undermine or invalidate the impressions of anyone else. I'm just a guy who loves music, headphones, and being a bit verbose at times. Anyway, I hope this helps point somebody in the right direction!
Background Info and Gear Used:
I have plugged these into:
- Samsung Galaxy S3 straight (no external amplification)
- iBasso D6 as amplifier w/ JDS Labs ODAC from S3
- Yulong D100 (both low and high outputs)
- Schitt Lyr w/ Mullard E88C tubes
- JDS Labs O2 amplifier (from D100)
When listening to the T5p on the Schitt Lyr, I enjoy the sound quite a bit, but there is a very noticeable amount of hiss even at low volumes. Probably predictable given the 6 watts of power going to a 32 ohm set of cans.
These work well out of my S3 without additional amplification, but they improve noticeably when plugged into an external DAC and amp. Things get clearer, more involved, and the upper or midbass (not sure which is technically accurate) gets significantly less congested.
I tend to listen at pretty low volumes, and the volume control on the D100 was not nearly granular enough to suit my needs here. I've got them plugged into the D100 as I type this, and I've got it literally three notches up from the absolute bottom, and both of the two notches below this one have severe channel imbalance. On the O2 I ended up listening a bit louder than I really wanted to due to the channel imbalance at low volumes. I would also add that the O2 sounded a touch more brash and less clear than the low output jack on the D100, so if you're listening to busy music (massed strings, or Thomas Giles' 'Pulse' in my case), the O2 might not be the best match. Not a huge difference, but enough to notice when paying attention.
My source for all my desktop amps is my computer, a frankenbox running Windows 8 Pro. I use JRiver MC18 (currently 18.0.106) for all my listening. I have a several terabytes of music that I've purchased, ripped, and downloaded through the years. Most of it is CD quality, as usual. All my rips were done to WM Lossless using EAC. I have some 24/96 and 24/192 stuff, but I tend to listen to the music I'm in the mood for, not the bitrate and whatnot. When I do listen to MP3s, they are typically 320kbps.
My S3 is running stock 4.1 (Jelly Bean), but it's rooted. I use Neutron for all the music I have stored on the device and MOG for most of my streaming music. (As an aside, I was really quite surprised by how much poorer the music quality was when running AOKP on my phone than stock... Apparently Samsung did spend some time on audio quality, even though they did end up leaving us Yanks out in the cold when it came to the Wolfson DAC they used in Europe).
I listen to a lot of music, and while my tastes in a single day can run from light vocal jazz to small string ensembles to grindcore to triphop to god-knows-what-else, I listen to more metal than anything. I tend to prefer music that uses nonstandard (= not 4/4) time signatures, complex rhythms, and often a lot of dissonance. (Arguably my favorite 5 bands are Opeth, Dillinger Escape Plan, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and Nine Inch Nails, if that provides any insight). I do tend to listen to entire albums, and almost never just listen to one song. (I've only done the one-song thing today once, and I'm auditioning a new headphone).
I tend to value tonality and texture pretty highly. I don't care a lot about soundstage (I think my many years of wrestling and subsequent surgery on my ears has probably diminished my ability to pick up on spatial cues somewhat). I gravitate towards more driving, engaging sound (most of the time). I (apparently) like bass more than I realized before I got this headphone, although I have never been a guy to crank up the bass on anything, and actually am typically the guy who hates it when people crank up bass for no reason other than to irritate everyone for a quarter mile in every direction.
Very good. These look and feel like a quality, high-end product, and I love the understated modernist aesthetic. They are quite comfortable (with some caveats below), and are surprisingly lightweight.
I frankly find these to be borderline gorgeous in their understatement. These are the hot librarians of the headphone world for sure.
It does drive me crazy that these headphones don't have removable cables. The cable that comes with it is about 6 inches too short, and as I often use my phone as a source when I'm on the go, having the ability to use a cable with a phone mic is fantastically useful, but nonremovable cables make this a pricey and time-consuming affair. Manufacturers: there is just no reason to do this. Ever. [/tirade.]
The cable looks a little bit skimpy for a high-end headphone. Not a big deal, but I would have liked something a little nicer on a can this expensive. It is very pliable though, and microphonics aren't an issue at all (as you'd expect from a circumaural). I didn't know how well the dual-entry cables would work out when out and about, but I had zero problems with them.
