DT 1990 Pro

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NO SMOOTHING is applied to the shown plots. Most measurement sites have some smoothing applied which ‘irons flat’ sharp peaks and ‘wiggles’. I do not use smoothing because some info about sound quality is lost when plots are smoothed.

Aside from a small correction of the microphone itself also some correction in the lowest frequencies is applied to the plots to compensate for the perceived loss of bass when using headphones. This is described HERE in more detail.
A ‘horizontal‘ frequency response curve on the shown frequency response plots on this website thus indicates a perceived ‘flat’ tonal signature.

ALL measurements are made with a good SEAL on a flatbed measurement rig.
The shape of your head, bone structure, pad size, pad ‘softness,  (compliance), hair or no hair and or wearing glasses may (drastically) change the frequency response of some headphones, so… your personal experience may differ substantially from these plots.

Frequency response (tonal balance) is the most sound-determining aspect of headphones. A horizontal line shows audible neutral response in the plots on this website. Deviations in different severities at different frequency bands have an effect on the sound character.
The bigger the deviation the stronger the effect.

Below an aid to help determining the sound character of headphones with relation to the frequency response.

descriptors2

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Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

DT1990Pro

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is an open over-ear (circumaural) dynamic headphone. It has a Tesla-driver just like the Amiron and DT 1770 Pro.
This headphone is not intended for portable usage as the impedance is a bit too high to be driven from phones/tablets and small DAP’s. It is intended for home and studio usage. The driver appears to be the same one that is used in the Amiron and DT 1770 and is 250Ω. With an MSRP of around € 500.- it isn’t one of the cheapest headphones around.
Beyerdynamic headphones are usually very comfortable. The DT 1990 is no exception.
It can be used in studio and at home.

Build quality is high and the looks are premium as well. Definitely a step above the cheaper DT990. The metal parts and headband as well as replaceable cable are of higher quality. Durability of the plastic parts of the DT990 are excellent as well though.

The headband looks nicer and is a little more padded.  height can be adjusted easily and is ‘stepped’ and clicks in place and stays there as well. The height adjustment is quite large so will fit on most heads. The forward and backward swivel is limited but enough for a good fit.

The cable is detachable. In the left cup there is a sturdy mini-XLR connector. Much to my surprise this is a 3pin connector. I have no idea why they did not use a 4 pin variant. This would allow the DT1990 to be used on balanced amplifiers as well. Given these are high impedance it would make sense to use it balanced from portable gear.
So balanced amplifiers can not be used.
One straight 3m with gold plated 3.5 mm TRS plug + screw-on 6.3 mm adapter and a 5m (when fully stretched) coiled cable is supplied. This also indicates they aren’t intended for portable usage but is clearly aimed at studio and desktop usage.
Another gripe I have is the cable that runs from the headband to the cup has a tendency to touch the head. For balder folks this is clearly felt. this could have been solved by using a coiled wire or running it down to the cups on a different way.
The cable is quite microphonic alas so you can hear the cable rubbing against clothes in the left cup.

The pads are quite comfortable and provide a good seal. The velour feels soft and pleasant. There is enough room in there to fit even the bigger ears and enough depth so my ears don’t touch the drivers.

Clamping force is on the higher side and so is the weight. A higher clamping force does ensure it stays put on the head when moving your head.

specifications:

Type: Over ear, open
Usage: Home, studio
Driver type: dynamic (Tesla)
Pads: replaceable, velours pads (Analytical or Balanced pads)
Inner pad dimensions: depth: 22mm. diameter: 55mm.
Foldable: No
Headphone connector: mini 3-pin XLR
Cable entry: single sided (left)
Cable: 3m with gold plated 3.5 mm TRS plug and 6.3 mm adapter
and a 5m (when fully stretched) coiled cable.
Driver size: 45 mm
Power rating: 0.2 W
Max. Voltage: 7V
Max current: 30mA
Max. S.P.L.  125 dB
Impedance: 250 Ω
Efficiency: 102 dB/mW (108dB/1V) @ 500Hz
Weight: 370 g.
Clamping force: medium
Accessories: hard carrying case, 6.3mm adapter, 2 types velours pads, coiled cable and straight cable.

