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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear) all over again, so…
Today I wanted to do a comprehensive review & shootout of 3 Beyerdynamic headphones that have become wildly popular over the years (and for good reason).
So before we get into the Beyerdynamic DT770 vs. 880 vs. 990, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
I’m Here To Help!
But I’m not from the government. 😛
We’re going to cover all impedance versions of these as well. By the end of this article, you should have a fantastic idea of how they all compare and which will be right for YOU.
So let’s get going!
In The Box
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
Shoutout to Crinacle for the graphs!
- Price: Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay!
- Type: closed-back
- Fit: circumaural (over-ear)
- Impedance: 32, 80, 250 Ohm What is Headphone Impedance?
- Frequency Response: 5 – 35000 Hz
- Material: velour earpads, plastic, pleather
- Color: black, grey, silver
So what are the differences between the DT770 80 Ohm vs. 250 Ohm models?
In short, they are pretty similar but the 250 Ohm version has a bit more mid-bass and a tad more sub-bass roll-off. The dip at 4kHz is also much less intense on the 250 Ohm version.
Still, from looking at graphs and in listening they are very close sounding at the end of the day.
Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
Note: You can also purchase the Beyerdynamic DT880 Premium 32 Ohm version.
Basically, there are 3 versions of the Premium (32, 250, and 600), and 1 version of the Pro (250 Ohm). I think Crinacle meant to say premium on the above graph for the 32 Ohm version. It’s very confusing, and took a while to find all the different versions!
The only real difference between the Pro and Premium versions is:
- Premiums have less clamp pressure.
- The Premiums have better aesthetics (that’s subjective though).
- A straight chord vs. coiled.
My personal opinion is that you should opt for whichever 250 Ohm version is cheaper depending on the time and season. Sometimes the Premium is more expensive. Sometimes the Pros are. It just depends.
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay!
- Type: semi-open
- Fit: circumaural (over-ear)
- Impedance: Pro (250 Ohm), Premium (32, 250, 600 Ohm)
- Frequency Response: 5 – 35000 Hz
- Material: velour earpads, plastic
- Headband: soft padded headband construction
- Color: black, grey, silver
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
Leather Storage Bag Incl. Zipper
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay!
- Type: open back
- Fit: circumaural (over-ear)
- Impedance: 32, 250, 600 Ohms
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 35,000 Hz
- Material: velour earpads, rugged plastic, metal
- Headband: spring steel, soft cushioning
- Color: black, grey, silver
- Plug: screw-able 6.3 mm / 1/4″ adapter
- Cable: coiled
Before we go any further, let’s discuss the differences between the Pro and Premium versions of the 990.
How the Pro version compares with the Premium
They are almost identical in every aspect, except for a few things:
- They each have a slightly different design and aesthetic.
- The Pro version has a slightly higher clamping force.
- The Pro version has a coiled cable, while the Premiums have a straight cable.
- The Premium is heavier; 290g vs. 250 for the Pro.
- The Premium is marketed more toward consumer use, while the pro version is marketed towards studio use. As far as sound goes, they are identical in every way, and even use the same drivers. The difference in price that you pay more for in the premiums is basically in aesthetic, feel, and looks. It has been said that the premiums have a nicer build. That’s it!
Taken straight from Beyer’s website:
Speaking of build, let’s dive in!
The build of all these models is more or less the same.
The DT770 and 880 PRO versions have the button-up headband while the 990 variants do not. All have velour padding, headband click mechanism, and generally, all have the same type of aesthetic.
They’re all built incredibly well and feel durable in your hands. In holding them, I noticed that they are nimble and lightweight but don’t feel cheap. They feel like they could withstand quite a bit of abuse.
Do note that the cables aren’t detachable on any of these, but the headphones themselves are rugged and strong.
From Beyer’s website:
A couple of reviews I came across were from folks who have had them for 5 and 10 years. They can take a lot of abuse, but there are some things to note about the ear-cups specifically.
Some say they aren’t quite deep enough, and that your ear may touch the driver. I have personally not had any issues with this, but your mileage may vary. I also have larger than average-sized ears.
