[Review] Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

beyerdynamic
#1

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

Cost: $599


#Accessories

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.

#Comfort

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.

#Build

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.

#Sound Quality

Quick Look

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.

Bass

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.

Soundstage

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.

#Quick Comparisons

HD 600

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.

HD660s

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.

Talos 2

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.

HD 800

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.

#Conclusion

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.

7 Likes
#2

I’ll second that.

1 Like
pinned #3
#4

Great review. Very well written. I really enjoyed reading it.

-Paul-

1 Like
#5

Thanks!

1 Like
#6

Could you please tell me the which one would be best Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Vs Beyerdynamic T1 2ns Generation Headphones?

#7

There’s no such thing as “best.”

1 Like
#8

I just re-purchased the DT 1990 because I missed mine after selling the one that I had bought just a year ago. I’m enjoying the new one for many of the same reasons as the old, but oddly I found the treble less aggressive than before. On the original, I found EQ necessary not just to achieve my preferred tonal balance, but also because the treble actually became physically painful after listening for a while. My new DT 1990 sounds tonally similar, but I’ve noticed no discomfort even without EQ.

This reminds me of something that’s long puzzled me about the DT 1990, which is that some reviewers find the treble sharp and uncomfortable, while others find it just right and more neutral sounding than their own measurements would suggest. Could that be because of unit to unit variation?

Here is a comparison of the frequency response of my old vs new DT 1990 on my MiniDSP E.A.R.S… I took several measurements on both sides and the shown curves are quite representative.

The measurements show that the new sample still has the elevated treble, but about 3-5 dB lower in level. It also has less of a dip around 4 KHz.

Then there’s the CSD. First old (notice the ridges at 8 KHz, 11 KHz and 15 KHz)

Then the new (notice the ridges from 8 KHz and up are gone)

Measurements don’t always tell the whole story, but in this case it’s interesting that my ears noticed less discomfort on the new unit and that the measurements show a less aggressive and possibly better damped treble.

Very curious …

4 Likes
#9

These measurements do look strikingly similar to mine, and I have to say I still found it quite sibilant. I think in either case I’d have to EQ that peak a bit.

Also, I wonder how much pad break-in affects this.

2 Likes
#10

Both were measured when new. I definitely still EQ that peak down, but now it’s only for sound rather than pain.

2 Likes
#11

For those with interest in the DT 1990 Pro (or who just enjoy readying well written reviews), check out @Resolve’s full review on headphone.com.

4 Likes
#12

@Resolve very nice review that pretty much sums up my own feelings as well, with really nicely lit photos to boot!

I think of the 1990 as an HD600 with better bass extension and clarity, less grain, and an awful treble peak. I can reduce the peak with EQ whereas I can’t really push the bass on the HD600 that hard because it becomes to woolly for my taste.

I dig your music selection. GoGo Penguin, Wollny and Dream Theater are all things that I’ve listened to today, on the DT1990 no less! I find that it does really well with this sort Instrument heavy, technical stuff.

BTW, as far as I know, the treble elevation on Beyerdynamics comes from them tuning to a diffuse field target, not necessarily trying to cheat on detail :smile:

5 Likes
#13

I had read somewhere that while it was aiming for diffuse field EQ, there was a difference between diffuse field equalized and loudness diffuse field equalized, and beyerdynamic didn’t aim for the latter. I don’t know if this accounts for the difference in 8.5khz peak, between a beyerdynamic and a sennheiser, but that’s certainly one of the most striking differences.

Although this post also talks about the Beyer peak as a result of the ‘crinkle membrane’, so it could just be that the rest of the frequency response was tuned for the diffuse field target, and that’s just what happened at 8.5khz haha.

4 Likes
#14

How is the vocals on DT-1990 Pro compared to HD600?

1 Like
#15

Vocals on the DT-1990 are less forward than on the HD600. With the balanced pads, I find vocals a little too recessed, with the analytic pads I find them just right. For singer-songwriter folk music like Joni Mitchell, I prefer the HD600’s presentation, but for anything with a full band, especially like metal, I prefer the DT-1990 which with the analytic pads has a more neutral/correct vocal presence than the HD600.

3 Likes
#16

Hi @TareQ. Always nice to hear new voices.

1 Like
#17

I still haven’t had too much time with them but my initial impressions are that I am impressed. It is certainly the cleanest set of headphones I have had the pleasure of trying.

I saw or read a review somewhere (I can’t remember where) with a comparison to some other models (may have been the Sundara and the HD660s) where they described the DT 1990 as “like being in a well treated small room with a good set of studio monitors” and I can certainly see the relevance.

1 Like