They have been a long time coming – Our beyer rep first told us about them several months ago and ever since then I could not wait to get my hands on them. Well that time has arrived.
1st impressions –
The beyer custom one have a cool utilitarian almost military look and feel good and solid. Surprisingly though despite their chunky rugged looks they are still quite light weight at only 290g. The second thing you notice it that there is no cable attached. This is a nice touch as many of the other beyerdynamic models like the DT770, DT990 and DT1350 have a fixed cable as standard which means if you accidentally snap the cable of bend the jack by standing on it or something you have to whip out the soldering iron. Whith the Custom One you can just unplug it and blug in a new one – it also gives the option of having a couple of cables – A long one for DJing and a short one for portable use.
Supplied in the box is the standard straight cable. This is 1.5m in length and snaps reassuringly tightly into the earcup. The thickness seems about right – Not so thick that it feels heavy and cumbersome but not so thin as to feel like it may break too easily.
At the time of writing this review the custom accessories for the custom one like different fascias, coloured pads and a choice of cables were not available in the UK but many are already available in other countries so you can get an idea of what is to come.
They will be offering a range of accessories – from what I have herd the designs for the fascias is still being finalized so it looks like the UK model will be given some different looks from the US and european ones which should be nice. We will of course be doing our own thing with some super limited designs not available anywhere else in the world and we will be offering a custom service to have any design and colour options you want. I will be pulling apart my first pair this coming week to try out some ideas.
Beyerdynamic will also be releasing some mic options. Firstly a control talk type cable with inline mic and remote to use for hands free calling. Secondly, and more interestingly, a goose neck mic. This will let you turn these studio quality headphones into the ultimate gaming headset. With their already quite military look I can see them being very popular with the hard core gamers.
All beyerdynamic headphones are hand built in Germany so they are well put together. As my team and I customize and modify hundreds of pairs of headphones I am in the unusual position the have seen how they look inside and the consistency of their construction. Some makes and models are clearly made with more love than others. Naming no names but I am often surprised at the lack of love put into the construction of some quite expensive headphones – when you open them up you seen they are gummed up with glue or have poor quality internal wiring, throttling the sound. Not so with the high end beyerdynamic models I’v seen they all seem to be made with care with lovely solder joints and you never find hairs and debris inside so it probably means they build them in a clean room environment.
Anyway, I digress. The headband seems to be an identical design to the DT770, DT880, DT990 and others with metal yoke and spring steal headband. The only difference with the headband is the padding. On the custom one they have a newly designed headpad with velcro rather than poppers which gives them a neater look.
The earcups are made from good solid ABS plastic and the fascias and the rings that secure them can only add to the rigidity. They solid feeling even extends to the bass port sliders which seem massively over engineered – they click very firmly into the 4 positions so you can be in no doubt what you have set them to even without looking.
I have not yet had them apart but will try to update this post later in the week when I have them in bits.
There are a couple of new technologies in this model apart from the customization of the design.
The most noted one is the variable bass port on the earcups. Over the years I have been asked to bass mod many pairs of headphones. For example reducing the size of the bass port on the sony V700s to tighten up the bass a bit or opening up holes on the back of the grado drivers to give them more bass. I am actually working on a bass mod for the DT1350 at the moment and I have always thought it would be a good idea to have some kind of easy adjustment.
The system works by having 3 different size and a slider which covers them up in turn so when all 3 are covered up the enclosure is fully sealed and there is more back pressure on the driver. This makes it move in and out less, making it harder for the driver to reproduce the long wavelength bass notes. Opening up all the holes lets the more air move in and out giving less back pressure. The 3 holes are also different sizes which means each has been tuned to a different frequency again boosting the the bass at different frequencies. According to the spec you can give them up to a 20db bass boost at the fully open position which should be enough for anyone. Also because it is a mechanical system rather then a built in eq it keeps the signal path as clear as possible and so does not affect the sound quality and you don’t end up with muddy mids along with the increased bass. There is also another advantage of this system – you can adjust the isolation. As you can imagine, having holes in the earcup will let in external noise. I have seen lots of DJs who have taped up the bass ports on V-Modas and Pioneer HDJ_2000 to give a little more isolation and help mix accurately in loud clubs. With the custom ones you can just shut them at the flip of a switch which is handy.