People with smaller ears will be fine regardless. Also of note regarding the driver is that you may get a slight buzzing/rattling, or vibrating sound due to it being prone to getting dirty. It kind of has a bad tendency to attract hair and other undesirables. This was something I came across in my research.
You’ll be thrilled to know that Beyerdynamic headphones are some of the most comfortable I’ve ever worn; definitely top 3. The clamp is perfect, the pads are perfect, and they don’t really dig much into your head.
The great thing about the pads is that they are large enough to envelop your ears without touching the tops or sides at all.
All of these are marketed as studio headphones, and they are in the sense that you can wear them for hours without really feeling like you need to take them off for any reason.
It’s pretty easy to see from graphs, but the 770 is most certainly the most “fun” sounding out of these. There’s an elevated bass shelf below 100Hz, but the mid-range is surprisingly present and clear sounding even despite the low-end emphasis.
Vocals and instruments still sound lively and engaging, which I think is in large part why the 770 has gained somewhat of a cult-like following over the years.
They do a really good job of retaining the great qualities of music without seeming like the sounds are distant and/or muffled as with other bass-oriented sound signatures that sacrifice the mid-range for a lot of low-end slam and impact.
The treble is certainly bright no matter how you slice it, so be advised. It may come across as somewhat shrill or piercing.
The DT770 will be the most isolating out of these 3 being a closed-back but also presents the most issues in terms of a balanced response.
- Pretty versatile. Can handle a wide variety of genres even despite its sound signature.
- Very comfortable. They engulf your ears and some say they feel like pillows.
- Good isolation. While not noise-canceling, they do a phenomenal job of blocking out incoming sound as well as remaining quiet to those around you.
- Durable. They can take quite a bit of abuse.
- Startling clarity with faithful sound reproduction. While not neutral, these headphones will reveal flaws in bad recordings, so be mindful. The clarity is definitely there. You will hear things in songs that you previously thought absent.
- Great Soundstage. You may be wondering 1) What is Sounstage? and 2) How can a closed-back set have this? A lot of people were amazed because it has very nice imaging and a wide, nuanced sound stage. While this is somewhat uncommon for closed-back models, you will find some that excel in this department. The 770 is one.
- Cable. The wire is long and durable.
- Case. Carrying case included.
- The high end can become sibilant, leading to fatigue.
- Bass may be a bit much for some, but it still has plenty of impact and sounds mostly good.
The DT880 is definitely the most neutral out of these 3, with the only real peak coming around 6kHz.
This can be off-putting to some, but by and large, it’s a sound signature that does incredibly well in studio situations and mixing down tracks. Read: The 12 Best Studio Headphones For Mixing, Mastering, And Music Production
David Mahler out of Brooklyn, NY wrote a great piece some years back on Head-Fi ranking 58 or so headphones. Only 4 got an A+ value rating, and one of those was the DT880. Another happens to be the venerable HD600.
The 880 is great for casual and professional use. Its bass response is neither rolled off nor boosted, and the mid-range is just about perfect. There’s a slight emphasis around the presence region (3kHz), and it’s done rather tastefully.
Outside of 6Khz, the DT880 isn’t nearly as bright as people have claimed over the years. A running theme in this article as you’ll soon find out.
For clarity’s sake, these come in 4 different models:
- Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 32 Ohm
- Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 250 Ohm
- Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro 250 Ohm
- Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 600 Ohm
A lot has been said about the price difference between the Premiums and the Pros. The only real differences in the headphones themselves are as follows:
- Premiums have slightly less headband clamp pressure.
- Premiums have somewhat better “aesthetics” (It’s ridiculous I know).
- Premiums come with a long straight chord rather than a coiled one.
- Premiums may come with a different carrying case. Vinyl instead of Nylon.
As for Sound:
- The 600 Ohm premiums may have a slightly smoother top end (subjective).
- The aforementioned clamping force may make the Pro have slightly better bass and a more forward mid-range. The differences are however subtle and should be taken with a grain of salt. Pink Himalayan is preferred. 🙂
Being semi-open, the DT880 won’t feel too boxed in sounding but also isn’t completely open.
