BeyerDynamic DT880 vs BeyerDynamic DT880 (Cardas)
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Duncan

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As I’m sure the regular members here will know, earlier this year, I bought a pair of BeyerDynamic DT880s with an Cardas Cable upgrade, and for a little while now, both myself and other members here have been wondering exactly what the difference is between this modified version, and the ‘stock’ version that you can buy in store… Here, hopefully I aim to show what, if any – the differences are.

Before getting underway, I must say a big thanks to member BrokenEnglish for allowing me to borrow his ‘stock’ DT880s so that I may do this comparison. Thank You! 

I am using one of my Philips CD850s as my source, this player is from 1991 and is classed as one of the ‘classics’ out there, it is not quite as stock though, as I have replaced the output op-amps with better grade chips (OPA627s), this player is probably best to be classed as a smooth listen, there is little sign of aggresion

The amplifier I’m using, the ANT “Amber” is a powerful sounding little amplifier which takes no prisoners, it seems to neutralise the smoothing effects of the Philips player perfectly, allowing for a very airy, crisp, and wide sounding listen. Without doubt, if you think the DT880s sound a little flat or sterile, then I highly recommend this amp to go with them to give them a little kick up the backside.

Some of the naysayers here will think that me having the Cardas re-wired ‘phones for three months more than the stock version will sway my opinions, to that end, after the day I received BrokenEnglish’ DT880, I have not listened to either pair… instead, listening to only my Philips HN060 / Sony EX81 – so, the best part of two weeks on, I feel within myself, any bias that I may have had will now be gone…

Listening to Edwina Hayes (Who I personally think has one of the greatest emotive vocal abilities that I’ve heard), “Where I belong”, the stock Beyers sound impressively open, Edwina’s voice being effortless, and clear, in her own separate area of the soundscape, everything sounds clean, from the vocals, to the piano to the guitar, yet I can’t help but feel that the vocals sound a little OVER clean – a smidge processed, they just don’t appear to suck you in – especially when switching to the recabled pair. Instantly, the vocals gain body, with the upper octaves sounding more complete, allowing Edwina to actually sing – letting her emotions out – I can almost imagine, with the stock cans, she is just stood in the recording studio in front of the mic - emotionless, whereas with the recabled version, I can imagine her holding her heart whilst crooning, the whole sound just sounds fuller, almost as if their were a layer of film (I hate to use this word, but ‘veil’ also springs to mind) over the sound when listening to the stock cans, which is lifted on the recabled version…

Vocals: Winner – Cardas (With the Cardas, the vocals are so silky, so smooth… Edwina, can I marry you??)

Stock: 0
Cardas: 1

Upping the tempo (and the volume
) considerably, I’ve put some trance in the CD player, which isn’t the 880s home territory I know, being much more the 770s area of expertise, but regardless – with my setup the 880s can still boogie with the best of them 

There is a great sense of fun with the stock cans actually with trance; they have more than enough pace to be able to keep up with the complex mixes, with a pretty decent bassline being heard and to an lesser extent, felt throughout… I’m using Three Drives On A Vinyl – Greece 2000 for this part, and up loud (don’t worry BrokenEnglish, they’re not THAT loud
) they really are good the midrange that seemed so lacking with Edwina is here in spades, along with a super fast treble, and that punchy bass that I was mentioning… There really is nothing at all lacking (to these ears) with the stock cans [on my setup] for trance, whilst they don’t take me to the shores of Ibiza, they do take me back to last Friday night at the local nightclub – A fun listen! The Cardas DT880s have a slightly bigger bass (in terms of depth) allowing them to sound a little meaner / aggressive, the midrange is also more forward as noted previously, but – in this case, up loud – the Cardas cable works against the BeyerDynamic house sound (at least with the DT880s) allowing too much treble energy in – good if you’re a total dance freak desperate to recreate your last night out on the town, but for those who have any wanting to keep their hearing until at least middle age, this probably isn’t such a hot ticket…

