Review: Beyerdynamic DT1990PRO – Addictive

The sound stage width and depth of the DT1990 is great, not HD800 great but really good. The spaciousness between the instruments is just right and you don’t get the feeling of a concentrated (closed) sound or an over-airy presentation. The width is better than the depth is but its layering actually is quite good. Bass, mids and treble are detailed and sound very rich, more so with the B-pads than with the more neutral and flat A-pads. With the A-pads bass doesn’t have the biggest body, there’s no extra bass like the B-pads deliver, and you get a flatter kind of tight bass with good detail and precision. With the B-pads bass is bigger and depending on the amplifier can become a little looser. Bass however is fast in most cases. The mids in the DT1990Pro are spacious, rich and detailed. The B-pads makes them seem more into the back while they with the A-Pads are neutral and at the same level as the bass and treble. Depending on the amplifier used the mids get more or less body, differently said: the amplifier has an impact on the V-shaped sound signature. I absolutely like the DT1990PRO’s treble section with both pads and I can’t hear that much different in the treble section when switching between them. Treble is extended, detailed, spacious, layered and very lively and energetic. They kind of remind me of the DT990/600s treble but in that headphone the treble had more focus because the mids were more to the back and you get a bigger V-shaped feeling.

pic_dt1990pro_16-05_close-up-yoke_

The DT1990PRO in first place is a PRO headphone and that’s very noticeable: a perfectly black background, top precision, great speed and attack. Its sound at all times is clean and clear and it benefits a lot from top quality files and recordings. With the B-Pads the DT1990PRO has the perfect mix of detail, musicality and precision. At the same time with a quick swap of pads it turns into the perfect studio monitor with a more analytical, very precise and uninfluenced sound. What’s not to love?

Comparisons

The Closed DT1770PRO sounds more concentrated and less spacious which is logic (DT1990PRO B-Pads). It has less body in the mids compared to the DT1990Pro while bass – especially sub bass  – extends more and (bass) has more body . The rumble down low is more noticeable as well. When coming from the DT1990PRO and going to the DT1770PRO bass sounds bigger and less tight. It isn’t necessarily so but the open version makes the 1770PRO sound like that right after you switch. Treble is a little softer together with the upper mids in the DT1770PRO. Voices in the DT1990Pro are a little more forward and aggressive, yet that isn’t the ideal way to describe them. They’re softer in the closed version making them easier to listen to. The DT1990PRO give the impression of sounding richer because it’s more spacious and has better layering, this combined with a better sound stage width and depth.

I would say the Beyerdynamic a T90 has more or less the same level of detail, spaciousness and the same sound stage width / depth but the T90’s higher mids and treble are “sharper” and more upfront. With the B-Pads the DT1990PRO has a little more body in bass and mids. You could say the  T90 sounds “thinner”. (Comparing both headphones on the solid state Violectric V281). The T70 is a Beyerdynamic headphone I don’t really like that much. Sure it’s flatter, more neutral, analytic with great speed, precision, depth and detail but it’s so sharp sounding I simply can’t enjoy listening to music with it although your ears do adapt after a while. The DT1990PRO has more body in bass and mids with a softer more musical presentation. I unfortunately sold my DT990/600 but from what I remember it had more bass, less mids and that made the treble section stand out more. I’ve always regretted selling it and I really should buy one again.

The Hifiman HE-400i, which more or less is in the same price class, has bigger bass and bigger mids but the level of detail and precision isn’t the same. The DT1990PRO’s sound stage also is wider and deeper. The HE-400i is warmer sounding and while it is a very very good headphone (best of mid-fi) it doesn’t reach the level of technicality the DT1990PRO has. It is more fun and it’s easier to listen to but the HE-400i is far from pro studio Monitor, so that’s perfectly ok.

Amplification

I’ve been listening to the reasonably unknown Erzetich Perfidus amplifier for the last few days (a Class-A headphone amp) and it makes the DT1990PRO sound very fast and energetic. You get heaps of detail even in the bass department and the Perfidus keeps everything tight and focused. The treble section to me is perfect on this amplifier. Both bass and lower mids have bigger body and sound very musical. I wouldn’t be surprised (and I even hope so) to see this amp become more popular in the personal audio community really soon.

pic_dt1990pro_16-05_close-up-cable-with-headphone_

The Violectric V281, which is my reference solid state headamp, beats the Perfidus in technicalities as it has more detail, better separation, better layering and a wider sound stage but it doesn’t manage to give the DT1990PPRO the same amount of bass body.  The bass body on the V281 however is more than big enough and the mid-section has the same amount of body. Where the Erzetich clearly adds bass, the V281 is more linear. At the same time the V281 is a little more relaxed to listen to, the Perfidus is faster though with better attack.

