AKG Q701 Vs. DT990 600 ohm
Gear used for testing
HRT Music Streamer II -> Matrix M-Stage (w/OPA602BP)
Gaming: Astro MixAmp 5.8 -> Matrix M-Stage
- The three areas where they differ the most are treble, mids, and soundstage, in that order.
- DT990 has more bass with stronger impact, but Q701 is still pretty good for an open can.
- Q701 mids are fuller with more body. DT990 mids sound recessed in comparison.
- DT990s have much more treble than the Q701s; colder/brighter sounding. Q701 treble has a touch of warmth.
- Overall equally punchy, Q701s are slightly fuller sounding IMO (b/c of the mids) but neither headphone sound thin.
- Soundstage size is similar but I prefer the imaging on the Q701.
- Right below is the Headroom graph. I think it's accurate-ish to how they sound.
- After reading about the DT990, I was expecting it to have even more bass then it did. Don't get me wrong, it still has really impressive bass for an open headphone - I was just expecting even moar. Anyways, the bass differences weren't as large as I was expecting between Q701 and DT990. They're is a gap between them though. DT990 for sure is capable of more slam and thump on the bass, and has more quantity overall. Its just that I don't hear the difference as being that huge. Q701 bass boosted sounds almost as good for me. Again check the headroom graph ^ and you get the idea.
- For me, a bass boost will almost (not quite) get the Q701s up to DT990s, but they still won't ever have quite the slam of the DT990. I don't think you can EQ that slam in. Going from the DT990 to the Q701, I personally just don't miss the extra bass that much. Bass isn't a priority for me though. On some songs, the Q701 sounds almost on par, while on others it's more obvious the DT990 has more bass.
- In terms of rumble, they sound similar, with DT990 again having a bit more. They both rumble quite well for open cans IMO I did some bass frequency tests on youtube and they both sounded down until somewhere between 15-20 hz. The bass volume level was pretty similar, though a bit stronger on the DT990s.
- I would say the Q701 sounds slightly more modest in it's bass presentation, but still excellent. The bass on the Qs sounds more integrated and coherent with the rest of the sound (sort of blends into the mids), whereas the DT990 bass sounds sort of lumped up and isolated from the treble and it ends up sounding slightly more aggressive as a result. Because the DT990 has less mids next to it the bass sounds more outlined, cleaner, and thus more prominent.
- I would say the Q701 bass is fine for acoustic music, whereas you'd probably prefer the DT990 if you listen to bass heavy electronic. I still really enjoy the Q701s bass with electronic though.
- I'm not sure which of the two has faster bass, they're both very fast and tight - close enough that it doesn't matter. Neither's bass intrudes over the other frequencies, which I consider a good thing - a Basshead would probably disagree
- The different imaging and soundstage on each affects the bass too. Q701 bass comes from a deeper (depth) place in the soundstage sometimes where the DT990 bass sounds closer to your ear. Like on the Q701 someone is playing a bass drum outside your head a bit in front of you whereas on the DT990 it sounds closer to your ear. So I think the soundstage and imaging on the DT990 contributes to an advantage in bass over the Q701s soundstage.
- I slightly prefer the Q's bass for acoustic music - to me it sounds more realistic and organic whereas the DT990s bass sounds can sometimes sound a little synthetic That isn't a bad thing for electronic genres though. Weird description, I know, but that's how I feel.
- I'm both surprised and unsurprised that the bass difference isn't greater. I've been telling people that the Q701s are punchy, but some people just dismiss it. Well now I have a pair of the notorious DT990s sitting right here, and comparing them directly they sound very close to my ears - close enough that I don't feel I'm missing anything bass-wise when switching to the Q701s from the DT990s. My CALs (closed) still have a good deal more bass quantity than either of them, but its not nearly as tight and fast. The difference between the Q701 and DT990 bass is clearly smaller than the difference between the DT990 and CAL bass. Of course, I've even seen people call the CALs bass light too!
[I think one reason the bass sound similar is that the DT990 treble sort of limits you on how high you can set the volume whereas the smoother treble of the Q701 lets you turn up louder. I you look at the headroom graph above and compare the treble and bass peak of each headphone, you'll see the Q701s bass peak is actually a bit higher than it's own treble peak, whereas the DT990s treble peak is the same as it's bass peak. I think once you turn up the Q701s volume to get the Q701 treble peak closer to the DT990s treble peak, the bass is rising up too and overlapping the DT990 bass. I dunno, just a thought.....]
- Q701s have much more midrange body, whereas DT990 mids sound recessed and lean.
- Apart from the treble, this is the second area where they differ the most.
