My final take on the DT-531
Aug 10, 2004 at 4:12 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 40
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A great value, but not a giant-killer in the truest sense.

Let me explain further: The DT531 is very good all-around with no glaring weaknesses. However, I have come to understand that its performance ceiling is not as high as the much more expensive cans it would seek to undermine. Essentially what this means is if the performance of a certain source/amp combo is below the ceiling of the DT531 and the cans you're comparing them to, the differences will mainly be of flavor. Whereas if they are compared on a higher-end rig, the higher-end cans generally start to make the difference one of quality rather than one soley of flavor.

For example, when I had my setup of the modded EMU 1212M soundcard and Gilmore V1, the DT531 and CD3000 were about equally as enjoyable. There were of course differences in flavor (the CD3000 being brighter, with a wider soundstage), but the differences in quality (such as detail, extension, overall musicality) were minor. Out of my Archos MP3 player, I'd actually say I found the DT531 slightly more enjoyable, since it didn't point out the lackings of even 320kbps MP3's to the point that the CD3000's treble did. However, once I acquired the Benchmark DAC1, the whole ballgame changed. The DAC1 allowed the CD3000 (and later HD650) to climb into a higher realm of musical reproduction, with a certain realism that the DT531 lacks in that setting. Instead of thinking that I was listening to a real orchestra (as I did with the high-end cans) I felt I was almost hearing wax-figure musicians, if that makes sense. It is a level of fast reaction to dynamics and details that the DT531 simply doesn't do.

That doesn't mean I think less of these cans, rather I am still amazed that they used to sell for less than $100 USD. On sound quality alone (not to mention their unrivaled comfort) they are worth at least $200. That they do not begin to falter until compared in systems and to headphones costing many times more is quite the complement. In a low- to mid-fi system, said more expensive cans offer little to no advantage sound quality-wise, and can only really be rationalized if someone really likes a particular flavor of sound. This is the only sense in which they could be considered giant-killers, and how it worked out for fellow head-fier pbirkett. However give the giant a sword and shield of his own stature (i.e. a truly high-end source, if not amp as well) and he can live up to his size. I wanted to say this to debunk a bit of the myth that the DT531 competes with the biggest boys on the block; it can but not on the largest of stages. Of course most folks who would spend the $1K+ for supposrting gear likely wouldn't have only a $150 pair of cans.
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 5:45 AM Post #3 of 40

ReDVsion

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I have similar sentiments. The 531s indeed are superb for the money, but aren't the end-all be-all headphone I've seen them described as. I'll probably keep them as a temporary until I find my 'perfect headphone', since I'll be selling all of my cans.
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 6:13 AM Post #4 of 40

pbirkett

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Fair review. I would like to know if you were referring to me you guys when you say they've been described as the be-all and end-all, because I have never described them in such a light. I did say that they were very enjoyable and good value for money, and nobody appears to be disagreeing with that point, so for me this review is basically confirming what I have already said.

Of course, if I did say that, I would like to know where I said it, so that it can be corrected, as maybe I got carried away, but I can honestly say I cant remember saying they were giant killer. Anyway, still to these ears they are excellent and enjoyable headphones, for a guy [like me] who cannot really get into the headphone sound like I can with speakers, because they are inexpensive, undemanding, sweet sounding and fun. I dont deny that I could do better, but simply the money is not there for me, and I am moving away from headphones now in favour of other things, unless something drastic happens - which means the dt531's will be a part of my collection for quite a while to come until some more money comes through.

I feel the natural progression for me would not be CD3000 or HD650 now, as I simply didnt get on with them, and I would not expect that to change, no matter how good the source was. No, I think for me, the next step would be MS Pro or RS-1, as I think only they would offer the extra groove I am looking for, as I see the CD3000 and HD650 as being heavily "hifi orientated", concentrating on soundstage, detail, natural and other points that really dont mean a great deal to me - I hope nobody is offended by that, but thats how I see it really, and I think only the MSPro / RS1 would offer that get up and groove factor that I'd want over the dt531, and if it does the hifi stuff as well then all the better, but i have groove as the main priority.

