Review: beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Studio Headphones
Published on June 12, 2023, 3:45 p.m.
The beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro are a pair of high-end open-back studio headphones designed for mixing, mastering, and critical listening applications. Released in 2016, these headphones utilize beyerdynamic’s Tesla driver technology to deliver a clear, detailed sound with an open and spacious presentation. The open-back design, replaceable earpads, and reference-class tuning make the DT 1990 Pro a versatile set of headphones suitable for studio use as well as home listening. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at the sound quality, design, features, and use cases of these headphones to see how they perform.
The DT 1990 Pro represent beyerdynamic’s top-of-the-line open-back studio headphones, sitting above models like the DT 880 and DT 990 in their product lineup. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $599, they are targeted at audio professionals and enthusiasts looking for a more affordable alternative to flagship studio headphones from brands like Sennheiser and Focal. The DT 1990 Pro feature newly developed Tesla drivers, an open-back earcup design, and come with two sets of earpads to allow for some tuning of the sound signature. Overall, these headphones aim to provide studio-quality sound and comfort for mixing, mastering, and critical listening applications.
- Open-back design provides spacious, natural sound
- Replaceable earpads allow tuning of sound signature
- High-resolution Tesla drivers deliver detailed sound
- Rugged construction with quality materials
- Detachable cables and adjustable headband
The DT 1990 Pro aim for a relatively flat, neutral frequency response with a slight boost in the bass and treble ranges. The included earpads allow some customization of the sound signature - the “Analytical” earpads provide more treble energy while the “Balanced” earpads scale this back for a smoother top end. Even with the more analytical earpads, the treble boost is quite modest and avoids harsh or fatiguing spikes in the high frequencies. The enhanced bass provides some extra impact and fullness but does not overwhelm the mix.
As an open-back headphone, the DT 1990 Pro provide an extremely open, spacious soundstage. The sense of space and separation between instruments is immediately apparent, with music elements clearly laid out from left to right. The open design gives the overall presentation a very natural and realistic feel, with seamless transitions as sounds move across the stereo panorama.
Imaging on the DT 1990 Pro is excellent, with pinpoint accuracy for locating individual sounds and instruments within the expansive soundstage. Great separation between midrange elements allows for clear definition of each element’s position, even in busy mixes. The open soundstage gives sounds room to breathe while still maintaining precision in placement.
Detail and Resolution
The DT 1990 Pro resolving ability is top-notch, revealing fine details and nuances in recordings. Subtle textures, reverb tails, and spatial cues are rendered with care and attentiveness. Microdynamics come through clearly, allowing analysis of the subtle volume and timbral shifts that bring instruments to life. The Tesla drivers have no issue retrieving information from even dense recordings.
Design and Build
The DT 1990 Pro utilize an open-back design with vented earcups. This allows air to pass freely through the earcups and provides an extremely open, spacious sound compared to closed-back models. The tradeoff is sound leakage - others around you will hear what you’re listening to. This open construction makes these headphones ideal for critical listening but less suitable for tracking or recording applications where sound isolation is needed.
Beyerdynamic includes two sets of earpads - “Analytical” and “Balanced” - which alter the sound signature slightly. The analytical earpads provide more treble energy while the balanced pads scale back the treble for a smoother top end. This allows some customization of the sound based on listening preferences and applications. The removable design also means the earpads can easily be replaced over time as they wear out.
Materials and Comfort
Build quality on the DT 1990 Pro is top-notch. The headphones feature metal yoke and fork assemblies with a steel headband wrapped in padded leather. High-quality plastic is used for the earcup enclosures. Memory foam earpads provide excellent long-wearing comfort, aided by the self-adjusting headband mechanism. Overall the headphones are built like a tank and very comfortable for extended listening sessions.
The DT 1990 Pro are the first set of beyerdynamic headphones to use Tesla driver technology. These proprietary drivers use a mix of neodymium magnet systems and copper voice coils to deliver high efficiency, detailed resolution, and precise transient response. They help contribute to the open, spacious sound and articulate imaging of the DT 1990 Pro.
Impedance and Sensitivity
With a nominal impedance of 250 ohms and high sensitivity, the DT 1990 Pro provide quality sound even out of lower power sources but will scale up nicely when paired with a headphone amp. Their high efficiency allows them to reach loud volumes with minimal amplification, important for studio monitoring applications.
Beyerdynamic includes both coiled and straight 3 meter cable options terminated with a mini XLR connector. The cables lock securely into place and are simple to swap out. The extended length gives flexibility for studio use.
Care and Maintenance:
The DT 1990 Pro earpads can be cleaned as needed by carefully wiping down with a damp cloth to remove dirt and debris. The headband and earcup exteriors can be wiped down in a similar manner if they get dirty. These headphones are quite durable but should still be handled with care to prevent damage - avoid dropping, crushing, excessive bending, or exposure to moisture. Store them in the included case when not in use.
As open-back headphones, the DT 1990 Pro do not provide any passive noise isolation. Sounds from your environment will be audible alongside the audio coming from the headphones. This allows you to remain aware of your surroundings but means these are not suitable for use in noisy environments. If sound isolation is needed, a closed-back headphone would be a better choice.
