Thanks to Larry at Beyerdynamic for the review sample
Pros: Build quality, additional pads, straight and coiled cables, bass quantity and quality, clarity, musicality, musical engagement.
Cons: Huge hole in a specific region of the upper mids, treble borders on too much, mild recession in the midrange can hurt musicality.
Sound Signature: A pads provide a slightly v-shaped sound, B pads provide a slightly boosted low-end version of the A sound
Source: Matrix HPA-3u
The DT 1990 Pro include a 3m straight cable or a 5m coiled cable both terminated in a single-ended mini XLR connection. They also include an extra set of pads that functions to change the sound. As pictured here you can see the insides of both pads, the lighter grey pads with 4 holes indicate the “analytical” pads, while the dark grey pad with multiple holes is what Beyerdynamic calls the “balanced” pads that are meant to provide a small boost in the low-end. Lastly they include a semi-hard carrying case.
One thing that has impressed me about Beyerdynamics since my journey in this hobby has been the comfort of the pads. The first time I put on the DT 770 I was in heaven, I almost bought them solely for the comfort, and the DT 1990 Pro are reminiscent. Firm and somewhat plush velour pads surround my ears comfortably and securely. Clamp and downward force from the headband are both moderate as someone with an average sized head, those with smaller heads will likely be just right, and those with larger heads will want to research how these might loosen up. Overall I am pleased with the comfort of the DT 1990 Pro.
One thing that I have never heard a complaint about with Beyerdynamic is the build quality and that trend continues here. When I removed the DT 1990 Pro from the packaging I was immediately impressed with the hefty weight, metal laden construction, and rock solid feel through and through. There’s no doubt that Beyer built these to last for many years. I haven’t heard a creak or squeak, only a peak in the treble, but I’ll talk about that later. The build is phenomenal here, that’s the point I’m trying to make, they make my HD600 feel cheap by comparison.
To my ears the DT 1990 Pro are a mildly v-shaped headphone with impressive instrument separation, excellent low-end quality, natural leaning tonality, and impressive driver clarity and quickness. They’re a headphone I greatly enjoy with energetic pop music like Blondie’s Rapture or Madonna’s Like a Prayer, also fitting wonderfully with upbeat electronic music such as Daft Punk or Disclosure. Certainly a headphone I would consider exciting to listen to!
I will be reviewing the DT 1990 Pro with the “Analytical” pads attached, the “Balanced” ones added some bass, which closed in the sound a bit. It’s a nice addition though, I’m sure some will prefer them.
The sub-bass is well extended with excellent driver decay with low distortion, two things I consider highly important when considering whether a headphone is right for me. The sub-bass quality is perfectly demonstrated by listening to James Blake’s Limit to Your Love where the DT 1990 Pro show off how effortlessly it can provide a deep and impactful sub-bass note while quickly resetting for the next note almost immediately.
The mid-bass carries over with the quickness and impact of the sub-bass, in-fact carrying more weight than the extreme lows. This makes the low-end exciting for pop and bass driven electronic music, the DT 1990 Pro carry the energy conveyed in songs that thrive on the low-end. As an example the album Random Access Memories by Daft Punk and Disclosure’s album Settle are really fun to listen to. The mid-bass is slightly warmer than I’d like for rock music, sometimes sounding just a tad too warm. I notice this most on the Counting Crows song Mr. Jones where the vocals are slightly recessed and my attention struggles between the bass line and the vocals.
I have sung my praises of the low-end in Discord over and over, to my ears the low-end is fantastic on the DT 1990 Pro. It came as a surprise, but a surprise I won’t complain about.
Midrange & Treble
I like that the midrange is detailed, clean, has a natural tonality to it, and shines with the upper midrange. I dislike that the lower-midrange has a tendency to sound recessed when paired with a song that has a boosted midbass presence, and I also dislike that there’s a huge hole at a small frequency band in the upper midrange that “eats up” whatever instrument that happens to cross it. The hole isn’t wide but it is deep. I laughed hard when listening to a song from High Contrast called Changes where the female vocals sounded faint and almost non-existent when they’re supposed to be prominent.
Aside from a mild issue in the recession and a huge issue in a small section of the frequency response, the midrange is quite clean and enjoyable. I find that vocals and instruments in the upper end of the midrange sound very enjoyable. I’ve quite liked the midrange with the band Built to Spill and female vocals.