At the end of the day, I am not really a hardcore audiophile, I am little more than an average bloke off the street who became, temporarily, a little addicted to audio. Now my interest is waning, I am more or less just an average bloke on the street again [albeit with a little more audio knowledge than most], and to this average joe they sound just fine to me
wink.gif


However, I am not making excuses, I will maintain what I believe I have already said - the dt531 is not superior to any of the big boys, but it is an enjoyable, forgiving headphone and has that not always been my point?

Cheers
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 11:32 AM Post #5 of 40

plainsong

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They probably ment me, as I've always been a big proponent of the Beyer Luuuv.
redface.gif
The dt531's that are in my apartment sound great with my home setup, which I didn't expect. I believe that my Senns have a more natural sound that is fuller and more resolved..... but only if the information is in the recording. If it isn't, there's a good chance the dt531's will sound more enjoyable. Does that make them a be-all, end-all? That's up for personal opinion, but they fit nicely in my setup because sometimes budget-fi is the way to go.

For instance, right now I'm listening to Mortiis, and many of songs on this cd are just a bit too bright and grating. Plug in the dt531's and they just sorta gloss that fact over and I can enjoy the music.

As for soundstage, it's the one thing that surprised me about the dt531's. With the dt990s (ok, never tried em from this setup) and dt770s don't have much of one... well, unless you count the echo type sound of the dt770s. The dt531's have a slight soundstage, like you're in the front row. It's not a headphone I'd use for soundstage though.

I still maintain that if some of your favorite tunes were crappily mixed, these dt531's could maybe gloss the fact over enough that you can enjoy the tunes. But for the price, these can't be beat.

I'd put the ms-1's in this category as well, very different sound though... obviously.
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 2:09 PM Post #6 of 40

kunwar

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As mentioned before for the price these are superb headphones just because you do not need to match them with systems. They sound good with almost everything I have heard, they somehow feel just right and unless you have heard high end matched systems, a 531 can keep you satisfied without too much ado
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 5:08 PM Post #7 of 40
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pbirkett, plainsong: I was not referring to anyone in particular, more the general idea that the DT531 can replace the high-enders that got a bit out of control lately, which is nobody's fault, except people who read too much into the praise we have given these cans. My intent was to explain how one could think they're better than the CD3000 or HD650 in a certain setting, but that does not mean it is a universal situation.

pbirkett: when you say you'd upgrade to the RS1/MSP, is that without upgrading your other gear (source, cables, amp)? Honestly, I'm not sure how effective a use of money that would be, considering you're coming from the DT531. If you were going to upgrade you whole system, perhaps give the HD650 another shot, because as groovy as the DT531 is, the HD650 hands me its head on a silver platter in my current system in regards to being groovy and musical, even with the trance music you favor. Just some food for thought.

kunwar: you nailed the essence of what these cans are all about. They sound great without high-end supporting gear closely matched, about as good as much more expensive gear would. They are the "easy" cans to like and not change, until you hear something significantly better.
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 5:18 PM Post #8 of 40

kunwar

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One thing I will point out, if anyone decides to get the MS Pro, then the one hit solution for dac + amp would be the DAC1.
Right now AfroCelt Sound System is really showing what this DAC is capable of.
There is underlying bass impact which has to be heard. It actually translates so well, One might be forgiven for thinking that there was a visceral feeling to the sound.
i am also finding that crossfeed in Foobar is working wonders for the sound in terms of long term listening. It feels relaxed and easy almost to the point of being surreal.
Some day when I have time, It would be a good exercise in itself to make the crossfeed device that Dr. Jan Meier has made available at Headwize for personal DIY usage.