The Cayin HA-1A MK2 is a tube amp that allows you to change the sound signature a little by playing with the impedance selector. I have to say the DT1990PRO sounds very good with it: fast, detailed, clean, good body in bass and mids and all that with a slight tube touch of smoothness and a little softer treble. It’s one of my fav amps with the DT1990PRO when listening to jazz and blues music.

With the Hugo you get a thinner sound than with the Perfidus with less body in bass and mids where the voices are more forward sounding. The DT1990PRO doesn’t sound very fast on the Hugo and you don’t get the same body and richness the Perfidus delivers. I really love the Hugo but to me it doesn’t pair very well with the DT1990PRO which gives it a more V-shaped presentation. ALO Audio’s latest Continental V5 portable tube amp also doesn’t manage to deliver the Perfidus body to the DT1990PRO. You do get a lot of detail and good speed and the CV5 manages to keep everything tight but like the Hugo, voices are more forward and the mids section is a little thinner.

On the Lafigaro 339 OTL tube amp the 250Ohm impedance DT1990PRO comes alive even more. It does add more body to the bass and mids as any of the other amplifiers but the sound is rich, smooth, clean, extended and the top end is a little softer. On the 339 you get the perfect mix of speed, detail, body, warmth and musicality. It simply makes the Beyer sound sublime and I could listen for hours to in this way. I could perfectly live a very happy audio life with this setup, that says enough.

Sources

The DT1990PRO isn’t the type of headphone you use without a decent amplifier but as people keep asking me how it performs straight from a DAP, I’ll quickly go over a couple of the popular DAPs at the moment.

The musical Cayin i5 is known for delivering full bodied bass and it does just that with the DT1990Pro. It’s a very enjoyable sound but the sound stage isn’t the widest or deepest and the level of detail just isn’t showing as much here. It also puts voices more to the front and makes the upper mids and treble sound sharp and more aggressive, something I didn’t really appreciate. The mids surprisingly didn’t get the bigger Cayin body which was a little surprise. The better quality the source file is, the better this combination sounds.

dt1990pro_dt1770pro

Astell&Kern’s AK70 also has full bodied bass and mids and it manages to put more of that in the DT1990PRO, especially in the mids section. The voices are a little softer and the treble is smooth and easy. Detail levels are good and the sound stage depth and wide is better than with the Cayin i5. I could listen to this combination but I still prefer using the DT1990PRO with an amplifier.

I didn’t expect much listening to the 1990PRO straight from my good old Samsung S4 smartphone but it actually sounded rather good with good body in bass and mids, clear vocals and good detail. This actually might sound nicer than the AK70 although that last one has more detail end just sound richer and more layered. But this isn’t bad at all, excellent for emergencies when I forget my DAPs on my desk when going home.

The TOTL AK380 from Astell&Kern surprised me in a very positive way, of course we know it has great detail, layering, precision, speed, etc but I didn’t expect it to give such great body to the DT1990PRO. I do think treble might be a bit sharp for some though, volume easily went up to 95-100. I could live happily with this combination, even without an amplifier.

Conclusion        

Like I said I expected the DT1990PRO to be a lot more expensive. With a simple pad switch you can change the signature of the headphones noticeable and so you basically have 2 headphones for the price of one. Build quality and comfort is high as we’re used to with Beyerdynamic gear.

The DT1990Pro in general needs an amplifier to sound its best although some portable sources might actually surprise you, especially the AK380. Even with the B-Pads, bass body isn’t the biggest and if you like bass a lot than you should look at the DT1770PRO or a headphone with even more bass. The DT1990Pro is spacious, fast, richly detailed, clean and precise. With the A-Pads it is a perfect studio headphone while the B-Pads make it sound a little bassier.

beyerdynalic-dt19990pro

The sound signature of the headphone does change based on the headphone amp you’re using it with. The OTL 339 in example gives it the biggest bass and body with the smoothest, richest sound and the Erzetich gives it good bass, excellent speed and good detail. On my solid state amps my favorite musical genres with the DT1990PRO are “metal” and “dance music”, on the Lafigaro 339 I simply love all genres. (That’s just my personal preference though).

In short, the Beyerdynamic DT1990PRO is a great headphone and as this unit is going back to Germany, I’ve added it to my X-Mas buying list already.

Don’t forget to enter the free giveaway for the Beyerdynamic DT770PRO 250Ohm we’re doing, there’ a few days left to enter.

 

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

47 Comments

  • Reply September 20, 2016

    Barun C

    Nice article Lieven. I used to own the DT990s (250 Ohm 2005 Version) and they also had a great synergy with the Little Dot MK III (With 6H30P DR, WE 403B tubes) in comparison to SS Head Amps.

