Pros: Insanely transparent, grain-free, super fast transients, lots of detail, pitch black background, very tactile dynamics, and excellent 3D imaging.
Cons: Very flawed in stock form. Gets hot as it doesn't breathe well. Very seal dependent bass.
Beyerdynamic DT 480 - 25 ohm(with some mods)
This is a review of the Beyerdynamic DT 480, I believe the only other headphone that shares a driver with the DT 48, the original dynamic headphone. A headphone famed for it's transients, lack of grain, and detail but also quite mixed among people. I bought the DT 480 because I wanted a piece of headphone history, a headphone using a similar driver to the original dynamic driver and didn't want to deal with the horrible clamp and comfort of the DT 48. When first putting this headphone on in stock form, it has some atrocious resonance and glare and frequency response issues(almost no bass) but you also notice the headphone is grain-free, insanely dynamic, super fast, oddly good vocals despite it issues, and has some very impressive imaging. Let's just say it was very obvious there was some serious untapped potential. So I started modding and am still in the process of modding and fine-tuning the headphone but the results have been nothing short of shocking and I finally got them to the point where they sound good, really good. The goal of modding with these headphones is to get a good seal with the pads, preferably deep pads, get some internal dampening, and some dampening inside the pads while not covering the driver openings much. They are very easy to mod to sound good so it's a truly good headphone for those willing to mod and takes much less effort to make sound truly excellent than the Fostex T50RP and is much more efficient. These roughly 40 year old headphones deserve some love, hopefully more people will pick these up in time and work on modding them because unlike the DT 48 these can be easily modded and probably represent the best value in the headphone world. Note these are heavy, around 500g, so those who can't handle heavy headphones may have issues with these and these are fully-sealed headphones.
All I really did mod wise is add some foam inside the earcups. Stacked pads(stock on top of brainwavz) and taped them together and to the frame for seal reasons. Added some rolled tissue paper under both pads on each side. And some cotton inside the earcup with a hole in a middle to allow the driver opening to be unobstructed.
Note: My mods are ugly(yes that's tape, it's for improving the seal, will tidy it up in time as it's a work in progress and a lot of experimenting is going on), it's currently only for sound and comfort reasons, in time I will fine tune it to make it more presentable though the headphone isn't pretty to begin with. Got a new phone, so should be a huge upgrade photo wise from previous reviews.
I'm going to put it out right now, these compare favorably to the Nighthawks, DT 1990, Elear, Amiron Home, T1.2, etc. In fact I actually rate them above those headphones. So what makes these headphones so good sound wise? I'll explain in review. I'm using the headphone on the Project Sunrise 3.1(Electro-Harmonix 12BH7 Cryo-treated) and a Sony UDA-1(DAC).
This review is of a modded DT 480 and are not representative of a stock DT 480 in terms of bass presence, FR smoothness, etc. I'm going to focus on the inherent strengths of the headphone first, these only improve and/or become easier to notice with modding. My impressions of the bass, midrange, and treble of my pair will follow afterwards. These sound so good, the whole open vs closed thing doesn't really even matter.
Transparency: These headphones are simply the most transparent headphones I've owned, nothing even come close. In terms of transparency alone these are on another level compared to the Focal Elear, T1.2, DT 1990, Amiron, Nighthawk, HD 650, etc. These headphones have virtually no grain, in fact going to any of those headphones from these will make any of those sound a bit grainy. Vocals have absolutely no hint of harshness to them. You completely forget you're wearing headphones with these despite them being the most closed headphone I've owned. Coupled with a completely black background the sounds come essentially from nothing, no subtle hash, fuzz, or anything.
Dynamics & Body: These headphones have insane dynamics and body even in the virtually bass-less stock form. The sound especially the mids and vocals have a texture and body nothing I've owned has achieved, you literally feel the presence and shape of the sound, with a good seal that applies to the bass as well. It's scary how tactile these headphones can sound, especially at louder volumes.
Imaging & Soundstage: The imaging on these headphones is truly excellent, in the leagues of say the T1.2 and Elear in terms of precision possibly better but it has a body, size, and robustness to the image the T1 and Elear just don't have. It's more akin to the DT 1990's imaging but it takes it even further with even more body. Soundstage is on the intimate side with tremendous depth.
Speed & Transients: Amazing, it's essentially impossible to get these headphones to sound muddled or confused regardless of the complexity of the track. The DT 480 inherits the transient response from it's older cousin the DT 48.
Bass: When modded it has excellent impact, tactility, and control and extends easily in the sub-bass but I do find it does roll-off a bit in the sub-bass overall. Has a lot of physical presence and doesn't have the slightly bloated feel many modern headphones can have to the bass.
Midrange: The midrange on this headphone is very raw and lively, a little on the aggressive side but also completely void of grain so I get absolutely no fatigue. Vocals have excellent presence and a very organic and analog nature to them, most headphones sound a bit gritty in the mids compared to these.
Treble: Treble is actually very well extended and articulate, it extends just as well as my Amiron Home and DT 1990 but is cleaner and even smoother. This is one of the only headphones I've come across with truly grain-free treble.
Drawbacks to these headphones: These headphones still do carry a slight resonance and glare to them even after all my dampening, it's really bad in the stock form, but with them currently it's not an issue and doesn't really detract from the listening experience. Some people may also find this headphone a bit too raw sounding for their liking. This may be an inherent drawback with it's metal drivers, these headphones do use pure aluminum transducers and it's magnet and driver system is unique(only shared with the DT 48). When this headphone is overdriven the does distort in an odd fashion but that's above suggested listening levels or when underpowered. But positively I can't see you destroying these drivers, they are insanely robust and sturdy, they can take abuse I don't think any modern headphone can handle. Wouldn't be surprised if these are still working in another 100 years.
Conclusion: These headphones are truly world-class and for the price I paid for them, $100 plus roughly $20 for the extra pads and miscellanous household goods for modding, these headphones may be the absolute best deal in the headphone world if one is willing to spend time with them, they are the single best investment I have made headphone wise. One thing these headphones have taught me, is that transducers haven't really improved all that much in modern headphones, in fact these have better drivers than most flagships. It's really just modern headphones are better realized and implemented.