Iron_Dreamer: Mate, have you worked out how to send the DVD-A signal to the DAC1. i would not mind knowing how I could do it on the chaintech as I have access to some real sweet sounding DVD-A's at the moment which are just begging to be listened to.
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 5:22 PM Post #9 of 40
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Quote:

Originally Posted by kunwar
Iron_Dreamer: Mate, have you worked out how to send the DVD-A signal to the DAC1. i would not mind knowing how I could do it on the chaintech as I have access to some real sweet sounding DVD-A's at the moment which are just begging to be listened to.


Hmm, I have not yet found a software solution to this. I will look harder in a week or so when I get back to my school and off this dial-up connection.
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 5:48 PM Post #10 of 40

kunwar

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I know that Win DVD platinum 6 can be used to read the DVD-Audio tracks.
The solution will be needed for the output of the signal to the optical jack of course which might prove tricky.
i am currently downloading the WinDVD 6 version again
I screwed up a linux install and had to basically reformat the hard drive completely in my case due to which I lost the fille which I already had.

Will tell you if I am successful

Regards
Kunwar
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 6:05 PM Post #11 of 40
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Quote:

Originally Posted by kunwar
I know that Win DVD platinum 6 can be used to read the DVD-Audio tracks.
The solution will be needed for the output of the signal to the optical jack of course which might prove tricky.
i am currently downloading the WinDVD 6 version again
I screwed up a linux install and had to basically reformat the hard drive completely in my case due to which I lost the fille which I already had.



I thought that WINDVD6 only worked with the Audigy 2. If not then it could be quite easy with the EMU, since you would be able to simply route the waveout to the spidif output. Now how to accomplish that feat with the Chaintech, hmm I don't know. What would really be great, if this works, would be to use the optical output of the EMU to the optical input, and record the files to good 'ol PCM. Encode to monkey's audio, put in foobar, and wham! Perfectly ripped DVD-A. Hopefully it is that simple, though things rarely seem to be so.

Nothing like crappin' my own thread eh?
biggrin.gif
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 6:13 PM Post #12 of 40

pbirkett

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer
pbirkett: when you say you'd upgrade to the RS1/MSP, is that without upgrading your other gear (source, cables, amp)? Honestly, I'm not sure how effective a use of money that would be, considering you're coming from the DT531. If you were going to upgrade you whole system, perhaps give the HD650 another shot, because as groovy as the DT531 is, the HD650 hands me its head on a silver platter in my current system in regards to being groovy and musical, even with the trance music you favor. Just some food for thought.


To be honest, its a hypothetical situation, because I simply dont have the money for all that replacement gear, and nor will I ever have: Indeed, if I can afford luxuries like that, then I could afford to move out and afford to use good quality speakers always, which means headphones would for me, become redundant.

If theres one thing this headphone journey has taught me, is that headphones cannot get close to even modest speakers. For my tastes so far, the dt531 comes closest, I am afraid I found the HD650 too boring, and the CD3000 too bright and fatiguing, and I would not expect upgraded sources to dramatically change this fact for either.

Even my old Mission bookshelf speakers, which were the same price, sounded much better than either the CD3000 and HD650, and now I am using Rega speakers which are better, I very much doubt any headphone would ever come close to those. If speakers can sound this way with my mediocre source, then headphones are not worth pursuing for me.

So if I did upgrade it would be RS1/MSP, but I would as you say, have to upgrade the source and amp. And while I am certain its better, I am 100% certain I'd still feel short changed, especially for the silly money involved.

I can accept the dt531 and rega ear, because for me, they are wonderfully enjoyable (for headphones) and dont demand I empty my wallet for the next 24 months to get enjoyable grooves. The £875 for something like a DAC1, £700 for a Prehead (or similar) and £500-£700 for MSP/RS1, means that the combo costs at least £2,000, compared to the £350 or so of my current rig. And I feel like I could guarantee with some certainty, that for me theres no way it could ever be worth 6x as much. Theres an awful lot I can do with £2k, and unless I was *extremely* rich, had no life, or was *really* into their music enough to justify it, then theres just no way I'd drop that kind of money into a headphone system. For example, Tom Hankins told us how much he listens to music, and I worked out it was 5.5-6 hours per day. Now for him, I can see the justification, but frankly, my rig is lucky to get that much use in a week, never mind a day (and this has always been the case). My life is simply far too busy to justify this.

