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Saturday, August 6, 2011


By Tyll Hertsens

Simply put, I'm stunned.

It's hard to make a good sounding sealed headphone, and much more so a small, supra-aural (on-ear) type. They all seem to falter sonically somewhere. In-ear headphones were the only way to get really good portable sound ...

... until now.

The Beyerdynamic DT 1350
Man, I'm in love. It's hard to know where to start when it's all so good. I suppose the place to start is with the manufacturer's intent. From Beyerdynamic's website, the DT 1350 are:

"Closed supraaural headphone for control and monitoring applications, musicians and DJ's."

These headphones are absolutely fantastic for pro applications. The sound is excellent, the isolation is excellent, and the durability appears to be good. They don't fold up, but they're small and come with a dandy carrying case. I would think on first use that most location recordists, ENG teams, DJs, and musicians who don't want to use in-ear monitors would lust for a pair. They are simply that good.

I'd like to quote from a Head-Fi thread:

"It almost sounds like they have now something that could rival their own DT48." --- Kees
I think Kees nails it with this statement: I think the DT 1350 with its great sound and isolation will be the new standard for field recording professionals. The DT 48 sounds wretched in comparison.

But consumers will love these cans, too. They look good, sound good, play loud enough on portables, and sound even better off home gear. Why they produced the remarkable inferior sounding T50p at nearly the same price for consumers is beyond me. We listen to the same music the pros produce, why wouldn't the same headphones be appropriate. Argh! Rant over.

Styling, Ergonomics, and Build Quality
Form follows function forcefully and with great flair in the DT 1350. These are a handsome headphone from every angle, and appear to be very well built.

Twin metal headband straps can split to various angles at the hinge for a very secure fit on the head. Drummers will like these cans. Headband metal straps have a hard plastic covering, and a thin pleather pad on each band; they are not plush by any means, but they are light and unobtrusive on the head. The hinge also houses the detent mechanism for the earpiece adjustment, which is positive, and provides an appropriate range of motion. This same hinge mechanism allows the earpieces to be rotated forward or back 90 degrees for one-ear listening. DJs will appreciate the very secure and reasonably comfortable fit in this one sided configuration. (There is no mono switch, however.)

The bail holding the earpiece to the adjustment strap is of formed sheet metal and elegantly follows the shape of the earpiece; the swivel action allows the earpieces to align easily with your ears, and twist flat for storage. The earcups are nicely finished black plastic.

Warning for longhairs: these headphones can catch on your hair pretty easily. They're so good though, that's it's worth a little pain ... heck, they're so good it's worth a haircut.

The earpads are pleather covered soft foam rings that have a somewhat flat profile and provide excellent isolation. The earpads are attached with a reusable adhesive and are replaceable. You will need to firmly pull on one side of the pad --- it's very well attached --- but once it starts coming off, it comes off readily and cleanly. (I recommend that anyone who has the old version of the T50p with the round cross-section pad, to replace them with this new style pad. Part # 906.794)

The 1.5 meter long cable exits the left earpiece and is terminated in a rather large threaded stereo mini-plug. A 1/8" to 1/4" screw-on adapter is included, as is a dual pin airline adapter. The included carry case is a sturdy fabric clam-shell with a Velcro closure strap. The interior of the case has a protective foam-filled and fabric covered insert with cut-outs nicely shaped to receive and protect your headphones.

Comfort and Isolation
Supra-aural (on the ear) headphones are never really comfortable when compared to full-sized circumaural (around the ear) cans. There's simply no way to make something pressing against your ear a pleasure for long term listening. This problem is compounded with the need for good isolation, which requires a reliable seal and generally greater clamping force. A good earpad is key to success. The DT 1350 earpads are soft and supple, conform quite well to the ear, and do provide very good isolation. While I would not call these a particularly comfortable headphone, I would also not characterize them as uncomfortable; rather, they are utilitarian and highly functional. The clamping force is firm without being overbearing and, because the pads are so nicely designed, is easily tolerable. Comfort with the DT 1350 is on par with, to slightly better than, other headphones of this type. If you want a truly comfortable headphone, you need to buy full-sized cans.

Fig 1 Shows the off-the-chart isolation of the DT 1350.

The measured isolation of 19dB (averaged broadband isolation from 100Hz to 10kHz) is very good on the DT 1350; the highest I've measured on an earpad headphone, and second only to the Beyerdynamic DT 48 of all sealed headphones --- not including in-ear monitors. This is simply an excellent result.

I took a flight recently with these and was amazed at the isolation. I could hardly heard the pilot announcements were happening, although I'll note that they weren't as obnoxiously loud as they usually are on that particular flight.

We should talk about the sound now ... 'cuz it's very good ...

The Sound and Measurements
I can tell you that the world of headphone geeks is all abuzz with praise for the sonics of this spectacular little headphone.

I've been listening my way through a bunch of sealed headphones, both full-size and on-ear, preparing to do a buyers guide. I started with sealed headphones because, as a rule, they suck. All that trapped air inside the closed earcups, both between the headphone and ear and behind the driver, makes for a great opportunity for resonances and whatnot to muddle up the sound. Headphone makers really struggle to get sealed headphones to sound good. I simply don't get how Beyerdynamic managed to get such great audio performance from such small, sealed headphones.

Simply put, these are the best sounding supra-aural, sealed headphones I've heard. Tight and bottomless bass, well articulated highs without harshness, and a mid-range truthful to the tone of a human voice are all here. The problem is the bits don't integrate into a natural whole as well as the very best headphones. But they do it as well or better than any other small sealed can I've heard.