    These look beautiful and at the mentioned price range they seem worthy.

    • Reply September 20, 2016

      Lieven

      Thank you, Barun. For the price it’s very good indeed, especially on tubes ;à

  • Reply September 20, 2016

    Ali

    Great review Lieven.

    Looking forward to reading your Cayin HA-1A MK2 review.

    • Reply September 20, 2016

      Lieven

      Thank you. That might be a while though :/

  • Reply September 20, 2016

    Alan Gruskoff

    Do these “PRO” headphones provide a 1/4″ connector to work with all my PRO equipment, or do they have the 3.5mm connectors to work with consumer phones?

    I will not use any of those awful little crappy adapters to get a cable to work with all my PRO equipment which have 1/4″ connectors.

  • Reply September 22, 2016

    Petros

    Hello , how the compare to the HD650?

    • Reply September 22, 2016

      Lieven

      The HD650 is lower, smoother, doesn’t have any V-shaped curve, treble is softer. It’s a completely different headphone so I didn’t compare it to the Senn

  • Reply September 22, 2016

    Petros

    Well it seems that the 650 is still unique! I am searching for the “new” 650 but no luck yet. May be the Elear? I am waiting for your review. Thank you. (What about the HD700?)

  • Reply October 7, 2016

    Anders Kongsvoll

    Have you tried the 1770Pro with the A-pads? Personally I think the 1770pro has I bit too much bass, it’s dominant. So I bought the T5p G2. But curious to know how the 1770 would respond to different pads.
    Thanks – Anders
    (use chord mojo, and the velour pads that came with the 1770)

  • Reply October 12, 2016

    Edward Lau

    How much does this 1990 leak out? Would it be usable in an office environment without others able to hear at moderate volume? When I had the 1770, it isolated very well. My ATH-R70X is open but surprisingly doesn’t leak very much at all at moderate volume.

  • Reply November 20, 2016

    HKING

    Hello Lieven,

    Which one would you prefer more with these cans La Figaro or Ha-1a MK2?

    • Reply November 20, 2016

      Lieven

      I prefer the sonic character of the 339 but the Cayin allows to finetune the sound because of the Impedance settings.

      • Reply November 24, 2016

        Oscardunn

        Lieven

        Which amp sounds better with HD800?

        • Reply November 24, 2016

          Lieven

          They both sound good but I’ll go for the 339

  • Reply November 20, 2016

    johthor

    Very nice review Lieven. As you liked the 1990 with the Lafigaro 339 amp did you get a chance to try it with the Crack. I have the DT990/250 and the DT880/600 and really like both of them with the Crack.

    • Reply November 20, 2016

      Lieven

      Thank you. I haven’t yet but I have no doubt it sounds really good.

  • Reply June 28, 2017

    Frank

    Hi,
    did you compare the 1990’s with the T1? I heard them both, but not at the same time. Recently I heard the 1990 and it reminded me much on the T1 (first edition). If my memory doesn’t fool me, the “bang-for-the-buck” ratio of the DT 1990 would be awesome.

    (BTW: I didn’t like the Amiro. A more or less failed attempt to re-create a HD 650.)

    Thanks
    Frank

  • Reply June 28, 2017

    Lieven

    If you’re into the T1 and or the DT1990, chances are huge you won’t like the Amiron.
    The DT1990 does indeed have the highest price/quality ratio. I didn’t compare both as I don’t have a T1 (I really don’t like it), but I cans ay the DT1990 is easier to listen to, but it isn’t as neautral

  • Reply November 8, 2017

    Dimitri

    I know that the Philips Fidelio X2 is a completely different headphone, but would you please be able to venture a “comparison” for someone that so far has grown to enjoy the X2 sound?
    Thank you in advance

  • Reply November 8, 2017

    Lieven

    Very different. Pro audio vs warm and bass. Opposites. These shouldn’t really be compared

    • Reply November 9, 2017

      Dimitri

      Thank you for your speedy response Lieven, I really appreciate it. I guess I already anticipated that answer. Let me rephrase a bit then, would YOU PERSONALLY choose a pro audio headphone like the DT 1990 Pro to ENJOY listening to music at home?

      • Reply November 9, 2017

        dale thorn

        Describe your music preferences, and how they sound to you.

        • Reply November 9, 2017

          Dimitri

          Mainly Rock, Electronica (Massive Attack, Faithless), EDM

          • Reply November 9, 2017

            dale thorn

            Yes, that is your music. Now, answer the rest of the question please.

