Exceptionally accurate audio performance with rich bass depth, detail, and clarity in the highs. Comfortable fit with removable earpads that offer slightly differing sound signatures. Two detachable cables included.
No inline remote or mic on included cables. Replacing the earpads can be annoying.
- Bottom Line
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is a solid pair of headphones for engineers, delivering a detailed, accurate frequency response capable of reaching down for deep lows in the mix.
Beyerdynamic's DT 1990 Pro, circumaural headphones intended for use by recording and mastering engineers, are all business in design and function—and at $599.99, quite expensive. The headphones use thick, replaceable cables featuring high-fidelity connections and an open design that provides an excellent sense of space (but takes them out of the running for most live room tracking). They're quite comfortable despite a massive build, and audio performance is exceptionally accurate—a flat response that doesn't ignore the deep bass in mixes, but avoids obvious boosting and cutting. Engineers looking for a reliable tool to analyze mixes will not be disappointed, despite the high price. Those looking for a mega-bass sound or tons of extra features are barking up the wrong tree.
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The DT 1990 Pro headphones have a bulky, fully open design—circumaural, with huge velour-covered earpads. There's a matte black frame with vented outer panels, and a plush black leather-covered headband. The padding inside the headband is replaceable (though replacement padding is not included), as are the earpads. While the design is quite bulky, the fit is secure and comfortable, even over long listening sessions.
Two pairs of earpads ship with the DT 1990 Pro: one pair for neutral listening, and one that gives a slightly enhanced bass response. They look nearly identical, and are not labeled, which is annoying. You tell them apart by the holes lining the interior—there are several holes on the bass-enhanced pair, and only four holes marking the neutral pair. The earpads, it should be noted, are a bit of a pain to remove and replace. That said, most users will probably settle on one pair and keep them in place rather than going back and forth often, given the subtle differences. Inside the earcups, 45mm Tesla drivers deliver a frequency range of 5Hz to 40kHz, with an impedance of 250 Ohms.
As the name implies, the headphones are intended for professional studio use, and as such, the included cables are of very high quality—but be forewarned that neither cable has an inline remote or mic. One cable is 9.8 feet and straight, and the other is 16 feet and coiled. Both cables terminate in 3.5mm connections, and there are two screw-on 0.25-inch headphone jack adapters in the box. The connection for the cables, located on the bottom of the left earcup, is a mini XLR—rare to see on headphones even in this price range. Both cables lock into place.
A large hard-shell zip-up case is included. The headphones don't collapse or fold down, so the case is rather large, but it also houses the two cables and extra earpads.
We tested the headphones using an Apogee Symphony as our sound source. With the enhanced-bass earpads in place, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife's "Silent Shout," they deliver a hearty low frequency response, but still sound quite accurate. You get the subwoofer-like depth of the lows, but it isn't necessarily pushed forward in the mix. Kendrick Lamar's "DNA" also features intense bass response, somehow deep and powerful, but never overwhelming the mids and highs or sacrificing the balance of the mix. Swapping to the neutral, analytical earpads, the bass response drop-off is subtle. In fact, it's more noticeable on tracks with less deep bass in the mix, when the enhanced pads are adding in a little extra to a track that's light on low frequencies.
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Bill Callahan's "Drover" is one such track—the drums get more body and depth through the bass-enhanced pads than through the neutral ones—but again, the difference is subtle. The overall sound signature is bright and clear, with a wide open stereo image and sense of space. There doesn't seem to be one aspect of the frequency range that is widely favored over another. You hear deep bass when the mix calls for it, it's never invented.
The percussive opening to "Paranoid Android" on Radiohead's newly remastered OK Computer sounds precise and clear, with rich, smooth bass response providing a pleasant thickness to the kick drum, and detailed highs lending the guitar work and percussion added contour and clarity.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop gets an ideal high-mid presence, allowing the attack to retain its sharpness and slice through the layers of the mix, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with power and depth, but nothing feels exaggerated. The vocal performances on this track are delivered with the utmost clarity and precision—there's no added sibilance, nor is there a dulled response.
On orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, some added bass presence is apparent in the most subtle sense with the enhanced pads in place. Really, it's a very natural sound even with these earpads—and perhaps a little more clinical without them. The lower register instrumentation is delivered with a lovely richness in the lows and low-mids, but it never compromises the balance of the mix—the higher register brass, strings, and vocals still own the spotlight and are delivered with tremendous detail.
For $600, the DT 1990 Pro headphones don't disappoint, but it's worth doing research before plunking down the big bucks, as there are some worthy competitors that still offer a very accurate sound signature for engineers and musicians. From a purely sonic enjoyment standpoint, we prefer the Beyerdynamic Amiron Home, but those headphones are more for home listening, where the frequency response can be tinkered with slightly here and there. In the pro department, we're also fans of the less expensive Sennheiser HD6 Mix, the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro, and the in-ear Etymotic ER4 XR—all solid options that bring unique strengths to the table.
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By Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear. More »
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