Beyerdynamic was founded by Eugen Beyer in 1924 and made its mark with its first series of cinema loudspeakers. Beyer was born in St. Petersburg but the family found itself stranded in Berlin at the start of World War I and after a short period in Sweden, Beyer enrolled at the Technische Universität Berlin. After nearly a century of groundbreaking technological innovation, Beyerdynamic is pushing hard into the gaming space with the $299 Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X Headphones.
The past decade has been transformational for the headphone category and those of us who use headphones as our primary listening device are definitely spoiled; the level of innovation has been rather staggering thanks to startup brands like Audeze, Dan Clark Audio, Meze Audio, Noble, and Ultimate Ears who have pushed the envelope with each new product cycle.
The headphone industry is going to be a $27B business within 5 years; a trend that explains why so many companies are jumping into the category offering headphones, earbuds, portable headphone amplifiers/DACs, DAPs, cables, and desktop headphone systems.
Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, and AKG are 3 companies in transition. AKG is now owned by Samsung which purchased Harman, Sennheiser has new ownership which has created a degree of flux, and Beyerdynamic is still owned by the Beyer family.
After almost a century, Beyerdynamic has a legion of fans but it’s definitely not as well known from a mainstream perspective.
A Bisl History
The Beyer DT 880 family of headphones is quite possibly the most widely used headphone in history and one of the longest lasting as well. The DT880 was introduced in 1981, with its siblings, the DT770 and DT990 arriving on scene in 1985.
Early models were mostly plastic and while reasonably durable, they didn’t withstand the rigors of studio use. So in the early/mid 1990s, the Pro Series appeared and are still with us today.
The Pro models have become a favorite of musicians, studios, schools, and music lovers everywhere for their durability and performance. German engineering that isn’t inexpensive but well worth the money.
We have seen more than a few changes to the lineup over the years as early versions were all high impedance with the 880 and 990 at 600 ohms and the 770 at 250 ohms. Later offerings included 32, 80 and 250 ohms versions as the market demand shifted.
The high impedance models have remained the most popular in the lineup though as it was generally accepted that the sound signature differed with impedance and many early reviews of the low impedance versions noted a leaner sound.
It didn’t take long for the standard advice to become “buy the highest impedance version your equipment will handle.”
I’ll admit that I love the Beyerdynamic house sound and that my own collection includes all three of the 800 Series models as well as several T Series and a DT1990. So when I started hearing industry rumors about the successors to the 880 Series coming out, I asked for review samples as soon as they were available.
I recently received two headphones from Beyerdynamic to review; the DT 700 Pro X and DT 900 Pro X respectively. The DT 700 is a closed back headphone, while the DT 900 is an open back version. Gone is the semi-open version and at present there are no plans for a DT 800 Pro X.
Stylistically, the new models very much resemble their predecessors with round cups, stamped gimbals, velour earpads, and a padded headband with metal insert for strength.
Some new features have crept into the models though with a removable cable using a mini-XLR connector, a new method of pad attachment, and the all matte black color scheme.
I do like the snap-on pad arrangement as it is much easier to remove and replace pads compared to the 880 and while I am glad to see Beyer adopt a removable cable on their entry level models, I do wish they had used a 4 pin connector so balanced connections were an option without having to modify the headphones.
Still, with 4-pin XLR connectors of the same size readily available, I think it’s likely that replacing the 3-pin version should be a fairly straight forward procedure for those interested.
Internally, the drivers retain the 45mm size of the previous models, but are a completely new design that Beyerdynamic calls the STELLAR.45; the new driver offers trickle down technology from the higher end models with improved frequency response on both ends of the spectrum, a higher sensitivity rating, and an impedance of 48 ohms.
The new STELLAR.45 driver was developed by Beyerdynamic in Heilbronn and ensures a loud and powerful sound on all playback devices. A strong neodymium magnet and a voice coil made of copper-plated high-tech wire make this possible.
The 48 ohms impedance is still on the higher side for use with entry level DAPs and some Dongles, but when combined with its measured sensitivity of 98.2 dB/mW, the Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X is usable with most sources.
Also noteworthy is the distortion which is 0.04% at 1kHz and only 0.4% at 100Hz; which a few years ago would have made this driver an extremely high end proposition. On paper, the Stellar 45 driver looks like a solid piece of engineering.
The DT 900 Pro X delivers good bass performance with improved low end extension and faster transients than its predecessor. It won’t please the bass-head crew but is just slightly above neutral with a peak at about 80Hz falling gently to both sides and a final roll-off somewhere below 25Hz.
The mid-bass is equally well controlled with good slam when called upon, but not becoming overbearing or dominant in the mix. The DT 900 Pro X is true to what a monitoring headphone should be and does not exaggerate the bass, but does take EQ well so bass adjustments in the mix show up quite easily.
There is no perceptible bass bleed; very little added warmth is carried over into the midrange. Male voices have ample weight and I never found there to be any chestiness to any performance. Rock guitar is delivered with more than enough growl and I found the detail retrieval to be excellent.
Strings have realistic timbre as well with a bit more energy in the upper midrange allowing the violin to sound a bit more present than other string instruments. Female vocals do take a small step forward in the mix with additional presence, detail, and top end energy.
The top end is most certainly extended on the DT 900 Pro X, but I can see how some might feel that it straddles the line between too much and not enough. Really hot recordings will definitely make their presence felt and that’s not just the case with pop or rock music. I would not use a forward sounding DAP or overly neutral Dongle DAC like the THX Onyx with these headphones — way too much top end energy and not enough midrange warmth to keep one engaged during longer listening sessions.
Extension at the northern end is quite good with final roll-off being well above what most of us can hear and even what most hobbyist rigs will measure accurately. Based on my tests, I found roll-off to be near the 18kHz mark. The treble is well detailed with good clarity and percussion has good tonality and airiness.
The soundstage is slightly wider than it is deep but has good proportion and adds some height to the mix and shows a solid improvement over the 990 in that regard. Layering and instrument separation are improved over older models as well.
Imaging is also quite good with movements easily tracked and musicians carved neatly in their space.
The Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X surprised me; primary because it offers such superlative performance at its asking price. The Beyerdynamic 880 Series has dominated the studio market for nearly 30 years and the 900 Pro X puts them in a solid position to continue that dominance into the next generation.
When the 880 Series arrived, it was competitive with the Sennheiser lineup in the audiophile category as well, but with the advent of the HD6xx at the $250 price point, Sennheiser changed the market.
The DT 900 Pro X is the first serious challenger to the HD6xx and will definitely win its share of converts with its more even tonality and better low end. Yes, it is a bit brighter sounding than the HD6xx, but for some that will be a blessing as well.
At its asking price, the Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X is one of my favorite new headphones of the past 12 months and has already earned its spot on my list of the top new headphones of 2022.
Related reading: Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X Headphones Review (closed-back)