A lot of people here who are aware that Beyerdynamic generously sent over a boatload of headphones to headphones.com have been asking me to review & Compare the DT660 & DT860 – Two headphones which have been around for quite a while, are not cheap, but remain relatively unknown. I had not ever heard either of these headphones prior to Beyer’s generous offering. I had no expectations or preconceived biases. Seeing as though both pairs had an impedance rating of 32 Ohms, I was eager to hear them out of my iPod. I also used them in my Studio with my Larocco PRII MKII amp and my MSB Platinum DAC III. My primary impressions however are straight from the iPod.
First I tried out the DT660. Initially I was put off by the lack of bass impact, especially in the 50 Hz and below. When I ran a few sine waves through them, my suspicion was correct – the 660s showed significant roll off in this region. Bassheads would be shocked by the lack of bass here, BUT…
These headphones showed to be shockingly accurate and as a result, they are now my top choice for classical music listening out of an iPod for under $400. I brought them into the studio this weekend to see how they would fare in the live room. Since these are closed back, I wanted to see how they would rival the DT770 32 ohm in this application. I tried them out first while at the drum kit and then afterward at the piano. At the drum kit, the DT770 showed to have a lot more weight and I preferred them, but the DT660 sounded more revealing and lifelike when I was monitoring the piano. The transient response of the DT660s felt very natural to my ears with a piano. The more I used the DT660, the more other headphones started sounding murky to me. There is a lot of air provided due to 1) the lack of bass and 2) the emphasized treble.
In a sense it seems as though my brief description of the sound would result in a problematic overall tone, but I feel very confident in saying that classical music lovers will easily identify with the DT660s’ signature. If you spend a lot of time in live acoustic rooms and concert halls, you know that headphones often lack air – air which is what gives the instruments not only their character, but also their “life.” The DT660s have a lot of air, not just sparkle, and for most genres this will be too much treble emphasis. I have been comparing the DT660s and the T5P back to back and while I think the T5P’s overall tone is preferable, I find that I hear more detail with the DT660. The T5P sounds more beautiful and I prefer it, but the DT660 offers wonderfully vibrant sound.
As mentioned, there is a significant bass roll off, but the mids feel exceptionally flat. The highs are extended, lifted and shelved beginning at about 5-6 Khz. If any headphone were to be called analytical – this is it! The most analytical headphone I’ve ever come across, but it does it’s “analysis” with precision. The soundstage right out of the iPod is tremendous, and while not as well angled as the T5P, equally as wide.
When compared with an HD800 or T1 there is a noticeable difference in overall transparency. The DT660s are not as markedly transparent as the HD800 or T1.
The DT860 on the other hand has a lot of bass. As a matter of fact, the 860s sound like the 660s but with a significant bass boost. The difference in bass impact is much more dramatic than that of the DT880s vs DT990s. The DT860s also are open back whereas the DT660s are closed. My initial impression of the DT860 was that the bass was overwhelming, specifically in the 60-90 Hz region. However, as more and more of the staff auditioned these, I kept hearing the same comments “Awesome!” “Best sound out of an iPod I’ve ever heard”…I have to admit that out an iPod these are loud and have a very exciting tonal balance. They sound like a DT990 with a bit more punch (if you can believe it) and are even more “fun” than the DT990. My impression is that the DT660, while less exciting, is actually a headphone I’d enjoy more for the simple fact that it does classical so well, but the DT860 is definitely the one more users would flock to because it is just a lot more fun. Considering the price difference of the 860 and the 990, the 860 is definitely worth consideration. When comparing the two back to back directly out of an iPod, I actually thought the DT860 was substantially better with Hip Hop and R&B over the 990, and it was clearly better than the headphones marketed toward the Hip-Hop audience. For Rock I thought the DT860 excelled, however the 990s bested it slightly due to a slightly more forward midrange. However, I really preferred the sound of Thrash out of the 860s. I found that Jazz ensembles sound more alive on the DT990.
These two headphones are largely ignored here on head-fi, and they certainly deserve to be heard. Don’t be fooled by the lack of exposure – these are noteworthy headphones. When we have to give back the batch, I’m going to have to decide between the T5P and the DT660….