REVIEW: Beyerdynamic DT531
Nov 5, 2003 at 12:35 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

pbirkett

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jun 12, 2002
Posts
3,239
Likes
52
Beyerdynamic DT531 Review

Associated equipment: Rotel RA-01 Amplification, Terratec EWX24/96 soundcard source, Van Den Hul The Bay C5 interconnect.

As you all know, I have been something of a Beyer addict over the last few months, and I have been through the DT770 Pro, DT880, DT931 and DT990 Pro. In between those, I have also had the AKG K271 Studio in my possession, and the benchmark headphone of sorts, the Sennheiser HD580. There are some bloody good headphones here, but the fact is, the Beyer DT531, the cheapest and most understated of all these headphones, is the only one left that I still possess. The rest have either been given back to their owners, or sold.

Firstly, when I bought these headphones, I was using Sennheiser HD580s which I had borrowed off a friend. I had used these for 3 weeks, and they were pleasant headphones, both comfortable, and had a nice sound, that I believe to be one of the best I have heard from headphones. The DT990 Pro was also flavour of the month at Chéz Birkett
wink.gif
due to their excellent bass performance and lively sound.

The problem was, the HD580 were not mine, and the DT990 Pro I found to sound unnatural, dark and fatiguing on my system. That’s not to say the DT990 Pro were bad headphones, far from it, it’s just that the synergy was not there with my system. I suspect it would take a decent valve amplifier to bring the best out of the DT990 Pro’s, something like an X-Cans at least. They just didn’t gel with the Rotel.

So I gave the HD580s back. I now had 3 choices. I was thinking of plumping for the HD600, or getting something different. I had 2 main contenders. The Beyer DT531 was one such contender; the Sony MDR-CD1700 was the other. After reading several lukewarm CD1700 reviews, I decided to plump for the groovalizer™ DT531
wink.gif


Out of the box, the DT531 feels cheap and flimsy in comparison with almost all other headphones I had before. The cable is extremely thin but on the plus side, it’s not coiled. The cans themselves look quite small, and for those with large ears, it may cause a little discomfort as I feel someone with large ears may end up with the padding resting on their ears. For me however, the cans are light, my ears fit perfectly inside the cans, and I like the headband which makes them feel lighter still. Clamping pressure strikes the right balance of tightness and comfort, and apart from the HD580s, these are the most comfortable headphones I’ve worn yet. Just a little note on the HD580s, the pair I had were stretched as they were several years old. If you get too much clamping force, simply bend the headband until its looser, they are *extremely* comfortable then. Anyway, back to the DT531, I find them more comfortable than any other Beyer I’ve tried so far – the DT770 and 990 being the least comfortable, with their small headbands. The DT770 was the least comfortable, their pads seemed slightly harder and less furry than on other Beyers I’ve owned. The DT990 had the nicest pads, but were still plagued by the small headband. The DT880 has a better headband than both, but it had a tendency to burn my scalp. The DT931 was ok, but I had a minor niggle with the comfort of that which escapes me, being as it was 6 months ago since I last heard them.

Unfortunately, by the time I had got these cans, I had sold off my Corda HA-1 which would have been nice as a comparison to the Rotel. It has been my experience that I preferred my Rotel for the vast majority of headphones that have been in my possession, except perhaps the HD580’s which sounded cleaner and more detailed from the Corda, and also the K271’s which sounded more open. However, experience told me that whatever differences existed, they were always relatively small and subtle (we’re talking no more than 10% either way). Experience taught me that HD580 and Corda share a great synergy though, and I’d recommend it for any HD580 owner searching for a nice low cost amp for their cans. And given the similarity in signature between the HD580 and DT531, it would have been nice to have the opportunity to compare.

Nevertheless, the DT531 seems to share a superb synergy with my existing equipment. If I could sum the sound up in a paragraph, I’d say they were warm, relatively bassy and quite forgiving cans that are capable of carrying a tune. To some people and on some equipment, the DT531 may come across as having slightly rolled off treble, but on the end of my Rotel, I can’t say that I’ve noticed any such problems. At worst, it sounds a teeny bit restrained, but it can do really bright recordings a big favour, sounding a lot more balanced, and never harsh or fatiguing.

