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Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro Review (headphone)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Beyerdynamic DT990 (250 ohm) open back headphone. A member was kind enough to purchase one new and drop ship it to me due to request from membership! The DT990 costs about $160 and has been around for many years.

I like the look of the DT 990:

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Review open back headphone.jpg


The pads felt hard at first but after just a couple of hours of use, they became more comfortable. Combined with light weight of the unit, they are nice to wear.

I did not care as much for the plastic cups, nor the sharp edges of meta pieces:
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Review open back headphone pad dimensions.jpg


The cups are round and large making for easy fit not only around your ears but also the measurement gear. I have never had a headphone so easy to mount on my fixture to measure.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are preformed using standardized GRAS 45CA headphone measurement fixture. Headphone measurements require more interpretation than speaker tests and have more of a requirement for subjective testing as a result. In addition, comparison of measurements between different people performing it using different configurations requires fair bit of skill. So don't look for matching results. Focus on high level picture. Listening tests are performed using RME ADI-2 DAC and its headphone output.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Measurements
Let's start with frequency response of DT 990 and comparison to our preference target:
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Measurement 250 ohm headphone frequency response.png


We have some serious issues here. The headphone is tuned to produce its max bass output at around 150 Hz below which it drops rapidly. Inverse is in play above 2 kHz where we way overshoot. Predicted response then would be a bit boomy and very sharp and bright. Here is the same as relative measure:
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Measurement 250 ohm headphone relative frequency response.png


Bad news doesn't stop there. Distortion is quite high:
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Measurement 250 ohm headphone distortion relative.png


Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Measurement 250 ohm headphone distortion.png


The DT990 is also extremely insensitive:
Most efficient headphone review 2021.png



You better have a very high performance headphone amplifier that can drive its high impedance and provide the required power:

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Measurement 250 ohm headphone Impedance.png


Notice how 250 ohm is the minimum impedance. Close to tuning frequency of the headphone, it shoots up to 350 ohm so your headphone amp needs to also have a very low output impedance as to not impact the frequency response of this headphone. Heaven knows you don't want to mess up the response of this headphone any more than it already is!

Group delay response shows some areas you don't want to eq as usual (shown as dip in frequency response) and some fuzziness that I rather not see:
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Measurement 250 ohm headphone Group Delay.png


Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphone Listening Tests and EQ
It took all of a few seconds to want to rip the DT 990 off my head as I always start with female vocals and this headphone shred the vocals to pieces. And proceeded to drill into your head with those shards! This thing is so bright that it brought high frequencies resonances that I did not even think were in the music! This stood out even more because there is little sub-bass energy. The peaking around 150 Hz provides a bit of help there but also can sound a bit boomy on some content.

Distortion was a serious problem. At moderately high level it would add this warbling sound to many tones from vocals and some lower notes. At higher levels bass notes would start to create ticking sounds. You wouldn't normally listen that this level though so it is an engineering failure more than audible one (without EQ).

I am always hopeful that I can fix headphones with EQ but my first two tries last night were met with failure. This headphone's main saving grace is its rather good spatial qualities. Alas, fixing the high frequency peaks and levels by eye killed that aspect and still left the nastiness that was in there at times. Any attempt to boost the bass frequencies resulted in nasty bass distortion and worse warbling sound per above.

Right when I was going to give up, I decided to use an assisted method to develop the EQ. I swept the headphone and manually dialed in EQ settings and iterated to get rid of the peaking in three high frequency bands. This was the result:
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Measurement 250 ohm headphone with and without EQ.png


Focusing on the left, I had dialed in some 6 dB yet the effect was minimal in response. I pushed that up to eve 10 dB and the graph simply did not change indicating the driver is out of gas. Audible effect of that bass boost was horrible with distortion galore. So I took that out. I then found the sound to be rather dull and spatial effects compromised. So I dialed in a shelving filter that boosted the entire range. This was the final result:
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro equalization eq.png


You can mess with that shelfing filter (Band 5) to your taste. On some content I wanted it higher, on some others, less. The latter is what I am showing here.

