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Average closed portable headphones

A Review On: Beyerdynamic Tesla DT 1350

Beyerdynamic Tesla DT 1350

Rated # 24 in Over-Ear
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Pros: Durable, very transportable, good clarity, decent musical versatility

Cons: Uncomfortable, slow impulse response, prone to unnatural-sounding instruments

Originally published on June 2, 2013


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I'll admit it upfront, I haven't exactly been a fan of Beyerdynamic's headphones so far. The 2005 DT880, 2003 DT770-80, 2003 DT250-80, T50p, T1, and T70 have all been disappointments to me in one way or another. But when I started reading the raving on the DT1350 last year, including by Tyll Hertsens (of InnerFidelity.com), I decided that I had to hear them for myself and ordered up a pair in November 2012. This review is hence based on approximately 5 months of ownership (Nov '12 - Apr '13).

Equipment Setup

- Source components: Plinius CD-101 (CD player) (Signal Cable Silver Reference power cord, directly into wall), desktop PC w/ headphone jack on Yamaha YSTMS50 speakers, iAudio X5
- Analog interconnects: Emotiva X-Series RCA
- Headphone amplifiers: Burson Soloist, Schiit Magni
- Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-AD2000 & ATH-ES7, Fostex TH900, HiFiMan HE-400, V-MODA M-100

Evaluation Material

- Alison Krauss - Forget About It
- Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane
- Carlos Kleiber & VPO - Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7
- Goldfrapp - Black Cherry
- Helloween - 7 Sinners
- In Flames - The Jester Race
- Jane Monheit - Surrender
- Julia Fischer - Bach Concertos
- Massive Attack - Mezzanine
- Megadeth - Countdown To Extinction [MFSL]
- The Crystal Method - Vegas [2007 Deluxe Edition], Tweekend
- The Prodigy - The Fat of the Land
- Trifonic - Emergence

Movies & Games:
- Black Hawk Down [DVD]
- Far Cry, Half-Life 2 [Windows]

Pros & Cons

+ Hang-able on the neck (because you'd be surprised at how many closed portable headphones can't be worn around the neck!)
+ Split headband allows for a greater degree of comfort than a single-piece headband
+ Extremely transportable with the supplied carrying case
+ Durable
+ Very good overall sound quality and versatile with multiple genres

- Supra-aural clamping pressure created a lack of comfort during extended listening sessions (i.e., caused ear soreness)
- Not really efficient enough to get loud enough out of portable sources at medium settings
- Relative lack of clarity
- Slow impulse response
- Uneven frequency response leading to some unnatural-sounding instruments (like string instruments)

Computer & Portable Applications

For computer audio in general, I found the DT1350 to be an overall strong performer, but crippled by its lack of comfort for long usage sessions. I frequently had to take them off due to discomfort approximately every half-hour or so, primarily due to the supra-aural clamping pressure from the relatively small-diameter earpads. If the earpads were larger in diameter (close to the diameter to that of my Audio-Technica ES7), it probably would have increased comfort substantially.

Overall the DT1350 did well with movies & games - specifically the action-based material that I tested it with. Explosions were decently boomy on it, and it seemed to have accurate-sounding gun reports too - importantly, automatic gunfire having quick-sounding reports (I'm sort of a stickler on automatic gunfire sounding fast). It had a fairly open-sounding soundstage too, which worked well for locating enemies by ear. In fact, it was a significant improvement over my ES7, which has a flat soundstage and doesn't work well for locating enemy positions by ear.

As far as amplification, the DT1350 seemed to sound nearly as good out of my PC (through a headphone jack on my PC speakers) as it did on my reference audio CD system with dedicated headphone amps. Although it did sound best out of the Burson Soloist, it wasn't really a huge difference from out of my PC. It sounded just about the same on my portable DAP (iAudio X5) as well. The only thing that I really noticed with the iAudio X5 was that the DT1350 wasn't very efficient, as I had to turn up the volume past 20 (out of 40) for it to sound loud. In comparison, my JH Audio JH13 IEMs were slightly louder at 17-18 than the DT1350 got at 22-23.

Critical Music Listening

Honestly, the DT1350 wasn't particularly "excellent" or outstanding to me, and I wouldn't use any superlatives to describe its sound. However, that's mostly because I've heard headphones that are way better than it, that are also more expensive (some a lot more). I'd class it as "average" in my overall ranking of headphones, in the company of others like the AKG K2xx/K70x, Senn HD6xx, and the Grado SRxxx/RSx lines. So if those other headphones impress you (or would be upgrades from whatever you currently have), then sure, I'd recommend the DT1350. However, if those don't impress you, or you already have something like the more-expensive Senn HD800 or Audeze LCD-2 (or something else comparable), then the DT1350 likely won't impress either.

