Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

Jez Ford puts an award-win­ning pair of head­phones through their paces, plus com­pares them to the closed-head-shell ver­sion of the same de­sign.

Bey­er­dy­namic’s DT 1990 Pro head­phones won a 2017 Sound+Im­age Award but they’re a sim­i­lar de­sign to the DT 1770 Pro, which has closed head­shells rather than the semi-open head­shells of the award-win­ners. ‘ Would we like to com­pare the two mod­els side by side?’, asked Bey­er­dy­namic’s Aus­tralian ditrib­u­tor, Syn­chro­nised Tech­nol­ogy ( aka Syn­tec). Yes in­deed we would—the 1770 builds upon a clas­sic de­sign, and the in­ter­est­ing con­trast be­tween sim­i­lar closed and open de­signs turned out to be a task made still more plea­sur­able by their in­clu­sion of a neat lit­tle head­phone amp with which we could drive them, Bey­er­dy­namic’s own A20, which re­tails in Aus­tralia for $999.

An in­ter­est­ing side-ef­fect of ever-pricier con­sumer head­phones is that pro­fes­sional head­phones, which used to be rather more ex­pen­sive, now aren’t. We of­ten like the bal­ance of such mod­els—pro head­phones are un­likely to fake up the bass or pro­vide some su­per­fi­cially pleas­ing EQ, given they’re for longterm stu­dio use, for mix­ing and mas­ter­ing, so ac­cu­racy is a key goal. We don’t mind head­phones de­liv­er­ing a sub­tle bass lift, but on the whole, ac­cu­racy is, as in all things in hi-fi, a wor­thy goal.

The driv­ers in both head­phones use the com­pany’s lat­est it­er­a­tion of ‘Tesla’ driver tech­nol­ogy, a neodymium mag­net mounted as a ring en­cir­cling the coil, rather than the usual ar­range­ment where the mag­net sits at the cen­tre. This al­lows an ef­fec­tively larger mag­net to de­liver more pow­er­ful drive, along with lower flux losses, which the com­pany says can be used to de­liver ei­ther more power and im­pact, or a higher level of de­tail, de­pend­ing on how the head­phone is en­gi­neered.

The award-win­ning DT 1990 Pros first, then—as with all the com­pany’s pro­fes­sional stu­dio mod­els the DT 1990 Pros are still ‘hand­crafted in Ger­many’, and listed by Bey­er­dy­namic un­der ‘Pro­fes­sional/Stu­dio’, yet per­fectly suited to use by con­sumers at home. They’re open, and with 250-ohm im­ped­ance not so suited to mo­bile use un­less you’re adding a de­cent por­ta­ble head­phone amp. They come with a large solid case, two sets of earpads, and two ca­bles—one straight and five me­tres long, one coiled and three me­tres long. Th­ese con­nect to the left ear­phone with a lock­ing mini-XLR with a small but­ton to un­lock them—quick but sturdy, per­fect for stu­dio use. The in­clu­sions with the DT 1770 Pro are iden­ti­cal.

The DT 1990 Pros open up a mix beau­ti­fully, with the airy sense of space that a closed head­phone can (al­most) never achieve. They’re highly re­veal­ing, show­ing up the hot re­verb ef­fect on the right-chan­nel pi­ano string slides dur­ing the open­ing of The Doors’ L.A. Woman, or the sense of the hall when Keith Jar­rett stomps his foot dur­ing his Köln con­cert record­ing. While the 45mm driv­ers de­liver all of this sparkle up top, they also man­age a rapid and rich bass, achiev­ing the full swelling bassline of Bowie’s Black­star while still snap­ping those bizarre beats cleanly. They’re a delight across gen­res, and de­liver a great sound for this price.

Switch­ing di­rectly to the other model does the DT 1770 Pros a dis­ser­vice, as the com­par­i­son high­lights their closed na­ture dra­mat­i­cally. Take a long break be­fore judg­ing them on their own mer­its. They de­liv­ered a pow­er­ful driv­ing sound, and per­haps a more ac­cu­rate if less ex­u­ber­ant ver­sion of the truth, keep­ing a tight fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments. So if those Doors pi­ano strings didn’t have quite the open­ness to their acous­tic, there was no lack of ting to the ride cym­bal, and the bass was solid as a rock, full but sharp-edged. They roared through our usual test tracks, de­liv­er­ing the del­i­cacy and re­solv­ing power re­quired for kd lang’s The Air That I Breathe, the bass again full, the right-chan­nel brushes de­light­fully tac­tile, her vo­cal just a frac­tion light and re­cessed—there seemed a small dip in re­sponse around mid­dle C. Leonard Co­hen’s wide­band vo­cal, on the other hand, was enor­mous on Go­ing Home, and al­most too well un­der­pinned on Tower of Song. Clas­si­cal mu­sic was han­dled with ac­cu­racy and dy­namic lift, though here our pref­er­ence was for the am­bi­ence and open­ness of the DT 1990s. Still, sev­eral of our lis­ten­ers—no­tably those with stu­dio ex­pe­ri­ence—were firm in their pref­er­ence for the con­tained ac­cu­racy of the closed model.

We did try them di­rectly into a mo­bile de­vice, and they per­formed well enough, but with less sense of power in re­serve, and cer­tainly lower lev­els than a noisy com­mute might re­quire.

In the home, then, for sheer pleasure, we’d take the DT 1990 Pro. But the closed model is another fine per­former, and if you’re un­able to spill sound willy-nilly, in a shared space or an of­fice where you can keep a head­phone amp, or if you need a good flat an­a­lytic mu­si­cal tool, the DT 1770 Pro may be your go-to. Jez Ford

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