Beyerdynamic T90: Open Tesla Candy!

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Intro

Beyerdynamic was so kind to send us the T90 for review, well actually they asked us to review it for them and I’m not going to pass that opportunity by. This is a review sample and it will go back to Beyer after 3 months. In all fairness I have to mention that Beyerdynamic is a site sponsor since recently but that never stopped us from giving an objective review.

My Beyerdynamic History

The first serious full size headphone I bought was a Beyerdynamic DT990/600 and unfortunately we never got along as I had wished. It just wasn’t what I was looking for, sure I loved the looks and the velour pads but I wanted a lusher, fuller sound with different mids (the bass was great, the treble a bit hot) and so I got the Sennheiser HD600/HD650. At that time they were exactly what I was looking for and I sold the DT990/600, I have no regrets. Tastes of course evolve and while I still love my HD650 I have to admit that over the years I have started appreciating the Beyerdynamic house sound more and more. At the moment I own the closed DT770 AE, the Custom One Pro, the T70 and now the T90 which is on loan. The only other Beyer I sold was the DT1350 which neither Mike nor me really appreciate (or at least not enough to keep it).

Looks & Build

You love it or hate it but Beyerdynamic often uses the same basic design in their headphones with the metal ear cup holder/headband. Personally I absolutely love that design. The only thing that keeps bugging me on the other hand, is the 3m cable you can’t detach. Personally I find 3 meters a horrible length. It’s either too long to use at your desk and it’s too short to use in the couch. I was happy to see a dis-connectable cable on the COP and with all this beautiful customizable aftermarket cables available, I’d really like Beyerdynamic to start using them (more).

The material used in the headband isn’t quite the same as the one they used in the T70. This microfiber is more velour like (but it isn’t) and it is softer and thicker than the anti-allergic fabric used in the T70. The ear pads are thicker and the headphone is even more comfortable because of that. It isn’t particularly heavy or light, it’s a normal comfortable headphone (it’s actually 20gr heavier than the T70). The 250Ohm T90 is an open headphone using the Tesla driver technology and the main visual difference with the T70 is how the open ear cups have been designed. Check out the pictures at the end of the article to see for yourself, but it makes the T90 look great (but be careful, they easily scratch). So how does that influence the sound you say?

Sound and Comparisons

I was hoping the Beyerdynamic T90 would sound good and right from the start it did not disappoint. The T90 overall has a very good detail retrieval, maybe not at the same level of the Sennheiser HD800 but one of the best I’ve heard so far. Left-right balance and 3-dimensionality are simply incredible, just like the huge sound stage. The presentation in general is rather airy and there is a lot of space between the instruments. The T90 is a tight sounding headphone that’s not coloring the sound, well maybe just very slightly but you get a very clear and realistic presentation no matter what genre you’re listening to.

When talking about Beyerdynamic headphones there’s always the discussion about the recessed mids. A while ago the DT770AE showed less recession in that area and now I can only say this Beyer does an even better job. Sure they sound different as the closed AE but the mids are really there. They even have this slight touch of warmth and the detail level is top. The T90’s bass is very tight and has reasonable impact/body. Bass detail and layering are very good and bass goes really deep. It’s isn’t the most impactful bass (not like the AE) but it’s perfectly in line with the mids. The highs are also very detailed and layered but not harsh sounding at all. The treble however does “jump out” more than the rest, it’s just that bit less linear but still sounding great.

Compared to the T70 we reviewed earlier this T90 has the more airy presentation making it sound even more detailed. The T70 already is very detailed, here it just sounds more detailed because of the airy sound. The T90 however is less sharp and less aggressive sounding and has the 3-dimensionality and staging. It sounds more relaxed and it is definitely a better all-rounder. While the T70 was very strong with classical music, T90 is strong with everything. Especially the mids section is really different from the T70 and that combined with the open and airy sound makes it a whole new headphone.

I really mean that the T90 is strong with all musical genres, I’ve even spent quite a lot of time with it watching movies and I couldn’t find a genre that doesn’t match with this headphone. Of course it’s not for the regular bass head, this is so much more and has quality written all over. We tried getting a T1 at the same time for this review but we did not get it in time, which of course sucks. The sound signature of the Tesla T90 is so specific that’s it is fairly complicated to directly compare to other brand headphones, I even double checked with Mike but he does agree on my point of view. Do ask about other headphones in the comments section if needed though.

Click and read the rest of the review on the next page.

Beyerdynamic T90: Open Tesla Candy! 3.85/5 (76.92%) 13 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

  • Mdpguo

    How does this pair with the Asgard 2? I currently use a Fiio E9 which has plenty of power but I really want to see what a better Amp can do. Should I just save up the extra money and try and get a Bottlehead Crack?

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      A tube amp? Yes, for sure. It’s a smooth sounding headphone, but tubes would soften the crispy treble aspect. Which reminds me – I should get one of those amps too.

  • Igor Sheykin

    What if I want to compare this one with Stax SR-207?

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      Since they are so different, and driving them is so different, what kind of things do you want to compare?