Sound description:

The overall sound signature of the DT1990 could be called slightly warmish/full ‘neutral’. Of course with the exception of the treble which is not neutral at all. This is with the Balanced pads.
Bass to mids are well balanced / integrated and have an excellent ‘separation’ as in not ‘bleeding’ into each other.
Bass is not overblown as is the case with certain DT990 versions.
Clarity/presence is very good. The mids sound very ‘open’, excellently defined/detailed, dynamic and well separated (wide headstage). It is a wortwhile step-up from the DT990 on all fronts.
The treble region is over the top in level and may sound sibilant to those with an allergy for treble. When you prefer soft and smooth treble either skip these, use the filter described further below or EQ them.
Because of the elevated treble this headphone sounds very ‘airy’ and too accentuated in ‘nuances’. When elevated treble rocks your boat the DT1990 won’t disappoint. When you prefer less ‘hyper’-detail then using the filter this headphone won’t disappoint which removes the ‘sharpness’.

Then there is the Analytical pads. These are a bit more ‘boring’ and much less ‘full’ in sound but are perfectly suited for mastering when all one can use is headphones.
Mids are very neutral so music that doesn’t have much bass will sound a bit ‘anemic’.
Treble is piercing with these pads which adds to the ‘bright’ sound character. With the passive filter this is greatly improved and while still lean and tight as well as clear sounding the treble is not piercing and still surprisingly detailed.
The DT1990 can be considered to be an improved DT880 when the Analytical pads are fitted.
For musical enjoyment the Balanced pads are probably most enjoyable for most while the Analytical pads are noticeably less bassy/warm but better suited for studio usage.
In the end I don’t think most folks will swap pads regularly but will settle on one of them.
The pads aren’t that easy/fast to swap anyway. Certainly not when they are new.
I would say the passive filter or EQ is a must to ‘enjoy’ the sound with Analytic pads.

AB pads

The pads can be told apart by the holes on the backside of the pads.
The DT1770 and DT1990 have a different way of mounting pads than the cheaper DT770-DT990 series. The pads on the DT1990 are mounted on a removable ring that can be pulled off from the cups with some small force needed.pad on ringOnce these rings are removed from the cups it is much easier to change the pads.
Even the Dekoni pads can be mounted on the ring.
Note: the ring can ONLY be fitted in one position so one has to look for a small notch and rotate the ring so the ring fits in there.

measurements:

Below the frequency response of the DT 1990 (Left, Right) with the Balanced pads.FR DT1990 balancedThe DT1990 has a slightly boosted (mid)bass and good bass extension. The mids themselves are good and have slight warm feel to it yet has good clarity. The treble is the typical ‘Beyer treble’ which means ‘overly detailed/sharpish’ and emphasized but slightly better in quality than the (MUCH cheaper) DT 990. Treble extension and sense of ‘air’ is good. There is a ‘fix’ for this when you are bothered by this. Some people will like it just the way it is.

Below the differences in frequency response between the Analytical pads and the Balanced pads.Analytical vs balanced pads
There is a very audible 5dB difference in the bass and lower mids. The treble peak becomes much more obvious (and annoying) when using the Analytical pads.

In tonal balance the DT 1990 Pro is somewhat similar to the DT 990 Pro and older DT990-600 as shown below.FR DT990 old vs Pro vs 1990
The old DT 990-600 has bigger bass and less ‘agressive’ treble. The DT 990 Pro has a higher treble peak but at around 14kHz. The DT 1990 Pro also has a treble peak but at a lower frequency (8kHz). The DT 1990 bass is better extended and has less emphasis/coloration and is a bit closer to neutral while retaining the slightly warm signature.

As the DT 1990 shares the same driver with the Amiron and DT 1770 a direct comparison is logical. Below the frequency responses of the DT 1770DT 1990 and Amiron.

FR 3x Beyer
The treble peak at 8kHz (and small dip at 4.5kHz) are the same. A passive filter is available to reomve the 8kHz peak. The DT1990 has somewhat more upper treble extension giving it slightly more ‘air’ to the sound.
The Amiron is warmer and bassier than the DT1990. The DT1770 is a bit more ‘impressive’ in the lows and sub-lows. What is obvious here is that the drivers in these headphones are probably the same and only the enclosure tuning below 2kHz differs.

Some folks would like to see how the DT1990 Analytical compares to the Sennheiser HD800.
DT1990 vs HD800
Quite different tonal balance where the Beyer obviously has more ‘body’. The treble peaks also are in different frequency bands.