The treble is clean and detailed at times, and splashy and sibilant at times. Obviously it’s recording dependent, but it should serve as a warning for those who might listen to music prone to sibilance or harsh treble. Things sound fantastic when listening to a well-recorded band though, like The Seatbelts song Tank! is a good fun time with the DT 1990 Pro.
Impressive instrument separation, very little bleed between them if any at all. Soundstage width is able to portray a feeling of music surrounding me when the recording allows it, while conveying enough depth to give a real sense of a layered soundstage. Imaging is accurate and there’s a hint of air. My overall impression of the soundstage is being at a moderately large standing room only venue that has excellent speaker placement. I wish there was a bit more airyness, but I’m greatly enjoying the imaging and soundstage qualities of the DT 1990 Pro.
The HD600 are my go-to headphone as a baseline for comparing new headphones and the DT 1990 Pro have me considering selling them to buy a DT 1990 Pro. That’s not to say that the DT 1990 Pro act as a better reference headphone, the HD600 are slightly better in terms of overall neutrality. The DT 1990 Pro beats the HD600 in terms of dynamics, low-end response, instrument separation, and clarity. The DT 1990 Pro are a more engaging headphone, and one that I would reach for far more often if I had them both in my possession at the same time.
The HD660s is just as quick, just as clean, and has more air in the soundstage. Unfortunately the HD660s has a plasticy sound to it that is amplified when comparing it directly to the natural to warm leaning DT 1990 Pro. It’s hard to go back to the HD660s, at least directly after listening to the DT 1990 Pro due to this. The HD660s sounds thin by comparison, and I have to give the nod to the DT 1990 Pro in most usage cases here.
The Talos 2 are harder to drive, which makes them problematic for many users, especially those with high dynamic range recordings. The Talos 2 are a bit thicker as a whole, slightly better treble control, with a bit more low-end response giving it a thicker low-end. The DT 1990 Pro have less bass, but have more punch, while having a more prominent upper midrange. I am going to give this to the DT 1990 Pro for two reasons, I find the DT 1990 Pro a better all-rounder, and the DT 1990 Pro are easier to drive.
DT 1770 Pro
This comparison will be posted when I post my DT 1770 Pro review.
By comparison the HD800 makes the DT 1990 Pro feel uncomfortable, that’s not an attack on the DT 1990 Pro, it’s a huge pro for the HD800. The DT 1990 Pro win in the build quality though. In terms of sound the HD800 has a more midrange focused sound, while the DT 1990 Pro excels in the low-end. The HD800 has a more layered and spacious sound, while being a cleaner and more detailed headphone. The HD800 has a thinner audio texture than the DT 1990 Pro and comes off a touch cold at times, while the DT 1990 Pro has a rich filling warmth to it.
Which is better? From a technical standpoint the HD800 is the better headphone. They are cleaner, more detailed, and have the better soundstage making them a better choice for the likes of Steely Dan, The Seatbelts, Cuphead’s OST, and Counting Crows. The DT 1990 Pro make for a more fun listen due to the more prominent low-end, making them a better suit for the likes of Portishead, Madonna, James Blake, and Daft Punk.
It’s perhaps not an entirely fair comparison since the DT 1990 Pro are $599 MSRP to the HD800’s $1,600 MSRP, but since I had both on hand I felt the comparison would be fun.
I’ve expressed how much I’ve enjoyed the DT 1990 Pro in various headphone related Discord servers during my time with them. I truly do love a lot about the DT 1990 Pro despite their shortcomings and I truly am going to miss these when I send them back to Beyerdynamic. I love the top-tier build, I love how fun these are to listen to with upbeat electronic and pop music,and I love how they make me want to explore my music library all over again. The DT 1990 Pro deviate slightly from neutrality while creating a dynamic and engaging sound.
My only issues the DT 1990 Pro are perhaps nitpicks. The hole in the upper midrange needs to be addressed, but I don’t think we’ll see that as it’s been a character of many Beyer headphones for the past few iterations. Low-end midrange could use just a slight boost, though I imagine this could be accomplished via EQ. Lastly the treble will be problematic for some users, not this guy though.
I fell in love with the DT 1990 Pro during my time with them and would recommend them to someone who wants an exciting headphone that doesn’t stray too far from neutrality. They would be a phenomenal consideration for someone who has the HD600 who craves a more lively sound.