DT880 Black Special Edition

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published: Jun-7-2020, updated: Sept-05-2021

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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
post separation
Beyerdynamic DT880 Black Special Edition –  250Ω

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The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Black Special Edition is an open over-ear (circumaural) dynamic headphone. It is a black version of the DT880 Edition but has a different sound signature. The Pro versions have a coiled cable.
The DT 880 Black retails for around € 150.- to € 180.- and is only available  in 250Ω.  The 250Ω versions are intended for home usage and have to be driven from an amplifier that can supply enough voltage. Portable sources can not supply enough voltage to make it reach impressive levels.

The Beyerdynamic series DT770-DT880-DT990 exist in many different versions that have been released through their many, many years of existence. Also the DT880 has evolved and the earlier DT880’s sounds different from the later (current) versions.
In my opinion the current DT880 Edition/Pro is an improved version of the older versions. The tonal balance between these DT880’s is quite similar though, not the DT880 Black though. The Pro versions (there is also a DT880 Pro Black version) have coiled cables and higher clamping force.

Those thinking the DT 880 Black Special Edition is merely a different (better ?) looking DT880 may be disappointed (or pleased ?) when finding out this is not the case.

These headphones are pretty lightweight, quite comfortable with soft padded headbands, (replaceable) velour pads and a low clamping force. The pads are a bit ‘squeeky’ when rubbing against (reading) glasses.

The cable is 3 meter long and has a silicone feel to it. Clearly intended for desktop usage. It is non replaceable but fortunately very low in microphonics. It terminates in a 3.5mm TRS jack with a screw-on 6.3mm adapter.
So cable swappers need to modify the headphone when they want to change or shorten the cable.

A nice carrying case is supplied as well which is not as bulky as the ones that came with previous models.

specifications:

Type: Over ear, open
Usage: Home
Driver type: dynamic
Pads: replaceable, velour
Inner Pad dimensions: depth = 20mm, ø 58mm
Collapsible: No
Headphone connector: none, fixed (non replaceable) cable.
Cable entry: single sided (left)
Cable: 3m terminated in 3.5mm TRS with screw-on 6.3mm adapter.
Driver size: ø 45mm
Nom. power rating: 0.1W (100mW)
Max. voltage: 5V
Max. current: 20mA
Max. S.P.L.: 115dB
Impedance: 250 Ω
Efficiency: 96dB/1mW (102dB/1V)
Weight: 320 g. (with cable)
Colour options: Black
Clamping force: low (2.8N)
Accessories: Ø3.5mm to Ø6.3mm gold-plated connector, travel case

Sound description:

The DT880 Black has a V-shaped character with a boomy/honky and not well extended bass. Bass isn’t as ‘tight’ as the DT880 Edition and is more elevated.
The mids are warm and clarity is lacking compared to the DT880 Edition.
Those that find the DT880 Edition a bit too clinical may well like the Black Edition better.
Like the DT880 Edition deep and impressive subbass is missing. It is a bit less obvious with the Black edition as lows and lower mids are more pronounced in the Black Special Edition. Treble also differs.
Due to the  warm tonal character the treble peak is less obvious compared to the far more neutral DT880 Edition. The treble in the DT880 Black is ‘sharp’ and not the same quality as the DT880 Edition/Pro. The DT990 Pro (also available in Black Special Edition, Edition and Manufaktur) are more desirable than the DT880 Black because the sound is less ‘honky’ and bass goes deeper.

measurements:

Below the frequency response of the DT880 Black SE (Left, Right)DT880BE FRChannel matching is excellent and have rarely seen such close matching drivers.
The DT880 Black has a ‘warm‘ tonal balance with elevated treble on top of it.
Bass is extended. No thunderous bass.
The mids have a substantial ‘warmth’ to it. The mids between 300Hz and 1.5kHz have a rather steep downwards slope.
The treble is elevated in a similar way as the DT770 and DT990. The elevated treble gives the idea of having  hyper detailed sound but is also a bit ‘sharp’ with some recordings but still has a ‘smooth’ character. With some EQ the sound quality can be improved.

Below the frequency response of the DT880 Black versus the DT880 Edition DT880 vs DT880BEThe difference in tonal character is obvious. The DT880 Edition doesn’t have the warm tilt (elevated upper bass/lower mids) the DT880 Black has and is much more ‘neutral’. Treble peak of the DT880 Black is higher than on the DT880 Edition as well.