Anyway, I've rambled on a bit, so I'll stop now, but I hope perhaps this post has given fellow headfiers an insight as to why I am so keen on sweet sounding budget components.
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 6:19 PM Post #13 of 40

Mr.Radar

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer
I thought that WINDVD6 only worked with the Audigy 2. If not then it could be quite easy with the EMU, since you would be able to simply route the waveout to the spidif output. Now how to accomplish that feat with the Chaintech, hmm I don't know. What would really be great, if this works, would be to use the optical output of the EMU to the optical input, and record the files to good 'ol PCM. Encode to monkey's audio, put in foobar, and wham! Perfectly ripped DVD-A. Hopefully it is that simple, though things rarely seem to be so.

Nothing like crappin' my own thread eh?
biggrin.gif



This wouldn't work with teh EMU because it's WDM drivers are limited to 48KHz. If you used a card like the Chaintech AV-710 (which is 24/96 capable through it's digital output) that has decent (i.e. not sample rate limited) WDM drivers to the EMU then it'd work. Just be sure to enable 24-bit decoding in the audio setup for WinDVD 6.
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 7:42 PM Post #14 of 40
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Quote:

Originally Posted by pbirkett
For example, Tom Hankins told us how much he listens to music, and I worked out it was 5.5-6 hours per day. Now for him, I can see the justification, but frankly, my rig is lucky to get that much use in a week, never mind a day (and this has always been the case).


At least at this point in my life, I do that much listening, some times more, so it works out OK for me. I have also been lucky through smarts and good luck to get my system built out of a minimal initial investment that I have parlayed into far more. I have quite the opposite experience as you regarding speakers, though admittedly I haven't heard any good ones in optimal conditions, but I have a hard time imagining speakers to match what I'm hearing from the HD650 now that I could actually even remotely afford.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr.Radar
This wouldn't work with teh EMU because it's WDM drivers are limited to 48KHz. If you used a card like the Chaintech AV-710 (which is 24/96 capable through it's digital output) that has decent (i.e. not sample rate limited) WDM drivers to the EMU then it'd work. Just be sure to enable 24-bit decoding in the audio setup for WinDVD 6.


Grrr, I forgot about that little issue creeping in, doh!
 
Aug 10, 2004 at 9:15 PM Post #15 of 40

pbirkett

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer
At least at this point in my life, I do that much listening, some times more, so it works out OK for me. I have also been lucky through smarts and good luck to get my system built out of a minimal initial investment that I have parlayed into far more.


Thats good for you. I honestly would not take that away from anyone, that its worth doing if they can afford it and can justify it. I dont think I ever will, the whole audio game is just too expensive, and in many respects, stressful to me (wanting what I can never have). Good luck in the future, I really hope you find what you are looking for - I have, and now I accept my level of acceptance, at least with headphones is lower than most on headfi.

Quote:

I have quite the opposite experience as you regarding speakers, though admittedly I haven't heard any good ones in optimal conditions, but I have a hard time imagining speakers to match what I'm hearing from the HD650 now that I could actually even remotely afford.


In terms of detail yes headphones win, but in terms of sheer musicality speakers will ALWAYS sound better than headphones, and no disrespect, but anyone who thinks otherwise has not heard good speakers. Headphones are always going to be inherently disadvantaged by their very concept, and I have a hard time believing that HD650 could get anywhere near my speakers, which cost quite a bit less than HD650 on the 2nd hand market. I'm sure you will find this out for yourself one day
wink.gif


I agree headphones have their place though, and the dt531 definitely suits me. You can consider me retired from this hobby now, probably for good, unless something unexpected happens. I have other hobbies now, which are certainly more deserving to my attention nowadays.
 

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