However, just because I call the DT1350 "average" doesn't mean it's bad - I only say that to provide a frame of reference against headphones that are both worse/cheaper than it and better/more expensive than it. In fact, I thought it sounded very good, better in many ways than a lot of other closed portable headphones that I've heard over the years. It was decently clear-sounding, with a good frequency balance (recessing primarily the upper treble & lower bass), and provided just enough satisfaction that I could use it for a decent variety of genres. There were actually only 2 genres that I thought weren't very good on it - electronica & classical. Primarily because the DT1350 lacked general bass quantity and extension to really provide a satisfactory impact for electronica, and it effectively reduced large orchestras to sounding small & smashed-in. It added a somewhat unpleasant bronzy/nasal character to violins, brass, & woodwinds too.

For my other genres though, like bluegrass/folk, rock, & metal, I found the DT1350 to be very good-sounding - and could believe that it'd even be potentially "great" to those who it would be an upgrade for. I'd sum it up as a semi-assertive- & clear-sounding headphone (not too different in style from the Shure SRH840/SRH1840) without distracting mid-range colorations (like forward vocals or anything like that), and relatively mid-range- & bass-light. And definitely closed-headphone-sounding too - i.e., it had a compacted soundstage not unusual for closed headphones, but fortunately the soundstage wasn't too small either, as it was deceptively large for such a physically small headphone.

I'd say the DT1350 would be a sonic upgrade from the following headphones specifically (all of which I've owned/heard): Audio-Technica ES7 & M50, Creative Labs Aurvana Live, Sennheiser HD419, Shure SRH840, and Sony MDR-Z700. Moreover, I recommend it for anyone looking to buy a set of closed portable headphones for the first time. Beyerdynamic has finally made a headphone that I can get behind for once! Granted, it doesn't exactly win sonic awards from me in the grand scheme of things though - let's just say that if it cost twice its $300 MSRP, I would've been a lot more critical of it and wouldn't be purposely glossing over the sonic nitpicks that I have with it. The best praise that I can give it is that it sounds like a $300 headphone. I can't think of any better closed portable headphones at its price and I'd call it the best new headphone of its type currently available for combined computer & dedicated music applications! I was actually more impressed with it as a computer headphone though and it'd be my first recommendation for anyone seeking a computer headphone since it combines moderately good sound with a very good level of isolation. It's easily the best "office cubicle"-type headphone that I've ever heard and if that's your intended use, then buy one now!

The best way that I can spin the DT1350 would be to call it something like a closed version of a micro-HD800. Not "mini", which would be stretching it a bit for me, just "micro" along with everything that implies. Not that "micro" is bad - in the case of the DT1350, that's actually a good thing!

Comparison: V-MODA M-100

I found that the DT1350 and M-100 sounded somewhat opposite to each other - the DT1350 being substantially clearer-sounding with less mid-range and bass overall than the thick- & full-sounding M-100. In fact, if the M-100 is considered bassy (as many people claim it is), then the DT1350 was definitely bass-light compared to it. However, while I thought the M-100 had very good bass and mid-range (with especially nice, full-sounding vocals), it was also somewhat suffocating-sounding to me, as if it was literally trapping the music within its confined driver chambers, while the DT1350 had more of a spacious (i.e., "airier") and spread-out sound. Its diffuse presentation was definitely a plus for certain music genres, as it allowed music to sound spatially bigger than the M-100 did. Nothing sounded too up-close with the DT1350 either, as opposed to the M-100 which was very up-close & intimate-sounding.

However, in the grand scheme of headphones, neither the M-100 or the DT1350 impressed me by their sound quality all that much, but that's only because I've gotten used to some very good-sounding headphones in recent years like the Audeze and Sennheiser flagships, including my previous high-end electrostatic system (Stax OII & BHSE). But at the $300 price point, it's hard to find better than either the DT1350 or M-100, and I think the choice of headphones comes down to the type of music you listen to and what kind of sound you like. I view the M-100 as the more obvious choice for most listeners of contemporary music genres who favor bass - pop, rock, metal, electronica, etc. The DT1350 might be the better choice for those who don't care as much about bass quantity and listen to classical or generally acoustic (non-synthesized) music. I'd go even further to say that the DT1350 and M-100 are sonically-clear byproducts of their respective manufacturer's geographic regions - Europe for Beyerdynamic, the USA for V-MODA.