The tactile element of these are just great-- they feel great in the hands and on the head.
These are sharp-looking enough that I would feel perfectly comfortable displaying them on a nice stand in my home.
My unit came with the zippered carrying bag, but no metal box. The bag seems like it would be useful for avoiding scratches, but as it isn't reinforced, it doesn't seem like it would be much good defending my cans against the rest of the stuff in my backpack. Something like the V-Moda carrying case here would be perfect and a substantial upgrade. I'm thinking of looking into a Pelican case or something to carry them in, but it would have been nice to have one included. I personally imagine I'd find the metal case to be impractical for daily use, so again, a molded V-Moda style case would be a slam-dunk here. (Anybody wanna make one?)
My ears got fatigued a couple of times in places where they were touching the earpads, but a simple position adjustment easily fixed this. It seemed to happen either almost always our always outright with my left ear... But again, this probably has more to do with my biology than anything with the Beyers.
I would have liked slightly bigger space for my ears, as I do find myself readjusting every so often to try to keep the sides from wearing my ears out. But the more I wear them, the less this is an issue, so it probably is simply a matter of getting used to how to best situate them on my noggin.
I picked up these cans from the post office this morning at approx 9:15am. As I type this, it is 5:30pm, and the only time these have been off my head was for about 45 mins as I tried out a local Indian restaurant for a late lunch. (Worst Indian I've ever had btw... Who would have thought Cookeville, TN wouldn't excel in foreign cuisine?) I can say that although I've had to make a few adjustments throughout the day, these are exceptionally comfortable cans. I could never wear my HD25 this long without my ears really starting to hurt from the pressure. (Update: I had to take them off for roughly an hour for a phone call later, but it's now 9:00pm, and I'm still wearing them without physical or aural discomfort. Pretty damned impressive.)
Noise isolation on this definitely leaves something to be desired. While it's not reasonable to expect the T5p to do as well as custom IEMs, it still reduces outside sounds significantly less than the HD25.
I rode around town running a few errands today, and due to the inexplicable decision of my vehicle's previous owner to drill a screw into the door near the window, the wind noise is noticeably higher in my car than most. While the sound was obviously diminished, I could still hear the wind noise while riding around town. Not enough to be a major irritation, but definitely enough to keep one from critically listening. (As if anybody does that while driving, but I digress).
Certain parts of songs sound absolutely AMAZING, and other parts are very underwhelming. Listening to Opeth's 'Heritage', some of the 70s-sounding electric guitar parts sound just fantastic. Mikel's vocals, however, seem somewhat pushed back at times. I found this occasionally on different vocals (Melody Gardot is another). Also, this is one of those cans that makes reverb pretty obvious on a song-- not so obtrusive that you can't ignore it, but the clarity of the sound makes it fully apparent when present.
These manage to be very detailed without being bright or fatiguing. I disagree with the comments that I've read that call the T5p a bright can. It sounds smooth in a very pleasant, non-veiling way. The more I listen to it, the more I think this is (along with the suitability to both portable and high-end sources) one of the more impressive engineering marvels I've encountered recently. I'm not as well versed as many on Head-Fi, but I'm not sure there is anything else out there that matches the T5p on the portability and listenability fronts while presenting such impressive sound.
These have GREAT tone and texture to them!! Guitars have an awesome crunch to them (just not much weight in the bass). As a metalhead, this is hugely important to me, and well-recorded metal sounds GREAT. An overwhelming amount of metal, however, sounds like it was recorded in a shoebox on a cassette player (I'm looking at you, Norwegian black metal). Fortunately, these manage to be revealing without becoming ruthlessly so, and they don't make poorly recorded music miserable. Again, this strikes me as some kind of engineering miracle.
At one point, the sound got really fatiguing while listening on my desktop station. I then realized that I had the music up WAY too loud. Turning it down a good bit solved that, and the sound hasn't been even remotely fatiguing since. But do heed the warnings elsewhere on HF of the danger of volume creep with these bad boys.
Melody Gardot's vocals on 'Worrisome Heart' seem somewhat recessed. They don't sound bad, but she isn't crooning right to me like she does on my LCD-2 and iE8. Note the use of the qualifier "somewhat" here-- it isn't a major thing by any means.
