Beyerdynamic DTX501p Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Mar 23, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review: Beyerdynamic DTX501p Portable Stereo Headphone review no.2 by Dale - YouTube


    Sources: iPhone5, iPhone5 with PA2V2/FiiO E07k/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using the Microstreamer and Beyerdynamic A200p DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the DTX501p are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - in particular the FAD Pandora VI, v-moda M100, Beyerdynamic DT1350 and T51p, Yamaha MT220, B&O H6, B&W P7, and notes I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the DTX501p (i.e. my personal taste and how I use the headphone) only after I've covered all of the objective issues.

    I reviewed the DTX501p 18 months ago, and while I don't normally do a second review unless there's an upgraded version and it's personally compelling, I've been using the Audioforge Parametric Equalizer on Apple devices with various headphone amps (and to a lesser extent the Foobar2000 equalizer on computers), so I decided to get another DTX501p and review the sound with and without the equalization. Out of the box the DTX501p has a stronger than neutral bass with great warmth (which I like very much), an average midrange that's neither recessed nor emphasized, and a soft treble. Unfortunately the combination of emphasized bass and soft treble mask much of the harmonic details, requiring some kind of EQ to have a high fidelity sound. Fortunately the design of the Audioforge equalizer suggests just the minimum adjustments necessary to reduce or eliminate colorations in the sound without changing the basic signature of the headphone.

    Summarizing the sound of the DTX501p after equalization**, the bass is still very smooth with good detail and impact (unusual for a lightweight portable headphone), the mids are crystal clear and uncolored, and the highs have the kind of presence and sparkle to be a good listen on a home hi-fi system. The main focus of this review is still the DTX501p, so the following will describe what the EQ will and won't do. The text chart of the actual EQ settings is on my dalethorn site under Hifi Misc., and the graphic chart is under Photos and Audioforge. Note that the Audioforge equalizer is being used with its default bandwidth ("Q") settings only, and so moving any one setting up or down also affects adjacent frequencies.

    What the EQ won't do: It won't change the basic nature of the headphone. Where the headphone is warm it will stay warm, and the potential for detail that's determined by the hardware quality and the design implementation will make itself apparent, for better or worse. In the 24 music tracks listed below, I found only one case where the DTX501p reproduction isn't directly comparable to my more expensive headphones - Trains by Porcupine Tree, where the clip-clop sound effects don't have the full tonal quality and decay I hear with (for example) the FAD Pandora VI. On the other hand, reproduction of the 16 hz fundamental tone in the Kellogg Auditorium Organ track sets the DTX501p above most of my other headphones

    What the EQ will do: It will reduce sharp peaks and dips in the response so that they no longer give an impression of being colorations. The 'constricted' or 'pinched' sound that some expert reviewers have reported for this and other small-earcup closed headphones will just go away. Really.

    **The actual EQ adjustments are: +4 db at 440 hz, -4 at 1500, +2 at 2500, -1 at 5000, +4 at 7000, and +8 db at 11000 hz. For users who don't like a full treble due to bright or harsh-sounding recordings, just reduce the 11 khz value.

    Note that soundstage depends on having a full treble, and reviewers will treat those as separate properties when in fact they're interdependent. Note also that this EQ isn't based on my hearing, but on comparing the sound to other headphones (some of which are noted above) to try to be objective. The net effect of this EQ is a balanced sound that allows the DTX501p to deliver essentially all of the detail in the music, while at the same time relieving any 'constricted' or 'pinched' effects. Like most headphones, the DTX501p improves noticeably with DACs and headphone amps as compared to using just a low-cost portable music player, and the DTX501p plays very loudly with typical iPods and cellphones. Isolation is average - aout 10 db at the treble frequencies but less less lower down, as it is with all non-noise-canceling headphones. Leakage is low, but if used in a very quiet office next to other cubicles, the people in those cubicles might hear faint sounds if the DTX501p is played at medium-loud volumes.

    Build quality is good (mostly plastic), the headband has a fairly light clamp, the earpads are soft and have a quality pleather covering, so good comfort can be achieved when the earpads are positioned properly on the ears. The earcups have click detents and the earcups can be extended about 1.2 inches further than where they fit my ears. The earcups don't contact my chin when they're fully extended and I wear the headphone around my neck, so the DTX501p is an ideal portable headphone for users who don't want to carry a separate headphone case. The 4-ft cable is single-sided (left) and non-detachable, and while it looks thin (~2.5 mm), it's quite strong and should prove durable as long as continued heavy stress isn't applied to the end that goes into the earcup. The terminator is a 3.5 mm right-angle miniplug, and given the slender spacer between cable and metal plug, it should fit into nearly all headphone jacks.

    The music tracks below have been listed in a number of prior reviews, and are a selection of my most revealing tracks for headphone testing. Since these tracks cover a wide range of genres and were selected from my tests of very different headphones, there won't be a bias toward the DTX501p with this music. I suggest that instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare these notes to the prior reviews and see how the DTX501p compares with each individual track.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Beyerdynamic DTX501p review part 2 - music samples

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has great detail and tone with a decent weight, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The DTX501p plays this very 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 well by the DTX501p.

    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 DTX501p plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the DTX501p.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The DTX501p 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 DTX501p reproduces the space and detail convincingly.

    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 DTX501p renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The DTX501p plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are detailed but not sharp or edgy.

    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 is clearly identifiable.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The DTX501p reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Fairmont - Poble Sec (Electronic/House): The bass synth is detailed and tight and the drum impacts are very clean. The upper synth chords have a great tone and ambiance, and the perfectly-measured decay makes a great listen with the DTX501p.

    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 DTX501p plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the subtle bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the DTX501p plays this music very well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has very good detail, and the voices and ambiance have a you-are-there quality that's rare in early 1980's pop music. Played extremely well by the DTX501p.

    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 DTX501p. 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.

    Human League - Keep Feeling Fascination (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's bass line is very detailed, but the somewhat forward voices don't have quite the "you are there" quality of the Heaven 17 track noted above.

    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 DTX501p provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrumental separation and detail, and the DTX501p plays them extremely well.

    Katy B - Crying For No Reason (Tom Shorterz Remix) (Dance/Pop): The deep bass impacts are reproduced very well here, and the overall ambiance and reverb work perfectly with the voice, making an ideal listen for the DTX501p.

    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 DTX501p plays this so clearly that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    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 DTX501p reproduction isn't as realistic as some of my more expensive headphones.

    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 DTX501p reproduces that experience in a subtle but convincing way. 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 DTX501p renders the tones and transients clearly.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are quite strong, and work very well with the horns and other instruments. The DTX501p delivers the impacts with a decent weight and great detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): The string tones beginning at 0:18 are fairly soft, and while the bass is not very deep, it still adds a good underpinning to the music. The short poetic rap at 4:14, preceded by an etherial female voice, works very well with the DTX501p.

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