The other main technological advance in these which is mentioned a bit less it beyerdynamic’s new Pro 16ohm drivers. Most pro headphones are 60-300ohm so I was a little suspicious of how they would sound with 16ohm drivers. The resistance of headphones is mainly determined by the number of turns in the voice coil and how thick the wire is. The more turns the longer the stretch of wire and the grater the resistance.The thinner the wire the grater resistance as well. To a lesser extent it is affected by the magnetic flux of the permanent magnet. The more turns on the voice coil wire has or the higher current used the stronger the force against the magnet which makes the drivers more powerful / accurate. So a lot of high end headphones have lots of coils of v thin wire to give a strong force and keep the weight down and gives the performance they want without having to run too much current through the voice coils which would generate too much heat and melt the thin voice coil wires. This results in a high impedance.
The disadvantage of high impedance drivers is the fact that they are hard to drive, meaning that they don’t work well with portable devices like PMPs and Phones without using a separate amp.
To squeeze more detail and power from these new 16ohm drivers beyer have fitted them with more powerful neodymium magnets and a lighter diaphragm. The increased magnetic flux boosts the force on the diaphragm and the reduction in weight means they need less power the move and reproduce the sound more easily. Apparently the new diaphragms in the custom one are some of the lightest in the world.
All this means you can get great sound from full size cans even from low powered portable devices. And lets face it… Most of us will be using these on the go as well as professionally.
Sound Quality –
The whole point of these is to give the good looks of style headphones like beats with the high quality sound you would expect from beyerdynamic so the sound quality is going to make or break them.
Out of the box they sounded OK but did not really blow me away. With many headphones and speakers they need to be “burnt in” for a bit to loosen up the diaphragm suspension a little before they sound their best. If you look around the the net you will see some people say you need to run them in for 200hrs or so and some people say it is all nonsense. I can confirm that it definitely makes a difference on these. After an hour or so the mids came alive and there was more detail accross the board – I am not sure you need to do 200 hours but I would leave them playing for an hour or so before you judge them.
I normally use a pair of DT1350 which have been re-cabled with silver cable so I am a little pampered but in my work I test all kinds of headphones and get to lern the character of each. I was not expecting the Custom ones to have the same level of detail that my custom DT1350s had but I do sometimes feel the 1350s lack the big bass you sometimes fancy when listening to certain types of music so I was looking forward to having a play with the bass ports and seeing how it affected the sound quality.
I tried them out on an ipod with a wolfson dac loaded with ALAC files to cut down on the compression artifacts. I tried out quite a few tracks and they are pretty adept across the board. They have good crisp highs, reproducing the symbol crashed in ozric tenticls vita voom without them sounding too harsh and the analogue synth noises of sunhair really showed off the detail in the mids. The massive organ stabs of Saint-Saens symphony no3 were great with the bass ports set at position three with lots of weight without being too boomy. With the ports fully closed I expected them to sound like the DT770 but the definitely have their own character. The stereo imaging does not seem as good as the DT770 but they do have a slightly warmer sound – this may be due to the difference in the pads. With the ports opened all the way they are a little boomy for my likings but I have given them to a few people to try and the bass heads amongst them set them to fully open and left them there loving the deep warm bass. Personally I like them set to 2 0r 3 which gives a nice balance and stops the bass from muddying the mids.
Overall I really like what beyerdynamic have done with these. I can see they wanted to lay the smackdown on the beats by dre… All style and bass but questionable sound quality. I suspect they went initially for the boomy bass option to compete in the lucrative market of people who ware too much sports equipment but don’t actually do any competitive sport – you know the sort, idiots with too much money 😉 But then could not bring them selves to do it and introduced the variable bass port to get the best of both worlds. Hopefully this will be a game changer combining the looks of style headphones with the studio sound and build quality of beyers. Add to that the adjustable bass port and you can hopefully please everyone. At the same time educating the stylers and ween them on to some decent sounding earware.