- Extremely Accurate, “Surgical”.
- One of the best investments you’ll make regarding flagship audiophile headphones. The price to performance ratio is through the roof.
- Phenomenal for mixing/reference.
- Very comfortable.
- Clear mid-range, bass response enhanced with a good amp.
- Casual listeners and producers alike will enjoy and appreciate the sound.
- Superb build quality (standard for the DT line).
- Replaceable earpads (or earmuffs, as some reviewers like to call them).
- Replaceable headband
- Good Soundstage.
- The high end may be a bit exaggerated to some. It has been called too shrill and harsh/sibilant. What does Sibilant mean?
The 990 is the most open-sounding headphone out of these 3, and the second most neutral.
I think this headphone has gotten a bad rep over the years but I don’t think that sentiment is warranted; both from listening to it myself and looking at a graph.
I remember demoing it in the store thinking “Why do people complain about the treble so much?” It wasn’t nearly as bright as many folks claimed, and it was a moment I’ll never forget because it made me realize that a lot of what you read on the internet is kind of sensationalized and rather extreme if we’re being realistic.
I prefer to take an objective look at products from all sides, though I do have strong opinions about certain things (cough Amps & DACS cough). Lol.
The 990 sounded incredibly clear, open, and detailed without feeling like anything was getting out of line.
This is in stark contrast to the way some people describe the headphone:
“OMG THE TREBLE IS SO BRIGHT AAAARGHH. WAH!”
You’ll hear this sentiment parroted over and over throughout articles, forums, videos, and comment threads, and to me, it just wasn’t true at all when I listened for myself.
I’d argue it didn’t really even sound that bright. It sparkled, but it wasn’t getting on my nerves. Crinacle’s graph backs up all of this as well.
There is bass emphasis for sure, but it’s not overdone like your mom’s meatloaf.
The mid-range is fairly neutral sounding, and the treble is accentuated but it’s in no way harsh or grating.
I’ve talked about this before, but I think the problem in the audiophile world is that many people tend to just parrot and repeat things that others say, taking them as gospel without trying the products and coming to their own conclusions.
I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past, but my research tends to span dozens (sometimes hundreds) of hours.
I’ve found that most consensus’ I’ve come to were mostly correct after hearing said products, but there are always a few outliers.
The K702 power-hungry thing was certainly a myth, along with the 990 treble hysteria. Both of these things were blown way out of proportion.
Before we delve into unforeseen territory, let’s get back on track.
- Great Soundstage. Incredibly open and spacious sound; perhaps the most open and “large” sounding out of the 3.
- Impeccable comfort levels. The standard for Beyer products.
- Fantastic build. You won’t be replacing these any time soon.
- Great for gaming and film. The 990 strikes a nice balance between the fun, V-shaped sound of the 770 and the more analytical, reference style 880. This would be a great headphone for those who do a little of everything: watching film, playing games (competitively or otherwise), mixing tracks, and/or just listening to music casually or even critically.
- I can’t think of any. You’ll find people complaining about the treble, but I would tend to disagree.
Imaging & Soundstage
All three of these headphones have fantastic Imaging and Soundstage, but you’ll notice that the 770s perhaps most surprisingly so.
Given that it’s a closed-back headphone, you may be inclined to think it’s below average if you’re fairly new to the headphone world.
The 770’s staging is perhaps another reason why it’s gained a cult liked following. To me, it’s just about the closest to sounding like an open back, in addition to headphones like the CB-1 and MDR-Z1R.
It does so much right which is in part why it’s hard to complain about its unabashedly V-shaped signature on the surface.
The 880 and 990 follow suit here with an equally as impressive (if not more so) Soundstage. What is Soundstage? [Detailed Explanation]
Because the 880 and 990 are semi-open and open (respectively), the sentiment is magnified all the more.
Be aware that you’ll get some isolation with the 880, and basically none with the 990.
