Featured Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro by diogo_c
I'll be evaluating the Beyer Dynamic DT990 Pro 250 Ohms, the least expensive entry in the DT990 line of headphones. Unlike its more expensive siblings, the Pro 250 Ohms version is the only one listed by the manufacturer in its studio line of products, with the other editions labelled under the music pleasure category.
The DT990 Pro shows a balanced and neutral sound with a very decent sound stage. It’s definitively not a hyped-sounding headphone and it doesn't try to push anything very forward. The open design pays off with a more relaxed and unobstructed sound, yet retaining a lot of energy in the low end. Highs are very smooth and the mid-range is well defined. With its big ear cups it can go pretty loud and free of distortions, but it sounds even better at higher volumes when driven with a nice amp.
As a guy who loves monitors just like everyone else, I’m a bit harsh about using headphones for mixing purposes, so they have to deliver very high to make me feel confident about mixing with one. The 990 Pro's balanced and unhyped sound made me comfortable when making mixing decisions without a studio monitor, and that by itself is enough to qualify these cans very high and very suitable for those who really have to rely on headphones because of restricted loudness situations such as close neighbors or family. The 990 Pro's sound gives you enough confidence to pull out a whole mixing job out of them if you really have to do that.
Even though this is an open-design headphone, its focused sound and good loudness handling makes it a fine tracking headphone. I should also say that the sound leakage is low enough to make it usable on recording sessions without running into any troubles. They're more than appropriate to record even the most quiet and demanding material.
Despite the fact that they're labelled as a "studio" headphone, the 990 Pro will give you a pleasant listening experience in basically any situation. It goes well on critical listening for program evaluation and mixing duties, but it's also a very good headphone for plain music enjoyment or even for situations like watching movies or gaming. I'll give it a 5 out 5 on sound quality, but with a reservation: it needs a proper amp with the rated impedance - something I'll discuss briefly later on.
Ease of use
"Ease of use" is taken here as a criteria to measure the comfort of these headphones, and in that regard they score very high. With nearly 10 cm of ear cup diameter, the DT990 Pro is a big boy that somehow manages to stay light weighted (250 grams without the cable) thanks to the materials used in its construction. The cushions are also very pleasing and appropriate for long listening periods.
With a 10cm ear cup this is a big boy!
I'll also take the "ease of use" here to put in perspective the fact that these headphones are best driven with their proper (rated) impedance and having in mind that a 250 Ohms output is not a common thing, the 990 Pro's are not that easy to use if you want to take advantage of all its potential. They perform well when plugged to a laptop or sound card (with less than the rated 250 Ohms impedance) but you'll most likely feel like they could be performing even better. I'm not the audiophile type, but I can totally hear the difference when driving them properly with an amp.
DT990 and amp: best friends forever
As I wasn't really fond of the idea of getting an expensive piece so I went for a budget-conscious solution: get a local guy to do it, because these things are not that hard to build. It’s a justifiable investment as it is usually a very considerable leap from what we get on most computer interfaces. If you don't have someone to build it, there are a myriad of low budget or DIY amps out there that can do the job of properly driving these cans. My solution (a "CMOY" design) costed less than 50 bucks and it did a far better job than most sound cards/interfaces and it was a subtle improvement over my Steinberg UR28's headphone outputs, not to mention it made possible to use the 990 Pro with mp3 players such as the iPod which has a very low output impedance that is not very suitable for these cans.
As a budget-oriented entry in the DT990 line, this version is packaged with that in mind so it doesn't come with a nice carrying case like the more expensive entries in the line. It has trimmed height adjustment and the ear cups gently slide so they're adjusted nicely to your head, the cable is a nice coiled one that looks and feels strong...and that's pretty much all of the features. I should note that the DT990 Pro has a strong build that feels very solid, with the steel headband making it very stable and yet remaining comfortable thanks to the detachable cushion.
Despite the strong build the DT990 Pro is a stay-at-home/studio guy, and that's mostly because of the exposed wires feeding the transducers, which makes me feel concerned about the handling. Add to that the fact that they can't be folded and the cable is not detachable and you’ll have to pack them carefully with you plan to take them out of the safety of your working place.
The modular design is sweet, but be careful with those wires!
The exposed wire is the weak link in the eyes of this reviewer. However, we have to acknowledge that this is not something Beyer overlooked - it's part of a modular design that allows the transducer to be replaced in case something goes wrong. Needless to say that Beyer provides you with parts in case you need, which is a nice plus and can extend the 990 Pro's service time.
Bang for buck
Good bang, mixing-grade and great sound at 180 euros MSRP. I'll give 4 out 5 stars simply because of the fact that it surely needs a proper amp to be used in its full potential. You'll have to spend a bit more buck to get the full bang, but the DT990 Pro will make it worth the extra investment.