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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.