The DT 1350 does the highs quite well, though they do have a bit of a cupped sound in the low treble. To my ears, brush strokes on snare drums sounded dryer and almost papery; on my LCD-2 you could hear the natural sound of the skin. To hear these problems, however, I have to compare these cans to my reference headphones. Compared to virtually all other headphones of their type, their treble response is spectacular. Nicely detailed, without any harshness. Man! I wish there were more headphones I could say that about.

I'm going to mix the measurements in with some more sonic observations because they so strongly tell the tale with these cans.

Fig 2 Shows the frequency response of the DT 1350.
The lower traces on the graph show the raw measurements of the headphone in five slightly different positions on the ear. The amplitude spread of these measurements in the lower frequencies is due to the changing seal on the ear when repositioned. The spread of these data with the DT 1350 is fairly small relative to other cans of this type, and indicates good performance of the earpads sealing on the ears.

The upper traces are the spatially averaged and HRTF compensated frequency response of the left (blue) and right (red) channels. The flat extension of the bass from 100Hz to 10Hz is simply amazing. I've never seen anything even close to this in an earpad headphone, and only a few full-sized cans achieve it. The bass on the DT 1350 is bottomless, this headphone does the low notes spectacularly.

The frequency response curves from 100Hz to 1000Hz is slightly bumpy, but still quite good for a headphone of this type. Above 1000Hz, the frequency response gently rolls off until about 7kHz where it spikes to peak at 9kHz followed by some peaks and valleys. The dip at 7kHz is a somewhat normal result, but slightly excessive with these headphones.

As I listen to these cans for coloration, I sense them as quite neutral, though they don't sound nearly as open or deep imaging as better full-sized headphones. One comment I read on a Head-Fi thread that kept ringing in my ears was this one:

"With the 1350, it requires readjustment every time, even if it's the only headphone I've been using. I might think it's because it's hard to squeeze all the frequency ranges into a small on-the-ear headphone, so maybe there is a hole in the response that is jarring when the ear first hears it." --- Beagle
I think that dip at 7kHz may be somewhat responsible, and I do think that the bumps and wiggles below 3kHz may indeed show the remaining artifacts of "squeez[ing] all the frequency ranges" into the headphones after the engineers did their best tweaking them. One thing missing for me in these cans is "coherence," which is essentially the time or phase alignment of the various frequencies. When sound is coherent, it tends to sound deep and deliver the whole of the music intimately. It seems to me that the DT 1350 suffers from a lack of coherence somewhat, possibly due to the small size of the enclosure and all the correcting done to compensate for it. Again, in my experience, poor imaging and coherence are very common in small, sealed cans, and it may mean that you have to psycho-acoustically reacquire the aural image encoded in the somewhat unnatural signal every time you put them on.

Fig 3 Shows the 30Hz square wave response of the DT 1350.
On the best 30Hz square waves, the top and bottom are straight lines. On most headphones they sag inwards. On the DT 1350 they hump up a little --- it's quite an unusual response. But notice how they stay nicely above zero over the entire length of the top; this indicates a strong, tight, properly phased bass response. And boy do these headphones have it. It may have a little color in it --- I did perceive these cans as a tad uneven in listening --- but man, the power in the bass is right where it needs to be. No accentuated, bloated, one-note bass here, just deep and clear. Fabulous!

Fig 3 Shows the 300Hz square wave response of the DT 1350.
Most headphones overshoot and ring a bit on the 300Hz square wave. Like the 30Hz square wave previously, the DT 1350 300Hz square wave is rather odd, but also a rather good result. The square wave has good shape with a flat top and relatively clean edges. The little squiggle at the leading edge is odd, but fairly closely matches the ideal. The odd, but good, square wave results lead me to believe the Beyerdynamic engineers really sweated some blood getting things to be as accurate as possible. My ears and these measurements tell me they did very well indeed.

Fig 3 Shows the total harmonic distortion plus noise vs. frequency of the DT 1350.
Most headphones show rising curves in the lows due, I believe, to the performance of the headphone seal, and the driver's ability to compress air linearly. The DT 1350 shows very little Low end distortion. Also, the 100dB SPL curve remains below the 90dB SPL curve in its entirety, showing that bass impact and power handling are very good with these headphones, and distortion is mostly noise. There are very few headphones beside in-ear monitors that achieve this.

I think I'll throw in a couple of quotes from others on Head-Fi:

"The DT 1350 buries and puts the nail on the coffin on all of my former headphones." - Dyn4m1c95
"These are truly the perfect portables." - Dyn4m1c95

"They're like the headphone equivalent of a great small loudspeaker." - Beagle

And my comment in the thread:

"Spoiler: They're the best supra-aural, sealed headphones I've heard. Maybe I'll just post that." - Tyll Hertsens
Indeed, it's very hard not to just post: Buy the DT 1350, they are full of win in every possible way. I more than strongly recommend them; I think if you're interested in headphones you should do everything within the law to get your hands on a pair to permanently add to your collection. These are the new standard for portable earpad headphones, and I suspect they'll hold that chair for a long, long time. They have my highest possible recommendation.

I personally bought Beyerdynamic DT 1350 last Saturday at Jaben Surabaya. It becomes a companion for my 160 Gb iPod. I personally recommend you this portable headphone if you are looking for one.

Jaben Indonesia - Surabaya
Pakuwon Trade Center UG Floor F5-21
Jl. Puncak Indah Lontar Barat 2 
Surabaya - 60216 
Tel. (+62) 812-3000-2005 
Contact: Alvon Yulius
Website: www.jaben-indo.com


1 comment:

  1. Actually it's the reverse of what Tyll said. I sent him both of those headphones to test and he got the conclusions backwards. The DT-48E is a top-flight headphone, and the DT-1350 is seriously flawed. Wretched even.