The midrange sounds smooth, warm and relaxed, and is a good performer at most genres. While it lacks the air guitar factor of a Grado, I’d say the DT531 makes a better rock can than the Sennheiser. There is naturalness on display here with my equipment that has eluded all comers so far, even the Sennheiser, and it’s fair to say that it is a very “organic” sounding headphone.

The bass is also smooth, relatively punchy, if not the deepest around on any can. The likes of the Sennheiser, or any of the other Beyers I mention will dig that little bit deeper than the DT531, but there is no way one could describe the DT531 as bass light. It’s still managed to hit the lowest notes in all of the music I listen to, and only bass tests have revealed a slight disadvantage over the other phones here. In terms of bass punch, it’s on par with a Sennheiser HD580, maybe slightly more impacting if anything. It cannot match a DT770 or DT990 for bass punch. It exceeds the bass punch of a K271 or DT880.

The soundstage on the DT531s is smaller than all the other cans I mention here except the K271. The soundstage that exists is accurate and focused, but doesn’t sound as big as most Beyer cans I’ve heard, including the closed DT770. The soundstage on the DT531 sounds a lot more spacious than on the K271 which sounds very closed in to my ears, even on the Corda which did a nice job of opening it up a bit.

Possibly the best thing about the DT531 though is its ability to make one relax and enjoy the music. Its non fatiguing presentation means hours of listening can be done without any loss of enjoyment. The headphone is detailed, but not forced unlike some (DT931), and it carries a tune extremely well, and displays a level of coherence that almost every other headphone I’ve ever heard can only hint at. This allows one to hear the music as a whole rather than a collection of individual sounds.

If I was being critical, if there is one thing wrong with the DT531, it is that it cannot let its hair down in the same way as some headphones. What I mean by that is that it is musically enjoyable, but it doesn’t really ROCK out the way some headphones can (Grado’s). However, even on some hard hitting genres I prefer it to the DT770 and DT990 because it simply sounds so much better overall.

In the next fortnight or so, I hope to have a Sony MDR-CD3000 at my disposal. I plan for the DT531 and CD3000 to be the cans that I settle with, the CD3000 will hopefully offer what I miss from the DT531, that is, a bigger and more tangible soundstage, more slamming bass, more detailed highs and a generally more forward and aggressive sound. These will then make good compliments for each other. However, I must say, that the CD3000 has a tall order on its hands to sound much better than these DT531s, and considering the DT531 can be had for around $100 or so, I would say that the DT531 is one of the greatest headphone bargains going today.

Mini Comparisons

DT531 v DT931
The DT531 is more comfortable, and lighter. The DT931 has a faster sound, deeper bass, is more dynamic and has a larger soundstage, but sounds unnatural, overly bright and tinny and lacks bass impact. Fatiguing to listen to for a long time at anything more than a moderate volume.

DT531 v DT770
The DT531 is a lot lighter and more comfortable, doesn’t burn the scalp. The DT770 has more deep bass and bass impact, but also this colours the midrange and makes it sound dark and muddy; the highs on the DT770 are unrefined in comparison. And although DT770 has a larger soundstage, the DT531 sounds superior in almost every respect by virtue of being a lot more balanced.

DT531 v DT880
The DT531 is more comfortable as it is lighter and doesn’t cause scalp burn. The DT880 has more deep bass, brighter highs, a much bigger soundstage, greater dynamics, smoother overall sound and more detail than the DT531. The DT880 however, lacks bass impact (without something like an RKV anyway), and the musicality of the DT531 eludes the DT880, which sounds too much like a collection of individual sounds in comparison. On some equipment, the DT880 can sound a bit metallic compared to the DT531.

DT531 v DT990
The DT990 is much like the DT770 but sounds more open, slightly less bassy and thus less muddy. This is a closer match, but on my equipment it sounds unnatural and fatiguing, the DT531 still sounds the superior headphone to my ears. Comfort issues of the DT990 much the same as DT770.

