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Q701 vs DT990-250 Pro Review

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I have owned the DT990-250 Pros for about 18 months and the Q701s for about 1 month. I’m pretty sure that the Q701s are completely broken in. They warmed up a good bit over the first 100 or so hours of break in, and they have leveled off for quite some time.

 

Equipment is Foobar playing mostly 16/44.1 FLAC with some 24/96 material à HRT Music Streamer II à Little Dot MK 3 with stock power tubes and either Mullard M8100s or Voskhod gold grids. I’m not sure if the Voskhods are entirely done breaking in yet, but the Mullards definitely are. I prefer the Mullards with both headphones. I listen to a lot of electronica, but also metal, rap, and some world and folk.

 

Overall, these are both great headphones. The only differences that are really obvious to me are that the DT990s have bigger midbass and the Q701s have a more spaced out soundstage and better midrange balance. Beyond sound quality, the Q701s are also appreciably more difficult to drive – they should really be used with a desktop amp and not a portable amp. However, there are plenty of more subtle differences, which I explain below. I have to say that I prefer the Q701s and will be giving the DT990s to a friend. I can easily see how others could prefer the DT990s though.

 

 

Bass – Toss-up.

 

The midbass of the DT990 is much more pronounced than that of the Q701, giving the bass significantly more impact. The downside of this is that its bass seems slower and less detailed than the Q701’s bass. The AKG’s bass is fast and dry, which gives it more detail and more textural variation than the Beyers. Maybe the DT990’s midbass is just obscuring the subbass somewhat, but I also get the impression that the Q701 has more extended and prominent subbass than the DT990.

I listen to more electronica than anything, and I don’t find the Q701 to be lacking bass on most well-recorded material, such as Shpongle or Wisp. The DT990 definitely convey more visceral energy, but I find that on many songs the Q701’s detailed bass is more enjoyable to me. On very bass-heavy songs like Gil Scott Heron’s “Me and the Devil” for example, what sounds like a single bass line on the Beyers reveals itself to be several overlapping bass lines through the AKGs. The Q701 definitely trails the DT990 in impact, but plenty of songs will still overwhelm me with bass through the Q701. XXYYXX’s “Forest Fires” absolutely rocks through the Q701. Overall, I find that I prefer the Q701 for songs that are recorded with really heavy bass, whereas I prefer the DT990 on songs that are more bass-light. With material that has more mid-bass than sub-bass, the Q701 can sound a little hollow.

 

The DT990 win on quantity, but I personally prefer the Q701 for quality. I will also note that the decreased quantity of bass on the Q701 might have me listening to them a little louder than I do with the DT990. However, the Q701 is hardly bass shy. It's bass is deep and tight. The DT990, on the other hand, is simply a mid-bass monster. Your choice. 

 

Midrange – Q701.
 

Not much to say here. The DT990’s midrange is somewhat recessed compared to its bass and treble. It’s still there, but it falls back in the mix. The Q701 is much more balanced and presents the midrange very clearly. The Q701’s midrange is also warmer and smoother than that of the DT990, which is just a tad bit on the lean side of neutral IMO. Guitars and vocals have more body through the Q701, making music like Fleetwood Mac or Dead Can Dance more enjoyable.

 

Treble – Q701. 

 

The DT990 has a tad more treble emphasis than the Q701, even though the reduced quantity of bass in the Q701 gives them a brighter presentation overall. This treble emphasis mostly comes from a treble peak in the DT990, which is slightly irritating compared to the Q701's smooth and more balanced treble. However, these are small differences. Both headphones have a fairly prominent and well-resolved treble that captures a lot of detail but can be fatiguing with poorly recorded or bright material.

 

Soundstage – Toss-up.

 

The Q701 has a soundstage that is much wider and farther away than that of the DT990. I like this, because there is more separation between the instruments. Different sounds have more room to breathe. The downside is that the distant soundstage sounds strange for some material, especially metal. It’s great for spacey electronic material, but not so much for in-your face rocking out. There is not as much depth variation within the soundstage as with the DT990 however. In some ways, this makes the Q701 more coherent, but I think it also makes its imaging more 2D than that of the DT990.

 

The DT990 has a soundstage that is closer to the listener. The DT990 also has a somewhat deeper soundstage, which gives it more specific 3D imaging than the Q701. Nevertheless, sounds are not as separated through the DT990 as through the Q701. The DT990 puts everything closer together. The thing about the DT990’s soundstage that bothers me the most is the V-shaped signature – the bass is close to the listener, while the midrange is farther away. The treble is also closer than the midrange, but it doesn’t block the “view” to the mids as much as the bass does.

