Review: Beyerdynamic DT880 PRO Headphones
Most headphones fall into one of two main categories: closed-back or open-back. Closed-back headphones offer a high degree of sound isolations, making them good for tracking, or mixing in noisy environments, whereas open-back headphones tend to have a more transparent sound, making them good for mixing in the studio. However, the DT880 PROs, with a street price of around £200, are neither open- nor closed-back. Beyer have come up with a design which is more half and half, or semi-open, in order to create the best possible sound. Consequently, the DT880 PROs do offer a certain degree of isolation, but also sound remarkably clear. Nevertheless, the best place for these headphones is in the mixing room, as opposed to a recording booth or mixing at live venues.
As with all Beyer products I have come across, the build quality is very good. The DT880 PROs are a circumaural design, having cushioned velour pads which fit comfortably over the ears. The pads are replaceable, which is good, as most headphone pads will perish over time. The cushioning over the headband can also be replaced. However, that is the limit of their user serviceability. The cord, unlike the Beyer DT250 studio headphones, does not disconnect and is not user serviceable. This gives a little cause for concern, since these are ‘work’ headphones, but having said that, I have an old pair of DT531s with a similar cord connection that still works even after a few accidental tugs. Fortunately, the DT880 PRO cord is the coiled type, so if you try standing up while your foot or chair is on part of the cable you will feel an increase in resistance, whereas with straight cable the first resistance felt is when the cable reaches the limit of its travel, which translates into a brutal tug, and possibly even the headphones flying off your head onto the floor. The cord terminates with a gold-plated stereo mini jack, which screws into a gold-plated 1/4” adaptor. The headphones have an impedance of 250 ohms.
The sound quality of the DT880 PROs is commendably good. The frequency response, quoted as 5 – 35,000 Hz, is very flat, so the sound is not enhanced at all. This helps you to hear exactly what is going on in the mix. The bass is smooth and deep for monitor headphones, the treble is clear, without being brash or forceful, and the mid-range is accurate. The first time I heard one of my mixes through these phones I was very impressed with the sound, but not with the mix I had done! The DT880 PROs revealed certain flaws, which is exactly what a good pair of studio headphones should do. The mix I subsequently created with these headphones was much better.
As with most true studio monitor headphones, you are not going to be bowled over with the sound if you plug them into your stereo. I would much rather listen to my aged Beyer DT531 hi-fi headphones for leisure. However, in the studio the DT880 PROs stand out.
One of the main competitors for the DT880 PROs, although a little more expensive, are the Sennheiser HD 650s. As with the DT880 PROs, the HD 650s have received extremely good reviews in audio journals. I tried these in the shop but, as with most Sennheisers, I found the treble to be just a little too up front. However, this is not to cast aspersions on Sennheiser, they make excellent headphones.
One other point worthy of mention is that the DT880 PROs come with a soft storage case. For professional studio owners this is not going to be such a bonus, but for people with home studios, who are not using the headphones every day, it is far better to store them in a case, where they are protected from dust and less susceptible to damage.
In conclusion, the DT880 PROs are reference-class semi-open headphones, specifically designed for studio use, and this is where they are at their best. Ideal for mixing, these headphones are a pleasure to work with, clear, revealing, faithful, and honest. I have no regrets purchasing the DT880 PROs, and am looking forward to my next mixing session.
Since writing this review my DT 880 PROs developed an intermittent fault where the sound in the left cup would occasionally cut out. Twiddling the cable near the ear cup brought the sound back, so clearly this suggested broken wires within the cable, or a poor connection to the driver. The cause would most likely have been due to an inadvertent and excessive tug on the cable, but I have no recollection of this happening, and no other person had used the headphones.
I returned the headphones to the shop, where they were sent off for repair. Two weeks later I had a call saying the repair was complete and they were ready to pick up. The repair bill was itemized as follows:
- New Cable £23.00
- New Driver £85.00
- Labour £121.00
- Handling Charge £12.00
- TOTAL £241.50
The current price for the headphones in the shop was £228.00, £13.50 cheaper than the repair! Fortunately, my headphones were only five months into their guarantee, so I had nothing to pay, but the message is clear – take extreme care of your headphone cables.
I am not calling into question the manufacturing quality of the DT 880 PROs, but in view of the problem I had it seems all the move clear that headphones with detachable cables, such as the Beyer DT 250s, really are a better option for general studio use. The DT 880 PROs are still very good, but perhaps better kept strictly for your own use.
One final note; the repair was excellent, with no evidence that they had been opened up or tampered with in any way.
(I would like to affirm to the reader that I have no connection with Beyerdynamic, and have received no payment or benefits from any source for writing this review. It is a true customer/user review.)