I'm reviewing the Beyerdynamic DT880 600Ω Premium today. I wanted to get my ODAC/O2 amp on these before I gave it an official review. I'm ready to give a review on these headphones now for all of those wishing to either jump for these headphones or maybe try another. For the most part the review is going to have some semblance of order which will end in a chaotic cacophony of thoughts.
ODAC+O2 Amp w/ Modifications
Beyerdynamic DT880 600Ω
Also used Denon AVR-1912 & HTC Sensation 4G.
The Beyerdynamic DT880 600Ω Premiums are one of the best headphones under $400. Their MSRP is even $400, but no one should ever pay that much for these. They're good, but I'm not sure if they're $400 good, at least to me. Others might be willing to pay that, but I'd be happy to buy these under $250. I personally got them for $180 in mint condition, but that comes down to waiting for good deals on Head-fi, which can be done. That said, it's not hard to find these used for under $200. I see them often go for $185-$195 on Head-fi.org. That said, as far as value goes, these headphones are exceptional value and that's the first good thing I find these headphones have. Exceptional Value.
But why are they such good value? What makes them worth their price tag? Why should I dish out the extra money for these headphones as opposed to being satisfied with a cheaper headphone?
Well, as you move up the ladder in SQ, the benefits exponentially decrease. The difference between a 400 headphone and a 1000 dollar headphone aren't as large as the price difference would have you believe. I think after the $1000 price point headphones really start to get great again, but these differences most people aren't willing to pay for.
That said, many would argue the DT880 is one of the best headphones under $1000. I'm not necessarily arguing that, as I can find great headphones under $1000 that are better, but we're not going to argue that at this point. For now we're considering under $400 headphones. The MSRP of these headphones and the target area I think these headphones really stand out the most in. All that said, I probably still haven't answered the question. I'll come back to this later after pointing out more reasons why this headphone is a good purchase.
I think there's some confusion in the community regarding the lows on this headphone. I'm going to go more on about the lows of this headphone than other sections since I think this area needs the most clarification for the greater populous than other areas of the sound spectrum. The lows are very much present, extending way down to 15hz. That said, the DT880s are great for extending down low, but the impact of the bass is not exactly what you'd expect from a headphone that goes down that low. The Beyerdynamic DT880s are NOT bassy headphones. If you own any Ultrasone Headphone and are looking for an upgrade, you may be disappointed in the amount of bass these headphones have. Same for DT770 or 990s users. The 770s and 990s have so much more bass than the DT880s. I wouldn't say the bass is anemic on the DT880s as they are on the AD700s, but they are not authoritative or overwhelming. In my opinion the DT990s have too much bass, but the bass isn't tight. The bass is bloated and just...bass. The DT880s offer that kick in bass acceptable by most genre's of music. Just the right bass for Jazz, the kick of a snare drum, the strum of a bass guitar is typically acceptable, although I've heard better headphones for this. Bass guitarists might not be proud of this headphone for that purpose, but not because the bass is lacking, but rather because the bass isn't as textured as other headphones are. Some feel adding a tube amp can help the DT880s out in that aspect, but I'm using the O2 amp to drive these. Transparent DAC, transparent amp, neutral headphones.
The DT880s can pump out a good amount of bass for electronica. Maybe not the UNN YEAH bass of Ultrasones or the other Beyer brothers, but these headphones can definitely perform well across the board. There's not a single genre I feel these headphones can't handle. Even dubstep is acceptable with these headphones, but I'd much rather choose another pair of headphones for dubstep. For those not pleased with the bass on the DT880s straight out of the box there are 2 things you can do to improve the bass on these without much effort.
1) Equalize the lower end to improve bass. These DT880s respond well to equalization without destroying the rest of the spectrum. Some headphones, you bump the bass and dang, there goes the mids and the highs. With the DT880s you can get away with increasing bass via equalizer and maintaining solid mids and highs (though, I argue the mids do get effected by the equalization of the lows a bit). That said, when equalized for a stronger low end, these headphones do become more enjoyable and can even pull a smirk on my face (I constantly look like this: =|, I guess that makes me look like this =]). For the record, I don't touch the equalizer for these headphones unless I'm listening to bass oriented music such as dubstep and don't want to change headphones.