Below the frequency response of the DT880 Black versus the DT990 ProDT880BE vs DT990Pro
The DT880 Black is closer in signature to the DT990 Pro than it is to the DT880 Pro. The DT990 Pro, however, has a treble peak higher up and is more realistic and impressive sounding and similar in price. I would recommend the DT990 Pro over the DT880 Black as both are not ‘neutral’.

Of course there are other (and more expensive) options in the Beyerdynamic stable.
Below the DT880 Black versus the DT1990 with Analytical and Balanced pads DT880 BE vs DT1990 A and B The DT880 Black is much closer to the DT1990 Pro with Balanced pads than the DT1990 Pro with the Analytical pads.

Below the DT880 Black versus the Amiron Home DT880BE vs Amiron homeThe DT880 Black may well be considered the cheaper version of the Amiron Home (lacking the Tesla driver only).  It is obvious the drivers (and price) of these headphones is very different. The tonal balance is not.

Then there is the T1 mk2 which also can be compared with the DT880 Black. Of course there is a considerable price difference between these headphones.DT880BE vs T1mk2
Bass extension and mids are very similar. The biggest difference is in the treble. Sharpness resides in the 4-7kHz range and the T1 mk2 is lower in level making it a bit less ‘harsh’ on some recordings. The ‘details’ and ‘air’ is higher up. The T1mk2 has more elevated upper treble and thus sounds more (overly) detailed and ‘ethereal’ but the tonal balance is quite similar.

Of course the DT880 Black can also be compared with other well regarded headphones.
Below the DT880 Black versus the almost undisputed king of neutral sound the Sennheiser HD600DT880BE vs HD600

Another more modern Sennheiser model, the HD660S vs the DT880 Black below.DT880BE vs HD660S

Seal is important in most headphones to get proper bass extension / reproduction. (partial) loss of seal usually means loss of bass and ‘body’.
The DT880 Black is very insensitive to loss of seal but granted does not have much ‘body’ or deep bass to begin with.
People wearing glasses do not have to fear loosing any of the existing bass.
Below the frequency response with perfect seal and with a complete loss of seal (pads slightly lifted)seal loss

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 different impedance amplifier (0.2Ω, 10Ω, 32Ω and 120Ω).
DT880BSE R120On a higher (120Ω) output resistance amplifier the output level will be somewhat lower (3.3dB). 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 easier to show the tonal balance differences.As can be seen the tonal balance of the DT880 Black does not change much when driving it from higher output resistance (desktop) amplifiers. About 0.3dB more bass is not very audible. Damping is not amplifier dependent.

Below the distortion measurements of the DT880 Black (Right channel)Dist DT880BE R

Below the same distortion plot but with the vertical scale in percentages instead of level differences. Dist DT880BE R percentThe distortion levels are quite low ensuring a clean sound.

Below the CSD of the DT880 Black. (Left and Right are superimposed)The CSD is actually quite good. Very, very short lived resonances around 5kHz and 8kHz but don’t think this will be audible (the elevated treble is of course). No alarming resonances or deal breaking performance.

Below the spectrum plot of the DT880 Black (Left channel) which doesn’t show any alarming issues at all. Some lingering around 500Hz but nothing that is of any concern.spectr DT880BE Left

The step response plot below shows a fast attack but followed by a rather deep ‘bounce’.
The elevated part between 0.5 and 1ms shows the warm bassy character and good bass extension.
step DT880BE

modifications

To me the problem with this headphone is the excessive warmth and treble peak. A lot f people might not be bothered by it and even prefer the V shaped sound but to me the DT880 Black sounds poor compared to the DT880 Edition. The DT880 Edition/Pro sounds much more realistic and all it takes is some toiletpaper in front of the driver to get the treble down.
The DT880 Edition lacks a bit of warmth and while being an excellent headphone and not doing much terribly wrong it fails to impress me.
The DT880 Black, as mentioned above, does not impress me either and think the DT990 Pro is a much better choice.

Having done quite a few experiments with (beyerdynamic) pads in the past I figured I’d take a look at these first. The EDT770 and EDT770B pads do differ despite Beyerdynamic claiming they only differ in colour. The black pads are firmer (less soft/compliant) and a tiny bit different in height and shape of the used foam.

