THE ONLY MAJOR MANUFACTURER I know of that makes the same headphone in different impedances, Beyerdynamic offers the DT-990 in a 32-ohm version for use with portable devices, a 250-ohm version for average home gear, and a 600-ohm version for high-end headphone amps. We requested the 32-ohm version because the other headphones tested here run in that range and because we figured most S+V readers would at least occasionally want to plug straight into a smartphone or a computer.
All the panelists complimented the DT- 990’s build quality, and none complained about the ergonomics. “It’s like putting on a nice, comfy sweater,” Geoff said. “It feels secure, but you don’t notice it.” The earcups clamp your head fairly firmly, but the ample padding and the soft fabric over the pads allow for hours-long listening sessions. Beyerdynamic also throws in a really nice carrying case with the DT-990.
It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t like the sound of the DT-990. The three youngest panelists all picked it as their favorite, and I enjoyed it, too. “It’s pretty far ahead of the rest,” Joe said. “I can hear the kinds of details on these that I hear from our speakers.” Geoff was similarly effusive: “Without question the best,” he said. “It’s very open-sounding, and it tends to ‘disappear’ more than the others.” Howard, though, felt the DT-990 was good but lacked detail. I concurred; even though I loved the sound, it seemed a bit less precise than with the Audio-Technica ATH-AD900 and the Sennheiser HD598.
The DT-990’s frequency response is well balanced from bass to treble. Right and left channels match well. The 75-ohm output impedance measurement showed a minor change in frequency response, a bump of about 1.2 dB centered at 120 Hz. Impedance averages 32 ohms but increases to 43 ohms at 100 Hz. Isolation is a little better than average for an open-back headphone, reducing ambient noise by 10 to 20 dB above 2 kHz. Distortion is very low at 80 dB; at 100 dB, it rises below 50 Hz to 13.1% at 20 Hz. Average sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz with a 0.179-volt RMS signal is 102.8 dB.
Of the six headphones we tested, the DT-990 is one of the two safest recommendations we can make. It’s comfortable and well built, and your impression of the sound will likely range from very good to great.