Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is one of the “old guard” open back studio headphones from the 90-ies which was at the time pitted against AKG K701 and Sennheiser HD 600. Despite the respectable age of the design, the DT 990 Pro is often found in many studios and often users recommend them as a mid price point open back studio headphone. Let’s find out what the DT 990 offers to a sound engineer and reflect how they stack up to today’s offerings.

Pros
  • Priced really good
  • Lightweight
  • Built to last
  • Most of the parts are replaceable
Cons
  • U-curve sound signature
  • The cable cannot be replaced
Use cases Recommended music genres:
Almost anything, just be careful with sub-bass
Best use case:
Mixing and mastering
Not suitable for tracking due to the open design
Tech specs Type
Open back, Over-ear
Impedance
250 Ohm
Distortion
< 0.2%
Frequency response
5 Hz to 35 kHz
Connector
3m coiled cable with 3.5 mm stereo jack
Adapter
1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter
Weight
250 g (without cable)
Require headphone amp
Yes
Headphone amp

Unless you listen exclusively on low volume, then the DT 990 will require something beefier than the output of your phone or computer. The story here is similar to that of DT 880 or DT 770 250 Ohm versions – even though the nominal impedance is lower than, for example, Sennheiser HD 650, these are less sensitive and thus harder to drive. Most modern audio interfaces should have no problem reaching dangerous SPL’s with the DT 990 Pro, same goes for the majority of dedicated headphone amplifiers. The 250 Ohm does present a nice benefit of the DT 990 Pro being rather insensitive to high output impedance.

Build quality


Like its sister headphone DT 770, the DT 990 Pro won’t be winning any beauty contests. They do feel sturdy and you won’t have to babysit them. The ear-cups are made out of plastic, but the U-frame holding the ear-cups is metal, which should take any abuse from everyday studio work. Ear-pads, which are replaceable, are made from velour, which hugs the sides of your head without any pronounced pressure points. Do keep in mind that with use the earpads will deform and soak up the sweat you’ve been producing to finish those projects in time! Swap them out every two or so years, as worn ear-pads change the sound of your DT 990 Pro and there’s always the smell…

Sound


DT 990 bears a similarity to its siblings, the DT 770 & DT 880, and exhibits some excitement towards the top and low end. One could actually call this a U-curve. The treble iceberg which starts at around 6.5kHz makes it hard to judge any instrument overtones. Despite manufacturer’s recommendation, it’s very hard to imagine the DT 990 Pro to be suitable for mastering. The emphasized highs might make it easier to pick out some issues in the mix, but the price to pay is an overall skewed presentation which will force the engineers’ hand and tire their ears.

Channel balance

Overall, DT 990 Pro does well here, there is some imbalance down low which shouldn’t present a problem. The slight discrepancy in the highs wasn’t audible in our listening tests.

Comfort

The DT 990 Pro is very comfortable to wear. These headphones rely on their clamping force to stay on one’s head, but the clamp is well distributed thanks to the large ear-pads. The headband presses on the top of the head very lightly and shouldn’t cause discomfort.

Value

At around 120 EUR, they’re a decent entry level headphone. However the sound signature is very coloured and serious work can only be done if one has spent considerable time learning their peculiarities.

Observations on how headphones perform after applying Sonarworks Reference calibration Total Harmonic Distortion


As expected from an open-back headphone from the last century, the DT 990 performs nice overall, but the driver starts to distort in low-bass, limiting its use for sub-bass monitoring. Most of the distortion profile is dominated by 2nd order which means that even when driven hard the sound will remain rather pleasant to hear.

How accurate and consistent is the correction effect among different listeners?

Overall they do translate pretty good between different listeners, however, there’s a bit of an issue in the low end in the form of a resonance, that’s rather tricky to get rid of. Other than that – consistent, especially given its affordable price.

How much do they differ pair to pair in terms of frequency response?

Overall, they stay pretty consistent, with few outliers here and there, but the general trend stays the same, which means that the average headphone profile should do a nice job.

Rating

6 / 7.8 / 8.5

Sound rating is a weighted average of Frequency Response, Adaptiveness, Harmonic Distortion and Channel Balance scores, with Frequency Response and Adaptiveness having the greatest influence.

4 / 9 / 10

The flatter the frequency response – the higher the score. When evaluating the frequency response score with the Average calibration profile, the pair to pair consistency of the given model is taken into account – if we have measured a considerable frequency response inconsistency among multiple pairs of the given model, the score drops, as the profile loses accuracy. Individual calibration will grant perfectly flat frequency response.

7

Adaptiveness shows how capable these headphones are at delivering the same perceived frequency response to any listener. Headphones with high score will sound nearly identical to everyone.

6

Harmonic distortion – the lower the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) figure, the higher the score. Headphones with prominent 3rd harmonic distortion above 100 Hz will score lower.

8 / 10

Channel balance – the closer to identical the frequency response of both channels, the higher the score. Individual calibration delivers perfect channel balance.

8

Comfort – shows if headphones can be used for long listening sessions comfortably. Every model is tested by at least a few individuals.

7

Build – evaluates how well the headphones are put together, the materials used and indicates the expected longevity. Easily replaceable (and easily available) parts will boost the score. We don’t do any stress tests and very few models are used for longer than a couple of days, so this is a fairly subjective score.

8

Value – indicates the price-performance ratio of the given headphones and how they stack up against the competition. High score means that you won’t find more neutral sounding alternatives for the price.

Conclusion

Durable, lightweight, sits comfortably on the head and most of the parts are replaceable. The U-curve means that the DT 990 Pro is more suited where tonal accuracy isn’t critical.

Final Rating

7.8
With Sonarworks Reference 4
Calibration Enabled
6.2
Without Sonarworks
Calibration

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