DT531 v HD580
Comfort is about equal on both. These two headphones sound more alike than any of the other headphones here. The highs of the DT531 are less harsh than the HD580 (not that HD580 has harsh highs), and the bass slightly more punch on DT531. There doesn’t seem to be that veil on the DT531 (a veil which was more or less cured using the Corda HA-1). The soundstage on HD580 is much bigger and they sound more speaker like. This is a close battle indeed, but DT531 is possibly less fussy about the partnering components than HD580. The Beyer possibly sounds that bit more bouncy to my ears though.

DT531 v K271S
Comfort on the K271s is not bad at all, excepting my hot ears, and if not for that issue would be on par with the DT531. The highs on the K271 are stronger but also grainier than DT531, the midrange on the K271 sounds closed in, but also echoes at the same time, leading to a somewhat strange sound. Bass lacks impact and depth, but the K271 is very neutral for a closed headphone. All the same, the DT531 is the more enjoyable headphone to my ears.
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 12:49 PM Post #2 of 15

MegaMeee

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
May 5, 2003
Posts
239
Likes
10
yep thats pretty much what most people who have them have said... just call it "musical"
smily_headphones1.gif

your review does seem the most positive review of it ive seen so far though. other people like snufkin for example preffered the "high end" headphones like the dt880's to it, but i think everyone whos talked about it is in agreement that it is great value.

though with each opinion im glad i bought the cheaper (for me) ms1's which suit my music tastes better... (power metal for example
very_evil_smiley.gif
)
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 1:21 PM Post #3 of 15

TravelLite

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 25, 2002
Posts
376
Likes
11
A great review, pbirkett. IMO, this is definitely "upstairs" archival info!

TravelLite
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 2:52 PM Post #6 of 15

lini

Thought the last line in Citizen Kane was nosebud.
Joined
Jun 22, 2001
Posts
6,119
Likes
29
Location
Munich, Bavaria
Paul: Very nice review - informative mini comparisions. And all seconded, btw.
wink.gif


Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini

P.S.: Go, Team Groovalizer!
biggrin.gif

 
Nov 5, 2003 at 5:38 PM Post #8 of 15

erikzen

06 National Meet Co-Coordinator
100% THD and S/N = 0
Joined
Jan 17, 2003
Posts
4,543
Likes
35
Quote:

Originally posted by pbirkett
Beyerdynamic DT531 Review

Mini Comparisons

DT531 v DT931
The DT531 is more comfortable, and lighter. The DT931 has a faster sound, deeper bass, is more dynamic and has a larger soundstage, but sounds unnatural, overly bright and tinny and lacks bass impact. Fatiguing to listen to for a long time at anything more than a moderate volume.


But I've really come to enjoy the DT931 for low volume listening. Even at low volumes it is very detailed. With the 120 Ohm adapter the high end seems a bit subdued, as well.

Great review! Thanks for all the information.
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 7:19 PM Post #9 of 15
Joined
Mar 28, 2003
Posts
9,530
Likes
81
Location
Los Angeles
Quote:

Originally posted by pbirkett
the CD3000 will hopefully offer what I miss from the DT531, that is, a bigger and more tangible soundstage, more slamming bass, more detailed highs and a generally more forward and aggressive sound.



After hearing the CD3K this weekend, I think you will be very happy, if these are the qualities you expect to get from it. It definitely has a kickass soundstage, the bass has high impact (almost as great as the DT770) without tainting the midrage, and it definitely has a forward aggressive sound, though not quite to the extent of my SR325.

After reading that paragraph of yours, Paul, I think the CD3000 might just be your holy grail of headphones. I can't wait to hear how they work out for you
3000smile.gif
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 8:03 PM Post #10 of 15

wallijonn

Throwin' tantra.
Joined
Oct 15, 2002
Posts
7,242
Likes
13
nice review, pb.

The first thingI would like to know is: will the DT880 driver housings fit inside the DT531 headband? I take it that the DT531 headband is like the DT831 / DT931 - it has a "key" notch in the side of the driver housing, whereas the DT880 has a round stub which goes into the driver housing hole. (I don't like the scalp burn on the DT880 either. I've been having the idea of putting the complete driver assembly inside the Aiwa AK100 headband).

