Beyerdynamic Custom Street On-Ear Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Dec 22, 2015.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review:


    Sources: iPhone6s+ with Oppo HA-2/Beyer A200p DAC/amps, various computers using the Audioquest Dragonfly-2/HRT Microstreamer/FiiO E17k/FiiO E07k DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the Beyerdynamic Custom Street ('Street' hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly the Beyerdynamic DT-1770 Pro, but also numerous others that have helped establish reliable standards for sound quality (resolution and accuracy without listener fatigue), and notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I'll describe how I relate to the 'Street' (i.e., my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    The Beyerdynamic 'Street' is unique for me in certain respects: One, it's a real Beyerdynamic headphone made in Germany**; two, it incorporates the features they introduced in the Custom One Pro; three, it has the recognizable Beyerdynamic sound; and four, its comfort is equal to the best of Beyerdynamic's on-ear headphones. When I first listened to the 'Street', it sounded fairly hi-fi, which was a surprise given all of the mid-priced but low-fi headphones being sold today. One thing I decided to do was test the 'Street' only with the bass ports set to the middle position, since I figured that would be where most users would set those switches, and because I couldn't spend the time doing a proper evaluation of the sound in all three bass port positions. If the different bass port settings affected only the bass response, it would have made the testing simpler, but the differences do affect the rest of the sound to one degree or another.

    **I wondered, before ordering the 'Street', how Beyerdynamic could make a small on-ear headphone in Germany that wasn't an OEM'd model like the Soundmagic P30 (DTX501p), incorporate the essentials of their renowned headphones such as the DT-770/880/990 series, and retail it for only $150 USD. It's possible that they sourced all of the parts offshore and then developed a fast assembly line process to build these in Germany, but whatever the case, I like the results.

    I had to reduce the bass when using the 'Street' with my middle bass port setting, because the bass is quite strong there. Users who want a more neutral sound will have to set those port switches to the first position. I found the midrange to be slightly emphasized, but not by much. The upper treble, above 5 khz or so, is remarkably flat, but there is a recess around 4 khz and a peak around 5 khz that will be obvious to anyone who investigates exactly where those occur. So the overall sound may be a little rough in spots, but probably no more so that most other mid/low-priced on-ear headphones. What makes the 'Street' different from most other small on-ear headphones is its more-or-less hi-fi response, as compared to the usual muddy bass and dull highs with other brands. Underneath that response is the fundamental sound quality, which owes to the quality of the drivers and how they're tuned within the headphone's framework.

    The isolation is good, and makes the 'Street' very useful in average outdoor conditions. My key test is near a busy freeway, about 100 yards from the cars whizzing by, and it's good enough to hear important musical details. The leakage is extremely low, so the 'Street' will work well in libraries and quiet offices as long as the playback sound isn't extremely loud. The weight is pretty light for a good on-ear headphone - any lighter and you'd have something that isn't anywhere near high fidelity. The headband has a nice pad, and the earpads are soft and squishy for best comfort. The 'Street' is an ideal portable headphone in that it can be pulled off the head when not in use, and worn around the neck with the earcups pulled out and folded flat. There's a really nice zippered carry case included, in case users want to stash the 'Street' instead of wearing it around their necks. The range of adjustment for the headband is 32mm on each side, where it fits my average-size head midway in that range.

    The cable is single-entry and detachable with a notched miniplug connector. I tried substituting a Belkin AUX cable with a narrow sleeve next to the metal plug - the plug of course is 3.5mm in diameter, and the sleeve about 6.15mm in diameter, and it worked perfectly with a snug fit. Most substitute cables that I've had don't fit the earcup jacks, but the Belkin cable is perfect. There are jacks on both earcups (left and right), and both work the same but I haven't tried connecting anything to the second jack while using the headphone. In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the 'Street' compares with each individual track.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The 'Street' plays this extremely well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the 'Street'.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the 'Street'.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The 'Street' plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the 'Street'.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The 'Street' plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The 'Street' reproduces the space and detail very well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the 'Street' renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The 'Street' plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is clearly identifiable.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The 'Street' reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The 'Street' plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates a solid deep-bass response. Overall, the 'Street' plays this music extremely well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The 'Street' plays this track perfectly.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the 'Street'. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The 'Street' provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the 'Street' does those superbly.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The 'Street' plays this with enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel some of the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2015, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the 'Street' is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is appreciable with the 'Street'.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the 'Street' renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The 'Street' reproduces the 'clop' portion of that sound very well.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The 'Street' conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a more-or-less neutral stereo headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the 'Street' renders the tones and transients very well.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The 'Street''s reproduction is near-perfect, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The 'Street' delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

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