Mixing and Mastering
The DT 1990 Pro tuning provides a relatively flat, honest frequency response without hyping any particular element of the sound signature. Their high resolution and spatial reproduction allow for detailed analysis of mixes. Comfort is also excellent for long studio sessions. For these reasons, the DT 1990 Pro make an excellent choice of headphone for mixing and mastering applications.
For leisurely listening, the open, detailed sound of the DT 1990 Pro provides a highly engaging experience on well-recorded music. Their smooth, natural tonality prevents fatigue over long listening sessions. The open soundstage immerses the listener in the recording and reveals nuances that closed-back headphones tend to miss.
While designed for studio use, the build quality, sound signature, and comfort also make the DT 1990 Pro a compelling option for home listening. Their neutral tonality works well across a variety of music genres. The open design does mean they are best-suited for quiet home environments where sound leakage won’t disturb others.
User Feedback Analysis
The beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro are widely considered one of the best open-back studio reference headphones available in their price range. Looking at reviews and user impressions across audiophile forums and technology sites, some key themes emerge:
The DT 1990 Pro receive consistent praise for their open, spacious soundstage with precisely positioned stereo imaging. Many describe the sense of depth and immersion as holographic. Resolution and detail retrieval also impress users, revealing minute nuances in recordings. The frequency response strikes a commendable balance - lows provide impact and extension while highs are airy and crystalline. Mids sound clear and accurate. Some note the treble can feel over-accentuated on tracks with hot high frequencies. But overall, most agree the DT 1990 Pro deliver outstanding fidelity.
Comfort is another strongly praised aspect of the DT 1990 Pro ownership experience. The soft velour earpads and adjustable headband provide a luxurious fit. Clamping force is moderate, avoiding undue pressure. The open-back design prevents heat build-up. Users are able to wear these headphones for extremely long listening sessions without fatigue, disappearing into the music. The fit is equally amenable to those with large and small heads. Those sensitive to treble may experience some listening fatigue however.
Beyerdynamic’s reputation for tank-like build quality holds true with the DT 1990 Pro. The construction incorporates metal components across the headband and yoke paired with high-impact plastic in the earcups. Owners report no creaks or signs of premature wear even after years of regular use. The removable cables and earpads also bolster the durability. While not invulnerable to abuse, the DT 1990 Pro give owners confidence in their longevity.
At their typical street price around $500, users feel the DT 1990 Pro provide outstanding performance-per-dollar. Their reference-grade sound rivals more expensive flagship models. Open-back headphones of this caliber normally cost considerably more. The versatile analytical/balanced sound tuning and premium construction result in an immensely satisfying ownership experience that makes their cost seem like a bargain. For those seeking high-fidelity open-back sound on a budget, the DT 1990 Pro are difficult to surpass.
Pros and Cons
- Spacious, natural open-back sound
- Excellent detail and resolution
- Precise imaging within a large soundstage
- Quality open-back design ideal for mixing and mastering
- Removable cables and earpads
- Extremely comfortable for long sessions
- Open-back means sound leakage
- Bright for treble-sensitive listeners
- Requires amplification to reach full potential
At their typical retail price of $599, the DT 1990 Pro reside in the upper mid-range of audiophile headphone pricing. Their high-quality open-back design, studio-ready tuning, and premium materials justify this higher cost, placing them below flagships from brands like Sennheiser while still providing stellar performance. Many users feel the immersive, detailed sound of the DT 1990 Pro competes well above its price point, providing reference-class performance at a more accessible price point. Considering the natural open sound, build quality, and ownership experience, these headphones represent very good value.
With their open-back design, excellent resolution, and reference-class tuning, the beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro are a superb pair of headphones for critical studio work as well as audiophile home listening. Though not cheap, they provide excellent performance for the price. If you’re looking for a more affordable high-resolution open-back headphone for mixing, mastering, or just enjoying music, the DT 1990 Pro absolutely deserve an audition.
What’s In the Box:
The DT 1990 Pro come packaged with:
- DT 1990 Pro headphones
- 2x earpad pairs (Analytical and Balanced)
- 2x 3m cables (one coiled, one straight)
- 6.3mm screw-on headphone jack adapter
- Hard carrying case
To get started with your new DT 1990 Pro headphones:
Choose which set of earpads you want to use - Analytical or Balanced. The Analytical pads provide more treble energy while the Balanced pads scale back the treble.
Attach the earpads by carefully stretching them over the mounting rings on each earcup. Ensure they are securely fitted.
Pick one of the included cables and plug the mini XLR end into the socket on the bottom of the left earcup. Turn to lock in place.
Connect the other end of the cable to your audio source - headphone amp, audio interface, etc. Use the screw-on adapter for 6.3mm connections.
Wear the headphones so the headband sits comfortably on your head. The earcups should fully surround your ears.
Power on your audio source and enjoy! Experiment with volume and EQ settings as desired.
When finished, unplug the cable and store the headphones in the included case.
That covers the basic setup and use. Refer to the full manual for more in-depth operating details. Enjoy your new DT 1990 Pro headphones!