Submitted by Detlev Conrad … on Thu, 05/17/2012 - 21:26

I have been listening to music for a long time. From radio over casette tapes to CDs I have listened and am still listening to various genres. While in the past I mainly looked at songs, in recent years (really started 2009) have started to investigate sound quality a bit as well – and looked at getting “better kit” where financially viable. In terms of portable audio my first “better” product was a portable Sony CD player which was Atrac capable – when exactly I got it, I do not remember any more – it lasted me for years, and to the best of my knowledge still works perfectly (with new rechargeable batteries, excluding the external battery case). This was followed by a small Sony MP3 player in winter 2006/7 (NWS-205 – something like that) and lastly culminated in a Sony X1060 in summer 2009 which I continue to use to this day. (A great product, sadly discontinued.)

Sony X1060

It was also 2009 when I started my first real research into headphones – choosing Sennheiser IE8 in-ear monitors, which I continue to use – and plan to do for several more years. 2011 saw my last upgrade – full sized open headphones for my home listening, after I found that my IE8 can become uncomfortable after hours of use in addition to constant cabling issues my desk – basically it is always too short… but an extension would be too long – and then it is always in the way, etc. etc. From measuremets I settled on some Beyerdynamic DT900 (Pro) for my choice, yet still decided to listen to other headphoens. After hearing some AKG K701 (tinny to my ears, I know they are said to be very analytical, but I didn’t like them after my IE8) and liking the Sennheiser HD 595 a bit more but still not, I eventually got the chance to listen to (and then buy) the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro headphones.

The graph was spot on – they definitely are a reasonably close match to my Sennheiser IE8, yes, they are a tad brighter, and they have some more piercing highs on some electronic tracks but it is not a problem, they remind you to turn the volume down :). What is important to note here is, that I wasn’t looking for accuracy – nor any form of professional use. I was looking for some headphones to match my IE8 in their sound characteristics that I can enjoy at home in place of my IE8. A reasonable similarity was more important to me than analytical accuracy of the music. In this respect the Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro seem to be a perfect match with my Sennheiser IE8. This also being my first personal pair of full sized headphones, I find them to be the most comfortable I have ever tried too – the pads are very soft, and not as hard as some (AKG springs to mind…) Why Pro? – Simply because they are significantly cheaper than the home version for essentially the same. Some people state the driver in the pro is older – at the same Beyerdynamic claims the only difference is an increased clamping pressure in the pro… Whatever, Paying nearly twice the price for a home product with more “bling” and potentially a newer driver isn’t worth it, at least in my eyes. Why would one care how it looks, when one is supposed to listen? And with regards to the driver – updated products often are a tad more expensive, but nearly doubling the price cannot be justified with new tech – not with a product that is based on its predecessor. Lastly, unless you have a fully blown Hi-Fi system at home, one will need at least a headphone amp to properly drive full sized headphones. (Unless you get very efficient ones, in which case you can possibly get away without one). I did bought a little amp with my headphones as I needed one. I am happy with my amplifier made in Europe, but I do not have a different amplifier to compare it to. On this note though, a good amplifier doesn’t have to be extemely expensive – so before you pay hundreds for one, consider whether it is worth its price, and passing a certain point, it most likely is not.

External DAC & Headphone Amp

Finally, in early 2012 I decided that I needed some suitable headphones for office use at university - to block out external sounds, but also to allow me to listen to music with the ability of quickly taking off my headphones when required. My choice for this task were Beyerdynamic T50p, which are brighter than my other headphones, but enjoyable to listen to.