Below the DT1990 Analytical compared to the Sennheiser HD800SDT1990 vs HD800SThe tonal balance of the HD800S is closer to the DT1990 (Analytical) but the Sennheiser is still a bit ‘leaner’ sounding. Treble peak of the DT1990 stands out like a soar thumb. Fortunately that can be ‘fixed’

more pad experiments

As this headphone is bought used and I also bought a DT1770 with some extra Dekoni pads (and shorter 3.5mm TRS cables).
Below an overlay of the various pads used on the DT1990.
DT1770 pleater pads, Dekoni sheepskin, Balanced DT1990, Dekoni Elite Velour, Analytical DT1990DT1990 various pads
The DT1770 pads can/should not be used on the DT1990, nor is it wise to slaughter a sheep for this headphone.
This leaves 3 interesting pads for this headphone. The Balanced DT1990, Dekoni Elite Velour, Analytical DT1990DT1990 3 usable pads
Surprisingly the Dekoni Elite Velour performs ‘better’ than both original pads.
It’s tonal balance is smack between the Analytical and Balanced pads and not only in tonal balance but also on other fronts this is a wortwhile alternative.
These pads are to be fitted in a slightly different way (they simply go over the edge of the cups instead of having to be ‘rotated’ in a small slot. Does not look as good but is much easier to fit and remove. These are pads that actually improve and not merely change the sound and comfort of the DT1990.
The pads are much thicker (29mm) but have a smaller inner diameter (50mm) and are very comfortable, also because they spread the clamping force over a much larger contact area.
In all many ways I think these are a worthwhile improvement for this headphone.

Below the DT1990 fitted with Dekoni Elite Velour padsDT1990 Dekoni

Seal

Seal can be an issue with closed-back headphones but is usually less of a problem for open headphones. Breaking the seal (improper fit on the head) usually means a loss of (sub)bass. Below the effect of a seal breach is shown (using the Analytical pads).
Perfect seal, Seal broken with a thin arm (temple) pair of glasses, Seal broken with a thick arm (temple) pair of glasses, seal broken with a 6.3mm TRS plug.

seal DT1990The tonal balance does not change very much when the fit isn’t perfect. Wearing glasses or having a not so great seal does not change the tonal balance. This is a big advantage of an open design.

output resistance / damping-factor

As this is a dynamic headphone the frequency response might be amplifier output resistance dependent when certain higher output resistance amplifiers are used.
To test this the headphone is measured via a low impedance amplifier (0.2Ω) and a high impedance amplifier (120Ω). On a higher output resistance amplifier the output level will be 3.1dB lower. To compensate for this the amplifier is cranked up to the same level (at 1kHz) as the low impedance amplifier. This way the plots are overlay-ed and it is easy to see how the tonal balance changes. (Analytical pads were used)120 Ohm (-3.1dB, peak = +1.5dB)There is ‘only’ a 1.5dB boost in the lows. (Right channel is measured). Because the lift is present from the lowest bass notes right to the mids the headphone will sound slightly warmer from a high output resistance amplifier. This is welcome using the Analytical pads but less so when using the Balanced pads.

Below the differences in the waterfall response between 0.2Ω and 120Ω.CSD 120 analytThe higher output resistance have no influence on higher frequencies only somewhat on lower frequencies where the plot shows that aside from the small increase in level the damping is also worse. This headphone is best used from lower (< 10Ω) amplifiers.

Below the distortion measurements of the DT 1990 with Balanced pads (Left channel).Dist L balancedThe plot above is in a dB scale, below the same measurement but in a percentage scale.Dist L balanced percentThe 2nd harmonic distortion level (around 1%) in the bass is quite good. It is not at the same level of most planar headphones but impressive low for a dynamic headphone

NOTE: The actual 2nd harmonic distortion above 500Hz may well be lower than 0.2%.
A shortcoming (measurement limit) of my measurement rig.

Below the distortion measurements of the DT 1990 with Analytical pads (Left channel).Dist L analytical
The plot above is in a dB scale, below the same measurement but in a percentage scale.Dist L analytical percent

Below the distortion measurements of the DT 1990 with Dekoni Elite Velour pads (Left channel).Dist L dekoni velour
The plot above is in a dB scale, below the same measurement but in a percentage scale.Dist L dekoni vel percentThe Dekoni pads seem to behave better between 2kHz and 10kHz for higher harmonics as an extra bonus.

Time domain

Below the CSD of the DT 1990 with Balanced pads (Left and Right are superimposed)CSD DT1990 balancedThe dip at around 4.5kHz appears to be a resonance in disguise. At 8kHz there is a resonance but is well damped. The one at around 15kHz is less well damped.

Below the CSD of the DT 1990 (Left channel only) with Analytical padsCSD DT1990 analytical
This plot only differs a bit below 1kHz, otherwise the response is the same.

Below the CSD of the DT 1990 (Left channel only) fitted with Dekoni Elite Velour padsCSD Dekoni Elite Velour
Rarely have I measured such an almost ideal waterfall response. Even the 15kHz resonance has become impressively short lived.

