Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro is one of the “old guard” open back studio headphones from the 90-ies which was at the time pitted against AKG K701 and Sennheiser HD600. Despite the respectable age of the design, the DT990 Pro is often found in many studios and often users recommend them as a mid price point open back studio headphone. Let’s find out what the DT990 offers to a sound engineer and reflect how they stack up to today’s offerings.
- Type: Open, dynamic, over-ear, with cable
- Impedance: 250 Ohm
- Claimed Total harmonic distortion: < 0.2%
- Claimed frequency response: 5 Hz to 35 kHz
- Includes 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter
- Weight: 250 g (without cable)
- Cable length: 3 m coiled cable
Do they require a headphone amp? YES
- Unless you listen exclusively on low volume, then the DT 990 will require something beefier than the output of your phone or computer. The story here is similar to that of DT 880 or DT 770 250 Ohm versions – even though the nominal impedance is lower than, for example, Sennheiser HD650, these are less sensitive and thus harder to drive. Most modern audio interfaces should have no problem reaching dangerous SPL’s with the DT990 Pro, same goes for the majority of dedicated headphone amplifiers. The 250 Ohm does present a nice benefit of the DT990 Pro being rather insensitive to high output impedance.
- Like its sister headphone DT770, the DT990 Pro won’t be winning any beauty contests. They do feel sturdy and you won’t have to babysit them. The ear-cups are made out of plastic, but the U-frame holding the ear-cups is metal, which should take any abuse from everyday studio work. Ear-pads, which are replaceable, are made from velour, which hugs the sides of your head without any pronounced pressure points. Do keep in mind that with use the earpads will deform and soak up the sweat you’ve been producing to finish those projects in time! Swap them out every two or so years, as worn ear-pads change the sound of your DT990 Pro and there’s always the smell…
How do they sound out of the box: 5/10
- DT990 bears a similarity to its siblings, the DT770 & DT880, and exhibits some excitement towards the top and low end. One could actually call this a U-curve. The treble iceberg which starts at around 6.5kHz makes it hard to judge any instrument overtones. Despite manufacturer’s recommendation, it’s very hard to imagine the DT990 Pro to be suitable for mastering. The emphasized highs might make it easier to pick out some issues in the mix, but the price to pay is an overall skewed presentation which will force the engineers’ hand and tire their ears.
- The DT 990 Pro is very comfortable to wear. These headphones rely on their clamping force to stay on one’s head, but the clamp is well distributed thanks to the large ear-pads. The headband presses on the top of the head very lightly and shouldn’t cause discomfort.
Channel balance 8/10
- Overall, DT 990 Pro does well here, there is some imbalance down low which shouldn’t present a problem. The slight discrepancy in the highs wasn’t audible in our listening tests.
Are they worth the price? 7/10
- At around 120 EUR, they’re a decent entry level headphone. However the sound signature is very coloured and serious work can only be done if one has spent considerable time learning their peculiarities.
How would we evaluate the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro out-of-the-box?
- Overall: durable, lightweight, sits comfortably on the head and most of the parts are replaceable. The U-curve means that the DT990 Pro is more suited where tonal accuracy isn’t critical.
- Pros: Priced really good, lightweight, yet built to last.
- Cons: U-curve sound signature, the cable cannot be replaced
Our evaluation: 7/10
Some observations on how they perform after applying Sonarworks correction
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 7/10 As expected from an open-back headphone from the last century, the DT990 performs nice overall, but the driver starts to distort in low-bass, limiting its use for sub-bass monitoring. Most of the distortion profile is dominated by 2nd order which means that even when driven hard the sound will remain rather pleasant to hear.
- How accurate and consistent is the correction effect among different listeners?: 7.5/10 Overall they do translate pretty good between different listeners, however, there’s a bit of an issue in the low end in the form of a resonance, that’s rather tricky to get rid of. Other than that – consistent, especially given its affordable price.
- How much do they differ pair to pair in terms of frequency response?: 8.5/10 Overall, they stay pretty consistent, with few outliers here and there, but the general trend stays the same, which means that the average headphone profile should do a nice job.
Conclusion on calibrated Beyerdynamic DT 990 Professional (250 Ohm):
Pros: Open back headphone sound at an affordable price point
Cons: Some distortion can be noticed in the sub-bass region
Recommended music genres: Almost anything, just be careful with sub-bass
Best use case: Mixing and mastering. Not suitable for tracking due to the open design.
Alternatives: Audio-Technica R70x, Sennheiser HD 600, Focal Listen Pro, Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
Our evaluation after Beyerdynamic DT 990 Professional (250 Ohm) being corrected: 8.5/10
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