Caveat here is that the EDT990V pads I bought are bought quite a few years ago but were only incidentally used for tests. These might be different from the current pads.

Below the DT880 Black with original pads using the silver/grey EDT990V pads and the Dekoni Elite velour.DT880BE elite velour
It seems like the pads are quite different in sound signature. Bass and lower mids are a quite audible 5dB lower using the different looking, feeling silver-grey pads. The Dekoni Elite Velour change the treble a bit and have a bit more bass. These pads are probably more suited for the older DT880 for those wanting the tonal balance a bit closer to the DT990.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the black pads look a lot nicer than the grey ones I experimented with DT1990 Analytic pads as well and it looks like these are very similar in performance but NOT in looks and even colour compared to the DT880 Black pads.stock vs DT1990-A pads
Also experimented with damping the rear of the driver but this made the sound ‘honkier’ and lowered bass.
To reduce the treble I also played with toilet paper over the thick felt in front of the driver but this didn’t have the same effect as with the original DT880 Edition and resulted in only the higher frequencies rolling off while not attenuating the the offending 6 kHz peak at all.

I also got hold of some Brainwavz pads. Measurements below for in total 4 different types compared to the original pads.
Stock pads, Brainwavz Velour pads,  Brainwavz hybrid pads.black = DT880 BE, teal = velour, orange = hybridThese Brainwavz pads all increase the already elevated lows and sound muddy ,bassy and muffled.

Below the stock pads, Brainwavz leather padsBrainwavz perforated leather pads.black = DT880 BE, blue = perf. leather, purple = leatherThese Brainwavz pads all increase the already elevated lows and sound muddy ,bassy and muffled.
The  leather pads, aside from sounding hollow and boomy, also have a dip around 6kHz making the treble sound poor.

passive filter

With the grey pads the sound quality improved a lot. It sounds much more neutral/realistic and the weird overly warm and poor bass quality is improved a lot.
The treble peak, however is measurably and audible higher and because the lower frequencies are not as emphasized are relatively higher as well.
EQ is essential or a passive filter that removes the peak but does not affect the treble extension which already is less than with the DT880 Edition. Perhaps different felt is used in front of the driver (conjecture as I can’t compare) ?
After some tinkering with components the filter was finished. DT880 Black filter schematic

Below the result/effect of the filter using the grey pads compared to the DT880 BlackDT880 orig vs rey filtered.This is quite a transformation. The sound is much more neutral and realistic. The mids still have a bit more warmth compared to the DT880 Edition. Because of this the sound is less ‘boring’ compared to the DT880 Edition. The filter lowers the 6kHz treble peak quite well and treble sounds well extended, soft in texture and has good ‘airy’ sound. It has become a very relaxing and smooth sounding headphone.

With these modifications the DT880 Black (well not all black any more now) sounds too good to return it. I am going to enjoy this headphone for a while.
realistic and pleasant sound with no harsh/sharpness (thanks to the filter) with a very pleasant tonal character. It lacks a bit of bass extension which is not obvious when listening to it (no bass anaemic sound) but is audible when one knows how loud deep rumbles in certain recordings are supposed to be. The rumble is there but not as loud as they should be.

Below an interesting plot. The original DT880 Pro compared to the DT880 Black with grey pads and filter.DT880 orig vs filtered 880BE

Received a fresh set of EDT990V pads and they have a slightly different colour than the about 7 ear old EDT990V pads I used for the modification.
The latest version is still grey but has a very slight blue-greenish sheen over it. The older one is a slightly brighter grey colour. They feel the same in texture and compliance though. More importantly do they measure/sound different.
The answer is shown below. older grey EDT990V pads, current EDT990V pads.EDT990V old vs new
It’s safe to say the EDT990V pads of today are still similar to the ones of about 7 years ago.

To show the difference with the black pads better see the plot below which clearly shows the black pads do not simply differ in colour of the cloth. The foam inside also feels different which also is an indicator. older grey EDT990V pads, current EDT990V pads v.s. Black padsEDT990V old vs new vs black

summary

Those thinking the DT 880 Black Special Edition is merely a different (better ?) looking DT880 Edition/Pro may be disappointed (or pleased ?) to find out this is not the case.