I must say, I was surprised how this finally salvaged the headphone sound. I am listening to it as I type this and it almost sounds "normal" in a good way! :) Mind you, if you turn up the level too much, the warbling sound comes to haunt you but that is likely not your everyday level.

Conclusions
While the DT 990 Pro is a comfortable headphone to wear, it has a seriously flawed design with poor frequency response which exaggerates the heck out of highs and dumps a bunch of distortion in there for good measure. It also lacks deep bass reproduction. Careful equalization did manage to salvage it at the end but took a lot of doing.

I am not going to recommend the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro. It is just too broken. Even though EQ helped a lot, it is still an inefficient headphone with high distortion. If you have one, use my EQ and comment on how you like it. Otherwise it is a pass with or without EQ. Let's hope we can find a headphone as comfortable as this but with much better engineering.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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sweetchaos

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Jimbob54

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Oooops. I have a couple of Beyers higher up the product line. I dont hold out much hope that they will measure much better.
 

solderdude

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All those Beyers are limited in max. excursions.
The very early (high impedance ones) even had zener diodes in anti-series to prevent maximum excursions.
Later on Beyer realized this was a bad idea when connecting it to a power amp.:facepalm:

Mount Beyer ... some like it, some don't.
All Beyers are equally 'flawed' when they are driven to points they weren't designed for.
114dB = their maximum continuous power rating (100mW)
 
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TulseLuper

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This is about what I expected to see. I have these and they're my "I need audio at my computer and don't feel like wearing Audeze" headphones. To their credit, they are very durable and comfortable to me. I bought them 10 or 11 years ago and have not babied them. Just an earpad replacement, and they show almost no signs of wear.
 

sacguy231

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Yikes. I've had several Beyer cans over the years (T1.1, T1.2, DT1990, and Amiron Home). They each had their own issues, but all had some charm or quality about them as well. Both my T1 had channel imbalance issues. I will never buy another Beyer can without testing in-person first. The only one I kept was the Amiron Home, still love it.
 

JIW

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Anybody in the UK want to buy a DT1990 and/ or a T1? Daddy needs a pair of Dan Clark opens.

Oratory1990 has measured the DT1990 and the T1.2.
Screenshot 2021-01-31 at 23.23.35.png

Source: https://www.dropbox.com/s/o7zkgbc1b6flevp/Beyerdynamic DT1990 (A Earpads).pdf?dl=0

Screenshot 2021-01-31 at 23.24.17.png

Source: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ipqx4n8hpeg952b/Beyerdynamic T1 2nd.pdf?dl=0


Also, here is his measurement of the DT990 for reference.
Screenshot 2021-01-31 at 23.26.16.png

Source: https://www.dropbox.com/s/gryfjs3i30c7r5h/Beyerdynamic DT990 (new earpads).pdf?dl=0


Also, since it was mentioned by @sacguy231, here is his measurement of the Amiron Home.
Screenshot 2021-01-31 at 23.28.05.png

Source: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fjmrgdg3dvi0cqf/Beyerdynamic Amiron Home.pdf?dl=0
 

sejarzo

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Had the DT880 for awhile and traded it again on Head-Fi. Thin, thin, thin.

At the next local meet, a guy was raving about his DT-990s, so I thought they had to have fixed what was wrong with the DT880s. LOL nope...they were twice as bad in all the same problem areas of the DT880 to my ears.
 

Vini darko

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Jimbob54

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There's a house sound if I ever saw one.

Consistent. The FR was known, its the distortion I find a bit icky. That said, Im listening to my T1.2 now, with some EQ on and I still like them. Quite a lot. So either I am deaf, these arent half as bad as the 990 or the human ear can be quite forgiving. Or possibly a mix of all 3.
 
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