Beyerdynamic has been producing world-class products since it started doing business in 1924. When the company’s Pete Carini asked me to review the T90 headphones, I jumped at the opportunity. The T90 was introduced last year with the Tesla technology used in the flagship T1 model. The Tesla driver uses a neodymium ring magnet. The drivers are very low in distortion and produce a more dynamic sound and better transparency than previous products. The T90 is Beyerdynamic’s first fully open headphone. The unit is attractive with its new velvet headband and ear pads, both with a very nice cup finish. Artisan craftsmen build the headphone in Germany. The sensitivity of the T90 is a respectable 102 dB, which lets most headphone amplifiers drive the headphone easily. The frequency response stated by Beyerdynamic is 5-40Hz. The cable is a single OFC copper cable terminated with a 1/8-inch jack with a ¼-inch adapter; it is on the left cup and is not removable. This will let you use the headphone with either a portable or desktop amp. The retail price is $679.00.
The amplifiers used for this review were the Decware Taboo MkIII, Woo Audio WA7 Fireflies DAC headphone amplifier and the Sennheiser HDVD800. The source was an Oppo BDP105. Nordost Blue Heaven cables were used for the amplifiers and the source. Other headphones used for comparison were the Sennheiser HD800, HD700 and the Audeze LCD2. Music genres included pop, jazz , classical and acoustic folk. I used a wide variety of female and male vocal recordings.x
I was surprised at how close the T90 came to the much more expensive T1. The T90 has a very refined sound, which is balanced and neutral, with a wide and deep sound stage. The pedigree is very similar to the other Tesla headphones. One of the major strengths of the T1 is transparency. It is almost as transparent as the T1 and has pinpoint focus within its sound stage; I could easily place all the musicians in the sound stage while listening to Patricia Barber’s Nightclub album. Her vocal on “Bye Bye Black Bird” was not too forward in the soundstage. I clearly could hear and identify all the musicians within the soundstage. Instrument separation is first class on the T90. The T90 let me hear the room acoustics very clearly, especially with live recordings such as Chris Botti’s Live in Boston, in which I could hear the Symphony Hall’s room acoustics. The orchestra was spread out and there were layers of musicians in the recording with air and space between them.
Listening to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now I could hear the detail of Joni’s voice produced in a natural sound similar to what I experience in a live performance. Her vocals on the title track were mesmerizing. The T90 reproduced the excitement of the track with the band and orchestra never taking anything away from Joni’s performance. The sound stage had Joni in the front and the band layered behind her.
Listening to Harry Connick Jr’s We Are In Love album, on track six there are some majestic moments. Branford Marsalis’s haunting saxophone on a Nightingale Sang Berkeley Square was reproduced in all it glory. The inner detail of the saxophone was all there, with nothing missing in the performance. The acoustic bass is to the left of the the sound stage with Marsalis to the far right and Connick is dead center in the front. I could hear and feel Marsalis blowing into the saxophone on this very special recording. On “Heavenly,” the track is done accapella and one can hear Connick’s voice and the other singers in a pinpoint sound stage all reproduced with air and separation between the backup vocalist.
Sara K’s Made in Shade let me hear just how good the treble is, with just the right amount of sparkle to make the recording believable. The T90 makes the vocals of Sara sound believable. Switching over to Tierney Sutton’s Something Cool SACD recording on Telarc showcased just how good the T90′s bass is. On “Get your Kicks” on Route 66, the bass was growling. Listening to the drums I could feel the kick drum and hear the drummer’s brushes very clearly. I could easily identify where each musician was located in the sound stage: The piano is up front and slightly to the left, the bass behind the piano, and the drums more to the center and rear of the stage with Tierney’s vocals in the front. The bass is very punch and goes deep. The T90 is not bass shy. The band is in full sync on this recording and I would forget I was listening to a headphone. The T90 just gets out of the way.
No matter what genre I tried, the results were always the same. The T90 sounded excellent whether it was playing Copland or Connick. Many headphones fail to deliver accuracy and detail, while the T90 delivers both. The T90 had a midrange that is as good as I hear in my reference headphones. Many people mistake transparency for being bright, but the T90 is not what I would consider a bright headphone. There are no spikes that I heard in the treble. The T90 is also excellent for classical music. Listening to the new Reference Recording’s disc with Michael Stern directing the Kansas City Symphony on Vaughan Williams’ “The Wasp” was 25 minutes of musical bliss. The T90 let me hear musicians in their proper place in the sound stage. I could hear deep into the sound stage and the different violin sections were clearly distinguishable, with great accuracy and detail. I could feel the symphony spread out in the hall and visualize the performance.
In Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, also on Reference Records label, the T90 did not disappoint. It had the speed needed to make this track believable. It sailed through the entire track and I could feel the thunderous whacks of the timpani. The T90′s bass took nothing away from this recording. It T90 sailed through the music and got out of the way.
The T90 responded well to all the amplifiers I tried it with. The synergy with the Woo WA7 was very special. The Sennheiser HDVD800 amp was the only solid-state amp used in this review and it also was outstanding with the T1, as was the Taboo Mk111. Every amplifier I used drove the T90 easily, and it had musicality with all of the amplifiers. The T90 also held up very well with other headphones that cost more. The $1499.95 Sennheiser HD800 had more detail and transparency than the T90, as did the LCD2. Yet, the T90 fared better against the Sennheiser HD700, was more transparent and had a better sound stage with better detail and was not as dark sounding as the Sennheiser HD700. Considering the difference in price, I felt the T90 was the better buy. The differences separating the T90 from the best dynamic headphones was subtle. The very best reference headphones had more detail, and a little more refinement. The differences were very small.
T90 is a very special headphone. It is both accurate and balanced. It is not inexpensive but its performance is well worth the retail price of $679. The T90 performed admirably against headphones costing much more and even outclassed some of them. Beyerdynamic has introduced a headphone that performs close to the level of the T1. The T1 had better focus and more bass slam, yet the two were similar in their voicing. The T90 has the refinement and accuracy that most audiophiles demand in a reference product.
If you are in the market for a reference headphone and cannot afford the top tier headphones, the T90 could be your solution. The T90 performs very close to the top tier and is a headphone anyone would be proud to own. It hits all the marks for musical enjoyment, will let you hear exactly what was recorded, and does it in a very musical way. I found very little not to like with the T90. Beyerdynamic has succeeded in offering a product that is both attractive and affordable. The T90 is musically involving and has all the great qualities I look for in a reference headphone. Its performance was near flawless and provided me with hours of enjoyment. Beyerdynamic has a new rising star with the T90. Highly recommended.
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