 

Both headphones have a fairly spacious soundstage with solid imagining, so I think it mostly comes down to preference. The Q701 has a back-row sound that is not appealing for metal and some rock, but excellent for electronica. The DT990 can do both metal and electronica, but something about that upfront bass throws the soundstage off. The Q701 is wider than the DT990, but also flatter.

 

Detail – Q701.

 

Both of these headphones are amazingly detailed but I still notice more through the Q701, especially in the bass. The drier bass and more separated soundstage of the Q701 make details easier to hear. It has a controlled clarity that opens the sound up, and its more neutral balance reveals details that are obscured by the DT990's V-shaped sound signature. To be fair though, once I’ve noticed a detail on the Q701, I can usually pick it out on the DT990 as well. The tiny details are there on the DT990, but they are just a little harder to notice. The decreased midrange emphasis on the DT990 also hides some detail. Listening to The Lone Deranger album by Hallucinogen, for example, all the different layers of synths, especially the quieter ones, just jump out more clearly through the Q701.

 


Amplification – DT990.
 

When I say that the DT990 is the winner, I mean that it is easier to drive. Both can be driven just fine by the LD MK3, but the Q701 uses more juice. With the gain switch set to 10, I listen to the Q701 with the volume anywhere between 9 and 3 o’clock depending on my mood and the level of the source material. I find that I venture past noon much less frequently on the DT990 than through the Q701, and that the same change in the position of the volume knob will produce much less change in volume through the Q701.

 

The Q701 does not fare as well with lesser amps. My 18V JDS Labs CMOY could drive them satisfactorily, but they required much more power than the DT990. Using the DT990, my typical volume level was around 10 or 11 o’clock, whereas it was closer to 2 or 3 o’clock on the Q701. The Q701 depleted the batteries much, much more quickly than the DT990, judging by how much time it took for me to hear clipping at normal volumes after installing fresh batteries.

 

Straight out of my laptop, both obviously don’t sound their best, but the Q701 shows much more of a decrease in quality. If you are really cheap or completely new to these levels of quality, you could listen to the DT990 straight off a stock soundcard and still enjoy them (I did for the first few months that I had them), but I can’t picture doing this with the Q701. Maybe I’m just too used to better components now though.

 

Build Quality – Toss-up.

 

Both are well-made. The DT990 looks a bit drab, but it could take a serious beating. I could literally sit on it or thrown it at a wall and it would be fine (not recommended though). The headband and arms are made of thick metal. The Q701 looks and feels more expensive, but also uses more plastic and doesn’t have a beefy metal frame. The headband on the Q701 is real leather that suspends the frame on your head; on the DT990 it’s padded pleather wrapped around a metal bar. The earpad velour on the Q701 also feels nicer and the drivers are covered with fabric instead of foam. The foam driver coverings of the DT990 have a tendency to collect hair.  

 

I have the Q701 in lime green and it looks amazing, to me anyway. The detachable cord on the AKG is also nice, in case you want to upgrade or repair damage.  It’s also worth noting that the DT990 comes with a coiled cord that’s around 3 ft. long (guesstimate), while the Q701 comes with a 10 ft cable and a 20ft cable. The longer cables allow you to walk around a room, but they also get tangled easily.  

 

Comfort –  Q701.

 

Both are fairly comfortable to me, but the Q701 wins because it has larger and deeper earpieces. The drivers and the sides of the earpieces don’t touch my ears at all. The earpieces of the DT990 are not as wide and touch the sides of my ears. They are also much shallower, so that the foam driver covering presses against my ears. The higher clamping force of the DT990 is also a factor here – the Q701 has essentially 0 clamp. I’ve never found the clamp of the DT990 to give me a headache though, nor have I found the ridges under the headband of the Q701 to be a problem.

 

This isn’t quite a comfort issue, but I should note that the Q701 leaks more sound. Both headphones are open so both leak, but the Q701 are much louder from the outside. At typical listening volumes, I can clearly hear the Q701 from other rooms (door open). At the same volumes, I’d have to listen very closely to notice the DT990.

 

Conclusion

 

It really comes down to preference. The DT990 was my first high-end headphone and I enjoyed it greatly. Over time though, I realized that I like a big soundstage more than anything. I’m happy with my move to the Q701. Its sound is a bit less lively than the DT990's, but it has a sense of speed, coherence, and separation that opens the sound up very nicely. 


