High-end headphones can be a bit of a crapshoot, especially if you’re buying online. With so many options out there now, many people rely on older companies that have been around the block a few times to deliver them to audio nirvana. Beyerdynamic is one of those older players, with an absolutely legendary line of cans and many, many years of design experience. But is the open-back DT 880 PRO right for you? Now that’s a good question.
This review was updated February 22, 2019 to include test data.
What’s in the box
Taking a peek inside the packaging for the DT 880 PRO, you’ll find your headphones, a 1/4″ adapter (threaded), assorted documentation, a carrying pouch, and a reminder to enjoy your headphones printed onto the top fastening tab.
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro terminate in a 1/8th-inch TRS plug, threaded for a 1/4-inch adapter for high-end/high-output systems. You’ll need an amp for these babies to get the most out of them, and that’s really not much of a surprise. With dynamic headphones, impedance isn’t exactly something that is constant from frequency to frequency, and can vary wildly. Since these headphones’ impedance at 1kHz is 250Ω already, you can bet that at some points it’s a bit higher. However, you don’t need to go crazy here, just get an amp that suits your needs and don’t worry too much that you didn’t spend enough. A FiiO, Objective Amp, or even a cheapie Focusrite interface should be overkill.
Given that this particular model has a high impedance of 250Ω and a sensitivity of 96dB/mW, an amp is the only way to push these louder. However, 96dB is plenty f’ing loud, so don’t go too crazy with that volume knob, eh? There are 32Ω and 600Ω versions of the DT 880 PRO, but I highly suggest getting the 250 or 600Ω model over the 32Ω one, as its low damping factor can sometimes lead to unexpected performance issues. They’re still great headphones, but if you can find them all for the same price, you squeeze that much more out of the higher-impedance models.
Build and design
The DT 880 PRO is a set of semi-open over-ear headphones, with a matte chrome finish on the back, and a matte black finish on the metal ear forks and band. The band itself is wrapped in a leather padding that’s fastened by buttons (more on that later). The cable hangs from the left ear cup, protected by stout rubber guards and shielding. Should you tend to move around a lot while listening, the three meters (9.8ft) of coiled cable length will give you some needed freedom from your computer chair.
But what’s probably the best thing about Beyerdynamic cans is the fact that their external features are not only largely identical, but they’re really good. The metal band and forks aren’t going to break on you, and should parts like the band padding wear out: you just get new ones online. If for some reason you’re not a fan of velour on your noggin, you can go online and grab yourself any Beyerdynamic replacement pads, and they’ll work on the DT 880 PRO as well. Don’t wear glasses like me, and prefer leather? You can grab ’em. Don’t like silver as a color? You get the idea.
If you plan on using these at the computer or mixing board, you’ll appreciate the fact that the velour pads in conjunction with the wide area of contact make for a very comfortable experience, especially over long periods of time. Because the backs are “semi” open, heat doesn’t tend to build up, but sound does leak a lot—plan accordingly.
So lets get this out of the way first: My impressions of these cans have not changed since I first reviewed them in 2013 for another outlet. However, I do want to call attention to something I flubbed on last time, and that’s the relative over-emphasis of sibilant sounds in the 7-10kHz range. While many people have difficulty hearing these notes—especially if you’re older—it’ll definitely be noticed in trappy beats, newer synth-heavy tunes, and anything with a lot of claps, hi-hats, or cymbals. Listen to classic rock, punk, or orchestral music? You’ll love these a lot.
So that’s an impressive-looking chart, but what does it mean? Well, see how flat that line is while it’s pink and green? That means that for the range of sound where music lives, most of the songs you listen to will come through exactly as it was mixed—with each note coming through without much change at all to its original loudness. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot closer than most headphones get. The dip at 4kHz is a very common feature for higher-end headphones to combat natural resonances in the human ear, but it doesn’t harm your music as much as it may look. You won’t notice it.
There’s very little from the lows to high mids that’s really emphasized over other notes. Consequently—outside of that massive treble peak from 7-10kHz—music will sound very clear. There’s a bit of distortion in the low end, but it’s inaudible to the point where you’ll only notice it if you are super young and know what to look for. If you listen to 70s-2000s rock or hiphop: you won’t be able to tell what’s there or what was recorded.
You should be able to equalize your sound very easily if you want to. Just don’t go too crazy, and be sure to always de-emphasize, don’t increase emphasis—just increase volume. If you do increase emphasis on any notes, you’re very likely to increase distortion in that band.
Because these are open-backed headphones, there’s really no isolation to speak of. You shouldn’t take these out in the world, on public transit, or on an airplane, for example. For best results, you’ll need a quiet environment that won’t mask your music. Should you ignore my advice, you’ll probably be unable to hear… anything but the snare drum in Otis Redding’s Cigarettes and Coffee.
Should you buy this?
Whether or not the DT 880 PRO is worth your money is really up to you. These are very firmly in the “enthusiast/hobbyist” range of purchases, and while they’re very good headphones: they’re not for everyone, especially not those sensitive to peaks in treble. You want an amp with these, and potentially a DAC if you listen primarily from your laptop. Additionally, these are not for venturing out into the world—they’re meant to stick by your computer or mixing board.
But if you like the Beyerdynamic sound, and if you’re looking for a set of ultra-comfortable, easily customizable cans that won’t let you down: the DT 880 PRO is a solid purchase.