High-end headphones can be a bit of a crapshoot, especially if you’re buying online. With so many options out there now, many people rely on older companies that have been around the block a few times to deliver them to audio nirvana. Beyerdynamic is one of those older players, with an absolutely legendary line of cans and many, many years of design experience. But is the open-back DT 880 PRO right for you? Now that’s a good question.
Editor’s note: this Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO review was updated on December 1, 2021, to add new frequency response charts, update scoring, improve formatting, include a contents menu, and make note of the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X.
What is the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO like?
The DT 880 PRO is a set of semi-open over-ear headphones, with a matte chrome finish on the back, and a matte black finish on the metal ear forks and band. The band itself is wrapped in a leather padding that’s fastened by buttons (more on that later). The cable hangs from the left ear cup, protected by stout rubber guards and shielding. Should you tend to move around a lot while listening, the three meters (9.8ft) of coiled cable length will give you some needed freedom from your computer chair.
But what’s probably the best thing about Beyerdynamic headset is the fact that its external features are not only largely identical, but they’re really good. The metal band and forks aren’t going to break on you, and should parts like the band padding wear out: you just get new ones online. If for some reason you’re not a fan of velour on your noggin, you can go online and grab yourself any Beyerdynamic replacement pads, and they’ll work on the DT 880 PRO as well. Don’t wear glasses, and prefer leather? You can grab ’em. Don’t like silver as a color? You get the idea.
If you plan on using these at the computer or mixing board, you’ll appreciate the fact that the velour pads in conjunction with the wide area of contact make for a very comfortable experience, especially over long periods of time. Because the backs are “semi” open, heat doesn’t tend to build up, but the sound does leak a lot—plan accordingly.
What accessories do you get with the DT 880 PRO?
Taking a peek inside the packaging for the DT 880 PRO, you’ll find your headphones, a 1/4-inch adapter (threaded), assorted documentation, a carrying pouch, and a reminder to enjoy your headphones printed onto the top fastening tab.
How do you connect the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO?
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro terminates in a 1/8-inch TRS plug, threaded for a 1/4-inch adapter for high-end/high-output systems. You’ll need an amp for this headset to get the most out of it, and that’s really not much of a surprise. With dynamic headphones, impedance isn’t exactly something that is constant from frequency to frequency, and can vary wildly. Since these headphones’ impedance at 1kHz is 250Ω already, you can bet that at some points it’s a bit higher. However, you don’t need to go crazy here, just get an amp that suits your needs, and don’t worry too much that you didn’t spend enough. A FiiO, Objective Amp, or even a cheapie Focusrite interface should be overkill.
Related: The best headphone amps
Given that this particular model has a high impedance of 250Ω and a sensitivity of 96dB/mW, an amp is the only way to push these louder. However, 96dB is plenty loud, so don’t go too crazy with that volume knob. There are 32Ω and 600Ω versions of the DT 880 PRO, but I highly suggest getting the 250 or 600Ω model over the 32Ω one, as its low damping factor can sometimes lead to unexpected performance issues (depending on your source). This is still a great set of headphones, but if you can find all of them for the same price, you squeeze that much more out of the higher-impedance models.
What does the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO sound like?
My impressions of these cans have not changed since I first reviewed them in 2013 for another outlet. However, I do want to call attention to something I flubbed on last time, and that’s the relative emphasis of sibilant sounds in the 7-10kHz range. While many people have difficulty hearing these notes—especially if you’re older—it’ll definitely be noticed in trappy beats, newer synth-heavy tunes, and anything with a lot of claps, hi-hats, or cymbals. Listen to classic rock, punk, or orchestral music? You’ll love these a lot.
For most uses, the Beyerdynamic DT880 PRO will be very forgiving, as it doesn’t exaggerate notes outside of the treble, and even then it’s bearable. However, it is always easier to equalize away an overemphasis than it is to fix an underemphasis. Because the DT880 PRO is so flat in its frequency response otherwise, you can dial in a good result for your at-home listening without much effort. While the sub-bass response it doesn’t line up all that well with our house curve, that’s because this is an open-back set of headphones, so bass notes are sure to escape and Beyerdynamic isn’t trying to explode your skull with bass. Even if the Beyerdynamic DT880 PRO deviates from our target there, you can safely ignore that part if you’re looking for a set of computer cans.
Lows, mids, and highs
For the range of sound where music lives (80-10kHz), most of the songs you listen to will come through very close to how it was mixed—with each note coming through without much change at all to its original loudness. It’s not perfect under 100Hz, but it’s a lot closer than most headphones get. The 5dB dip at 4-5kHz is a very common feature for headphones, as natural resonances in the human ear can cause this sort of weirdness. As it’s describing a common feature of the human ear canal, you won’t notice it.
There’s very little from the lows to high mids that’s really emphasized over other notes. Consequently—outside of that treble peak from 7-10kHz—music will sound very clear. There’s a bit of distortion in the low end, but it’s inaudible to the point where you’ll only notice it if you are super young and know what to look for. If you listen to 70s-2000s rock or hip-hop: you won’t be able to tell what’s there or what was recorded.
Because the DT 880 PRO is a set of open-backed headphones, there’s really no isolation to speak of. You shouldn’t take these out in the world, on public transit, or on an airplane, for example. For best results, you’ll need a quiet environment that won’t mask your music. Should you ignore my advice, you’ll probably be unable to hear anything but the snare drum in Otis Redding’s Cigarettes and Coffee.
How does the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO compare to the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO and Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X?
The Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X follows our Studio Curve much closer than the DT 770 PRO and DT 880 PRO headsets when it comes to the bass and midrange. Interestingly, the DT 880 PRO has the most tempered treble response among the three headsets, with the DT 900 PRO X treble being a bit louder than our curve suggests, and the DT 770 PRO, which really cranks up the volume from 10kHz and up.
If you were to get one headset to rule them all, the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X is the best of the bunch because of its versatile frequency response, easily repairable design, and low impedance of 48Ω. Like the closed-back Beyerdynamic DT 700 PRO X, the open-back 900 variant is meant for producers on the go. You can’t get away with using any open-back headset on public transit, but that’s not what it’s for: it’s for the nomadic audio engineer who needs to edit from hotel room to hotel room.
Should you buy the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO?
Whether or not the DT 880 PRO is worth your money is really up to you. This is firmly in the “enthusiast/hobbyist” range of purchases, and while it’s a very good pair of headphones, it’s not for everyone especially not those sensitive to peaks in treble. You want an amp with these, and potentially a DAC if you listen primarily from your laptop. Additionally, the open-back design is not for venturing out into the world—this is meant to stick by your computer or mixing board. If you like the Beyerdynamic sound, and if you’re looking for a set of ultra-comfortable, easily customizable cans that won’t let you down: the DT 880 PRO is a solid purchase.
What should you get instead of the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO?
If you’re looking for studio headphones, you may want to poke around for a while to make sure these are going to fit your needs. If you’re simply looking to do some tracking, let your performers use something cheaper like the Sony MDR-V7506.