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Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO
August 9, 2016
Original: $599 USD
June 2022: $549 USD
3m (straight cable)
5m (coiled cable)
Beyerdynamic is famous for its large, over-ear headphones built for the studio. We’ve reviewed older products like the DT 990 PRO to newer ones like the DT 700 PRO X, both of which are easy to recommend depending on your needs. But today we’re looking at a years-old product that stands the test of time: the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO. This shares some similarities with its predecessors, but for the most part, the DT 1990 PRO is better in every meaningful way.
Editor’s note: this Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO review was updated on June 8, 2022, to include frequency response and isolation charts. We also reformated the article by adding in-line FAQs and a section comparing the headset to the DT 900 PRO X from Beyerdynamic.
What’s it like to use the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO?
At some point in your life, you may have heard about the beauty that is German engineering, and the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO is a prime example of that. This headset is made almost entirely of matte black metal, with only the bare minimum plastic covering the wires. The headphones are also open-back and show off that fact with intricate offset cuts into the side of each ear cup. From a distance, it looks shiny and noteworthy, but getting close up you’ll see it’s just a small grille that separates the drivers from the air. It’s that attention to detail that you’ll find all over this headset.
It comes with two sets of ear pads for what Beyerdynamic says is for “balanced” or analytical listening. The ear pads slightly affect the frequency response (which we’ll get into a little later) and are wrapped in a plush velour that makes them as comfortable as they look. They come with the “balanced” ear pads pre-installed, but I’d recommend switching out to the analytical ear pads for no other reason than comfort.
My one issue here is the convoluted method Beyerdynamic expects you to swap them out. Each ear pad has a small flap, which needs to be placed in a small notch on the ear cup. Rotating the ear pad should align the entire thing in place, and it works but takes a long time to get right (in my case, 20 minutes). As clever as it seems at first, there has to be a simpler solution to this problem.
Taking a step back, you can fully appreciate the overall build even further thanks to the padded leather headband and removable cable on the bottom of the left ear cup. You’ll get a 3-pin mini XLR cable that snaps into place and doesn’t budge afterward. Up top is the adjustable headband wrapped almost entirely in soft but firm leather. At 370 grams, this isn’t going to float over your head, but it won’t hurt either. The ear pads get a little warm after a while—as you might expect from giant velour ear pads like these.
How do you connect the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO?
Now is when we get to the fun stuff. Both cables have an impedance of 250Ω which means you’re probably going to need something to sufficiently drive this. Is it completely necessary? Usually, we’d say not really but here it might be necessary. Plugging the DT 1990 PRO into my laptop (and even iPad) let me hear what was going on just fine, but I had to crank to volume to 100% on those devices just to get to what would normally be around 70%. If you don’t want to deal with that annoying issue, picking up a decent amp will do wonders.
You’ll get two cables in the box, one 3-meter straight cable and another coiled cable that can reach 5 meters when stretched out. Both cables have a 3-pin mini XLR on one end and a 3.5mm jack on the other. Each cable also has its own screw-on 1/4-inch adapter.
Does the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO block out noise?
Since the DT 1990 PRO is a set of open-back headphones, it doesn’t block out any noise. While some people may be surprised by this, it’s a feature of the headset. This allows you to get a better sense of “space” in your music, often described as “soundstage.” That said, my perceived sense of auditory space when listening to these headphones wasn’t as good as expected. It’s only slightly better than the DT 990 Pro headphones. I guess I was expecting more of an upgrade, but as it is with most high-end equipment, you can end up paying a lot for only a small upgrade. It should also go without saying that sound leakage is at a maximum here.
How does the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO sound?
Depending on what you’re looking for, you can get two kinds of frequency responses out of the DT 1990 PRO when you switch the ear pads. The differences between them are subtle, but they’re there. The ear pads don’t change the way the drivers sound, but if you opt for the “balanced” pads (the one with a bunch of holes on the back) you will get a slightly more emphasized low end than the analytical ear cups. As I said, it isn’t too aggressive a change, but the headphones already have a decent low end without any help (see above).
Lows, mids, and highs
The bass and midrange is about as neutral as headphones get and you can hear this in the song Moon River by Frank Ocean. Where the bass line never overpowers vocals or other instrumentation. Mids still come through clearly, and vocals in the song Wait by the River by Lord Huron are easy to hear. I think it sounds fantastic. The open-back design and slight emphasis on the higher frequencies make hi-hats and cymbals sound damn near perfect but many people loathe Beyerdynamic’s boosted treble response.
Should you get the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO?
If you have a budget of around $400-600 USD for a pair of headphones and only care about listening to music, then yes get this. Beyerdynamic did a great job making the DT 1990 PRO practical for work and a great everyday headset. The build quality is top-notch and this is comfortable enough to wear for hours. But it should go without saying that this isn’t for anyone who wants to go portable.
Though this comes with a nice carrying case, it’s more a way to get it from one desk to another rather than taking it out for a quick listen on the subway. If you do decide to pick this up, you should also have a good amp to drive it, otherwise, you’re going to spend even more money just to properly drive this.
What should you get instead of the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO?
The Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X is a great alternative to the DT 1990 PRO because it shares a similar open-back build with lower power requirements. You can just as easily use your iPhone to power this as you would a desktop computer thanks to the 48Ω impedance. The DT 900 PRO X frequency response is almost completely neutral from the sub-bass through the mids, and the treble response, while boosted, is pleasant. Listeners who want excellent sound quality in a slightly more portable package that costs less than the DT 1990 PRO should get this. Alternatively, the closed-back DT 700 PRO X is a great option too.
You can tell that the headsets have very similar outputs, particularly along the midrange. Things diverge a bit in the treble range where the DT 900 PRO X has a louder output from 5-7kHz.
If after realizing this, you don’t want to spend a ton of money and want a more portable studio headset, look into the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2. This explicitly takes after the wired Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and includes Bluetooth 5.0 with support for the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. The bass and midrange response isn’t nearly as accurate as with the DT 900 PRO X, but Audio-Technica’s headset is half the cost.