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Review: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio headphones

Pro headphones for pro sound, nice.

Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie
The Good
Phenomenal soundstage
Super comfortable
Solidly built
The Bad
Needs a good amp to get the best out of them
Highs can be fatiguing, especially if you're treble-sensitive
9.4
Overall

Beyerdynamic might not have the instant recall of the other big German headphone maker, Sennheiser, but there’s a reason that so many industry pros swear by their cans. Today, we’re looking at one of their flagship sets, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, which has an MSRP of $599.

Will these Pro-grade headphones become my end-game? Let’s find out.

Let’s check out the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro headphones

Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

Okay, so if you don’t know who Beyerdynamic is, here’s a little quick refresher. They’re the oldest audio company in the world that’s still in operation.

Just let that sink in for a minute… They’ve also been family owned since their inception in 1924, meaning they don’t have external pressure to make that bottom-line even lower. That’s important, as it lets them get on with the business of creating sublime audio equipment without compromise. Most of their hardware is still made in Germany.

So, what are they all about?

Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

The DT 1990 Pro headphones came about as a desire to create an open-backed version of the professionally-loved DT 1770 Pros. They’ve got the same 250 ohms, 45mm, dynamic Tesla neodymium drivers, which are an in-house designed driver that’s supposed to be superior to normal drivers. These give the DT 1990 Pros a 4 – 40,000 Hz frequency response, making them one of the most responsive sets I’ve listened to.

The styling is also similar, with some nice vented cut-outs on the metal ear cups with mesh behind to create the open-backed DT 1990 Pros. Metal is in abundance everywhere else, from the hinges to the expanding headband, which is then clad in leather and some replaceable padding so you don’t feel uncomfortable after long listening sessions. One thing to note is that the ear cups are HUGE. Like, I have giant ears that don’t fit into most over-ear headphones properly, but they straight-up disappear into the DT 1990 Pros voluminous ear cups.

Two mini-XLR cables are included, a 3m straight and a 5m coiled, and two sets of velour pads, which change the sound signature somewhat. The well-balanced set is the more ‘fun’ of the two, expanding the bass and treble. The analytical set brings everything a little closer together, perfect for mastering or any other tasks requiring more of a flat response.

Oh, and all of that comes in a hardshell case for carrying. I mean, the industrial design of the headphones means they’ll take a bit more bashing than those that feature plastics heavily, but why risk it?

So, how do they sound?

Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

If you saw my recent Helm TWS review, you’ll know that I’m switching it up with how I review headphones for a bit. The goal is to see if the headphones are good enough to make me want to listen to genres that I usually gloss over. This time, it’ll be a selection of Britpop from the tail end of the ’90s. Will Kula Shaker, Elastica and the rivalry between Blur and Oasis tempt my earholes, or will I want to tear off the (admittedly beautiful) DT 1990 Pro headphones from giving me the Placebo effect?

If you’re not familiar with Britpop, think of it as the railing against the synth-filled UK musical scene of the ’80s. It’s basically music with guitars, with guitars on top. I mean, take a band. Add another guitarist. Heck, add another two guitarists. Whether the original band was a band, or a DJ, or one of those 80’s synthwave groups – just add guitars and it’ll be Alright.

Queue the Britpop playlist:

It’s perhaps fitting to start with A Design For Life by the Manic Street Preachers since the design of the DT 1990 Pro is giving me life. I could perhaps end with this too, as after even a few seconds I don’t want to take these off my head. It’s a shame that this track saved the Manics as their first hit after frontman Richey disappeared. Like, just disappeared.

Okay, now it’s time for The Verve, with their Bittersweet Symphony of Life. Frontman Richard Ashcroft used to really, really, really make me want to turn off the radio whenever any of his tracks were on, so will the DT1990 Pros change his losing streak? Well, from the first rising chorus of strings, I was hooked like a fish on a… err… string? The spatial prowess of these headphones puts every single-stringed instrument in its own space, filling out the symphony beautifully.

Any of you remember the Girl From MarsI can’t forget it, as Ash were local boys from where I went to school. I can still remember their superfans switching to smoking Henri Wintermans instead of their previously hand-rolled cigs… Anyway, the high-energy guitar licks are perfect for the DT 1990 Pros, with the mix of feedback-laden amps and acoustic coming across far cleaner than any of the theaters they played in on tour…

Catatonia was a briefly popular band fronted by the sultry tones of Cerys Matthew. Road Rage sounds superb on these headphones, with punchy, voluminous bass laying down a comfortable platform for Cerys to croon over with her voice which flips from cigarette-scarred to whispered sweet nothings within milliseconds.

Ocean Color Scene with the Beatlesesque The Day We Caught The Train is next, which was an unescapable track back in the mid-’90s in the UK. Damn if it’s unescapable again now, but for different reasons – I actually like it this time. Every last little crack in the frontman’s voice, every instrument, cymbal crash, every single gap between notes where the feedback on the guitars goes crazy… whew lad, it didn’t sound like this when I was a teenager and it wasn’t just because I was listening to the radio through a HiFi system I bought at a charity shop for $40…

Mansun’s Wide Open Space is perhaps a fitting end for the listening section, since the open-backed design of these cans really does lend itself to wide-open soundstages. Now, I used to like the Paul Oakenfold mix of this track, but mainly because of the undulating bassline. Now, that version does sound great on these cans but it’s the original that captivated my ears, with every single instrument sounding crisper than an apple at harvest time.

Game time:

Okay, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t also test them out with some glorious gaming action. We opened The Witcher 3 and the DT1990 Pros made that epic, sweeping soundtrack into an all-capitalized, EPIC soundtrack. Like, seriously how good. The only minor annoyance is that after watching the Netflix show, I keep wanting one of the bards in-game to break into Toss a Coin to Your Witcher, which blatantly isn’t going to happen.

On to the next epic installment, with the recent Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. I mean, any reason to listen to anything based on John Williams’ epic brass-and-strings masterpieces. I can almost forgive the stuttering gameplay because oh boy, the soundtrack and those lightsaber swing noises are just so darn good, punctuating the dying of Stormtroopers as they try to show me that their onscreen blaster aiming from the movies is just from a bad batch of clones…

So, should I buy them?

Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

Okay, so I don’t often listen to a pair of headphones that I don’t want to take off my ears. It’s even less often that one can make me like a genre of music that, while I grew up in the middle of, hated with almost every fiber of my being at the time. This is one of those times…

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio headphones blew me away for tonality, clarity, and comfort, everything that a set of monitor headphones should be. At $540, they’re not cheap, but they’re also worth every penny. No really, they are. It’s been a long time since a piece of audio equipment brought tears of joy to my eyes, that were only matched by the sadness of realizing they were a loaner…

The DT 1990 Pros are going on my wishlist for this year, and that’s where they should be going for everyone. I can’t recommend these highly enough, the sound quality is only matched by the build quality – immaculate.

Editors’ Recommendations:

Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here for more. A sample unit was provided for the purpose of this review.

The Good
Phenomenal soundstage
Super comfortable
Solidly built
The Bad
Needs a good amp to get the best out of them
Highs can be fatiguing, especially if you're treble-sensitive
9.4
Overall
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