            • Reply November 9, 2017

              Dimitri

              The type of rock tracks I usually go for sound involving and energetic to me. I usually prefer male vocalists and enjoy a multilayered presentation with an average amount of depth. The electronica tracks I prefer, have a rich contrast of mids and bass, I am sucker for transients and decay.
              For EDM I usually choose Chill-Out House or Tech-Minimal House tracks and these sound mellow and warm to me.
              I am not sure if I managed to master a satisfactory answer, please excuse my inability to describe what I am hearing with a audiophile-rich vocabulary.
              I appreciate your helpful altitude towards an uninitiated pair of ears lol

              • Reply November 9, 2017

                dale thorn

                Get the X2 then. The DT’s would have better technicals, but the X2 to my ears give a more colorful tone and harmonics for music enjoyment. That might sound like a contradiction, but when your intent is to just relax and listen, I think the X2 is more enjoyable. If you were mainly gaming or watching movies, I think the DT’s (Tesla) would be more dramatic.

                • Reply November 9, 2017

                  Dimitri

                  Thank you very much Dale, I have both of them coming in along with a friend’s used pair of T1 Gen.2.
                  I’ll report back with my limited vocabulary as soon as I get a good hear out of all of them, maybe this will help others wondering what would be the difference in actual perceived aural enjoyment from models with such big price delta.

      • Reply November 9, 2017

        Lieven

        That depends on your musical preference. I have no issues with that

  • Reply December 5, 2017

    Luis García

    Great review. I am looking for a neutral sound studio headphones under $1000. I am between the sennheiser HD 700, the Sony MDR7520 and this one. For home recording which one would you recomend me.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply December 5, 2017

      Oliver

      Actually a Sennheiser HD600/650/660. You don’t want a headphone to sound good, you want one to translate well. I have a HD600, a DT1990, HD800, Stax SR007MkII among others. But I always use the HD600 for recording. Not because it is the best sound I can get, it isn’t. But when a mix sounds right on the HD600 it will sound right on a huge stereo AND a boom box.

      None of the others fit that category as well. But if a client want to listen to the mix, I give them the 1990. It adds a little excitement and punch most not highly trained listeners enjoy thoroughly.

  • Reply February 8, 2018

    Mike I

    Hi Lieven,
    You seem to like the Cayin HA-1A Mk2 a lot, and you use it in your headphone reviews. When can we expect a “Headphonia” review about this intresting amp ?

    • Reply February 8, 2018

      Lieven

      I am so late with that review, I know. Sorry

  • Reply February 22, 2018

    Ryan M

    I have been looking at the DT1990 and the Amiron Home for being my next headphones. Which one would you think would fit my needs better being that I will use these mostly with “metal,hardcore,rock,and folk” music. I have a DT990 Pro and that has a good clamp pressure for my head. Thanks!

  • Reply February 27, 2018

    saman

    hi, thanks for review. i have a question: what is your opinion about fido X3(first gen) with dt1990? or x3+amiron home? i listen to post-rock and post metal like “if these trees could talk”. i can buy amiron home with 522$ here in iran! it’s cheaper than US market. if you have any good suggestions from senheiser which i use IE80 from them now or any other brands please tell me. thank you.

    • Reply March 1, 2018

      Lieven

      I wouldn’t recommend any of these directly from the X3

  • Reply July 18, 2018

    Zen R.

    How do the Beyerdynamic DT1990’s compare to the HiFiMan Sundara? Thanks.

  • Reply January 9, 2019

    Stefano

    I just bought the DT 1990 Pro.

    What can I say: I LOVE them!!

    Now, I have a problem: I would like to have IEM that sounds like that for when I’m not at home.

    I have the Campfire Andromeda which are supposed to be airy, bright… but hey, the DT 1990 Pro just blows me away in this regards and compared to the Andromeda! I cannot appreciate the Andromeda anymore as before.

    So, again my question: Do you know about IEM that sounds as the DT 1990 Pro?

    • Reply February 7, 2019

      Lieven

      that’s very difficult , I can’t think of any just like that

  • Reply January 28, 2019

    Ken W

    Excellent review. I’ve been mulling over an upgrade/change from the Sennheiser HD650, and am looking for a headphone with more extended bass, overall clarity, and better soundstange and imaging. I’ve basically narrowed my search down to the HE-560 and DT1990. Out of those two, which do you think is best suited to complement the HD650?

    • Reply February 7, 2019

      Caleb

      I own both and the dt1990 has a much better soundstage, dynamics, separation and I prefer the treble although the HE560 is much brighter. The bass on the dt1990 also extends much lower although has less impact but it feels perfect go me on the dt1990. The HE560 (due in part to being a planar) is much slower and I feel like when songs get really complex the HE560 is playing catch up and I haven’t run into a song the dt1990 cannot keep up with

  • Reply September 29, 2019

    Cole

    Great review. I love my DT 1990s. I will note that the outer shell is aluminum, not plastic.

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