Edited by manbear - 7/30/13 at 2:29pm
post #2 of 10

This is a great review and I enjoyed reading it till the last word. I agree with the positives/negatives you wrote about the DT 990 Pro as I just recently got one myself. I'm using a budget Asus Xonar DGX soundcard w/ build in amp and it's clearly under-amping(up to ~150ohm) the DT 990 Pro so it's emphasizing possibly every downside there is to the DT 990 Pro but the sound quality and the renowned Beyer signature can still be heard and pleased. Overly bright highs, slighly harsh, recessed mids and vocals sounds distant, but I've no complaints about its bass, in fact I'm quite enjoying the bass.

 

I used to pair the Beyerdynamic DTX 900 with my current Xonar DGX and to be honest that setup sounded better than DT 990 Pro with the soundcard. DTX 900 sounds very similar to the DT 990 Pro but it cost $100 and perhaps one of the most neutral headphones and best sounding in the price range of <$150. When people say neutral, lack of bass is the first thing that comes to mind but it's never the case with Beyer, they're known for their warm/full sound signature. The bass is still punchy, somewhat extented and just sweetly and lightly touched in the sub bass area on the DTX 900 but DT 990 Pro just does a better job as bass is one of its strongest strength and selling point.

 

Unfortunately I'm not really getting the best sound out of DT 990 Pro I was hoping for and its original MSRP was $300 which is nearly 3x as much of DTX 900 but It does require serious amping or it sounds worse than the best headphone could offer in the <$150 price category like the DTX 900. I'm considering the Xonar STX with upgradable opamps as a near future upgrade or at least a warm sounding amp to tame the inherent V-shaped DT 990 Pro for better listening experience on longer sessions without fatigue. I'm still young but not that young and I'm used to living in a quiet environment so my hearing is still in pristine condition, I can hear high frequencies up to ~18k without issues therefore I'm sensitive to every pitch and notes across the spectrum. I should be glad for it but without the matching/proper source to feed the DT 990 Pro, it's not a very enjoyable exp at least for now. I've read that DT 990 Pro takes a lot more hours to burn-in than regular cans which is avg at about 50-100hours and DT 990 Pro needs more than that ~150-200 hours from the sources I gathered. I'm only on my 3rd day burn-in and I do notice a slight change in its sound for the better but it's still clearly sounded under-amped and things that you do not appreaciate with the DT 990 Pro are definitely emphasized because of this...

 

When I say under-amped I don't mean volume at near max. In fact the DGX can power the DT 990 Pro preety loud on highest gain (exciter mode), using ASIO bit perfect connection with internal volume 100% lossless and pure clean feed. Volume at -11 to -12.5db. So now I think I understand what's the diff by perceived volume vs quality. Proper amping isn't just about whether you get a decent amout of volume but it's about whether you can "properly" power the particular set of headphone to sound their best. Loudness or perceived DB is out of the question here.


Edited by Tiramisu - 3/22/13 at 6:40am
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

In my experience, better amping "cleans up" the sound a bit, meaning that the bass tightens up and the mids and highs sound faster and more precise. I'm not really familiar with the Asus soundcards, but I can say that the headphone amps on an old Sony stereo receiver and on a NAD preamp that I had laying around worked just fine for the DT990. My 18V CMOY worked pretty well too. I don't think you need a super beefy amp for the DT990, but I agree that just being able to get them loud doesn't necessarily mean that an amp is powerful enough. I can't really comment on the Xonar DGX though. 

post #4 of 10

I have to say, great review thanks.

 

I am torn between these 2 headphones and have no idea which i should get.

 

Do you have any idea which would be better for symphonic/power metal and music like Simon and Garfunkal?

 

If i get the dt 990 i would be pairing them with the Schiit Vali amp.

not sure what would be a goof sub $150 amp for the akg q701's though.

 

Thank you very much looking forward to your reply.


Edited by icebrain1 - 12/20/13 at 12:52pm
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

For music like Simon and Garfunkel, I'd lean towards the Q701 because its midrange is more forward, a bit smoother, and generally better than the DT-990. For metal, it's a little trickier but I'd lean more towards the DT-990. The Q701 has a huge soundstage that sounds kind of weird with some metal IMO. A large soundstage would be great for symphonic metal / other more epic styles, but it's not good for aggressive, in your face type metal because everything sounds too far away and spread out. That's a matter of personal taste though. The DT-990's bass is better suited for metal too, as the Q701 makes recordings without really deep bass (lots of heavy metal in my experience) sound a bit bland.