Secondly, you say that it has a smaller soundstage. I put the DT880 at about 200 degrees, the DT931 at about 180 and the HD600 at about 120 degrees. Is it smaller than the HD580?

Thirdly, is there too much channel separation, like the DT931? Or does it encompass a wide soundstage like the DT880? Does it sound hard left / hard right with little meshing?

Fourthly, where on the head does the sound seem to eminate from? Is it "top of the head", in front of the eyes, or inbetwix? Does it have a "in your head" sound or does it project outside?

Fifthly, how does it sound with vocals? pianos? picollo? oboes? trumpets? (I know that it can only be a comapritive review).

Sixthly, what about detail and transparency? Is there a perceived clipping on fast triangle transients?

I take it that you do not perceive any sibilance? what about fade outs or glaring notes?

the DT531 doesn't use the same pads as the DT831 / DT931? hmmm.
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 8:09 PM Post #11 of 15

wallijonn

Throwin' tantra.
Joined
Oct 15, 2002
Posts
7,242
Likes
13
Quote:

Originally posted by erikzen
I've really come to enjoy the DT931 for low volume listening. Even at low volumes it is very detailed. With the 120 Ohm adapter the high end seems a bit subdued, as well.


Adding the 120 ohm resistors does make a difference, doesn't it? After adding my resistors I found that high volume listening was too fatiguing. It just didn't sound right. So now I find myself turning down the volume more and more. And it all sounds good. I am truly amazed that the lower the volume the better it sounds. Strange.

Have you tried adding a 1.3" - 1.5" circular piece of velour over the driver, yet? It tames the highs even more. (It's hard finding really good felt. Just look through a 20 cent piece at WalMart).
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 8:34 PM Post #12 of 15

pbirkett

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jun 12, 2002
Posts
3,239
Likes
52
Quote:

Originally posted by Iron_Dreamer
After hearing the CD3K this weekend, I think you will be very happy, if these are the qualities you expect to get from it. It definitely has a kickass soundstage, the bass has high impact (almost as great as the DT770) without tainting the midrage, and it definitely has a forward aggressive sound, though not quite to the extent of my SR325.

After reading that paragraph of yours, Paul, I think the CD3000 might just be your holy grail of headphones. I can't wait to hear how they work out for you
3000smile.gif


Thats good news, just have to wait on them being delivered, but I have no idea how long this will take. I am hoping to have them within the next 9 or 10 days. I will try and resist writing a review on those straight away like I have with these - it seems to give me a less biased view. The best advice I could give anyone thinking of doing a review is try not to do a review for at least a month after. That will give time for the initial enthusiasm to die down.

Quote:

The first thingI would like to know is: will the DT880 driver housings fit inside the DT531 headband? I take it that the DT531 headband is like the DT831 / DT931 - it has a "key" notch in the side of the driver housing, whereas the DT880 has a round stub which goes into the driver housing hole. (I don't like the scalp burn on the DT880 either. I've been having the idea of putting the complete driver assembly inside the Aiwa AK100 headband).


I am not sure whether the drive units from the DT880 will fit, but I think that while the DT531 cans look smaller they probably are not. I am sure they still use 50mm drive units. It seems to have a round stub attaching the headband to the cans, but whether it is the same as the DT880 I dont know. I know its completely different to the DT770 I have in front of me.

Quote:

Secondly, you say that it has a smaller soundstage. I put the DT880 at about 200 degrees, the DT931 at about 180 and the HD600 at about 120 degrees. Is it smaller than the HD580?


Its quite hard for me to visualise it with that amount of precision to be honest, but I would say yes it is smaller than the HD580. It is not expansive and huge.

Quote:

Thirdly, is there too much channel separation, like the DT931? Or does it encompass a wide soundstage like the DT880? Does it sound hard left / hard right with little meshing?