Gaming & Reference
People have gone back and forth about the merits of a 770 for gaming, but I personally would not use it full-time for that purpose even though it could work in a pinch.
I’d much rather have the 770 for film, the 880 for mixing/mastering/reference duties, and the 990 for gaming.
I may even prefer an 880 for competitive gaming as it doesn’t place much emphasis anywhere (besides 6kHz).
With the 880, I’m able to hear everything the most clearly and accurately out of these 3, thus why it’s the go-to for reference.
For gaming, it comes down to 880 vs. 990. If I had to choose, I’d go with a 990 for single-player gaming and an 880 if I’m playing an FPS shooter and/or with a party online.
Keep in mind this isn’t set in stone. You could theoretically use either and be totally fine. I personally prefer an 880 for FPS because of the fact that the bass is almost completely out of the way.
This enables me to hear subtle sounds and footsteps much easier than with a 990 or 770. In my opinion, you don’t want a headphone with a lot of bass if you’re playing competitively.
Note: All of these headphones have a Sensitivity rating of 96dB/mW. In many ways, I consider the Sensitivity rating more important in determining if you will need an amp, but both should be considered. What is Sensitivity in Headphones? [Explained]
- 250 Ohm. For mixing applications in the studio. This impedance rating will require a separate amp in my opinion. There were a few people who said that they do fine without an amp at 250 Ohm, but you’ll definitely want to invest in one per my own experience. Read: How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Definitive Guide]
- 80 Ohm. For recording applications in the studio. It’s a bit difficult to say, but most people will tell you that 80 Ohms is fine without an amp. If you’re thinking about getting the 770 in this impedance, I would probably go ahead and plan on investing in something like a K3 to be on the safe side. It doesn’t have to be monumentally expensive.
- 32 Ohm. For mobile applications. For 32 Ohm impedance, these don’t require an amp and will suffice with your mobile devices including iPods, mp3 players, tablets, etc.
For the 250 Ohm and 96dB of Sensitivity variety Beyers, you will definitely need an amp. These do require a bit of power from an amp to reach optimal listening levels. Luckily most of your standard pairings will sound just fine.
- 600 Ohm. Definitely needs amplification. I would never try and run a 600 Ohm headphone on a mobile device or even most entry-level units. If you’re going this route, a FiiO K5 Pro at minimum is what I would suggest.
- 250 Ohm. Definitely needs amplification of some sort. All of the above applies here.
- 32 Ohm. Can be used with your mobile devices without an amp.
Here are some of my recommendations:
FiiO BTR3K (pictured) or BTR5
- Official Article: FiiO BTR3K vs. BTR5 vs. DragonFly Red [Which Is Best For YOU?!]
This is something I would use with the 32 Ohm and 80 Ohm variants of each headphone.
For the 80 Ohm, you may opt BTR5 as it has more power, but the 3K will probably be fine.
I love the BTR3K because it’s so portable and convenient. This is a perfect on-the-go solution with a DT770 32 Ohm as you can listen via Bluetooth with your phone and it’s super easy to take with you.
Audioquest Dragonfly Red
- Official Review: Audioquest Dragonfly Red Review
This little crumb-sized wonder makes a great pair with all 3 and is a perfect solution for people who need an amp for both their phone/mobile device and PC. If you’d rather not use Bluetooth, look here.
You’ll simply need this adapter for the phone which is very cheap and gets great reviews. You really wouldn’t think it, but this tiny device makes all of your music sound a heck of a lot better than you would ever imagine.
The DragonFly Red obviously also works well as a desktop Amp/DAC. Just plug it into a USB slot and you’re done. It’s that simple.
FiiO E10K or K3
- Official Comparison: FiiO K3 vs. E10K [The Definitive Guide]
The E10K is very highly regarded and has been around for a number of years. I always recommend it even today because, well, it’s a great f’ing product.
SO DON’T ASK QUESTIONS!!! ?
It’s the one Amp/DAC that you can’t go wrong with, similar to something like an HD650 on the headphone side of things.
In addition to being highly versatile, it’s also extremely portable.
