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DT880 Review

post #1 of 77
Thread Starter 
DT880 versus DT931, DT831, HP910, HD600SC (SC=Stock Cable).

Headroom Max Headphone Amp
JVC XV-D723 DVD/CD player
Sony C333ES SACD/DVD/CD player
Basia – Brave New Hope (Special Edition CD5)
Paula Cole – This Fire
Enigma – Greatest Hits, MCMXC
Scott E. Freeman – Dulcimer
Annie Lennox (various)

DT931 versus DT831
DT931 has better bass extension, much tighter bass, and fuller vocals, with a more forward midrange.

DT831 versus DT931
DT831 sounds like it has a wider soundstage, airier, slightly brighter.

DT831 versus DT880
The DT831 sounds like it has a 3.2 KHz presence.

DT931 versus DT880
The DT931 seems to have a 250 Hz presence

DT880 versus DT931
DT880 is less power efficient, has a very wide soundstage (bordering on 3D positioning), smoother vocals, spacial separation is greater (>40 degrees, 15 degrees forward). [The DT880 sounds like a 180 degree soundstage, the DT931 sounds like 140 degrees, the HD600 sounds like 120 degrees]. The DT831 sounded like it was behind & up by 15 degrees.

If you are used to tubes ("tube sound") with 80 dB channel separation, the DT831 would sound like it has 100 dB channel separation, and the DT880 sounds like it has 120 dB channel separation. The sound comparison of a DT880 versus HD600 would be like comparing an amp with a common power supply and an amp with separate power supplies (dual mono channels with separate power supplies).

In a word, the DT880 sounds UNCOMPRESSED, uncoloured, neutral and transparent compared to the above headphones. THINK ELECTROSTATIC VINYL WITH BASS. The overall sound is between electrostatics and dynamics. If someone could make a low voltage electrostatic, this is what it would sound like. The HP910 sounds coloured compared to all the other headphones (but they are great at low listening volumes) but “the veil” is greater than the HD600. That said, the DT880 does not have the “energy” of the DT931, but HD600 owners will find it to their liking, being totally flat from 100 Hz to 3 KHz. The DT931 sounds like it has a collapsed soundstage compared to the DT880 (see above note).

The HD600 is renowned for their smooth vocals. But, if you think the HD600 has smooth vocals, the DT880 is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH smoother. I am a great proponent of the DT831, having described the DT831 as being smooth. But on Basia’s “Masquerade” the DT831 and DT931 sounded sibilant and harsh compared to the DT880, the DT880 vocals being SILKY smooth.

Want to know what the Sennheiser HD700 is likely to sound like? Get a DT880.

In a word, with SACD classical, the DT880 is AWESOME. It sounds like you are listening to it “LIVE.” The DT880 is GREAT for classical and chamber. Chamber music fans will LOVE the presence of the DT880.

If you are used to a “headphone sound” you will find yourself turning up the volume to the distortion point; it is that clear, that open, and that airy, with that much wider a soundstage. In other words “LIVE,” albeit with a slightly ‘less’ high-end energy. Trumpets with a muter sound slightly restrained. I wonder what removing the driver covering, and replacing with a panty hose covering (or Audio Technica or AKG cloth), would do to the overall sound.

If you are used to the volume levels of the AKG K340, with its attendant smooth and silky midrange, you have found your next headphone. The DT880 is that good. But, the highs on the DT880 are that much better, with better transients and decay. On the Headroom Max you may want to set it to “bright” to approximate the sound of lesser headphones, or just to make it sound brighter (like the HD590). As it is, the “bright” setting should be re-engineered (on the Headroom Max) to optimize it with the DT880, since the “bright” setting seems to have been optimized for the HD600. Whereas you would need something on the order of +6 to +8 dB to optimize the HD600, you would only need +3 dB to optimize the DT880 (more like 2.3 to 2.5 dB at 15 to 16 KHz). On some recordings it seems like the Headroom Max does not have enough gain, since I was able to set it to “high gain” and max volume without distortion. It is that clean and clear; no distortion at very high volumes (unlike a lot of headphones, like the Audio Technicas and AKGs, and to a certain extent the DT831 and DT931).

Final Synopsis: The DT880 is definitely between the sound of the DT831 and DT931, without the harshness of either, with a MUCH smoother vocal range than both (and MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better than the HD600), much higher voltage handling range, unveiled, uncoloured, UNCOMPRESSED, transparent, neutral, with a greater sense of soundstage (about 30 degrees forward, 30 degrees back, 20 degrees left, 20 degrees right [horizontal plane], 15 degrees forward, 20 degrees back[vertical plane]).

You can now add the DT880 in the HD600 versus W1000 versus CD3000 wars. It is that good.

Jan – put me down for a DT880. I want mine as soon as possible.

Whereas Greg giggles when he hears the DT880, my nerves start to shake. I want mine NOW, please.

The DT880: the smooth, sweet sound of Electrostatics playing vynil, possessing high bass, played through tube amplifers.
post #2 of 77
Excellent review. You sure have a precise set of ears, wallijohn.

