Many of the headphones we review are, for lack of a better word, “consumer” headphones. We have, however, touched on two other categories — “audiophile” headphones that spare no expense in the interest of sound, and “studio monitoring” headphones that balance accuracy with the realities of budget limitations. Beyerdynamic is among the most well-known manufacturers of studio monitor headphones; their “DT” branded line of over-ear headphones is not only a go-to monitor for musicians all over the world, it’s also a first step into high-end sound for many budding audio enthusiasts. Beyerdynamic sent us two of the pillars of their studio monitor line — the DT 770 Pro and DT 990 Pro. After switching back and forth between these for a week, we’re not at all surprised to say that they live up to the hype.
The DT 770 Pro and DT 990 Pro are clearly from the same family of headphones; they’re built of nearly identical parts. Both headphones feature a simple metal headband wrapped in a detachable vinyl foam-padded cover, mated to metal yokes that tilt, but do not swivel. Both are circumaural, using identical dynamic drivers in stiff textured plastic cups with lots of space for the ear inside extremely comfy removable velour ear pads. Both use non-detachable cables (straight on the 770, coiled on the 990) terminated in a 1/4-inch TRS plug that unscrews to reveal a 3.5mm plug underneath. The DT 770 and DT 990 are both extremely comfortable headphones; if their identical price is any indicator, Beyerdynamic intends for you to choose between them depending on your intended application. There’s no denying that these are built to be studio workhorses — their designs are strictly utilitarian, the materials (except for the earpads) are far from exotic, their cables aren’t exactly mobile-friendly, and all the parts of both headphones are replaceable.
The DT 770 Pro is the closed-back version of Beyerdynamic’s studio monitor. Our review sample had an 80-ohm impedance, but 250-ohm and portable-friendly 32-ohm versions are also available. Isolation is excellent with the 770, no doubt due in part to the plush velour ear pads that form an excellent seal. We were both surprised and impressed by the DT 770’s bass response, which extends low and can be palpable through the ear pads, but is always clean. The open-back DT 990, by contrast, had a noticeably weaker bass presentation but also a wider, more airy presentation. Our DT 990 review sample had a 250-ohm impedance, making them significantly harder to drive than the 770s.
Both the DT 770 and DT 990 are striking in the sharpness of their treble which, depending on what’s being played, can manifest as fine detail or piercing sibilance — this is a love-or-hate feature of Beyerdynamic’s studio monitors that you’ll either love or hate. The DT 990 actually presents this in a more extreme fashion than the 770; which sounded balanced by comparison. Detail, soundstage, and imaging are simply excellent with these headphones, which explains why they’re so popular as studio monitors. Though we’re generally fans of well-defined treble, we preferred the slightly calmer DT 770 over the DT 990.
We enjoyed our time with the DT 770 and DT 990; their fast, articulate drivers certainly earned their reputation on our test bench. Whether you’re a music creator or a music lover looking to buy your first set of high-quality headphones, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 and DT 990 are excellent choices. Which model you choose depends mostly on your use case — the closed-back DT 770 is best for noisy environments or situations where you don’t want sound leaking out to others around you, and the DT 990 allows you to take advantage of a soundstage in more controlled environments. These headphones might not win any beauty pageants, but, if you’re looking to hear what the artist heard when making your favorite music, the DT 770 and DT 990 are a excellent place to start.
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