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Vintage Beyer studio shootout (DT48 vs. DT480)

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

 

I've recently received two crucial items for my inventory: a new Beyerdynamic cable for my crackly DT48 and new DT100 pads for my DT480.

 

What does that mean? It's time for the Vintage Beyerdynamic Studio Headphone shootout. Both of them are the 25ohm variants, and both have been driven by my desktop setup (FLAC->Foobar->Musical Paradise MP301 tube amp).

 

I've listened to the following tracks to do this comparison:

  • Jamie Lidell: Multiply
  • Bettye LaVette: Just Say So
  • Dave Brubeck: Three to Get Ready
  • Charlie Winston: My Name
  • The Meters: Just Kissed my Baby

 

First, I might as well get this out of the way: if you are a basshead, neither of these headphones will deliver the kind of thump that you want out of your music. They are also both headphones that would be considered highly polarising in the audio world. They aren't for everyone, and definitely are only recommended for people who, like me, have discovered they are more interested in a precise and accurate studio sound to the more common "hi-fi" sound.

 

Now that's out of the way, I'm going to rudely spoil the suspense and share my findings: this one's a tie. I've been switching back and forth between these headphones all day, and I honestly can't say that one of them comes out clearly on top. If I were cornered, I would have to admit that the DT48 deliver a more technically competent overall sound, but I also have to admit that I find the DT480 more comfortable and more able to deliver an overall cohesive and pleasing sound.

 

Both are mid-centric headphones, which is the main thing that the DT48 does well. Indeed, it renders sound with an eerie precision. I'm not talking about the ability to pick out details that you've never heard before from a track of music: we're WAY beyond that here. With the DT48, it's like being able to close your eyes and visualize the room that the song was recorded in because you can hear slight reflections from the wall. This is especially true of tracks recorded simultaneously like Dave Brubeck, where I was able to hear not only every little drum sound, but the way that the drum sound reflects off the piano. Because of this, every instrument and voice on a studio recording sounds oddly separated, with a coherent space around them. While this is an astonishing feature of the DT48, it can also end up being a weakness, as it highlights the constructed nature of music a bit more than intended. It's almost like digital edge enhancement on a DVD, which makes everything look clearer on a first glance, but is ultimately distracting--it just doesn't natural somehow.

 

The DT480 also has an astonishing midrange, but it doesn't quite have the mystical clarity of its aluminum big brother. Compared to almost any other dynamic headphone, it's still impressively clear, though. That said, it's better able to deliver warmth and intimacy, because it is able to create the illusion of a performance from a studio track. It has an incredible ability to deliver flawless balance between the various voices and instruments, bringing them together while still delivering each one clearly. While the DT48 is the winner for vocals, the DT480 does truly beautiful things with brass instruments.

 

The soundstage of the two headphones is somewhat similar. The DT48 has a relatively narrow soundstage, but it's surprisingly deep. That ability to represent physical space helps source the sounds outside of the head. I never had that feeling with the DT480, but the wider soundstage is a benefit on some of the tracks, especially with the strings on the Charlie Winston track. Both of them have enough width and/or depth to do a great job of handling busy passages--from what I can tell any congestion I will ever hear on these headphone will be either from compression or the recording.

 

While the DT48 is the midrange king, the DT480 actually slides into the lead when it comes to bass and treble extension. I didn't use any bass heavy songs for my testing, but several songs benefitted from the additional depth and sparkle that the DT480 delivers. The bass helps on tracks like The Meters and Jamie Lidell, where that extra bit of oomph makes the bass sound a bit more rich. Likewise, the ride cymbal on Just Kissed my Baby pops a bit more on the DT480, and was a bit recessed on the DT48. This ends up being a bit of a tradeoff, and ultimately depends which is more important: the best vocals of all time or that extra little pop on either end. I kind of wish I could get both, but I think that would require a significantly more expensive headphone.

 

Either way, neither of these pairs of headphones are going to be leaving my collection any time soon. While I think the DT48 is often treated unfairly on head-fi (both by its prophets and its critics), it is the best headphone I've ever found for exploring how music is created and assembled. It is the x-ray of the headphone world, but it doesn't tolerate any laziness on the part of the listener. Whenever they are playing, they are pretty much impossible to ignore. The DT480, once a proper seal is acheived with proper pads, is a hugely underrated entry in the Beyerdynamic historical lineup. It doesn't specialize the same way, but it does a lot of things astoundingly, wonderfully well. The results? I can listen to almost anything with them and get swept away by the music. Arguably, that's just as impressive a feat.

 

While my orthos are getting quite a bit of listening time these days, both of these vintage Beyerdynamics are proof that dynamic drivers haven't come that far in the last 30 years. In fact, they remain an exceptional value for people who love music and love to explore what makes that music tick.

post #2 of 13
Thanks for the thoughtful and well-written comparison! I haven't tried out the 480, but would really like to one of these days. I completely agree about the DT48. It gives you a frightening amount of information about the recording itself, but I find it musical enough for listening to good recordings.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Oh, good recordings sound absolutely delightful on the DT48.  Bad recordings, on the other hand, become pretty much unbearable.

post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpearce View Post

Oh, good recordings sound absolutely delightful on the DT48.  Bad recordings, on the other hand, become pretty much unbearable.



Oh, I don't know, I was just listening to some recordings of the Oistrakh Trio with one of my DT48s yesterday (Russian live recordings from the 1940s and 50s). Very far from the highest of fi, but I simply love what they are able to extract from it.

