Beyerdynamic DT990 250 Pro Review
As I read this forum looking for information before buying these headphones, I often wondered how to put the opinions here into perspective – I wasn't sure what standards different posters had for excellent sound and I wasn't sure how the subtle the differences in sound between different headphones and different amps would be to my own ears. To someone with a limited budget these are very important questions. I can't definitively answer them for you because the only way for you to really know how a piece of equipment sounds is to hear it yourself, but I can tell you how these headphones sound to someone who has no experience with more expensive gear. If you're someone like me, a young college age person who loves listening to music and wants the best equipment he can afford, then my perspective might be closer to your own than that of more seasoned audiophiles. This review might be able to tell you things that people with much larger budgets and fancier toys cannot. Nevertheless, take it with a grain of salt.
I decided to get the Beyerdynamic DT990 because it seemed like it had the most of the two things I wanted in a headphone – powerful bass and a large soundstage. There was much disagreement about the differences between the variant DT990 models on this forum, so trusting a few reviewers on Amazon who said the 250 Ohm Pro version sounds great unamped, I bought the 250 Ohm Pro version because it was the cheapest. It was an excellent decision.
One of the chief criticisms of the DT990 is that they have boomy bass, recessed mids, and exaggerated highs. I can hear this signature, but it's important to describe it in more detail. These headphones do not have boomy bass like cheap “DJ” headphones, nor do they have harsh highs like my old Sony MDR-V6. They are so much smoother, tighter and more natural than anything I think of as “boomy” or “harsh.” For reference, I've owned the following following headphones: Sony MDR-V6, Sennhesier HD280, Altec Lansing IM716, and many crappier models.
Opinions are relative and I imagine that this criticism is in comparison to other similar or higher priced headphones, which I can't comment on. I just want to emphasize that “boomy” or “harsh” in this context doesn't necessarily sound boomy or harsh at all in the sense that someone used to cheaper headphones would imagine. To me, the signature sounds like tight, deep bass and clear, detailed, smooth highs that are both just a bit louder or bigger than the equally satisfying midrange. Everybody is different though, you may hear something else. You might also have higher standards than me.
What strikes me the most is that I can hear so many parts of the music that I haven't heard before, like subterranean layers of bass, spaciousness, ways that sounds move around in the music, little details and effects, ways that instruments and sounds separate from each other. The soundstage is really great – listening to Skrillex I can hear effects zipping in and out and spinning around me, like every sound is coming from different parts of spheres layered around my head. Dire Straights on FLAC surrounds me. Sounds are located in a 3-dimensional space. The bass is massive and creates a sense of pressure, of weight and impact. My head vibrates listening to Prodigy's “Breathe.” If you want something that is deliberately lean and damped, look elsewhere. The bass anchors the music with these. The midrange does seem to occupy less of the sonic picture than the ends of the spectrum, but the imbalance is not that significant IMO. Voices and guitars are still easy to pick out and just as resolved as the rest of the sound.
128 Kbps MP3s sound veiled and lifeless, like a recording of a clock radio playing the music instead of the musicians themselves. 320 Kbps is very satisfying, and some FLAC gives a noticeable extra sense of clarity. Other FLAC doesn't sound much different from good MP3s.
While I can hear a difference between being driven directly by my ipod, being driven out of my soundcard, and being driven out of a NAD 114 preamp, I want to frame the difference like this: they sound pretty good, still better than anything I've heard before, out of the ipod and they sound even better with better amplification. The biggest difference is volume level. My ipod on max volume just gets them to a satisfying volume level, my laptop's headphone jack gets a lot louder, but not so loud that I don't turn them up all the way sometimes, and the preamp is the only thing I've tried that can get them significantly louder than I would ever listen to. To me, it sounds like these headphones have so little distortion that turning them up just makes the images bigger. They don't get shouty or clangy the way cheaper headphones do when they're turned up too lout. Perhaps it could be described as: more power makes the sound more fleshed out, fuller.
I should also mention that I'm running my laptop's headphone jack into the NAD preamp, so the laptop's amp is not entirely bypassed. Nevertheless, I think this does offer some improvement over the plain laptop because I can run the laptop's headphone amp at a lower level, so it doesn't clip or distort as much. Maybe it's shaving off some really fine detail, but I'm very happy. I can hear some hiss in the background during quiet passages. My next hifi purchase is going to be a usb DAC, and maybe an ipod LOD before that.
If you think you like bass and you want to make an upgrade into some substantial headphones, it would be hard to go wrong with these. I'm extremely happy.
Edited by manbear - 8/22/11 at 12:02pm