Another form of looking in the time domain is the spectrum plot. The amplitude is color coded and both the time scale and frequency scale differ as well.

Below the spectrum plot of the DT 1990 fitted with Balanced padsspectr balanced
Below 300Hz some short lived lingering at a low level. This means bass does not sound ‘flabby’ at all.

Below the spectrum plot of the DT 1990 fitted with Analytical padsspectr analytical
Not much different from the Balanced pads .

Below the spectrum plot of the DT 1990 fitted with Dekoni Elite Velour padsspectr Elite velour
Slightly improved performance between 400Hz and 1kHz. Otherwise equally excellent performance.

Below the step response with a dB scale (so not similar to an oscilloscope plot which has a linear scale). step DT1990 BalancedThe step response (Left and Right channel overlayed) below shows a good bass extension. The resonance following the rise shows the ‘edgy’ nature of this headphone.
The peak around 0.7ms shows is evidence of its slightly warm character using the Balanced pads

Below the difference between the Balanced and Analytical pads.Step balanced vs analytical
The Analytical pads are closer to ‘colorless’ sound if it were not for the high level resonance that peaks out above the mids and lows.

Below the difference between the Analytical pads with and without the passive filter.step analytical vs filtered
The passive filter clearly lowers the treble peak and shortens the resonance resulting in a clear but not shrill sound that is on the lean side of things.

Below the stepresponse using the Dekoni Elite Velour padsstep Dekoni
This response is quite excellent. No overshoot, no ringing and a slightly warm, well extended bass. All with good linearity.

Square-wave and impulse response

Below the 40Hz and 440Hz square-wave response as well as a 100μs DC impulse.
The upper 3 screenshots are made using Analytical pads, the bottom 3 using the Balanced pads.

SQR analyt vs balancedThere is good bass extension for both pads (40Hz). The measured level with the Balanced pads is closer to the applied (target) level.
For the 440Hz signal using the Ananlystical pads are closer to the target level. There are substantial resonances visible though.
The impulse shows some overshoot with the Analytical pads.

Below the 40Hz and 440Hz square-wave response as well as a 100μs DC impulse.
The screenshots are all made using Analytical pads, the bottom 3 when the passive filter is used.SQR analyt vs filtered
The resonances seen in all the plots are significantly reduced in amplitude. The 100μs impulse does not overshoot anymore and is just below the target level.

Below the 40Hz and 440Hz square-wave response as well as a 100μs impulse.
The upper 3 screenshots are made using Analytical pads, the bottom 3 using the Dekoni pads.SQR analyt vs Dekoni
Bass levels are good. The 440Hz shows a mild bass boost but is as good as free of resonances. Also the impulse response looks much better.

Getting rid of the treble peak

The best way to get rid of the treble peak is to use a passive in-line filter. This filter lowers the treble peak to ‘normal’ levels and leaves the rest of the sound as it is.
Below the response of the DT1990 with Analytical pads with and without the filter.
analytic vs filtered
Below the same filter using the Balanced padsbalanced vs filtered
The 5dB reduction is quite audible and removes the sharpness. As a slight ‘boost’ of the upper treble is still there the headphone remains detailed, just not ‘sharp/piercing’ any more.

Below the schematic for this filter.

DT1990 filter schematic.png

When you can not make this filter yourself or don’t know someone that can do this for you a built filter can be ordered.

summary

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is an excellent performing (measurement and sound) headphone that is well made. Well suited for desktop and studio usage.
The build quality is very high. Comfort also is very good. They are quite expensive compared to the DT990-Pro but the sound quality is certainly better in all aspects.
The sturdy carrying case and Analytic pads are a nice addition.
DT880 fans will love the Analytic pads. DT990 fans will likely prefer the Balanced pads.
The sound quality is top notch and clearly belonging to top tier headphones.
When you aren’t bothered by the typical (Beyer) treble peak this is a good sounding headphone. The passive filter that removes the sharp peak is as good as obligatory when using the A-pads. Also when using the B-pads the filter removes the sharpness effectively.
Comfort and sound quality changes using the Dekoni Elite Velour pads.
It sits between the A- and B-pads in bass quantity and is a bit more comfortable but slightly less well looking and a bit more clamping force due to the drivers being further away from the ears.
What one prefers is rather personal.

Overall a rather expensive but beautifully made open headphone with a slightly warm tonal balance and elevated treble (B pads) or flat tonal balance with fierce treble.
The treble bit can be fixed making these headphones excellent sounding.

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