I'd say it was closer to the DT931 than the 880 in this respect, but to be honest, I dont tend to notice too much as I've tried to program my mind to listen in a different way with headphones, ignoring these potentially annoying effects.

Quote:

Fourthly, where on the head does the sound seem to eminate from? Is it "top of the head", in front of the eyes, or inbetwix? Does it have a "in your head" sound or does it project outside?


I dont think it sounds too much like its in your head, and it seems to be more at the top of the head, it seems to avoid sounding too headphone like pretty well for the price.

Quote:

Fifthly, how does it sound with vocals? pianos? picollo? oboes? trumpets? (I know that it can only be a comapritive review).


Never tried some of those instruments, being as I am mainly a listener of electronic music, however I get the impression that what I do hear is quite realistic. Everything is done in such a way that it does not stand out and grab attention.

Quote:

Sixthly, what about detail and transparency? Is there a perceived clipping on fast triangle transients?


In terms of absolute transparency I'd have to say that I perceive there to be a slight veiling of the sound (not in the same way as a Sennheiser though), but perhaps just a slight masking of detail compared to the best. Analytical, these cans are not. I've never noticed any kind of clipping with fast transients.

Quote:

I take it that you do not perceive any sibilance? what about fade outs or glaring notes?


I have not noticed any sibilance with these. Fade outs and decay seems about average.

Quote:

the DT531 doesn't use the same pads as the DT831 / DT931? hmmm.


I'll pass on that one on account that its been 6 months since I had my hands on a pair of 931's.

Phew!
biggrin.gif
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 9:26 PM Post #13 of 15

erikzen

06 National Meet Co-Coordinator
100% THD and S/N = 0
Joined
Jan 17, 2003
Posts
4,543
Likes
35
Quote:

Originally posted by wallijonn
Adding the 120 ohm resistors does make a difference, doesn't it? After adding my resistors I found that high volume listening was too fatiguing. It just didn't sound right. So now I find myself turning down the volume more and more. And it all sounds good. I am truly amazed that the lower the volume the better it sounds. Strange.

Have you tried adding a 1.3" - 1.5" circular piece of velour over the driver, yet? It tames the highs even more. (It's hard finding really good felt. Just look through a 20 cent piece at WalMart).


Yes, the resistors do make a big difference. But I'm not sure that it makes it any more fatiguing at high volumes. It doesn't make it any less fatiguing at high volumes, just not any more. That is a strange thing about the DT931, at low levels they sound really great and I can listen for hours. In fact, I don't want to take them off. But if you turn them up a little too much it is very tiring. This was kind of a lucky break for me because I have some slight hearing loss from being in a rock band for a number of years. I need to try and keep the volume down to prevent further damage.

The DT931 remind me of listening to really efficient speakers at lower volumes. The music is articulate and present, it just doesn't demand your full attention at the exclusion of everything else. Not that I can't concentrate fully on the music if I choose to, it's just that I have a choice. Also, at lower volumes the severe channel separation is not as noticeable. At one point I thought there was something missing in these cans. I think it was the fact that that the soundstage is somewhat disjointed but as I've learned to listen at lower levels this is no longer an issue and I am very happy with the DT931.

That being said, there are still times when I like to listen a bit louder. It sounds to me like I would really like the DT531 for extended rock-out sessions.

Finally, I have not tried the felt mod for the drivers yet. I do intent to give that a try but I'm waiting until after this Saturday's meet at Grado Labs. I want to see how the DT931 sounds with some really top-notch equipment.
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 9:42 PM Post #14 of 15

pbirkett

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jun 12, 2002
Posts
3,239
Likes
52
Erikzen, I think the DT531s are ideal for listening at higher volumes for extended periods without causing fatigue. They do it better than just about anything else I've heard. They dont suit being played quiet, unless your trying to sleep.
wink.gif
 
Nov 5, 2003 at 10:34 PM Post #15 of 15

Trawlerman

A British ingredient in our rockin' international gumbo.
Joined
Dec 12, 2001
Posts
1,873
Likes
12
Thanks for the review pbirkett...

Really enjoyed reading about these phones. I'm still enjoying mine after all these years
biggrin.gif
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top