Beyerdynamic’s classic DT lineup, featuring the 770, 880, and 990s, is a trusted range of studio reference headphones. Each pair offers a unique monitoring experience for music production or hi-fi listening. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones are an open-back set intended for mixing and mastering.
Open vs. Closed Headphones (DT 990 vs. DT 770)
Open and closed headphones provide two very different listening experiences. In the case of Beyerdynamic, the 770s in the DT series are closed, while the DT 990 Pro headphones are open. Finally, the 880s are somewhere in between as semi-open headphones.
These terms refer to the ear cup design and whether airflow in and around the driver is restricted or not. Closed headphones create an isolated listening environment best suited to tracking, where headphone bleed into the microphone can be kept to a minimum, or in any situation where privacy is desired. The biggest tradeoff for isolation is that low frequencies tend to build up inside the cans, so closed-back headphones usually aren’t recommended for mixing or critical listening.
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On the other hand, open headphones have vented ear cups. Air and sub/low-end can freely radiate from them. While not a substitute for studio monitors, the experience is about as close as you can get with them. Generally, the soundstage feels more spacious and natural because open headphones are not isolating. Of course, the tradeoff here is that headphone bleed can be an issue if you plan to track with them. They’re also not great for use in public, as the outside is let in and vice versa.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Open-Back Reference Headphones
By and large, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones are an affordable, no-frills pair of workhorse studio cans. The practically all-plastic construction is spartan, and the only thing ‘luxury’ about these headphones is the memory foam ear pads covered in soft velour.
That said, they’re very comfortable, and durable enough for average use. Beyerdynamic touts their headphones as being handmade in Germany with the highest quality components, which appears fair to say. These headphones aren’t really the kind you’d throw into a backpack anyway since they don’t fold up, though they do come with a soft carrying bag.
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As far as tech specs go, the 990’s frequency response extends far beyond the limits of human hearing to the tune of 5 to 35,000 Hz. Anyone without bionic ears will still happily take in the full frequency range represented in these headphones. 250-ohm impedance requires more juice to get loud, but any interface headphone amplifier should do just fine.
Sound quality should be top priority here, and the 990s skew a bit more towards ‘fun’ listening than critical monitoring. The frequency response, gratefully charted by Sonarworks below, shows a bit of low- and high-end excitement—not necessarily the flattest and most accurate representation of source material.
The high-end spikes up as much as 9 dB, which could be useful for spotting mix irregularities, but should be treated with caution. It’s hard to imagine the 990s being suitable for such critical listening as mastering, for instance. Still, many users will enjoy the overall sound quality these provide. As a budget headphone under $200, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros will serve most folks well.
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The German-engineered Beyerdynamic 990s are a great pair of open-back headphones in their price bracket. They may not win any beauty contests, but they’re comfortable, and above all, functional. For other choices, check out our top headphone picks for producing music in 2021.