Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro 250 Ohm Headphones Review

The rumors were all true!

I tried to buy a pair of DT990’s once before, last summer. But they showed up with one of the pads damaged significantly.

I still listened to them for a few minutes…and it was a pretty great experience even with the stupidly-broken pad. I vowed to one day return to these headphones.

And now here we are.

No coffee shop shots this time. I’d feel terrible using these there. The DT990’s are so open that they’re really only suitable for home or studio use.

OVERVIEW

Beyerdynamic’s open-backed DT990 headphones are rather polarizing due to their unique sound signature. They come in two versions, “Edition” and “Pro.”

The Edition model is designed primarily for home listening, and comes in 32 ohm, 250 ohm, and 600 ohm variants.

The Pro model currently only comes in a 250 ohm version. There’s a limited edition version with black ear pads and a straight cable…but the default version comes with classic Beyerdynamic grey ear pads and a coiled cable. The Pro model is targeted at mixing/mastering and critical listening use, and has a different build and slightly higher clamping force.

I chose the Pro version this time hoping that its packaging would protect my pads, and it did. The Pro version comes tightly wrapped up in a cardboard box, the same way the DT770 Pro is packaged. The Edition model comes in a soft carrying case, and the way the headphones sit in that case was the doom of my previous pair.

Pricing is all over the map on DT990's…but they usually go for between $150 and $200.

That’s a killer deal… if you’re the sort of person who will like their sound signature.

SOUND QUALITY

I don’t usually like open-backed headphones. They often lack the bass response I’m after.

I love the sound of the DT990’s. They’re an open-backed headphone, but with bass. And some other things people might hate. Where by other things I mean “aggressive treble.”

Critics of these headphones think that they’re too v-shaped. And that their treble will destroy your mind.

I can sort of see where they’re coming from. There’s a bit of aggression in both the bass and treble on the DT990’s. Most of the bass is in the lower midbass region, and subbass extension is weaker than the DT770’s. But these can still really thump.

The highs are also quite aggressive. To me, they’re just south of the fatigue point. However, I don’t listen that loud, and I’m not as bothered by shimmery treble as some people. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the treble is “just fine.” It’s pretty darn aggressive, prominent, and even a bit sibilant on certain recordings…but as someone who already adapted to and enjoys the DT770’s, I still love it.

On first listen, I could immediately hear why these are so polarizing. They have a speed and character that’s a lot like the DT770, but with a bit more push in the bass and treble.

Fortunately, the mids are wonderful, musical, and accurate. It’s the amount of bass and treble here that will either make these winners or losers in your book.

Also, these do benefit from an amp. I was able to push them out of my MacBook cranked up a bit, but they’re revealing enough that I preferred how they sounded out of any of my small desktop amps. The difference isn’t huge. But if you need really high volumes or you’re a detail hound, you should consider an amp.

Some folks like to use tube amps to tone down the treble a bit, and again, I honestly can’t blame them even though I love the sound here.

Obligatory Photo of comfy Beyerdynamic velour material

SOUNDSTAGE

The open-backed design and shouty treble work together to produce an excellent sense of depth, imaging, and soundstage. The DT990’s are a wonderful gaming headphone, and I’ve used them for many gaming sessions and quite enjoyed the experience.

Although I prefer the isolation of closed-back headphones, there’s no denying the extreme fun of the soundstage in these headphones. They’re some of the widest I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.

COMFORT/ISOLATION

I’m going to mention isolation first even though it’s second in the above heading.

There’s none! Zip! Zero!

These are very very open, and very very leaky also. Don’t use them in an outside-the-house capacity, and maybe don’t use them at high volumes if other people are in the room!

Comfort is wonderful in spite of the higher clamping force of the Pro model. The pads are made from a plush foam, and covered in Beyerdynamic’s trademark grey velour. They are softer than my DT770’s and more comfy. The softer foam is by design, since these don’t need to isolate and the 770’s do.

The cups have plenty of room for my ears, although I’ve seen some other folks report that they have a little contact between the back of their ear and the inside of the cup. The foam at the back of the cup is very soft, so this shouldn’t get to you too much.

The headband leatherette is softer than the leatherette on my 770’s, and feels more like the material used on the Custom One Pro headband. Neat!

I can wear these for hours without issue, and I have on several occasions.

Being a Pro model, my DT990’s have the Beyerdynamic Pro-style headband pad, which is easily removable with these snaps.

BUILD/DESIGN

These look and feel almost exactly like a DT770 Pro, but with open-backed cups. That means the build is a good mix of textured plastic and metal, and is quite solid. Every part here is user-replaceable, and everything feels pretty darn robust.

The design is straight out of the 80’s.

I think the two-tone filter at the back of the ear cup, and the grill pattern on top of it, both give these a slightly classier look than the DT770’s. But if you’re not into something slightly big and studio-like, the Edition model might be more your thing design-wise.

EXTRAS/FEATURES

The DT990 Pros come with the same goofy nylon bag that the DT770’s come with, and also one 6.3mm adapter. And that’s it.

The cable material is nice and supple.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Are you looking for the slightly aggressive sound of the DT770’s but in an open-backed form? Does a sound signature with a fair bit of oomph in the bass and treble appeal to you?

If the answer to those questions is no, you will hate these.

But if, like me, you really love the DT770’s, then you’ll probably like these too.

I spent much longer doing listening tests on these than I normally do. I usually turn a review around a few days after buying a pair, but I’ve been living with these for a week and a half. I don’t have as many chances to use open headphones as closed-back ones, and I wanted to make sure I loved the sound here before I committed to the review.

It’s true that I have a tendency to like the Beyerdynamic house sound, and if you disagree with me and think these are too v-shaped or too treble-strong I can’t really blame you at all.

But man. These are fast, punchy, sparkly, wide open headphones. And I think they’re perfect for the critical listening applications that Beyerdyanmic pitches them for…and pretty fun for gaming, too. The emphasis areas are perfect for hearing the flaws in music/recordings, or for hearing footsteps and explosions in a video game.

I’d probably still recommend the 770’s over these, because their closed back design is more versatile for the traveling listener and their sound signature isn’t as aggressive. The Custom One Pro is also a better choice for folks that don’t want shouty treble.

I still love these and I’m still keeping them forever.

I have no idea how Beyerdynamic achieved this level of bass response on headphones that are so open. You can even hear the bass when you hold your ear up to the outside of the cup with music playing, so they’re doing some amazing work with the driver and enclosure here! It’s just not going to be to everyone’s taste.

But it really makes me happy.

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