Blows the HD600 away you say? Mabye I should A-B these with the HD600 before I make a purchase. . .

Are they dead black like the HD600s?

post #3 of 77
Thread Starter 

dead black?
laid back or dyed black?

what's your definition of "laid back"?

no, the DT880 are not laid back. they are neutral, neither laid back nor forward, neither recessed nor exaggerated (midrange or bass). the treble can be tweaked up a bit for the "transient" and "decay" guys, but they are FLAT. no veil. no brightness. SMOOTH. SILKY. TRANSPARENT.

if you are into vocals (!!!) then you should audition these. the vocals on the HD600 were SMOOTH. but the DT880 was SMOOTHER. whereas the Audio Technicas tend to exaggerate the mids, sometimes to the detriment of the vocals (being slightly sibilant and harsh[about 2.5 KHz]), the DT880 is SMOOTH throughout the range. SILKY SMOOTH. Sade should sound excellent. Her sexy voice will not break up, if Basia and Lenox's voice are any indication. I should have bought some Pam Tillis, Mariah Carey, Rippleton, Lee Ann Rimes and Patsy Cline with me, but of the three female vocalist I heard, they were SMOOTH.
post #4 of 77
how does it compare to dt770pro
if it's that good.. I may get it.
post #5 of 77
2 weeks and I should have my DT880 - very much looking forward to hearing them
post #6 of 77
Wasn't there a previous review/reviews that kind of contradicted some of your views on the HD600vs DT880 comparison such as souncstage. I'm just trying to think of how much is "much much much"

Thanks for the review although your excitement might have made the review a little less believeable.

The past reviews have commented a lot on "details" where the HD600 shines through. Can you comment on your findings a little bit?
post #7 of 77
Thread Starter 

my review stands as written. it is not emotionalism. there is no excitment. it is based on what I heard. other reviews, using other equipment and different music, may come to different conclusions.

we will have to wait for Greg's full review. He will probably state things much more differently. he will probably review his HD600 with the "cardas-type" cable with the DT880. I reviewed the HD600 with the stock cable (as noted).

If you have read my other notations, you should find that I prefer a "bright" sound. When others say that the DT931 or DT831 is bright, I find the DT831 and DT931 not to be bright. "TO ME". When some say that the DT831 or DT931 lack bass, I find that the DT831 and DT931 have ample bass. Which is why I included a DT831 & DT931 versus DT880 synopsis.

I spent over 8 hours comparing headphones today. these are my findings. i only ask that you audition them and make your own conclusions.

as to the vocal presence, make no mistake about it: "in my opinion" the DT880 is smoother in the vocal presentation. the DT880 sounded better. period. TO ME. it had a MUCH wider soundstage, much better positioning, a smoother sound, better bass, better treble, better transient sound, better decay. The vocals were MUCH smoother, more natural, better sounding, etc. Through the Baringer equaliser and the equalised sound the HD600 was MUCH better than the unequallised sound of the HD600. The equalised HD600 sounded better than the DT880. But on a $200 headphone versus $200 headphone basis the DT880 was clearly superior.

I can only imagine what the Ultrasone 650 and 2000 sound like. And I imagine that it sounds a LOT like the DT880 (in my mind).

Guyferd, (and Howie)

Unfortunately I did not have a DT770 to compare the DT880 to. But if the DT770 sounds like "other" headphones, the DT880 has a much wider soundstage. When I alluded to the "3D positioning", I wasn't kidding. It sounds that w i d e . The soundstage sounds like it is 180 degrees wide. It may be the Headroom Max, it may be synergy, or it could just be the new drivers in the DT880. But using the same Headroom Max with all of the other headphones (it's the ONLY amp I used for the comparison, whereas I listened to the EQUALISED HD600 through the Baringer and the Harmon Kardon amplifier)) the DT880 is superior to ALL. period. even to my beloved DT831. where the DT831 was harsh the DT880 was smooth. as I consider the DT831 smooth, the DT880 is therefore MUCH, MUCH smoother. it was NO CONTEST. it was self evident. it was immediately noticable. On " Silence Must Be Heard" when she hits a certain note (or chord), the DT880 was SMOOTHER. Where the DT831, DT931 and HD600 were harsh (in comparison) the DT880 was smoother, non-sibilant.

If you consider the DT831 good, the DT880 is better. If you consider the DT931 good, the DT880 is better. If you consider the HD600 good, the DT880 is better. The HP910 is not even close.

listen to both. listen for hours. come to your own conclusions.
post #8 of 77
nice, i think i'll get one. then we can do a 770 vs 880 review.
post #9 of 77

Good review. Only thing I would add is that the DT 880s are really quite "open," so that should be kept in mind by others in comparing them with headphones like the ATH-A1000s and Sony CD 3000s.
post #10 of 77
Thread Starter 

I have not heard the W1000 or CD3000. My opinion is based on what I have read on this forum. My comments concerning Audio Technicas is strictly limited to the AD10 and W2002. My comparison to the HD590 is from memory. Is memory faulty? Can one ever forget what a Grado SR80 or Sony V6 sound like (once having lived with them)? If you are intimate with the sound of the HD600, is it necessary to directly compare it each time to another headphone? IMHO the HD600 "veil" can not be heard unless it is compared to something else; (although I can readily hear the "colouration " of the HP910 even without a comparison to another set of headphone. In this case it is definitly "memory" of what "other" sounds "sound" like).