2) Amp these headphones. I've said it a trillion times before and I'm going to say it again. Most headphones don't react as powerfully as others when it comes to amping headphones. People that tell me their AD700s are empowered by their amp, I'm here to tell you that's not true. Your AD700s aren't going to kick out bass because they're amped. Why then would amping these headphones improve bass response? Because they're 600 ohms and need an amp to really make these headphones dynamic. I'll get back to this later on. If I forget, remind me in comments below. An amp helps to tighten bass, drive the headphone allowing the coil to fluctuate appropriately and really get the sound it's meant to have. An amp doesn't improve sound quality, it just helps the headphone respond like it's supposed to and the most noticeable aspects to most people are in the lows. People notice the improved bass more than they do the improved highs and for many reasons this is more obvious than improved highs.
All that being said, I'm pleased with the lows but wish it had JUST a bit more oomph. On a scale of 1-10 1 being the AD700s and 10 being..Pro 900s or something. I'd put the DT880s at a 5. They're right in the middle I think. It's really hard to say. After hearing Ultrasone Pro 900s and the overwhelming amount of bass they have, I'd say the DT880s might even be a 4..but let's go with 5 since equalizing them can significantly improve bass response earning it a 5. If you don't plan on equalizing them for normal use (I don't) then consider them a 4.
I might jump in again later on the bass these headphones have, but in short, these cans don't favor the low end more than another area of the spectrum, making them neutral in nature. The low end is good enough for music to be enjoyable for many genres whereas the AD700s were only good for certain genres. This further adds to the value of this headphone since you can use it for more genres than other headphones. If you want to compare the bass to the HD650s, I would say the HD650s have a punchier bass while the bass on the DT880s is more..."elegant."
The mids are difficult to put my finger on. I personally feel they're neutral. They're not sparkly like the AD700s or other bright headphones. That being said, for those that are used to sparkly mids, these DT880s can sound recessed, but I wouldn't say they're recessed. The mids those people that say the DT880s are mid recessed are talking about are enhanced...brighter...sparkly. The opposite of recessed. I would say the DT880s are inbetween sparkly and recessed. Truly neutral. Maybe not as neutral as say the T1, but for the price... NEUTRAL. For most people all this jibba jabba about sparkly sound and brightness may be confusing..so let me try to explain. Sparkly mids are very lively and engaging. They sort of give you that feeling in your chest when you breathe in slowly. It's this sort of...open, clear happiness to sound. The happiness is really more a sparkly sensation and the headphone being bright than it has to do with mids...but another way to think about this is for a headphone to be recessed would mean for it to be quieter and take a back seat to the other areas of the spectrum of sound for the headphone. This would mean that the mids would be less emphasized than the bass or the treble and this is clearly not the case for the DT880s which is why I don't think they're recessed. Perhaps another and better way to describe it is the mids are where the vocals take place. How the vocals come across are very important. There's a certain level of detail vocals should have. If the mids are recessed then vocals sound more congested.
Mids are probably my least favorite area to describe, but my favorite to listen to. That said as far as VOCALS go, I would say I enjoy my AD700s MORE than my DT880s, but that's not to say that the vocals on the DT880s are bad or that the mids are recessed, I just prefer more sparkly mids than the DT880s have.
Perhpas a better way to understand whether a headphone is recessed is to play with the equalizer. I think if you lower the mids, you'll understand what I mean by vocals getting congested, meanwhile making the mid range higher would give a sort of "clearer" "Sharper" sound, but having recessed mids or having sharper mids may not be good or bad. It simply depends how the entire headphone comes together and how you prefer your music to sound. I think another difficulty in saying if mids are recessed comes in relation to what it's being compared with. If the headphone accentuates treble and the low end, like Ultrasones do (Which is why the Pro 900 can be fatiguing), then it's easy to see how the mids can be recessed. That's not to say that headphones with strong mids and highs have recessed mids. For instance a headphone could be a 7 in the lows, a 5 in the mids and a 7 in the highs. That doesn't mean that the mid is recessed, just in relation to the others it seems recessed. Having a 7 in the lows 7 in the highs anda 3 in the mids would be recessed and that's more of the "V" shape you hear about in cans than the "U" shape described in the 7-5-7 headphone.