Up Tempo music: Winner – Stock (Ouch, ok – its my own stupidity for having it up so loud, but that is where the soul of dance music is  and if the stock 880s can prevent peoples ears bleeding if they abuse their headphones then all well and good)

Stock: 1
Cardas: 1

The final track for comparison is Pink Floyds ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ – this is the latest (SACD hybrid) version – albeit I am using the redbook layer. I think this is probably one of the very most well known tracks here at head-fi, with almost all of us being (at the very least) closet Floyd fans, and I can say straight away to me that the stock DT880 doesn’t inspire me with this track, it just sounds too bland, sure the soundstage is nice, and the bass is well layered, but again, the vocals, they just sound flat, uninspiring – and seeing that vocals are what are at the core of this track this has left me a little shell shocked – I thought the [stock] DT880s were good all around headphones, but seemingly not – although ‘Money’ does fare a fair bit better… bringing in the recabled version again, the mids are just so much more there, its an instantly recognisable trait, not something that you have to listen out for, the whole sound just seems to be so much more ‘there’, immersing you so much more, the vocals sounding real, breathy, alive – compared to the stagnant feel of the stock version. The treble is slightly splashier on the cymbals than the stock version, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you do not get too eager with the volume control, all in all – the recabled version is a MUCH better listening experience for this track, allowing you to hear the smaller features of the track much more clearly – it is almost like they are a different pair of headphones…

Pink Floyd: The stock version lets itself down just sounding too flat, and uninspiring to immerse yourself in to this great track… Cardas all the way for me!!

Stock: 1
Cardas: 2

Okay, so I haven’t gone through every genre out there, but I’m sure I’ve made the point clearly enough, the Cardas cable seems to strip back the ‘greyness’ of the stock headphones, and allows them to breath. This isn’t always a great result, as the dance track test showed, and as some people comment, the DT880s are a bright headphone… To a certain extent I will agree, they certainly give you some treble energy, but I can’t ever imagine them making my ears bleed, unless – like above, listening to trance music at an unhealthy level


Is it really as great a difference as I’m making it out to be? – Well, some may well say that there is an element of placebo if I haven’t double blind tested (which I did not) – but, I would like to believe that I have the common sense to know a difference when I hear one, and whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the replacement cable makes them in to different headphones, I would go so far to say that it makes a bland ‘phone more palatable, and with the US Dollar rate being so weak (at time of writing) when compared to Sterling, it is a very small premium to pay over the UK high street prices for what is, overall, an better sound…

For those of you with any concept of DIY, or those of you that wish to buy aftermarket DT880s, I give the Cardas cabled DT880, or in principle, any decent DIY cabling my hearty recommendation!!
 
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BrokenEnglish

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duncan... well.. we have to thank you for taking your time to dive into deeper depth with the dt880-duo!
being a cable-believer, i can imagine, that there is some potential, to better the dt880. then again.. being a longtime-fan of those beyers, i wouldn't go so far calling the stock version "bland". their special thrill is a sort of balance and in-sensational presentation.... at least, that's their most appealing factor for me.

of course you made me curious. maybe.. someday in the future... i'll spend them a new cord...
 
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Loftprojection

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Very nice little review, my experience with cable upgrades (power, interconnect, speaker,...) has always been that it is worth it if you have the money and your review probably confirms my concept. It's not fun when people have comments like "unbelievable", "out of this world", "an upgrade worth 10 times it's price",... A cable upgrade is most of the time something in the hundreds of dollars, well it does help but it never transforms a $500 component into a $5000 one...

I'm quite interested by the DT880 to replace my old DT511. Your Cardas review is also of great interest because the week point I found in my old ones (and Beyer in general) is voices which the Cardas seems to improve.

Where do you buy this Cardas upgrade? Do you buy the cable and install it yourself or are there places where you buy the whole kit installed? I found a not so bad deal on the stock DT880 so before I buy I should probably check out the upgrade immediately...

Thanks.
 
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Duncan

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Hi Loftprojection...

