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Are you looking for a good quality headphone for recording, mixing and mastering at a good price? Maybe you’ve heard about Beyerdynamic DT series and don’t understand the differences. So I’m going to compare the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250 Ohm (closed) and DT 990 Edition 250 Ohm (open) and tell you which one I use for which purpose.

[Before I start, I’d like to say why I am reviewing the DT 990 Edition and not the DT 990 Pro. The DT 990 Edition was released as a “home” listening headphone for high-end audio speakers, however, on their website, they say that both DT 990 headphones use exactly the same technology inside, so the only difference is aesthetically (1. the straight vs. coiled cable, 2. softer headband on Edition, and 3. colour). I preferred the straight cable so it was a no brainer.]

Now, back to the comparison of 770 and 990. First I’d like to point out the similarities:

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN DT 770 250 Ohm and DT 990 250 Ohm

  • Comfort. Both headphones are incredibly comfortable to wear over the ears. Spongy ear cups and the headband is not too tight.

  • Soundwise, both are very clear and crisp in sound. The bass is not exaggerated like in some other headphones, so for listening and mixing pleasure, it’s rather suitable for acoustic music, and not music where the bass is key e.g. electronic music/hip hop. Frequency-wise, they both sound pretty similar to me.

  • Price. For the quality of the headphones, the price is very good. Good quality headphones can go up to 1000s of Euros along with headphone amps and other high-end stuff, but these are both studio-grade headphones and the DT 770 Pro is a standard in good recording studios for tracking (we use them at Abbey Road Institute (Amsterdam) and Red Bull Studios Amsterdam).

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DT 770 250 Ohm and DT 990 250 Ohm

  • The biggest difference is that DT 990 has an open back and DT 770 has a closed back. This means that DT 990 is better for mixing and mastering, while DT 770 is better for recording. This is because the close-back of the DT 770 reduces the spill of the headphone into the microphone. The DT 990 is less tiring while using for long periods. It has an open back and you can listen for hours, for listening or for mixing and mastering. However, because the DT 990 is open, it means that you can hear external noise very easily and they can hear you. So if someone next to you is watching something on their phone on speaker, it can be very hard for both parties (but mostly more annoying for you). The DT 770 protects you more from outside noise. It is not noise-cancelling, but it does a good job.

  • If open and close back is not your concern, the most obvious difference to me in the sound is the spatial difference. The stereo image in the DT 990 is incredibly accurate from left to right, front to back, and you can really hear where each instrument or sound is placed.

  • The straight vs. curly cable. The DT 990 Edition comes with a straight cable, so it doesn’t have the weight to bounce around if you are on the move, or not sitting at a table.

(I won't go into technical specs, as you can compare on the Beyerdynamic website).

OVERALL COMMENTS (and concerns)

  • My biggest concern is that frequency-wise, it is not at all flat, but it is good to know where the peaks and troughs are so you keep it in mind while mixing. The treble boost is really noticeable and oftentimes, the bass is nowhere to be heard. To combat this issue, I can recommend a plugin called Reference 4 by Sonarworks, that gives you a more flat response and removes the unwanted colouration from headphones. You insert it as the last plugin on your DAW and choose your headphones from the list. It is not a free plugin, but it’s definitely worth it, if you are mixing with only one reference (for example, if you don’t have different pairs of headphones and speakers to compare your mixes)

  • Both headphones are 250 Ohm, which are suitable for high-end audio gear. However, I’ve had quite a lot of trouble using these headphones while on the road, connected to my phone or laptop, as I could never quite get enough volume, especially on public transport. (For on the road headphones, check out my review on Bowers & Wilkins P5)

  • You cannot remove the cable, therefore you cannot exchange the curly one with the straight one and vice versa. (That’s why I went with the Edition, as the curly cable bounces around and pulls on the headphone which I don’t like).

At Bax-shop (a Dutch retailer), the DT 770 250 Ohm are selling for €116, DT 990 Edition for €159 (and DT 990 Pro 250 Ohm €122).

If price isn’t an issue and you’re currently comparing some other brands, for open-back, I can recommend Sennheiser HD650 (open) which are €354, more than twice the price of the DT 990 Edition, and are also very honest sounding and pleasurable to work with. For me, the DT 990 had a slightly more detailed sound and better spatial accuracy, which was more important to me than the frequency spectrum. (Sonarworks has a deal for €699 where you can buy the full software for headphones and speakers + the Sennheiser HD650. They also have a student/academic/educational discount so it is worth checking out). Some people might recommend headphones by AKG, but I’ve tried headphones from AKG and I don’t like the way they feel on my head. They feel less rugged and make a lot of noise when moving around on your ears.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips, or feedback on the above!

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