In fact, I carry this thing around in my laptop bag without a second thought; it’s lightweight, durable, and extremely compact. I never have to worry about having enough room.
Heck, I could even put it in my pocket if I needed to. It fits in the palm of your hand!
Keep in mind it does run off of bus power and does NOT have an internal battery. Technically you can use it with your phone, but you’ll need some sort of adapter and it tends to draw power from your phone’s battery fairly quickly.
That said, I love this thing on the go because I can quickly and easily get set up with my laptop pretty much anywhere. It comes with adhesive rubber feet as well, so I never have to worry about it moving around when it’s on my desk.
The K3 is similar but it’s more elegant this time around. Instead of the industrial-looking shape of the E10K, we have a beautifully rounded off modern-looking Amp/DAC that looks a lot more attractive on all fronts.
The K3 is still highly portable, but weighs a tad more and seems more durable in your hand.
Like the E10K, it’s got a bass boost and gain switch, but this time both are on the front. The K3 also supports Optical output, balanced input as well as DSD, and lights up different colors according to the source file.
If you’d like a complete rundown of these 2, check out my FiiO K3 vs. E10K comparison. The differences, while interesting, are beyond the scope of this article 🙂
For now, just know that both of these will sound fantastic with your headphones, but the K3 gets my vote. It’s a tremendous value and a true upgrade from the E10K cannot be overstated.
My Video Shootout/Comparison
Here we take a look at a few different Amps and DACs. Don’t forget to leave me some love! <3
JDS Labs’ Objective 2 has since been discontinued and replaced with the ATOM. I love this amp as a full-time desktop unit.
It’s incredibly neutral without being sterile and sounds great with every headphone.
It also has plenty of power. If you want the most honest representation of your music, the ATOM is the amp to get in this price range without question. The Topping varieties are also good, but there has been some talk of QC issues lately.
Video Comparison to Objective 2
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FiiO K5 Pro
If you’re looking for a somewhat more relaxed, lush listen, the K5 Pro is perfect. It has become my full-time desktop unit and strikes a nice balance of crisp and warm/relaxed.
You will notice the difference between this and an ATOM, but the discrepancy isn’t monumental. It’s subtle.
The K5 Pro does fantastic with brighter sounding headphones, and the 770,880, and 990 are no different. I may actually prefer this over an ATOM as it helps to mitigate some of that brightness we discussed earlier with regards to the 770 and 880 specifically.
Aside from these, don’t get too carried away in trying to choose an Amp. The differences between amps are very subtle a lot of the time, and any of these pairings will work wonderfully well with the 770, 880, and 990.
I think it’s important to understand the sound signatures for each of these headphones before deciding on which one to buy.
The 770 is going to be a headphone you reach for when you want to have fun; whether that be watching an action flick, listening to Hip-Hop and EDM, or just kicking back with a single-player game. I wouldn’t personally advise it for mixing due to its elevated bass shelf, and I certainly wouldn’t rely on it for FPS/competitive gaming, but it sounds incredibly open and has great Soundstage all things considered.
The DT880 is the headphone to purchase if you desire a more neutral offering from your music and/or need something incredibly flat for mixing. The 6kHz peak will inevitably bother some folks, but you can always EQ it down or just remember that area is elevated and adjust your mix accordingly.
Outside of that, it’s the headphone to get if you need the best studio headphone for mixing and competes closely with both the Sennheiser HD600 and K702.
SEE IT FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!
I look at the DT990 as a cross between the 770 and 880. It’s not entirely neutral, but it’s also not overly V-shaped or “fun” sounding.
It’s just a great all-around headphone and works well for many different applications.
It’s the headphone to get if you don’t put all of your focus into one specific task and just need something that’s going to be a jack of all trades type of product.
Contrary to popular belief, the 990 is not overly bright or essy sounding and is a lot more neutral than people give it credit for.
LEARN MORE @ SWEETWATER!!
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Beyerdynamic DT770 vs. 880 vs. 990 Shootout and came away with some valuable insight.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
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Which one of these sounds like you? I would love to hear your thoughts and/or experience with these headphones. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,