 

The DT480 on the other hand (I own a 200 ohm version)... well, let's just say I haven't been able to 'connect' with it yet.

post #5 of 13

Thanks for the great write-up. I enjoyed the balanced view you take. Will be looking for a dt480 now...

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drosera View Post


Oh, I don't know, I was just listening to some recordings of the Oistrakh Trio with one of my DT48s yesterday (Russian live recordings from the 1940s and 50s). Very far from the highest of fi, but I simply love what they are able to extract from it.

 

The DT480 on the other hand (I own a 200 ohm version)... well, let's just say I haven't been able to 'connect' with it yet.


I can't stress enough, if you haven't yet tracked down some DT100 pads to get a proper seal, you aren't hearing what they are capable of by a long shot.

post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpearce View Post




I can't stress enough, if you haven't yet tracked down some DT100 pads to get a proper seal, you aren't hearing what they are capable of by a long shot.



Oh, they're in great shape. Refurbished by the previous owner (a studio, as far as I know) just before he sold it, new headband, pads and foam. But I was just starting to think, that foam (covering the drivers), should that really be there in the first place? (I'll try to remove it tonight and listen again, if I get 'round to it.)

 

I was also planning to build a new cable for them. I'm not a huge cable believer, but replacing vintage cables, especially old Beyer cables, has sometimes led to complete transformations with my headphones.


Edited by Drosera - 9/20/10 at 3:18am
post #8 of 13

i see you have the dt480 i used to have.   i find these old beyers to appeal to the hardcore audiophile crowd much more than an average lister or even audiophile. the extreme detail might just seem harsh to many. i could not seem to find the right amp synergy with the dt480, tho i liked the dt100

post #9 of 13

Very detailed post.. Well said.. You should really try the a version.. They are a nice improvement.. I like the DT480.. I'm getting mine recabled & repaired.. & possibly have them with wooden cups & cosmetic change. As good as they are, I still feel the DT48 is clearly superior, especially the A/NAGRA model.. The DT480 is more pleasing to listen too, & better in certain areas... I will compare my recabled/repaired DT480 more closley.. The DT480 seem to have a weird colorization or sheen over the instruments & vocals.. I have yet to fully warm up to them.. But like them enough to pamper them & spend up to 200.00 to have them woodied out.. SWZ cables is testing the air pressure in concerns of having wooden cups on the DT480..

 


"Greater clarity (transparency, vividness) and imaging power is what immediately comes to mind when comparing the DT48A & DT48E with the same pads. More to come later.."
shamu144

"I think my previous explanation was not very clear... I actually find the treble response on the A to be better indeed than the E version... That is of course comparing both version with the same E pads. While I understand how someone could say that the treble response is slightly rolled off on the E, I don't find it to be the case at all with the A version, benefiting from a better presence, extension and delicacy."

"OTOH, there is no doubt the A version is technically superior to the E version, with a stability, coherence, precision and imaging of the soundstage that is trully mind blowing. I believe this attributes leads to the overall greater focus and clarity you can experience with the A version. I find it to be even more relaxing, as you can follow individually each instruments with such ease... The closest I have ever heard to a straight open window on the recording."
shamu144

"In a nutshell, spectacular precision and stability of the soundstage (the E sound almost blurred in comparison !), no rolled off treble at all unlike the DT48E with great extension, presence and delicacy... I still can't say wether the DT48A are trully more transparent than the DT48E or if it is an illusion due to the improved treble response..."
shamu144


Edited by kool bubba ice - 9/20/10 at 12:57pm
post #10 of 13


un listenable with certain recording.. That transparent & ruthless.. If you want the building blocks of how a studio effects the recordings the DT48 is probably tops in the Dynamic world.. The DT48 extracts every ounce of the studio's & recordings DNA.. The studio's surroundings.. reflections.. You name it.. They truly let you see so to speak what was done to the smallest & minut detail.. The critics think I'm making this up? Over hyping them? Exageratting? No...Sometimes I think the DT48 came from a different planet made by aliens..

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpearce View Post

Oh, good recordings sound absolutely delightful on the DT48.  Bad recordings, on the other hand, become pretty much unbearable.

post #11 of 13

Followup:

 

Yup, removing the foam helps quite a bit. I'm getting these a whole lot better know. They really are starting to sound like DT48 drivers in a bigger housing. I think I've also finally found a headphone that actually benefits from a 120 ohm output, it makes the sound surprisingly spacious.

 

I wonder if there are similar differences between the 25 ohm and 200 ohm versions of the DT480 as there are between the 25 and 200 ohm version of the DT48. Could anyone who has heard both elaborate on this?

post #12 of 13

The first time I listened to my DT480 I've got the strong impulse of drilling the whole back of the cups. Everything under 100hz muffled and distorted, anything above 6k just absent.

Then I simply lined the inside of the cups with felt and ...  BINGO!!! :-))

Darker than my DT48S rolling off HF much earlier than them but retaining the resolution and mid beauty. More involving may be, but not as realistic and convincing as the DT48.

 

But... it is not finished yet. Next is recabling.

 

Like the DT48 these headphone will greatly benefit of some air on the back.

 

 

A


Edited by Antistase - 11/26/10 at 12:25am
post #13 of 13

More precisely stick the felt not to the inside of the cups but rather directly against the drivers.

 

After  a pair of DT110 cushions, recabling and contact cleaning with crag pro gold these headphones are really good.

 

A

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