I got my cans with the Cardas pre-installed - from Headroom


I hope that helps.
 
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Gigabomber

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Duncan
Hi Loftprojection...

I got my cans with the Cardas pre-installed - from Headroom


I hope that helps.



The other route is going through head-fiers - like highflyin9 or mikey01 - who will do it for considerably less cash (shameless plug?).
 
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Loftprojection

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Hum, can't find the Cardas upgrade at headroom, do you have to call them or send them an email? (or maybe I'm just too stupid to find it! haha) Their price for the stock 880 is also a bit high unless they make a deal for their package 880/Cardas kit! Maybe better to go the DIY installation version!

Sorry if I high jacked your review thread with my questions. Ho well it's your fault, you raised my interest with this review! hahaha
 
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Duncan

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They're right near the bottom of the headphone page Loftprojection
 
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purk

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Duncan,
As always, a very nice review. Thanks for taking your time to write it up, very informative.
 
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spinali

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As a DT880 (non-Cardas) user, your comparison was pretty revealing. While I'm not sure the cable would make much difference the way I listen most of the time, you've tempted me to do an upgrade.

This is an expensive hobby, isn't it?

 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Duncan
The Cardas DT880s have a slightly bigger bass (in terms of depth) allowing them to sound a little meaner / aggressive, the midrange is also more forward as noted previously, but – in this case, up loud – the Cardas cable works against the BeyerDynamic house sound (at least with the DT880s) allowing too much treble energy in – good if you’re a total dance freak desperate to recreate your last night out on the town, but for those who have any wanting to keep their hearing until at least middle age, this probably isn’t such a hot ticket…


i agree with the bass and midrange characteristics you said above with techno/trance music, although i dont quite agree with you on the treble characteristics. at the moment i have a pair of stock DT880 alongside my Cardas and i dont hear any of the "treble energy" when playing techno/trance tracks.

for example, i just popped in my Emotional Technology CD by BT and started listening to Force of Gravity. yes the treble is there, but its not in any way harsh, even when the volume is turned up a bit. to me, i feel that the Cardas actually "elaborates" the treble more, where on the stock they were kind of neutral, even to the point where they sometimes sound "plasticky".

so my question is, maybe theres something to do with the source and amp you're using? you mentioned that the ANT "Amber" gives the DT880 "a little kick up the backside". so i'm just a little curious whether source and amp effects the sound or its just that i'm "a total dance freak desperate to recreate my last night out on the town"
 
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Duncan

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fr4c...

How loudly do you listen? - I was beign very unfair really with what I did, but I did point it out at the time, I went to a volume that was [insanely] loud enough for one of the headphones to get upset, and in this case it was the Cardas version first, due to the high energy... In the normal realms, the modified 'phones hang on nicely, sounding great, but in the extreme test... unless you really do want that "i've been sat next to the speakers all night" feeling...
 
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wondering what you guys think of the rumored "metallic" sound that the 880s are occasionally lumped in with, and if the cardas upgrade combats this at all: is this the same as the "plasticky" treble quality that fr4c posted about?
 
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BrokenEnglish

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Gigabomber
wondering what you guys think of the rumored "metallic" sound that the 880s are occasionally lumped in with, and if the cardas upgrade combats this at all: is this the same as the "plasticky" treble quality that fr4c posted about?


there are other components in the audio-chain i'd associate with those attributes, mainly the source/cables. if you try to match them in terms of synergy, there will be no metallic sound. on the other hand: i can't even imaginge, what "plasticky" trebles should sound like... so maybe that's just what i heard and enjoyed over a year now...
 
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Duncan

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Gigabomber
wondering what you guys think of the rumored "metallic" sound that the 880s are occasionally lumped in with, and if the cardas upgrade combats this at all: is this the same as the "plasticky" treble quality that fr4c posted about?


The recabled Beyers certainly sound more 'alive' / 'organic' if that is what you mean... although, as BrokenEnglish has said, even in stock form, I cannot hear an 'plastic' sound?!
 
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