Open-back headphones offer a unique listening experience. A clear, bright, and airy sound that helps elevate your enjoyment of music. But there is plenty of competition in the open-back headphone market. In this review, we check out one of the leading options. The Beyerdynamic DT 990.
Beyerdynamic DT 990
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 is an affordable set of headphones with a lot going for them. But like many options in the market, they are far from perfect. Let’s see where they shine and where they fall flat.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 has a lot to offer music enthusiasts. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details of this popular set of open-back headphones.
When selecting open-back headphones sound quality is the most important feature to assess. This can make or break whether the headphones are worth exploring further. With that said the Beyerdynamic DT 990 has a very solid sound profile.
The highs are distinct and clear and a little more pronounced compared to the mids. Clarity is high and definition is there. The mids seem more recessed but not in a bad way. They occupy the soundstage cleanly. The low end is also very good. Distinct kick and thump without overpowering the overall balance. Sub-bass is slightly lacking but it is hard to expect thunderous bass from a pair of neutral headphones.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 offers great sound quality.
Speaking of neutrality these headphones do an excellent job of maintaining integrity. Be prepared to hear the flaws in some of your favorite music! But for music that’s mastered well these headphones will bring out subtle details you may have never heard before.
The soundstage is a highlight. Open-back headphones have a reputation for immersion and the DT 990 doesn’t disappoint. Airy and spacious with a frequency response of 5Hz-35kHz.
At 96dB SPL, these are reasonably loud but not excessive. But at 250 ohms these benefit for an amp. Especially if you intend to connect them to devices like a smartphone. There is a noticeable lack of power when using these types of devices.
Despite a few drawbacks it is hard not to enjoy the DT 990’s. Clarity is great, the soundstage is solid, and they offer great balance across frequencies.
Much like sound quality, comfort can be very subjective. The size of your head and ears all play a role in how these will feel. With that disclaimer out of the way, the consensus for the Beyerdynamic DT 990s is that they offer a very comfortable fit.
The first thing you’ll notice is the plush and inviting ear padding. The soft memory foam is fantastic. They sit comfortably and envelop your ears. These earpads are replaceable. If they do end up wearing a bit thin or excessively dirty it’s easy to install a fresh pair.
The plush padding is one of the DT 990s best features.
The headband offers some padding but is not as comfortable as the ear padding. The clamping force is a little tighter compared to other headphones. But as long as you don’t have a large head you’ll be unlikely to feel this extra force. The increased clamping does provide a firm and reliable grip. You don’t have to fear these sliding off your head.
With good padding and appropriate clamping force, these are great for long listening sessions.
Appearance-wise the Beyerdynamic DT 990 is an attractive set of headphones. The contrast between the black casing and the grey padding offers a unique and distinct appearance. There is also no in-your-face branding on the headband. These look great but they are not without flaws.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 strikes a good balance between quality and price.
The main drawback is the lack of foldability. These are not a set of headphones that you’d want to take on the road with you. The included carry pouch is also not ideal. A hardshell case or padded bag would be a great inclusion. These headphones also offer exposed wires. This is something that I’m never a fan of. You run the risk of damaging connections with exposed wiring.
These are open-back headphones so leakage is going to be an issue. If you need isolation avoid open-back headphones. But open-back does offer increased comfort with minimal heat build-up.
Despite a few missteps the look and feel of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 are great. Perfect for home and studio use.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 does offer an abundance of plastic. Luckily most of the plastic feels solid and durable. Nothing compared to dedicated DJ headphones but still not flimsy. There is some flex here but I wouldn’t feel comfortable twisting these too aggressively.
The only sign of steel is in the headband. And that steel is quite thin. It doesn’t inspire confidence. There are more durable options available in the open-back space but Beyerdynamic has struck a good balance here.
The DT 990 does feature exposed wires that could be damaged.
Replaceable parts are also an added inclusion. But, the coiled cable is hard-wired and on the heavier side. Cable connections are often among the first components to fail. I would have preferred to see a detachable cable.
The main factor for durability will be how you intend to use them. If you are prone to be rough with your headphones you may want to invest in something a little more rugged. But if you are generally careful these should last you a long time.
Beyerdynamic has done a great job of balancing quality with price. These are not the cheapest out there but also nowhere near the top end. It is evident some design decisions necessitated using cheaper components. But none of that affects how great the headphones sound. Or how comfortable they are. It is tricky to get this balance right but the DT 990s offer great sound at an affordable price.
The Beyerdynamic DT 990s are a very popular pair of open-back headphones. An average score of 4.5 out of 5 from over 100 reviews is a testament to the quality on display. The biggest compliments relate to comfort level and sound quality.
Are Headphone Amps Worth It?
One of the most common questions concerning headphones is whether you need an amp. In most cases, the answer is yes. But you don’t need to go buy one straight away.
First, let’s cover what headphone amps do. Their primary function is to provide enough power to you headphones. A pair of headphones with high impedance requires more power to function at their best. This is especially the case when you connect the headphones to lower power devices. Things like smartphones, media players, and some hi-fi systems.
A headphone amp will bring out the best in your headphones.
A headphone amp will improve the sound quality of your headphones. It delivers an appropriate amount of power to your headphones. This results in optimum clarity, detail, volume, and soundstage.
But some headphones work just fine without one. Lower impedance headphones don’t require as much power. But they will often sacrifice audio quality for this compatibility.
If your budget allows a good headphone amp is a worthwhile investment. Especially if you are already spending a lot on your headphones.
The open-back headphone market is a hotly contested space. Here are some other options to explore if you want to experience the superior sound stage that open-back headphones offer.
Grado SR325e Review
The Grado SR325e is another popular pair of open-back headphones. The on-ear design does allow for extra breathability but results in a lower comfort level. Despite this, they offer some features which make these headphones worth considering.
- Excellent clarity with precise detail and refined balance.
- Rugged and durable construction with rotating earcups.
- Much like the DT 990, the cable is not detachable.
Sennheiser HD 650 Review
The HD 650 from Sennheiser is another great option. It is perfectly suited to studio work thanks to its detailed and accurate sound delivery. High-quality materials and excellent soundstage have made it a favorite of many reviewers.
- Vibrant, clear, and very neutral. A great choice for professionals.
- Detachable cable and solid build quality.
- Not a very attractive pair of headphones.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 650 review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 650
Monolith M1060 Review
If you are looking for a statement pair of headphones look no further than the Monolith M1060. These large headphones offer big planar drivers to deliver an excellent listening experience.
- Unique eye-catching design supported by powerful sound.
- The Fabric-coated cable and the hardshell case are great inclusions.
- Bulky and quite heavy. Reasonably comfortable but not great for longer sessions.
Read our full Monolith M1060 review for more detailed information.
Should You Buy?
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 is an impressive set of open-backed headphones. While it may not offer the most robust build quality it presents excellent value.
The true star here is the audio quality. And that’s what open-backed headphones should be all about. Rich, detailed, and clear. The soundstage is roomy and precise. Once you factor in the comfort level these headphones are among the best open-back headphones available today.
Beyerdynamic DT 990