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Published on March 23rd, 2012 | by Greg

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beyerdynamic Headphones: A Definite And A Maybe

Yes, the low­er case ‘b’ is in­ten­tion­al. We don’t al­ways fol­low the de­sired style guide­lines for com­pa­nies, but we’ll make an ex­cep­tion for this one: bey­er­dy­nam­ic prefers a slight­ly quixot­ic cap­i­tal­iza­tion. They’ve been around for al­most 90 years, bring­ing Ger­man crafts­man­ship to au­dio­philes around the world, and have cer­tain­ly im­proved our lives- some of the very first high-end au­dio prod­ucts that some of our writ­ers test­ed were from the brand. We caught up with them at CES ear­li­er this year, and re­quest­ed two sets of head­phones that our au­dio en­thu­si­asts have been lust­ing over. One of them is quite pos­si­bly the best set of head­phones, es­pe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the price, that we’ve ev­er seen. The oth­er didn’t make us quite so hap­py.

We’ll start off with a fair­ly rare rave re­view: the bey­er­dy­nam­ic T50ps are the head­phones we’ve been wait­ing to see and hear. Se­ri­ous­ly: we de­fy you to find a bet­ter set any­where near this price. Pret­ty much ev­ery­one can en­joy them, not just au­dio­philes, thanks to the ob­vi­ous qual­i­ty of de­sign, the com­fort, ad­justa­bil­i­ty, and the ster­ling good looks. DJs, col­lege stu­dents, pro­fes­sion­als of all stripes can fit these in­to their style, plus they’re small enough to be suit­able for trav­el, even on the sub­way. We don’t al­ways test our au­dio­phile gear on the trains here in Man­hat­tan- be­yond wor­ries about theft, it’s just hard­er to ap­pre­ci­ate mu­sic over the noise. But in this case, we want­ed to test out iso­la­tion in harsh con­di­tions, as well as on air­craft, and in a more re­fined tra­di­tion­al set­ting- at home, alone, with a sol­id am­pli­fi­er handy. In fact, we paired both of to­day’s sets with sev­er­al of our on-hand amps from Gra­ham SleeMu­sic HallCreek Au­dio, and per­haps our fa­vorite for warmth sol­id sound, the Hi­Fi­Man EF5. We gen­er­al­ly use dig­i­tal sources such as our iPhones, but test across mul­ti­ple mu­sic gen­res in­clud­ing au­dio books and al­so vary the en­cod­ings and bi­trates wide­ly, throw­ing ev­ery­thing from 92kbps MP3 to loss­less FLAC files at any giv­en piece of hard­ware.

The T50p head­phones are a closed de­sign, but aren’t as iso­lat­ing as you might ex­pect. Part of this is sheer weight, as they are sur­pris­ing­ly light at on­ly 6 ounces or so, and are on-ear in­stead of the tra­di­tion­al over-ear style. This is a tricky bal­ance, since it’s eas­i­er for fa­tigue to set in with the pads bump­ing di­rect­ly against your ears, but it al­so means that they are lighter and tighter. In fact, this was the first thing we no­ticed- the sound is pulled clos­er to you, feels al­most in­ter­nal at first, in a way that is im­me­di­ate­ly im­pres­sive. The space be­tween these and any pair of ear­buds is wide, as the ex­tra space for drivers means more, fuller sound. Leatherette in­stead of leather pads of­ten feel cheap, but not here, and the pol­ished alu­minum fin­ish is classy. And whether it’s the ‘Tes­la’ tech­nol­o­gy, or the fact that the 32 ohm impedance meant driv­ing these from portable de­vices was much eas­i­er than with most head­phones, we found our­selves lit­er­al­ly ab­sorbed, blown away by the clar­i­ty, sep­a­ra­tion, sound­stage, and bal­ance of these, re­gard­less of mu­sic. The on­ly ex­cep­tion was hip-hop, where the bass re­sponse was less than im­pres­sive, but for gen­res like soul, clas­si­cal, jazz, these are def­i­nite­ly the way to go. In­stru­ments are lay­ered- strings from Mozart, the acous­tic gui­tar from Bhi Bhi­man, An­drew Bird’s whistling hooks, what­ev­er com­bi­na­tion of sam­ples that Phan­togram el­e­vates. And when we looked them up on­line, we were ful­ly pre­pared for a price tag of $400 or so. Af­ter all, we checked out the MMX 300s, and these out­shine those, mu­si­cal­ly if not in noise iso­la­tion. But Ama­zon lists them at $200, which means we have a new win­ner- an in­cred­i­ble deal on an amaz­ing set, per­haps the last head­phones you’ll ev­er need.

You can’t win them all, though, and it’s re­al­ly on­ly in com­par­i­son to the praise heaped up­on their sib­ling mod­el that the bey­er­dy­nam­ic T70s suf­fer at all. Of­fer­ing a sim­i­lar size and style to the MMX 300s, they are an over-ear de­sign with velour pads that were cozy in the ex­treme. We didn’t feel the fin­ish was quite as stylish or lux­u­ri­ous as the T50ps, but the black and grey is sub­tle and cer­tain­ly nice. They weigh about twice as much- 11 ounces or so- and are def­i­nite­ly meant for at-home rather than on the go use. We most­ly con­fined them to this pur­pose, and they did stack up well in pure lis­ten­ing tests to the afore­men­tioned mod­els. Ig­nor­ing the pric­etag, we couldn’t come to a clear de­ci­sion on sound- some iden­ti­fied these as of­fer­ing rich­er, deep­er bass and warmth. Oth­ers liked the more dy­nam­ic, punchi­er T50p, and most thought they would choose based large­ly on lis­ten­ing en­vi­ron­ment (portable ver­sus at-home). But when the price was added to the mix, the choice is clear- at more than twice the price, these sim­ply didn’t feel like they were punch­ing in that cat­e­go­ry.

Again, that’s no slight against them. Any au­dio­phile should con­sid­er these, and es­pe­cial­ly those who lis­ten to clas­sic rock tracks and tru­ly vo­cal-fo­cused songs, who might have an amaz­ing tube am­pli­fi­er set­up and who don’t mind spend­ing a bit more. The qual­i­ty is uni­form­ly ex­cel­lent but over­all, we felt the B&W P5s, with a cost sit­u­at­ed in be­tween, of­fer bet­ter styling and com­pa­ra­ble tonal and au­dio qual­i­ty. We burned ours in for a few hours and did no­tice a bit of a change- we got a lit­tle more used to the T70 sound, and it grew on us. But for $450, our stan­dards are quite high- es­pe­cial­ly when pitched against the su­perb T50ps.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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