Pros - Shares a lot of the strengths of the DT48a without the flaws. Clarity, resolve, detail, & mid range betters all other non audio metric DT48 models
Cons - Comfort issues. No longer in production. Not the last word on treble extension. Minor high roll off. Bass quantity could be better.
The NAGRA DT48S represents the last blood line to the formidable & father of all headphones, the original DT48. Never hearing the original DT48, I can't say for sure if they share the same sound & sonic characteristics. They were modified before being released to the public. The original DT48 was used for professional applications for nearly 20 yrs. I would assume Beyer didn't sway too much from the original. Does the apple fall far away from the tree? Only a side by side comparison will tell how close they sound to each other. Are they siblings, or is the NAGRA DT48S a bastard child. I won't know until I hear the original.
What I do know is, the NAGRA DT48S is a hybrid of the DT48a & vintage DT48e. I noted the flaws of the DT48a in my review of them. The DT48S doesn't have those flaws nor does it sound like a clear AM channel. It sounds like stereo, without a hint of the audio metric sound. On the technical side, the DT48S is top notch. The clarity is the best I heard, even better then the K1000 from memory. This could change if I get a chance to A/B them side by side. When I listen to them I can only image what a hi end Electrostat's clarity would sound like. Very black & white with nothing getting in the way. Headphones like the DT880/SA5000 sound veiled in comparison.
The DT48S seems more free flowing, with a greater sense of transparency & neutrality. I would not call them airy, but come as close as you can get being a DT48 headphone. I find all DT48 headphones to feel 'grounded.' The new DT48e models actually sound a bit colored in comparison. They offer a even greater no frills look at the audio picture.. Resolve reaches out a bit further, along with picking up more audio nuances. They still lack some treble extension, which have been addressed with the newer models, & the highs are also slightly rolled off. They also offer more bass weight & impact compared to other DT48 models.. The distortion is ridiculously low, especially for a Dynamic headphone.
The mid range is a lot like other DT48 models. Meaning, realistic, faithful, clear, & life like, but the mids are a bit more liquid, effortless, & free flowing.. The new DT48e headphones feel a bit thick & congested in comparison. The black ground is more impressive with the newer models, but doesn't feel as genuine. The DT48S' canvas is more truthful & truth telling. Sound stage is a bit more open with he same coherency of other DT48 models, but with a sense of a fresh breeze in between the notes.
All DT48 headphones are blazing fast. This headphone is no different, & sound just as fast as my other DT48a/e/s headphones. There are different versions of the DT48S. The later DT48S models cannot hold a candle to the original NAGRA DT48S. I have a late 60's DT48S & is my least favorite DT48 out of the 10 I own. The music sounds like it's being pushed to the center with hands. Just sounds compressed. The mid range is a bit unique sounding, but that's for another reviewer.
Comfort is so so.. The plastic padding is deflated, & one can easily have his or her ears touching the cold steel protecting the driver. The headband is a bit lethargic. The pads also creek at times. I'm sure you could use other pads to replace the plastic ones, but I prefer to keep them as authentic as possible. The cable does look every bit of 50 yrs along with the 1/4 plug. The cable is silver, straight, & dual entry.
I find the NAGRA DT48S (50's edition) to be the pinnacle of sound that all DT48 models aspire to become. They are the last link to the first Hi Fi stereo headphone ever created. & do them great honor. They were a technical giant then, & 50 plus yrs later still are in many regards, which leads me to believe that sometimes intelligence & innovation can overcome the lack of technology. They were way before their time, & I would easily put them in the high end category based on technical merit alone.
When you listen to these headphones you are listening to a part of history, & you are transported back to the 50's when 2 channel audio was a big deal, & Surround sound was just a dream. If you dig deep enough, you get the sense of what the engineers wanted.. They wanted to replicate the music as it was. No audio gimmicks or tricks, just a authentic reproduction of the music. Simple & to the point.
Edit & update June 20th 2010
I had sent my headphones to Alex at APS. There was no sound in the left channel. Later I found out that the driver needed to be fixed. Alex repaired the drivers & in stalled a new cable. His V3 headphone cable with the futurtech plug.
The headphones sound like new & have a new life & vigor to them. They still had great clarity & cleanness in their 'broken' state, but now they feel more complete & have come full circle. They are my favorite closed headphone to date. Instruments are a bit more distinct & upfront without sounding up front. The subtleties of the music become more apparent with a flair of easiness not found prior to the fix & recable. Musical detail was more abundant. I listened seriously for almost a hr.. & can hear detail what was masked that is now audible a big part being in the mid range range & highs.
These are the epitome of neutral. I keep hearing 'bright side' of neutral, or on the 'lush side' of neutral. To me that's like saying a women is kind of pregnant. The NAGRA DT48S IS NEUTRAL. No if and's or buts.. They were made to fit NAGRA's strict standard. Headphones who are considered neutral by most are still bright sounding, to many IE HD800/4070.
The 50's NAGRA DT48S technical prowess is in one word legendary, when you take everything into account. In terms of dynamics headphones in production I'd rank them 2nd only to the HD800 in that area. Sometimes Genius or whatever you want to call it transcends technical advancement. The Best architects of today cannot build a better pyramid made millions of yrs ago.. Maybe not enough is made on a certain group of people or individuals who create something way before their time. I believe the 50's NAGRA DT48s fall into this rare category. It's unique in build quality & sound quality.
This is what APS had to say about the NAGRA DT48S
(5:44:52 PM): the construction of these headphones is quite amazing really
(5:46:32 PM): disassembly of the driver was quite unsual for sure TwinTurboZip6:32 pm TwinTurboZip4:58 pm
(4:58:25 PM): that it was all milled and screwed together instead of plastic & clips
(5:00:16 PM): the diaphragm and magnet system is seperate TwinTurboZip5:00 pm Kivlehen20125:00 pm
(5:00:31 PM): is that unique? TwinTurboZip5:00 pm
(5:00:36 PM): yes
(5:00:47 PM): normally the diaphragm is glued
Why the rating change?
I felt the improvements was were an extra half star which gave the sound quality a 5. A 5 is based on headphones I owned. It's not absolute. Ala.. The NAGRA sounds just as good as the R10/HP1/K1000/HD800 ie. Comfort also got a 1/2 star boost. I no longer hear any creeking since the repair, which effected the comfort IMO.