I guess it depends on which style of music you like more. I'd probably go for the DT-990... Even though the headphones have different strengths, metal through the Q701 could be less satisfying that folk through the DT-990. There's not a huge difference though. It mostly depends on preferences. 

I haven't heard the Vali, but I'm pretty sure people have been happy using it with the Q701. I'm not sure why you would want the Vali for the DT-990 but not for the Q701. The Vali has plenty of power for either one, and both headphones benefit from tubes IMO. 

post #6 of 10

Thank you very much for the reply.

 

LOL I have been trying to decide between these 2 for so long, i am unable to listen to them over hear so i have to base my decision on others opinions ty.

 

I thought the Vali was good for the dt990 since most people seem to be pairing it with that.

And use much mopre exspensive amps with the AKG's.

 

Sorry one question on the quidio of them, Which one has a deeper resonating bass (deep not very punchy).

 

One thing that turned me away from the AKg;s recently is i found out that the changed the manufacturing to China instead of Austria not sure if it would effect quality though.

 

Thank you.

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by icebrain1 View Post
 

Thank you very much for the reply.

 

LOL I have been trying to decide between these 2 for so long, i am unable to listen to them over hear so i have to base my decision on others opinions ty.

 

I thought the Vali was good for the dt990 since most people seem to be pairing it with that.

And use much mopre exspensive amps with the AKG's.

 

Sorry one question on the quidio of them, Which one has a deeper resonating bass (deep not very punchy).

 

One thing that turned me away from the AKg;s recently is i found out that the changed the manufacturing to China instead of Austria not sure if it would effect quality though.

 

Thank you.


I'd say the Q701 bass goes deeper with more rumble, but it also has less punch. 

I bought my Q701 about a year ago. They said Made in Austria on the side. I'm not sure how recent the shift to China is. In any case, I thought the AKG had nice build quality, but it's more plastic than the DT-990. The DT-990's build is plainer but incredibly solid. 

post #8 of 10

  Great review,thanks.

 

  A bit odd though,i would think the DT880 a more "natural" choice for a comparison with the Q701 but obviously it's based on what you bought and progression in taste,....so,very useful and informative and falls within known qualities of the two,thanks.

 

  I also like a big soundstage.

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 


I'd say the Q701 bass goes deeper with more rumble, but it also has less punch. 

I bought my Q701 about a year ago. They said Made in Austria on the side. I'm not sure how recent the shift to China is. In any case, I thought the AKG had nice build quality, but it's more plastic than the DT-990. The DT-990's build is plainer but incredibly solid. 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 

For music like Simon and Garfunkel, I'd lean towards the Q701 because its midrange is more forward, a bit smoother, and generally better than the DT-990. For metal, it's a little trickier but I'd lean more towards the DT-990. The Q701 has a huge soundstage that sounds kind of weird with some metal IMO. A large soundstage would be great for symphonic metal / other more epic styles, but it's not good for aggressive, in your face type metal because everything sounds too far away and spread out. That's a matter of personal taste though. The DT-990's bass is better suited for metal too, as the Q701 makes recordings without really deep bass (lots of heavy metal in my experience) sound a bit bland.

I guess it depends on which style of music you like more. I'd probably go for the DT-990... Even though the headphones have different strengths, metal through the Q701 could be less satisfying that folk through the DT-990. There's not a huge difference though. It mostly depends on preferences. 

I haven't heard the Vali, but I'm pretty sure people have been happy using it with the Q701. I'm not sure why you would want the Vali for the DT-990 but not for the Q701. The Vali has plenty of power for either one, and both headphones benefit from tubes IMO. 

 

Thank you very much for the help.

I found a place to try the DT990S so if they sound good i guess ill pick up a pair.

post #10 of 10

I own both of these headphones too. I agree with everything here aside from your thoughts on comfort. I have been using the Beyers a lot more because I just can't take those bumps on the Q701 headband. Rather than fiddling about changing the headband, I'm seriously considering selling the Q701s and getting the K701 or K702 instead. 

 

I have to say that I disliked the bass on the DT990s at first. It just seemed to be too much and, to be honest, sometimes it still is. However, for some symphonic works, the DT990s bring a bit more body (richer mids and less piercing highs) than the Q701s. The Qs balance a fine line between separation and, I don't know the word, atomization? Sometimes the music is just too spaced out and seems unnaturally weak.

 

Also, I would add that with the Q701s using the Schiit Magni, I get some channel imbalance at low volume levels. That, I suspect, is the fault of the Magni.

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