BEYERDYNAMIC T90: OPEN TESLA CANDY!
Beyerdynamic was so kind to send us the T90 for review, well actually they asked us to review it for them and I’m not going to pass that opportunity by. This is a review sample and it will go back to Beyer after 3 months. In all fairness I have to mention that Beyerdynamic is a site sponsor since recently but that never stopped us from giving an objective review.
My Beyerdynamic History
The first serious full size headphone I bought was a Beyerdynamic DT990/600 and unfortunately we never got along as I had wished. It just wasn’t what I was looking for, sure I loved the looks and the velour pads but I wanted a lusher, fuller sound with different mids (the bass was great, the treble a bit hot) and so I got the Sennheiser HD600/HD650. At that time they were exactly what I was looking for and I sold the DT990/600, I have no regrets. Tastes of course evolve and while I still love my HD650 I have to admit that over the years I have started appreciating the Beyerdynamic house sound more and more. At the moment I own the closed DT770 AE, the Custom One Pro, the T70 and now the T90 which is on loan. The only other Beyer I sold was the DT1350 which neither Mike nor me really appreciate (or at least not enough to keep it).
Looks & Build
You love it or hate it but Beyerdynamic often uses the same basic design in their headphones with the metal ear cup holder/headband. Personally I absolutely love that design. The only thing that keeps bugging me on the other hand, is the 3m cable you can’t detach. Personally I find 3 meters a horrible length. It’s either too long to use at your desk and it’s too short to use in the couch. I was happy to see a dis-connectable cable on the COP and with all this beautiful customizable aftermarket cables available, I’d really like Beyerdynamic to start using them (more).
The material used in the headband isn’t quite the same as the one they used in the T70. This microfiber is more velour like (but it isn’t) and it is softer and thicker than the anti-allergic fabric used in the T70. The ear pads are thicker and the headphone is even more comfortable because of that. It isn’t particularly heavy or light, it’s a normal comfortable headphone (it’s actually 20gr heavier than the T70). The 250Ohm T90 is an open headphone using the Tesla driver technology and the main visual difference with the T70 is how the open ear cups have been designed. Check out the pictures at the end of the article to see for yourself, but it makes the T90 look great (but be careful, they easily scratch). So how does that influence the sound you say?
Sound and Comparisons
I was hoping the Beyerdynamic T90 would sound good and right from the start it did not disappoint. The T90 overall has a very good detail retrieval, maybe not at the same level of the Sennheiser HD800 but one of the best I’ve heard so far. Left-right balance and 3-dimensionality are simply incredible, just like the huge sound stage. The presentation in general is rather airy and there is a lot of space between the instruments. The T90 is a tight sounding headphone that’s not coloring the sound, well maybe just very slightly but you get a very clear and realistic presentation no matter what genre you’re listening to.
When talking about Beyerdynamic headphones there’s always the discussion about the recessed mids. A while ago the DT770AE showed less recession in that area and now I can only say this Beyer does an even better job. Sure they sound different as the closed AE but the mids are really there. They even have this slight touch of warmth and the detail level is top. The T90’s bass is very tight and has reasonable impact/body. Bass detail and layering are very good and bass goes really deep. It’s isn’t the most impactful bass (not like the AE) but it’s perfectly in line with the mids. The highs are also very detailed and layered but not harsh sounding at all. The treble however does “jump out” more than the rest, it’s just that bit less linear but still sounding great.
Compared to the T70 we reviewed earlier this T90 has the more airy presentation making it sound even more detailed. The T70 already is very detailed, here it just sounds more detailed because of the airy sound. The T90 however is less sharp and less aggressive sounding and has the 3-dimensionality and staging. It sounds more relaxed and it is definitely a better all-rounder. While the T70 was very strong with classical music, T90 is strong with everything. Especially the mids section is really different from the T70 and that combined with the open and airy sound makes it a whole new headphone.
I really mean that the T90 is strong with all musical genres, I’ve even spent quite a lot of time with it watching movies and I couldn’t find a genre that doesn’t match with this headphone. Of course it’s not for the regular bass head, this is so much more and has quality written all over. We tried getting a T1 at the same time for this review but we did not get it in time, which of course sucks. The sound signature of the Tesla T90 is so specific that’s it is fairly complicated to directly compare to other brand headphones, I even double checked with Mike but he does agree on my point of view. Do ask about other headphones in the comments section if needed though.
Easy To Drive Or Not?
At 250Ohm, I do recommend using amplification of some sort and to check that I tried a multitude of amplifiers with the T90. First up was the JDSLabs C421/C5 but it wasn’t the most ideal of combinations. It has least low end of all the amps I tried, least detail, … The FiiO E10 like the first one isn’t ideal either: not everything comes out as it should, especially the mids and the bass are left behind. So it seems this headphone does require the bigger amplifiers but on the other hand, not a lot of people are going to listen to this headphone on the go with a “portable” amp.
With the solid state Violectric V200 you get a warm and spacious sound with lots of detail and it is typically V200 sounding. Overall it is slightly less spacious sounding and less 3-dimensional then the tube amps I’ll talk about in a bit. Rein Audio’s X Amp, that’s made for the higher impedance headphones, does ok to good with the T90. You get good big bass but unfortunately it is slightly overshadowing the mid-section somewhat and you lose some of the detail. Treble is just fine but overall a little forward sounding as I already mentioned in the X Amp review.
My old Integrated Kenwood Receiver which I used when I was watching movies gave the T90 a very good sound. For some reason it’s always a great match with the Beyers. Bass is a bit more loose and overpowering however, but that’s the usual effect this amp has. A really enjoyable sound, not the biggest of sound stage or best of detail but it shows you don’t absolutely need a dedicated headphone amp for this headphone.
Using Woo Audio’s WA2 with RCA 6AS7G, 6922 Sylvania and EZ81 Mullard tubes made the T90 sound faster but it at the same time you get slightly thinner mids and sharper voices. The overall sound is very clear and the bass is really tight. Positioning is very good, basically the real WA2 sound signature. With the Lafigaro 339 (Chatham 6AS7G, TFK EF80) you get better voicing than with the WA2 and a slower/warmer/more tube like sound. Overall an easier listening experience while treble stays the same
One of the most enjoyable amps was the Bottlehead Crack (again). Best and biggest, most impactful bass and thickest mids and biggest body. The downside is there is less detail, sound stage and layering. To be honest it is probably not necessarily the best amp for the T90 but it is the most enjoyable one, by far.
After all that I used to listen to the T90 with I can only conclude tubes are the way to go but it of course isn’t a necessity and it does depend on personal preference as well.
Having the T90 around for these last couple of weeks have made me appreciate Beyerdynamic even more. The T90 to me really is an awesome headphone and an ideal mix between detail and fun. Call me a fan. A lot of our readers and myself already “dig” the Custom One Pro and the DT770AE and while this T90 is easily double the price of the last two mentioned (499€/$679) , I hope you’ll get the chance to listen to it and appreciate it like I do.
Beyerdynamic also very recently launched their new A2 headphone amplifier and most likely that will be the next Beyer product we review.