Comfort is similar to all other Beyerdynamic headphones in the same range. It feels very comfortable to me an can be adjusted over a wide range, has deep enough pads, nice looks (at least to me) and a 3 meter long cable that is not microphonic.
The cable is fixed (left side) and cannot be used on balanced amplifiers. It has a 3.5mm TRS jack with a screw-on 6.3mm adapter connected to it.
A nice, almost hard, case is supplied as well which is not as bulky as the ones that came with previous models.

It should be connected to an amplifier/source that can at least reach 100mW in 300Ω (the headphone itself is 250Ω) to ensure you can reach impressive levels without running out of steam. It doesn’t mind being connected to high output resistance amplifiers/sources.

The sound is ‘warmer’ and bass is quite coloured. The sound is not like the DT880 Edition/Pro but closer to that of the Amiron with less lower bass.
I have no idea why Beyerdynamic decided to use the designation DT880.
In stock form the DT990 Pro is a better choice as it has deeper bass and has better tonality. The tonal balance is closer to the Amiron Home than the DT880 Edition.

With the modifications described above (grey EDT990V pads, basically making it not ‘black’ any more) and a filter the sound becomes much better and, to me even better than the original DT880 Edition with toiletpaper mod.
It has a full sound with soft but not subdued treble and a very open sound which can be called ‘somewhat laid-back’. Very pleasant signature.

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Comments
  1. Heraldo Jones says:

    Hello! You say “In stock form, the DT990 Pro is a better choice as it has deeper bass” but your graphs don’t show that … how is that? Is it personal perception? Also, can we say that once matched the frequency response both “880 classic” and “black edt” are the same headphone? I say that because there are Oratory1990 curves for both (Black looks a little bit more extended) and also Sonarworks has a specific correction for Black Edition and both supposed to correct their frequency.
    Thank you so much for your efforts!

    • Solderdude says:

      The DT990 has less ‘presence’ between 200Hz and 1kHz so bass is relatively more pronounced.
      From 30Hz to 200Hz (bass region) they are very similar.

      The DT880BE with regular DT880 pads (grey ones) is still slightly warmer compared to the DT880 (older one) I measured.

      The DT880BE differs from the regular DT880 and the Manufaktur.

  2. bart says:

    Hi, is there any material that can help me choose between DT880 Edition in 32Ω version and that in 250Ω? All measurements I was able to find are for the latter. I’m planning a desktop setup (no mobile use) but would need a non-dongle DAC for 250Ω, if not a dedicated AMP as well. Thinking of Atom stack.

    (also, if I understand correctly and you Solderdude is actually the Admin here – thank you for your contributions here and @ ASR!)

    • Solderdude says:

      The DT880 Black Special Edition is only available in 250ohm (a.f.a.i.k.).
      The DT880 Edition and Manufaktur are available in 32ohm.
      These differ from the DT880 BSE.

      I haven’t measured any 32 ohm versions.

      Indeed I am also active on ASR (same alias/avatar)

      • Kman1211 says:

        The DT 880 Black Special Edition also comes in 600 Ohms but it’s rarer but I have seen a few for sale in the past on Amazon, etc. I owned a DT 990 Special Black Edition that was 600 Ohm.

        • Solderdude says:

          I can only find Edition versions in 600 ohm and Manufaktur. Of course one can make an all black Manufaktur DT880 and DT990 in which case it is a black Edition and can order it in 32, 250 or 600 ohm.

  3. Adam says:

    Thank you for the research you provide here – very informative.

    I initially purchased the DT 880 Black Edition because of looks, price, and the straight cable, not realizing they were significantly different in acoustics from the other DT 880 models. Using the similarities you noted between the 880 Black and 990 / 1990 as a starting point, I tested a few Dekoni pads before settling on the Elite Velour.

    I don’t have your measurement setup, but to my ears the Dekoni pads tamed the sometimes piercing treble peak without noticeably changing what was good about the original sound. They also provided slightly better sound isolation and improved comfort. Definitely worth the investment.

  4. Miro says:

    Thanks for the effort! Yesterday I decided to order the Black Edition (which arrive today) and just after clicking “buy now” I did research and was shocked about the different sound compared to the regular edition. Luckily I found user comments recommending the grey pads and now your tests. So I will buy the grey pads right NOW! 🙂

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