Some of you are probably hearing all of this for the first time and are like "what the...[explosion]" What is she talking about? Again, mids are difficult to type about, but if a headphone is mid recessed, I don't enjoy listening to it. Vocals play an immensely huge role in music for me. Female vocals in particular are a large part of my music listening. While I wouldn't say I get the most enjoyment listening to female vocals on this headphone, I would say they're good. I would only say they're recessed in comparison to the highs of this headphone.
I think the highs on these headphones are good. The treble is pretty well pronounced. I've even caught certain sounds being painfully treble happy. "TS" or "SH" noises are sometimes sharp and painful..making this headphone sibilant. I have no problem calling this headphone sibilant as I think that accurately describes the headphone. Now some of you may be thinking Oh, God. This headphone is going to be painful to listen to. Not at all. Let me start off by stating that because these headphones are sibilant, certain sounds stand out more than in other headphones. What I noticed in this headphone in particular compared to other headphones is how very keen symbols were. They stuck out much more than in other headphones. Drummers might really enjoy this headphone as I can hear the drummer's portion of the song MUCH more than on other headphones. Most people hear the drums when they hit the snare hard or clang a symbol hard. What they typically don't hear that well is the constant click,click,click of the drummer maintaining the beat for the music. This constant tsh tsh tsh tsh stands out a lot more in the Beyerdynamic DT880. I've got to say it's becomes somewhat enjoyable to listen to. It's become separated from the cacophony of sounds heard in music. More on that later. The highs are very sweet and beautiful. I personally feel they're the shining light in these headphones. If there's on area you can really pick out it's in the highs. It does this very well. It's not painful, harsh or fatiguing like the Pro 900s, 990s and many other headphones. It's very smooth. Very enjoyable. God I love the highs on this headphone. POSSIBLY MORE than the AD700s. I thought the highs on the AD700s were pretty good. I still think that the AD700s for 90 dollars is one of the best headphones you can buy. They provide you with excellent sound overall and in many areas COMPARABLE to the DT880s. I think what makes the AD700s fail is the bass. Just..none there. If they AD700s are more bass, it would be a very very enjoyable headphone, especially for the price. More on this later.
The Highs are again great. Not much more needs to be said.
The DT880s are very similar to the AD700s in terms of overall sound. Where the diverge is slightly in presentation (forwardness), the sparkliness of music and the bass. The DT880s are what the AD700s could have been. They're like the AD700s with good bass. The DT880s aren't quite as good as the AKG K701/Q701 in the mids, but are an overall more enjoyable headphone I think. The Instrument separation on these headphones is great. Not quite planar magnetic quality instrument separation, but that's to be expected. I can't really pick out one genre these excel in great than another. I think that's sort of the point though.
As far as what I don't like about this headphone, that's going to be much shorter than the good things I can say about it.
As I've already mentioned, the "TS" sibilant sounds on certain songs and on certain frequencies can be painful. Not in the sense that OH GOD MY EARS ARE BLEEDING, but more in the sense that it somewhat detracts from the song and makes you focus on that particular noise. It can also be quite high that it is unpleasant to listen to. I would say that hearing that "TS" sound isn't as often as you would think. More sounds are "TSH" which is an okay and perfectly normal sound that plays well on the DT880s. It's just this particular "TS" very sharp sounding noise that is unenjoyable. To be honest, I've only heard it frequently on one song I was listening to, but can't quite remember anymore..if It comes up I'll revise this post to reflect that song.
That said, symbols can be very enjoyable with this headphone or quite the opposite, unpleasant. It all depends on the frequency the symbol hits. If it's the wrong frequency it can be unpleasant and borderline painful. If it's almost any other frequency it is very enjoyable and the fact that you really hear the symbols and other drumming tunes is interesting. Most of the other headphone I've listened to don't bring out the drums section as well as these headphones. Wait, this is the bad section, must get back on these headphones sucking for this portion, not praise them.. My bad.
Let's see..oh yeah, I wish the bass had a bit more impact to it like the HD650s. While the bass is there, I wouldn't say it's my favorite part of the headphone. I'd take the mids and the highs over the lows on this headphone. Again, I think this headphone produces enough bass for music in all genres of music OTHER than electronica. For orchestral music the bass they use is FANTASTIC! Just the right amount. For Jazz, other than the texture being slightly lacking in my opinion (others argue the texture on the DT880s is great, I don't agree. That's not to say that it's completely textureless, it's not, it's just not as textured as other headphones I've listened to), it's quite good too.
