Beyerdynamic DT880 Headphone Review

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David Solomon – Headphones.com

Beyerdynamic’s DT880 is a headphone which I have been long familiar with and have always had a great affinity for since the first time I heard them. The sound is tilted just a notch brighter than neutral while still sounding very natural and transparent. At one point, not too long ago, the DT880s were often cited as the most detailed headphone offering available. While many manufacturers such as Beyerdynamic themselves as well as Sennheiser and newcomer Audez’e have since raised the bar, the DT880 is still in my opinion, the most detailed headphone at its price point. For this, I consider the DT880 a monster of a value!

THE FIT   THE FINISH

The plush velour earpads which Beyerdynamic installs on the DT770, DT880 and DT990 models, are in my opinion, amongst the most comfortable earpads in the industry. These earpads are user replaceable. Should they ever lose their freshness, the pads can be taken off very easily and new ones can be installed. The faux leather headband is nicely padded. The headphone while larger than portable headphones, is lighter than it appears. The ear cups can slide to be raised or lowered. Overall, these are among the most comfortable headphones I know of. Unfortunately, the one-sided 9-foot cable is not detachable. The cable terminates to a standard headphone miniplug with the definitely-wanted ¼" adapter included.

The headphones themselves are semi-open in design and allow sound to leak into the outside. For this reason, the DT880 may not be the ideal headphone choice for some listening environments. Some may inquire as to why >Beyerdynamic would choose to create an open-back headphone. The reason as specified by many manufacturers that design open-back headphones is that it is easier

The DT880 are offered with 3 different impedance ratings. The 32-Ohm version is best suited to using directly out of a portable device or computer. The 250-Ohm version is best when plugged into a typical stereo receiver and many headphone amplifiers. The 600 Ohm version is best when used with a dedicated headphone amplifier such as Beyerdynamic’s own A1.

Like the DT770 & DT990, the DT880 ship with a soft pleather carrying case with a secure foam interlay to protect the headphones as they travel around with you. Not bad!

ALL ABOUT THE SOUND

THE GOOD

  • Even tonal balance, with a slight treble boost for more detail retrieval
  • Extremely natural and transparent sound
  • Wide soundstage
  • Excellent imaging ability
  • Great for acoustic instruments

THE BAD

  • While the headphones are not overtly bright, the extra treble emphasis may not be preferred by some
  • These headphones will not appeal to those seeking extra bass emphasis

The DT880 succeeds at being euphonic and analytical at the same time. The HD650 with which it is often compared has a fuller and smoother tone overall, but does not provide as much air around instruments, leading to a darker sound. The DT880 is also nearly 200 dollars less than the HD650, but competes alongside it quite nicely.

One thing I’ve always loved about the DT880 is its ability to extend very deep into the sub bass region with great impact, but without ever making one think of the DT880 as a warm headphone. Another aspect of the DT880 I’ve always appreciated is the forwardness of the midrange which adds a sense of depth which I feel at times the downside of the DT990.

The DT880 is not without fault. When compared against the HD650, there’s a degree of transparency lacking. The HD650 sound more “alive” to my ears, and transients are more liquid. When compared against Beyerdynamic’s own current flagship model, the T1, the DT880s are shown to be quite a good effort considering the price difference. Even still, the DT880 is no match for the T1’s amazing detail retrieval ability. While the DT880 is likely the most detail headphone at its pricepoint, there is a quickness about the T1 which leaves the DT880 behind very fast. The other noticeable advantage of the T1 is the angling of the drivers which, because of their forward/facing you position, creates a more realistic soundstage and overall sound environment. Even still, the tonal balance of the DT880 is sometimes preferable to me over the T1. It is just a hair less aggressive in the treble and for this reason, I sometimes prefer it.

Using the DT880 600 Ohm with Beyerdynamic’s own A1 amplifier yields astonishing clarity. The transient response using the DT880 through this solid state amplifier is very good. I prefer however the added harmonics of tubes because of colorations and warmth it adds. Using the Woo Audio 5 with the DT880 600 Ohm, I have to admit, it’s good, great in fact. With good amplification, the DT880 can sound very close to the world’s best. If tubes are too much of a hassle, the SPL Phonitor is an extremely capable amplifier with a plethora of crossfeed options which make the DT880 come alive.

The very first time I listened to the album In Rainbows by Radiohead was with the DT880s. Listening to “Reckoner” again by Radiohead I am still stunned by the spaciousness – the room reflections of the percussion sounds inordinately real. The closer up percussion in the right channel has great depth and weight. All the ghosts notes on the snare are perfectly audible and this drives the rhythm with more intensity.

Listening to Julia Fischer’s wonderful rendition of Mozart’s Violin Concerto #3 on Pentatone, I am floored by the near-perceivable vanishing point which is achieved with by listening to this recording through the DT880. By the term vanishing point, I mean to refer to the 3 dimensional horizontal pyramid of sound typically achieved by listening to binaural recordings through headphones.

Listening to Wynton Marsalis’s rendition of “Caravan”, I am thoroughly convinced that this headphone has the finest bass and treble extension combination in its price category. The undertones of the bass are thoroughly felt, while the sizzle of the nails rattling in the cymbals can be heard all the way up top for a clear open pallet. The trumpet blare is never too aggressive or piercing. The piano is of its own space and at no point does the mix of instruments sound congested.

Listening to Jeff Buckley’s “Vancouver” I felt the vocal to be slightly more backward than I prefer. I also would prefer a thicker sound here. By comparison, the HD650 have a much fuller sound, with more presence in the low mids. By comparison the DT880 sounded a bit polite and thin.

I think one of the most obvious advantages which the DT880 has over all the other similarly priced headphones which I’ve heard, is its immense soundstage. When listening to classical music and other well-recorded acoustic music, this attribute adds tremendous depth to the sound. When the soundstage is small/narrower, a large orchestra can sound blurred and compressed. From my experience, very few headphones have a larger and more natural-sounding soundstage than the DT880.

LAST WORD

In recent times, the debut of a thousand-dollar-plus headphone has become a fairly common event in the audiophile community. The DT880 is one of the few headphones which has sustained its reputation as one of the best headphones on the market, despite these newer flagships. For a revealing, spacious listen, there is no better value.

RATING CHART AT PRICEPOINT

Sound Quality 10
Design & Features 9
Comfort 9.5
Value 10 out of 10

*For this review, I had the pleasure of using a one of a kind DT880 made especially for headphones.com . It is a headphone which we designed ourselves. I think it’s simply amazing looking. Black velour earcups; a beautiful brown real-leather headband; and our logo engraved into the metal! Check it out:

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