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Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
July 19, 2004
March 2022: $155 USD
Good sound quality usually means you’re going to be spending a little more than you want—just check out our list of the best headphones under $1,000 USD. But every now and then you find something that doesn’t cost too much and sounds great, and the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO is one of those headphoness. It might not be the prettiest of cans, but if you can look past that: you’ll find something new to enjoy from your favorite tracks.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on May 9, 2023, to make a note about ideal use-cases.
Audiophiles who want a reasonably priced pair of open-back headphones will like that they can get the DT 990 PRO for around $150 USD. Aspiring musicians that don’t want to disturb housemates will appreciate it too. Really, for anyone who wants to upgrade their headphones, this sounds great.
What is the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO like?
The build of these DT 990 PRO is almost entirely plastic, save for the metal band and yoke that suspends the ear cups. You may not be all that impressed with plastic on headphones this expensive, but trust us: it’s important to keep that weight down. If you’re going to be at the desk for a long period of time, Beyerdynamic’s standard design strategy of using large, velour-wrapped ear pads and a relatively light chassis will help keep your neck from fatigue. The velour padding also happens to be great for listeners with glasses because the material leaves minimal gaps around glasses frames.
Everything has a downside, and luckily there are only a few here worth noting on this Beyerdynamic headphones. There are no hinges, so you can’t fold this up for transport. Additionally, open-backed headphones are much more susceptible to moisture and foreign object damage, so don’t just chuck these in a bag or take them outside. Even though I love how comfortable this is to wear, I feel the need to baby it at times. Seeing how this is a pair of open-back headphones, its home should be at your desk anyway.
The audio cable is another point of concern. It’s a 1m coiled cable that extends to 3m, but it’s pretty heavy. The weight comes close to pulling my phone clean off my desk when I move the wrong way. Not a problem if you’re plugging into an audio interface or computer, but not good news for smartphones or portable players. The cable isn’t removable which is a huge bummer, and means that if it frays or breaks: you’ll need to buy a new one or find a place that can repair it.
Whether you’re a professional or a secret goth, black just looks cool
But let’s end this section on another positive because toughness aside, I love how Beyerdynamic designed this headphones. It’s all-black which is already a plus in my book because whether you’re a professional or a secret goth, black just looks cool. The only accent of color is the name of the headphones (which I can do without but isn’t a deal breaker) and the gray memory foam ear pads which you can see from the outside of the open-back design. Again, adding the perfect bit of flashiness to the utilitarian design.
How do you connect the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO?
The coiled cable ends in a 3.5mm and you can screw on the included 1/4-inch adapter if you’re plugging into higher-end gear. The cable is non-removable, so you won’t be able to sub in a third-party one or alternate connector.
As this is a higher-impedance set of headphones at 250Ω, if you find that you can’t get a good volume with just your computer, you may need an amplifier. Most USB interfaces and low-end amps should be more than enough, however.
Does the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO block out noise?
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO doesn’t really block out noise due to its open-back design. If you want a headphones that blocks out noise, then you’ll need a pair of closed-back headphones, or noise cancelling headphones.
This design choice is intentional, as it has a number of benefits for those mixing music or just listening to tunes in a quiet environment. Open-back headphones tend to prevent your brain from remembering your ears are occluded, meaning it will be easier for you to suspend your disbelief at the fact that you’re not listening to speakers.
How does the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO sound?
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X has a somewhat odd flavor of studio frequency response with how it emphasizes the 50-300Hz and 2kHz-20kHz ranges. If that’s an issue for you, you’ll want to look elsewhere or take the time to EQ your sound.
However, this kind of response is really appealing to two demographics: gamers and mixers. The former because footsteps and little sounds that are easy to miss are much easier to hear with these ranges of emphasis, and the latter because mixing with these ranges boosted will lead to less-grating mixes if left un-equalized. For both use cases, this is a decent entry-level set of headphones.
When it comes to the low end this is right up my alley. The light bass bump makes the bass hits on the song Phone Calls by Jessie Reyez sound great (0:39). The sub-bass immediately following the chorus normally has enough power to make your eyes shake, but that isn’t the case here. You can still hear it, but the headphones doesn’t render it so loud that it becomes hard to hear vocals.
Mids, with instruments and vocals, sound perfectly emphasized regardless of the genre. This is apparent to me while listening to Vanish In Our Sleep by Rob Roy which has such loud bass that it usually makes the vocals sound quiet in comparison, but not here. The bass is kept in check letting the vocals come through loud and clear. The cymbal hits and hi-hats in You Only Live Once by The Strokes have a good amount of clarity too, but that’s largely due to the high-end emphasis.
What’s the difference between the 80-ohm, 250-ohm, and 600-ohm versions?
If you’re confused about the different versions of Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO differentiated by impedance value, we suggest sticking with the 80 or 250-Ohm models. Really, the only reason you’d want ultra-high impedance headphones like the 600-Ohm model is if you were listening with far out-of-date equipment exclusively, as it has a high resistance. The higher the resistance, the harder it is to get an acceptable volume, and virtually all modern sources (computers, phones, etc.) are designed for headphones with low impedance.
Higher impedance headphones used to be more popular with professionals because they were less prone to getting blown out by a too-powerful source device. However, now that virtually all consumer devices are designed for much lower power outputs, high-impedance headphones aren’t a necessity for consumers.
Should you buy the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO?
Though the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO won’t give your music the Beats treatment, it’s an enjoyable pair of headphones for audio enthusiasts and consumers alike. Just make sure you’re aware of the drawbacks of the open-back design before taking the plunge—the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO are not commuting headphones by any stretch.
If you like to hear a lot of detail in your music and don’t mind sacrificing some range, the DT 990 PRO are a great fit for keyboard warriors and music professionals alike. Not to mention that the ear pads are extremely comfortable. Again, the higher impedance leaves you a bit limited on where, when, and how you can use the DT 990 PRO, but if that doesn’t bother you, go for it. Overall, it’s hard not to recommend the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones to anyone looking for headphones that prioritize sound quality and comfort.
For bargain-hunters, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO is quite an old model at this point, so you may also be able to find the slight step-up in the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Premium for a similar price online. Advantages of that model include a slightly better tuning, but mainly aesthetic differences.
What should you get instead of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO?
The Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X is the natural successor to the DT 900 PRO. With the DT 900 PRO X, you get a mini-XLR input and an easy-to-repair design—which solves some of the biggest issues of the cheaper DT 990 PRO. Unfortunately, the DT 900 PRO X costs quite a bit more than the 900 PRO, so save your pennies. If you do take the plunge, however, you’ll also get a frequency response that closely follows our studio curve.
Another great option is the Drop x Sennheiser HD 6XX, which is basically the Sennheiser HD 650 but cheaper. You get a removable cable, unlike the DT 990 PRO, so you can extend the life of your headphones.
Frequently asked questions about the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
The Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X is a closed-back headphones with a lighter build and new driver set (.45 STELLAR drivers). The DT 700 PRO X has a low impedance of 48Ω, making it easy to power on the go. The DT 700 PRO X is also easy to repair yourself, and without any tools, making it a great option for eco-friendly consumers.
The DT 990 PRO X is still a great option for professionals who don’t need the slightly more travel-friendly design of DT 700 PRO X, though, and it costs about half the price of the newer headphones.
No, it does not.