Anyway, I'm getting bored of the bad section. The only other thing I'll throw in here is that these headphones are disappointing without an amp, so if you're buying the 600 ohm version, buy a damn amp. The amp makes this headphone good. Otherwise you have a sort of bland headphone that doesn't have the dynamic range it's supposed to. It doesn't go as high or as low and isn't as lively or engaging as it is with an amp.
I've run the DT880s off my phone. While it was very listenable at a normal level, there is a clear distinction in sound quality from your phone to your home usage with an amp. I've also run these headphones off my Denon AVR-1912. It was OK for the first few days, but as soon as I got my O2 amp and ODAC I'll never plug these into the AVR again.
As far as genre's go, I think PIANO MUSIC is probably my favorite to listen to on these headphones. The sound each key makes melts my heart. Gosh, just thinking about Beethoven's Piano Sonata in E flat major and how you can so clearly hear each key being pressed and how high that note goes is remarkable. I'd say if I had to pick a single genre, piano music would be my favorite with these headphones.
I think these are very open and airy sounding cans. I have not tried gaming with them yet, but I think they'd do good. I'm not quite sure they're as great as the AD700s for gaming yet, that's to be seen, but I think these can definitely hold up well. Unless you're completely competitive and feel the soundstage of the AD700s is necessary (I think the soundstage is awkwardly large), then the DT880s would be a suitable replacement and also a boost in overall gaming enjoyment with the added bass that the AD700s don't offer you.
Will update this section more as I game with these headphones.
I think a "cool" effect that works well with these headphones is sound that jumps from left speaker to the right speaker very fast. These headphones are great and are speedy cans. They react well and tight. Also spatial awareness on the SIDES of the headphone are fantastic. I can tell exactly how far a sound is on the sides. On the rear and the top I'm not too sure about yet. That's going to take some more time. I know for a fact that if the sound is properly done that sound from behind is quite good. In several Marilyn Manson songs he's actually singing to you from BEHIND rather than being in front of you. I'm not sure some people notice this, but it's very interesting. I think that the Right Rear area of the sound stage/imaging is somewhat weak. At least it's lacking compared to the rest of the area around my head. I'd like to hear other's opinions on this.
Equalizing this headphone SLIGHTLY can result in phenomenal changes..many of which I think many of you would enjoy. As I mentioned in my thread I'm a fan of positive mids and highs. I prefer them higher than neutral. That said when EQ'd slightly to raise the mids, the bass and just a tiny bit if at all the highs, you can really make these headphones livelier and clearer.
By the way, the ODAC is so very good. At first it's not immensely apparent as to whether it's good or overhyped, but the more you listen to it and hear sounds you've never heard before, you realize this is a good buy. Instrument separation is much improved. Great clarity. Absolutely fantastic quality control in terms of listening to music at high volumes. Very very silent DAC and amp. No noise unless it was recorded in the song and MAN can you hear when a song is recorded badly with all that hissing.
As far as Build Quality goes, the Beyerdynamic DT880s are pretty good.
I dislike the cord that comes with the DT880s. The cord seems slightly cheap, but I'm not necessarily talking about the quality of the cord but rather the appearance of it. Seems kinda' cheapish. Dislike it from an aesthetic point of view.
I dislike the headband. While the headband is COMFORTABLE, I think the plasticy trash that holds the soft leathery handband is garbage. They could really have done a better job on that. It's some kind of weird Vinyl plastic stuff.
The velour pads are amazing. They're so softy and awesome. I love that, but they do kind of get hot. not hot like leather, but more like you can feel it seals well around your ear and the heat from your head gets trapped inside. Honestly, that mostly depends on the outside temperature more than the headphone itself. If you're in a cool setting like 70 degrees, no problem. If you're near 80...somewhat of a problem..
The plastics used are sturdy and generally higher quality than found on cheaper products. The aluminum grills on the DT880s is very solid. I'm not sure you could push them in like on other headphones. These are really perforated closed back grills.
Overall for the price, they get a 7.8/10 on build quality.