BeyerDynamic has been building headphones and microphones since the company was founded in Berlin in 1924, and today the semi-open-back DT 880 PRO headphone is the second-from-the-top model in the firm’s lineup. In a sense, the DT 880 PRO combines design elements of two sister models, the closed-back DT 770 PROs and the top-of-the-line, open-back DT 990 PROs. For this reason, many knowledgeable enthusiasts consider the DT 880 PRO a “best of two worlds” design ideal for listening at home. As BeyerDynamic puts it, the DT 880 PRO combines the “strengths of open, transparent headphones with those of more powerful, closed headphones.”
My first and most lasting impression of the DT 880 PROs is that they offer wonderfully smooth, neutral tonal balance, meaning that they’re very “honest” ’phones that show you how recordings really sound, without adding colorful embellishments of their own. This is the sort of ’phone where it’s easy to get lost in the pure, clear sound of individual instrumental and human voices. The BeyerDynamics also offer quite good levels of clarity and resolution, although they do fall a couple of clicks short of the best models in this survey in terms of absolute openness and transparency. One caveat I should mention, though, is that the power hungry DT 880 PROs required much higher amplifier volume settings than other ’phones before they would truly “sing.”
As I listened to the DT 880 PROs, I found myself enchanted by their tonal neutrality, accuracy, and versatility; they bring a balanced, even-handed presentation that complements musical material of all kinds. For example, they have enough definition, dynamic moxie, and punch to handle the crunchy opening electric bass and guitar lines and deliberately raucous vocals of the title track of Nick Cave’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! [Anti Records]. Yet they can turn on a dime to capture the suave sonorities of the London Symphony Orchestra as it creates a foundation above which violinist Hilary Hahn crafts sweet, soaring solo lines in her performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending [LSO/Colin Davis, Deutsche Grammophon]. No matter what kind of material I chose to play, the DT 880 PROs rarely put a foot wrong.
One small shortcoming I noted, however, was that the DT 880 PROs could not quite capture extremely low-level details or the sense of high-frequency “air” surrounding musicians as well as the best phones in our group. But even so, these ’phones offer a good measure of clarity and great overall balance.
The DT 880 PROs offered better than average comfort. Hint: take time to adjust the DT 880 PRO’s sliding earpiece carriers to achieve a comfortable, relaxed fit. When you get the earpiece positioned right, you should feel very little pressure on the sides of your head.
The DT 880 PRO is a very well balanced performer that offers neutral tonal balance, an enchantingly “pure” sound, and a measure of clarity that falls only a few clicks short of the performance of the best $500 models. But plan on buying a gutsy headphone amp if you want to hear these ’phones sound their best.