These things capture the energy and technicality of Protest The Hero's 'Scurrilous' extremely well. They ROCK!!! (These moments of exuberance seemed to come mostly during well-recorded fast-tempo metal music... which is just great for me. I was literally belting out every line of almost every song on the album-- which is a good sign IMO.)
The Bass Controversy:
Perhaps my expectations were off (my other headphones tend to be a touch bassier than the norm: Sennheiser iE8, Sennheiser HD25i-II, Audeze LCD-2 (rev 1), Klipsch X10), but I don't see how anyone could listen to what I'm listening to and try to say the bass is not very seriously lacking. While the bass that's there is clear and well textured, there's just shockingly little of it. I know this has been said before, but it's worth repeating, because this is by far (IMO) the Achilles heel of this design. UPDATE: as I continue listening, I realize I'm acclimating to the sound more, and find the lack of impact and bass less objectionable. I'm sure that if I were to put on my LCD-2 for a moment and switch back, the lack of heft to the bottom end would become painfully obvious again, but for now... it's not so bad.
EQing the bass up a bit helps out, but while it increases quantity, it seems that nothing actually gives the bass that punchier quality on aggressive drums and the like. With the bass turned up in Neutron as much as I can without causing distortion, I can hear the bass line at the beginning of Massive Attack's 'Angel,' but it doesn't really have any impact. As it stands, it doesn't look like the T5p would be great for listening to trip-hop, which I do on occasion. (I later found at least a moderate improvement in the visceral punch of the bass by going bananas on the EQ in JRiver, as noted elsewhere).
Additional messing around with the EQ has made things better, but there still doesn't seem to be the impact that some songs should have. I've read some reviewers and posters talk about the lack of impact being somehow more true to life-- but I cannot recall a single metal concert I've been to where there wasn't a kick to the drums and a deep-in-your-guts mandate to move when the bassist digs into an awesome groove. Perhaps the T5p sounds exactly as a solo violinist would, and that's great-- I'm sure my Masada String Trio and Kronos Quartet stuff will sound great as a result. But the bass does, in my opinion, lack the quantity necessary to really engage you on a bass-driven groove sometimes. In the long term, this will probably be the thing that determines whether I keep these or not. I LOVE the guitar tone, the detail, the clarity, the amazingly versatile nature of the cans, their impeccably clean looks, etc etc ad nauseum. But the bass is simply less present than I'm used to, for better or worse.
Update: I've dramatically increased the bass in the DSP Studio in JRiver, and the bass does sound much better, and starts to sound like it has a bit of impact to it when listening to Puscifer. The problem is that I could still use a touch more bass presence, and this is with it damn near maxxed out on a very powerful EQ application, which I won't really have when I'm on the go. So I'm not sure this is going to be the saving grace of the T5p bass.
These are SO CLOSE to being the perfect high-end portable headphones for rockers and metalheads... the bass problem is a real killer though. And better isolation would help out a good bit too.
Considering bass quantity and isolation are two of my issues, I wondered if changing out the pads would make any difference. After reading the stellar review given to the earpads Jaben uses in their mods (from NZtechfreak here), I sent them a message inquiring about the cost of the full suite of modifications and of the pads by themselves. I'm hoping I can get the pads at a reasonable cost, as they sound like they might be right up my alley... I should also note that when I press in on the cans slightly, isolation gets noticeably better. Bass does too, as long as I don't press in too hard. So maybe some new pads could help!
I have had my T5p for less than 24 hours, so some New Toy Syndrome is to be expected. I've tried to temper it somewhat, but as an unabashed gear whore, I have to admit that I want to love these babies.
I have had the T5p in my position for a very short period of time thus far, so my opinions are going to be thusly colored. But I can say that in a LOT of ways, beyerdynamic really nailed it with these. While no headphone can be all things to all people, this one come damn close. Ultimately, the (to my ears) de-emphasized bass is a shortcoming that keeps these from being the mind-blowing slam-dunk they would otherwise be. I have a few other minor niggles (no replaceable cable, insufficient carrying solutions available, isolation could be a good bit better, cable is too short, it's too expensive at retail price, and a few others), but they would all be washed away if the bass was simply more enjoyable by being more there. But that doesn't keep me from lauding these cans for their many successes (listed at great length above), and as it stands right now, I intend to keep these. I am still interested in hearing the Sig Pros, but I'm not sure the assumed improvement in bass would offset all the strengths the T5p possesses.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope this helps somebody out!!