Many allude to an "open" sound within the "closed" A1000. I am just saying that the DT880 is one of the most "open" sounding (in regards to soundstage positioning and distance between the instruments) that I have ever heard. That is not saying much. If you compare the DT880 to Stax, R10, K1000, W1000, CD3000, et. al., you may come to a different conclusion; which is your right. and i will defend your opinion. compared to the HD600SC, DT931, DT831 and HP910, the DT880 is clearly superior. IMHO. since the HD600 is the de facto standard, no review is worth any serious consideration least it be compared to the standard. it has been so duly noted. where the A1000, W1000, K1000 and CD3000 lie in regards to the HD600 is for you to discern and then place the DT880 within that context / matrix (paradigm).
post #11 of 77
Thanks for the review wallijonn. I particularly liked your selection of female vocalists - some of my favs. I also liked that your review included some relevant comparisons (including "the standard"), which make it all that much more useful.
post #12 of 77

Re: DT880 vs DT931, DT831, HD600, HP910 Review

Originally posted by wallijonn

If you are used to the volume levels of the AKG K340, with its attendant smooth and silky midrange, you have found your next headphone. The DT880 is that good. But, the highs on the DT880 are that much better, with better transients and decay. [/B]

Now this is interesting. If it has the midrange of the 340 with a better high end, than it sounds like something special.

Great job, as always.
post #13 of 77
Thread Starter 

make no mistake about it, the overall sound of the DT880 is different from the HD600. In the same vein, you will find the overall sound of the DT880 different from the K340. Is it better? Is it worse? Only you can decide. I am lucky enough to have a great friend in Greg Freeman, who allowed me to play with his toys, listen to his music, eat his food and drink his beer. I really can't expect more from a friend. (I hope I never have to call him to come down to the police station and bail me out.).

With my sources chances are that the DT880s would sound MUCH different. I doubt that anyone will question the quality and sound of the Headroom Max. Obviously if you happen to have a Antness Gilmore, RKV, MGHead, Sugden, nOrh SE-9, etc., the overall sound should sound different. Since I perceive the DT880 to be "treble light" in the extreme high end, I would think that they sound best with solid state amps. But the overall smoothness of the DT880 can only be alluded to with those familiar with "tube sound" and electrostatics, though not possessing the compressed sound of electrostatics. Compared to a "normal" headphone (HD600, DT931, DT831, HP910) the sound of the DT880 sounds "uncompressed", and conversely the sound of those headphones sound "compressed" in comparison to the DT880 (both in dynamics and volume level).

I like the sound of the HD600. I just think that the DT880 sounds better. And if you are into vocals (as opposed to instruments or bass (a la DT770)) you should find the DT880 very pleasing. From what I have read (the DT770 being bass heavy) the DT880 will not exhibit that bass heaviness, it being "neutral". I did not listen for "impact" but for flavour, not for "decay" but for flavour, not for "transparency", but flavour. I listened for an overall sound. I listened to female vocals, evenness of frequency response, and an overall "sound". That sound happened to have been pretty flat, pretty transparent (when compared to the aforementioned headphones), pretty neutral (I didn't perceive any hot spots or "missing octaves" or dips) with a w-i-d-e sounstage. When you hear it you will probably need getting used to it. From what I have read the Sony F1 may have that type of very wide spacial soundstage. Not having heard the Sony F1 I can not say for sure.

Hopefully a lot of you guys will be able to audition it at your next mini-Meet or Meet. See if you can't listen to it for 30 minutes to an hour, non-stop. I think that you will find it to be non-fatiguing (unlike the DT831 or DT931) yet more engaging than the HD600SC.
post #14 of 77
Great review, wallijonn.......thank you.
Unfortunately, you have only increased my desire for these 'phones. I'm waiting for Jan's promised sales action to order them. As I have the K340s, and find their midrange to be wonderful, I'm sure I'll love the K340s with a a little more top end. How about sound leakage?
post #15 of 77
Thank you for posting your impressions. It sounds like you like the headphone quite a bit more than Jan. I wonder if you found the same flaws with it he did. Notably, he mentioned that the phone sounded "slower" than the HD600 and DT931. Do you have any thoughts on that? Does the overall "resolution" seem lower with the DT880? I've always thought this might be part of why people call the HD600 "veiled"--it's simply not a very fast headphone compared to other high end phones. The rolled off treble you perceived is an interesting observation because that could contribute to a lower perceived level of resolution. Hmmmm. Curiouser and curiouser.
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