Related Reading

Story of my closed portable headphone journey: http://www.head-fi.org/t/235997/how-my-journey-for-closed-portable-bliss-came-to-an-end
Beyerdynamic T70 mini-review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/584599/mini-review-beyerdynamic-t70
Beyerdynamic T1 vs Senn HD800 review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/511201/review-beyerdynamic-t1-vs-sennheiser-hd800
V-MODA M-100 review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/v-moda-crossfade-m-100/reviews/10283

Addendum - Review Notes

My review notes are included here in their own section for convenience. These provide specific detailed info not included in the review. Notes start below the asterisks.

Far Cry / Half-Life 2: Clearer than ES7, and just about as fast - quick gunfire and satisfying explosions. Better imaging - sound field more spread out which helps to locate enemy positions by ear. Also easier to hear layered effects like footsteps, etc.

Trifonic - Emergence: Lacks overall "dimension" to the spatial image, so this type of music (ambient electronica) completely lacks the "empty-space void" feeling. Spatially flat-sounding - almost no sense of "air" within the music. Very closed-in sounding; however, this type of sound not unusual for closed headphones in general. Acceptable spatials for a closed headphone, could be worse. Also lacks some clarity, though treble and bass quantity is decent. However, treble lacks precision. Bass also lacks depth & general quantity (below 80Hz).

AKUS - Paper Airplane: Intimate-sounding but lacks a presence factor compared to flagship headphones - doesn't sound very "physical/existential". Lacks center fill in the imaging. Also seems to be somewhat "dead" sounding - no vividness to sound, and no particular emphasis anywhere in the spectrum either. Relatively neutral though.

Megadeth - Countdown To Extinction [MFSL]: Front-loaded/forward male vocals not a detraction here, helps make the music sound more "metal". Assertive-type sound - neither "aggressive" or "passive" per se. Reminds me of Shure headphones in a way. Background details either lost in mix or blurred.

Helloween - 7 Sinners, In Flames - The Jester Race: Good drive, overall very appropriately-assertive sound for this type of music. No obvious emphasis on either bass (instruments) or guitars. If anything, guitars somewhat in background compared to most treble-heavy headphones (sort of like a counter to the Grado-like sound). Not really fast enough to keep up with fastest speedruns though, and relative lack of clarity subtracts from the enjoyment. Small-ish soundstage does work great for this music type, provides a good "up-close w/ band" feel.

Goldfrapp - Black Cherry: Bass lacks drive and ultra-low extension. Relative lack of treble quantity as well. Female vocals sound only ok, nothing noteworthy. Again sounds "dead" - lacks a spark to make it engaging, reminds me of K701 in that aspect, which also sounded dead.

The Crystal Method - Tweekend: Bass in general acceptable for this music type - decent impact & quantity. Easy to hear bass, even if it doesn't extend very low. Not enough bass though to truly satisfy like an Audeze.

Massive Attack - "Teardrop": Bass rolled off, notably on the heartbeat rhythm (lowest notes inaudible). Also lacks a heavy/fat presence. Texture/slap of kick drum also muddled, not very easy to tell it's a kick drum.

Julia Fischer - Bach Concertos, Carlos Kleiber & VPO - Beethoven 5 & 7: String instruments not very clear-sounding. Lack of soundstage depth distracting but not a total dealbreaker. Because of the "closed" nature, music sounds a bit stuffed-up/suffocating. Decent balance overall between sections and frequencies - no major flaws. Violin treble level acceptable - not too much, not too little. Strings overall nasal/bronzy-sounding, consistently initially off-putting on every listening session. Not really ideal for classical music due to off-putting frequency balance (the nasal/bronzy sound) and lack of clarity. However, not terrible either - just acceptable enough.

Seems to have a slight "veil" over everything as well. Not as "transparent" as it could be and has a slight "muffle" factor that especially affects guitars (especially overdriven guitars).

Overall: For the cliché "I hear more details with xxx new headphone!", the reverse is true for DT1350. The details that should be on the music test tracks weren't there on DT1350 - i.e., "With the DT1350, I can't hear the details that I know are there!". Not bad, but not great either. Squarely decent, acceptable for price and for being closed - hard to get a decent-sounding closed headphone in this price bracket. To that point, above-average considering the other options of its type in this bracket.

Also scales with amps somewhat - sounds substantially better on Soloist than on Magni. Most obviously clearer throughout the spectrum, with improved soundstaging as well (more depth & width).

1 Comment:

Could not disagree with your review more. Apart from comfort these are a great headphone and for their size are pretty much unmatched in my experience.
Maybe your amp/source set up did not agree with these and they are more for portable rigs not what you have listed?
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