- DT990s sound sort of like they take the volume/energy they could have had in the mids and instead allocate that in with the bass/treble area. And yes, I know that DT990 has mids, it's just that the "V" signature buries them a bit - if you turned up the volume enough to where the mids sound good and full the treble would be slicing through your eardrums.
- Q701s keep their mids, which have nice body to them. The bass plus mids add up to give the Q701s a little more body than the DT990s. Without the mids to help out, at times the DT990s can sound a little thinner and less fleshed out overall. That's right, DT990s can sound thinner than Q701s.
- I find the two to sound equally punchy, just the Q701s spread the punchiness out to give the sound more body where the DT990 mainly throws all of it's ohms into one basket to punch on the bass and treble (okay, two baskets).
- DT990s have much more treble than the Q701s; cold and bright sounding. Q701 treble has a touch of warmth.
- Q701s highs are smooth for me and unfatiguing. Coming from the DT990s they would seem dark. In reality they have a slight touch of warmth, but are still clear and detailed. Sibilance is extremely rare, as those frequencies are a bit rolled off. I wouldn't mind if they had an ounce more treble though and were a bit more airy…usually. On a lot of recordings I'm thankful for the Q701s smoother treble though.
- DT990s are very sparkly and clear with a slight metallic tone. DT990 treble sort of reminds me of supercharged KSC75 - Lots of sparkle and sizzle. More treble than KSC75 and AD700, although those two sound grain-a-licious in comparison. I still get sibilance with DT990, but not as bad as AD700. Sometimes they seem to produce excess air where there shouldn't really be any, or pick up unwanted recording hiss.
- I think the DT990 treble can sound unrealistic at times. This is more noticeable on acoustic instruments and voices. Q's sound more natural here, while the DT990s are emphasizing the highs above and beyond what you hear in real life. On "Herbie Hancock: The Piano" with the Q701s it sounds like I'm leaning over Herbie's shoulder hearing him play a real grand piano. With the DT990s, it sounds like he's playing a bright, twangy, upright piano. Voices are missing midrange body and can be excessively bright sounding. It's a weird coloration that keeps me from enjoying acoustic sounds as much. I just can't take the DT990s seriously for acoustic music. It's less of an issue for other genres.
- I can't say if the DT990s are resolving more detail or if they are just trying to emphasize it more - but it's a bit too much for me. They're highs are mainly just much more prominent, and the mids don't keep up with them which keeps acoustic instruments from sounding full or weighty enough. Overall, for me the treble is just a bit too prominent, for my tastes. I can last all night with the Q's, but the DT990 treble wear me out pretty quickly.
- Perhaps with a warmer setup (dac/amp) the DT990s would be better. I tried EQ-ing the treble down on the DT990 and they sound much better to me that way. I prefer the flatter signature on the DT880s over the DT990s as well.
- They both have great soundstages, and soundstage size is actually similar.
- The DT990's soundstage is more left-right orientated with disconnects between the two which makes it sound a bit more stereo. Q701 has better connection between the left and right (think crossfeed) which makes it sound less stereo and it can project out in front of you. I'm sure this has a lot do with the angled drivers on the Q's Vs. the flat drivers of the DTxxx. I pretty much always prefer cans with angled drivers
- The Q701s sound more "out-of-head" and a bit more 3d to me; it still amazes me how the AKG seem to suspend instruments in mid air in front of you. (I think this may be because of their darker, less airy sound, which gives a blacker background)
- Imaging/positioning is a little better on the Q701 IMO. If I EQ the DT990s treble down the imaging and depth get better for me, and it sounds on par with the Q701s. When I turn the treble back up the imaging gets fuzzier and the depth sound shallower. Probably because with more treble it becomes obvious that there are drivers an inch from your ears.
- Something about the Q701s soundstage sounds deeper , more ambient, and more involving to me. I can't quite place my finger on what it is; it could be a byproduct of the signature in general....
Gaming (with Dolby Headphone)
- Those who have used Dolby headphone know that it very slightly smooth the highs. The Q's highs are already smooth enough in stereo, so they don't need this. It takes away some of their "air", which they don't have that much of to begin with. The DT990s DO need this smoothing. They still need even more smoothing though IMO.
- When gaming with Dolby Headphone the DT990 keeps up better with the Q701 then it does in plain stereo. The DT990's soundstage gets a good deal larger with DH than it does in stereo mode. I think the treble gives it some extra reach.