      • Igor Sheykin

        Air, 3d-stage, sibilants, lower bass, overall comfort, frequency respond in general.
        And sound resolution (i.e. sequence of 10 Organ keystrokes are distinguishable)

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          I have the T90, but I have to rely on a headfi review of the 207 for comparison. Fortunately the 207 review describes the sound exactly compared to the HD800 which I had for 3 years. The T90 treble is exaggerated, and it isn’t subtle – it’s very pronounced. The 207 treble by the review is more neutral and also rolled off in the extreme highs. Sibilants are strong with the T90. The 207 review says its bass to lower mids is slightly ‘tubby’, while the T90 is very lean. He says the 207 bass rolls off, and while the T90 bass doesn’t really roll off, it is very lean. The T90 is very light and comfortable, while the 207 is “heavy but comfortable”. T90 resolution is very good, and the 207 review has its resolution as very good, which being an electrostatic makes sense. Overall my reading of the 207 is it’s very musical not analytical, but the T90 is very analytical. I find (for example) that the HD800 is very listenable but bright, but the T90 is much less enjoyable because of the uneven treble that exaggerates sibilants etc. I think you would find the 207 musically enjoyable, but compromised on the high and low ends of the spectrum.

  • Rogier Schreurs

    I think this one’ll make my setup complete; running the KingRex duo, Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P and DT 990 250Ω right now. Would like a bit of extra smoothness and space, please.

  • Pingback: BEYERDYNAMIC T90 ‘Review’ | Audiophilepure()

  • Eric Thompson

    I wonder how the schiit asgard or vali would work? or the pan am…

  • Nickjan Glas

    Just found this review, great reading and interesting comparisons….another candidate for the corda classic at home. with the current discounts nicely in the bracket with the hd650 and philips x2.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

      I wouldn’t pair it with the Classic though. It would deliver a too sterile analytical sound. The T90 needs a warmish amp

      • Nickjan Glas

        Ok thanks, that rules that one out then. I only have the corda for home. Back to hd650/ x2 and maybe additionally dt770 pro32 then. I do like detail.

  • Disjoint

    Hi. This is gonna be a bit long, but please bear with me.

    For a couple of months I’ve been reading dozens upon dozens of headphone reviews from various sites and I’m getting anxious. I’m kind of stuck between two (seemingly) very different sounding headphones: The Sennheiser HD-650 and the Beyerdynamic T-90. The problem is, I live in such a remote place that I have no chance to sample either. Or almost any headphone for that matter.

    I’ve grown fond of my NAD VISO HP50’s sound, although they don’t seem to like my SoundBlaster ZxR at all (probably because of the relatively high output impedance of about 38 ohms?). Maybe it’s placebo, but they seem to sound much better from my iPad. I don’t know, I’m a noob. Also, they aren’t the most comfortable headphones to wear for hours on end. I’m also looking for larger soundstage for the occasional movie watching and PC-gaming. That’s why I’m interested in buying some large and comfortable open headphones.

    So, even though I like the HP50 sound I’m REALLY interested in the T-90. The detailed and slightly emphasized treble and otherwise the kind of neutral sound intrigue me. Would I be shocked by the T-90’s treble? Would the HD-650 be a better match soundwise? Will my soundcard cause problems with either? The prices for the HD-650 and T-90 are 325€ and 398€ respectively.

    I’m up for suggestions. I’m ready to consider buying any comfortable full-size headphones for home use that cost less than 400€.

    Thanks in advance.

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      The 650 would offer good soundstage for movies and gaming etc., and while the T90 might work as well in most cases, the T90’s razor sharp treble will not work with many movie tracks and especially hi-fi music tracks.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

      I’m afraid your sound card aint up to it. The T90 needs a good amp or it will sound awful. Sme goes for the HD650 but in a lesser degree. I would either change your soundcard to an external DAC/AMP setup or change headphones to an easily driven one like the T51P or HP100 or DT770 32

    • Disjoint

      Thanks for your replies.

      Do you have experience with the ZxR with different headphones? I only have with low impedance headphones, and they sound strange to me when compared to using a phone or a tablet to drive them. ZxR’s headphone amp seems to be designed to favor higher impedance headphones, like 300-600 ohm because of its relatively high output impedance. It uses the Texas Instruments TPA 6120 amp and Burr-Brown DAC and is able to output 80mW @ 600 ohm. Not sure about the voltage.

      So, if my soundcard is unable to drive higher impedance headphones and also performs poorly with lower impedance ones, what should I do? Buy a cheap headphone amp like the Schiit Magni 2 and some easy-to-drive headphones like the Philips Fidelio X2 or try my luck with some more demanding headphones, like the HD-650?

      • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

        If your soundcard sounds strange with low impedance headphones you should switch to an external amp. I have several amps and DACs and while they sound different from each other as well as with different headphones, none of them sound strange with any headphone (or much different from an iphone either).

  • http://www.pddesign.com.au/ Paul D

    Thanks for the review.

