Superb audio performance. Semi-open design provides wonderful sense of space. Comfortable fit.
Hardwired cable. Design leaks sound outward.
- Bottom Line
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro headphones deliver an accurate, powerful listening experience intended for musicians, sound engineers, and music lovers with stereo systems.
By Tim Gideon
Beyerdynamic has long made useful audio tools for sound engineers and musicians that can also be appreciated by more casual music lovers. The DT 880 Pro headphones, at $219, are an excellent investment for anyone looking for an accurate sound signature, whether for the mixing and mastering process, or simply enjoying audio at home. It should be noted the headphones aren't an ideal choice for use with mobile devices—the cable has no inline remote, and impedance makes them a better match for pro gear and stereo systems. But if you're looking for accuracy for critical listening applications in the price range, the DT 880 Pro won't disappoint, and earns our Editors' Choice.
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The DT 880's massive circumaural (over the ear) earpads are perfect circles covered in plush velour and offer ample cushioning. The headband is also amply cushioned, and the headphones never feel uncomfortable—the frame is just massive and takes some getting used to. The outer panels are metallic grilles emblazoned with the model name. Left and right ears are demarcated not only with an L and R, but with braille, and getting a secure, even fit is assured by the detents along the headband's adjustor.
Inside the earcups, behind recessed, cushioned grilles, dynamic drivers deliver an impressive estimated frequency range of 5Hz-35kHz. The semi-open design means sound leakage will occur through the outer panels of the earcups at moderate to high volumes.
You can use the headphones with a mobile device, but a high 250 Ohm impedance means your maximum audio levels won't be terribly loud, and bass response, in particular, will seem diminished. Furthermore, the 9.8-foot coiled, thick cable is designed for studio use (though not in the live room, due to the semi-open design) or home stereos. There's no inline remote or mic for taking calls. Beyerdynamic includes a 0.25-inch headphone jack adapter and a carrying tote, complete with a name tag for you to fill out.
One disappointment is that the cable is hardwired. In an era of removable cables, the inability to detach and replace the cable means sending the headphones away for repair if anything goes wrong when simply swapping out an old cable might have done the trick. Regardless, the cable is sturdily built and seems less likely to develop wear and tear than many of today's skinnier options.
We tested the headphones listening through the headphone jack of an Apogee Symphony I/O. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," they deliver solid, full-sounding, accurate low frequency response. The sub-bass is powerful in this mix, and the headphones provides ample low-end, but it's well matched throughout the frequency range. Beyerdynamic achieves the trick of sounding full and powerful in the lows, while still ideally balanced throughout the frequency range.
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Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us better sense of the what the headphones do with tracks that lack throbbing lows. The drums here can sound overly thunderous on bass-boosted headphones, but here they sound natural—the thumps are never reduced to thin taps, nor do they sound exaggerated and heavy. Callahan's baritone vocals have a pleasant richness and there's plenty of life in the low-mids, but just as important is the clarity proivded in the high-mids and highs. This precise contour is extended to to the guitar strums and higher pitched percussive hits.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop gets plenty of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its sharpness and slice through the layers of the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with thickness and depth, but nothing over the top, and the vocals have excellent high-mid and high frequency definition. There's never a hint of added sibilance, though one might describe their presence in the mix as bright. In fact, the mix sounds particularly bright across the board—the vinyl crackle that is often relegated to background status is pushed forward a bit here. But this doesn't mean things sound thin or brittle—there's still plentiful low and low-mid power.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound full and clear—the lower register instrumentation gets a little added body and depth without sounding too boosted, and the higher register brass, strings, and vocals retain their prominent bright sound. It's a crystal clear representation of the recording, with just the slightest added sense of bass depth at times. This is a sound signature for purists and those seeking accuracy, first and foremost, but it doesn't forsake the deeper frequencies in the mix.
The DT 880 Pro headphones provide wonderful accuracy and will help engineers and musicians get the most out of their mixes, and music lovers enjoy their stereo systems. Other comparable pairs we've tested include the Sennheiser HD6 Mix, the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2, and the Sony MDR-1A. All are easy to recommend, but we also suggest reading each review to understand the differences between them. Each takes its own approach to audio performance—even within the realm of accurate sound signatures, there's still some wiggle room for sculpting and boosting.
Beyerdynamic's DT 880 Pro headphones do very little sculpting, manage to provide strong bass depth without inventing lows where they don't exist, and provide excellent clarity throughout the frequency range. For $220, they're a worthwhile investment worthy of our Editors' Choice.
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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