- In Dolby Headphone the Q701 soundstage is still a little better. The soundstage sounds a bit more diffuse, coherent, and fluid with the Q701s where the DT990 sounds a little more disconnected. In other words, it's harder to hear where one virtual speaker ends and the other begins with the Q's (which make them a little more immersive for me), whereas the DT990s it's a bit more obvious that it's jumping from one to the other. Again, probably related to the angled drivers.
- Positioning is pretty good on the DT990s, although objects out in front of you don't sound quite as nice as on the Q701s due to the DT990s a bit less depth and less front imaging in DH mode. Probably goes back to what I said about the DT990 soundstage being more left-right centric in stereo wile the Q701s present a better and deeper image in front of you (angled drivers, again).
- Overall I'd rate the Q701 positioning/imaging a bit better, and separation a bit better on DT990s.
- The DT990 has less mids and more highs, so it can etch out and outline objects a bit sharper/better (sort of like AD700s), but they sound sort of hollow and artificial to me, and the placement sounds a bit better on the Q701s. The fuller mids on the Q701 gives objects more body and mass, although they aren't as sharply outlined as on the DT990s.
- I actually think the Q's have more of a home-theater-like sound than the DT990s. The flatter/less colored response of the Q's sounds more speaker like than the elevated highs of the DT990 (speakers shouldn't be producing that much treble). The DT990s low end response is nice, but the leaner mids make them lose some weight to the sound. The Q701s have nearly the same bass but more body and weight to the mids.
- I'd say the Q701s are still the most fun and immersive gaming can's I've tried, although they're not quite the best competive/fps cans I've tried. The AD700s still have the best raw positioning, and the PC360s are very good as well. I actually prefer the DT880s signature more for gaming than the DT990s. I bet the T1s would be fantastic (angled drivers FTW).
- The Q701s can be run straight off the MixAmp, even when mixing in chat. I will say that their soundstage benefits when double amping with my M-stage. The M-stage increases the Q701's soundstage size a bit; past PC360 size and closer to AD700 size, and the imaging/positioning gets better as well. The Q701s didn't benefit when adding in my E9 amp though.
- I didn't try to run the 600 ohm DT990 straight off the MixAmp, and you probably shouldn't either.
- Q701s have large deeper cups. The Beyer's cups are smaller and more shallow. I'm not sure if they're supposed to seal on your head, but they don’t' really for me - there's gaps at the top and bottom. I have big ears so I prefer the deeper angled cups of the Q701s, where my ears don't really touch anything. The tips of my ears touch on the beyers, and after a while this can make them can tingle a bit.
- The velour material Beyer uses is awesome, as always. The Q701s velour isn't bad either - it doesn't make me itch like Audio Technica's velour does.
- The stock headband on the Q701 needs to be shifted every once in a while or you start to feel it. I highly recommend x70x owners to add some extra padding "up there". What I did was go to walmart in the automotive section and get one of those seatbelt pads, then I cut it up with scissors and velcro banded it my Q701 headband. The Q701s are now one of it not THE most comfortable full sized headphone I've worn; better than Audio Technicas and possibly the Sennheiser PC360s as well.
- DT990/600 are definitely harder to drive than Q701s, as they should be. On my M-stage, the DT990s need about 2 more "o'clocks" than the Q701s.
- I think they can both sound equally good on some genres, just different signatures. It could go either way based on your preference. I think the Q701s are better for ambient (electronic) music. The deeper more involving soundstage, smooth highs, and midrange body draw me in more. The DT990s prominent highs and small mids suck me out of the ambience. For acoustic genres it's no contest; the Q701s take it. They just sound more natural and the DT990s treble emphasis colors the sound to be unreal/unnatural. For other electronic genres it's more of a toss-up/personal preference. They both can sound great there.
- I read a lot on Head-fi about how the K701s sound thin like tin cans. I've never heard the K701s but that statement does NOT apply to the Q701s. Your describing the AD700s, which the Q701s really only sound similar too in terms of soundstage. Q701s never sound "thin", out of any setup I've tried. My CALs make the Q701s sound thin, but that's about it. I'm sure HD6xxx make them sound thin.
- When I listen to the DT990s, It's hard for me to take the emphasized treble seriously, and I really miss the Q's punchy midrange body and more involving soundstage. I can see how someone could love the DT990s, but overall I prefer the Q701 for it's soundstage, imaging, non piercing treble, and midrange body. I just think they sound really natural, and it's my ears that matter - right Head-Fi? The DT990 treble is too "fun" for me
For me it's Q701s all the way baby! I love these things. I think they're a really special pair of cans, a sweet combination
> Special thank you to my M-stage for letting me rape it's 1/4 jack (without lube) switching back and forth
Edited by chicolom - 12/12/12 at 6:00am