    I just received my Beyerdynamic T90 Jubilees today. They sound amazing. I actually have to turn the volume down they sound that good. There a couple of things I dislike though. I’m not sure if I’m being picky but the earcups creek a little. The headphone adjustment is also a little flimsy and makes a clicky noise that sounds like they are breaking. I have been wearing these for a couple of hours now and my ears are warm (not hot) which is a good thing I think. Overall I’m satisfied but I would like these to be a tad lighter, non squeaky and not make a clicky noise when you adjust these. They could also be a little cooler on the ears. Not sure if that is worthy of exchanging for something else. Time will tell

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

      I have heard it before, apparently some Beyer units just make weird noise when adjusting. I had one pair that did this too but the good thing is you only have to adjust it once and then keep it there. Your ears will as good as always get warm after a while, unless the cups are really big. I find the T90 very light and comfy (I am used to the LCD-XC and a bike helmet) though.

      • http://www.pddesign.com.au/ Paul D

        Guess it is one of those things. Shame about the ears getting hot…really making me reconsider my choice. But if you say this is the case with all headphones then I may just have to put up with it. Not sure what models have bigger cups?

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

          Mr. SPeakers / Audeze. But your ears will always get warm

          • http://www.pddesign.com.au/ Paul D

            Guess so *sadface*

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          It’s interesting that even with the velour earpads and average weight, that the T90 Jubilee almost feels like a closed rather than open headphone. But for me the way I make it feel a little lighter is to shift more weight from the headband to the earcups, by pulling the earcups down a slight bit more. The MrSpeakers headphones are radically more confining though – almost claustrophobic, for average size ears anyway. The Sennheiser HD800 has big roomy cups by comparison – never feel confining.

          • http://www.pddesign.com.au/ Paul D

            I have to agree with you there Dale. These feel like a Closed Headphone now that I have been wearing them for 2-3 hours non-stop. My mate has the HD800s and he says the same thing, there is plenty of room to breathe and they don’t get hot…but the price in Oz is $1300…then you still need to add an Amp + DAC. What about the HD600 or HD700s?

            • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

              I had the HD600 (twice!), but the sound is soft, where the T90 is sharp and clear – the HD800 also. I’ve never heard the HD700, but I hear that it’s tuned differently, more like the HD650? – not sure though. Going to planars, or any that I’ve heard, would be going the opposite direction from the HD800. There’s a track you can get from HDTracks – still available separately last time I checked – David Chesky and Wonjung Kim, Girl From Guatemala – it has the most incredible treble-intense percussion I’ve ever heard, starting at 3:00 in the track. Now with the T90 it will just be intense, and very much so, but with the HD800 and any decent amp like you have now, that sound will resolve into an array of sparkle and color that’s jaw-dropping. You should hear that at least once in your life….

              • http://www.pddesign.com.au/ Paul D

                It’s a shame they did not have one in the shop (sold out)

                HD800 + Corda Jazz will set me back another $279 without a DAC, that will be a total of $1779…so it’s definitely a stretch…I actually went into the shop for AT AD900X for $245, walked out with $1500 worth of gear…credit card is hurting

              • Rogier Schreurs

                I’d say the hd700 is closer to my dt990 and AE, than it is to my hd580, just a thought. HD700 actually sounds the way i thought the t90 would sound. Haven’t heard the latter one, though.

                • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                  That’s probably a really good guess. The HD580 is similar to the HD600, but the 580’s more distant perspective makes the sound softer. I suspect the HD700 and T90 designs had very similar goals, with warmer bass and fairly sharp highs.

  • WesSeid

    It’s surprising to read the review say the T90 doesn’t color the sound when its highs are jacked up even higher than a DT990 or cheap Superlux.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

      Emphasized isn’t the same as colored. I doubt a lot of people will find the T90’s treble colored though. Maybe your amp?

      • Haryanto Suryonoto

        This is a very good answer. Emphasized is not colored. Touche!

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      It’s better than the T1. Pretty smooth treble – worst case +/- 3 db. But the overall treble is strong, for lovers of neutral hi-fi.

  • Rogier Schreurs

    Tried the T90 yesterday in a Hi-Fi store, over my Kingrex units and the Lehman Black Cube Linear. Now I’m no fan of the Lehman amp, seeing I’ve tried it with a good number of diverse headphones. Also the surroundings in which I did the testing were kind of busy and so the situation wasn’t really perfect. Still the T90 kind of let me down; No matter what I threw at it, it never seemed to charm me and I felt like I actually preferred my own DT990 over them cause the T90 seemed to be overly sibilant in many instances. And this was no out of the box specimen, it was burned in many times over. I really hoped that these cans would be a brilliant upgrade from my dt990, and kinda still do. I’m gonna see if I can try it out over my own amp some time, but it is clear to me that the T90 and HD700 are not in the same league. The HD700 actually sounds like what I expected the T90 to be.

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      When I had the T1 and T90 at the same time (purchased both), I had to EQ both for treble peaks. After doing the minimum to let them perform at their best, the T1 was delivering a cleaner higher resolution sound, making the T90 sound mid-fi at best by comparison. Oddly though, ignoring those treble bumps, most people seem to think the T90 tonality is more accurate and/or more musical. Try the Alsop-Baltimore Symphony recording of Dvorak’s 9th, second movement, about 40 seconds in where a horn and reed instrument trade the same line, and try to tell which is which.