Beyerdynamic T90 Jubilee 90th Anniversary Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review: Beyerdynamic T90 'Tesla' Stereo Headphone Review by Dale - YouTube


    Sources: iPhone5 with PA2V2/FiiO E07k/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using the Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the T90 Jubilee (Beyerdynamic 90th Anniversary Edition) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M80 and M100, the Beyerdynamic DT1350 and T51p, the FAD Pandora IV and VI, and notes I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the T90 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Purchase note: I bought the T90 from the Beyerdynamic North America website, where the T90 order page offers it for $699, with the name, email address, and telephone number listed for the sales department. I decided to cancel the first order that I submitted using Paypal, since Paypal pays the vendor immediately and Beyerdynamic wasn't meeting the delivery date. My cancellation was ignored in spite of two email requests and the two messages I left on their telephone system. To get the order resubmitted was easy enough - I used a credit card the second time - but to get the first order canceled I had to find someone in the repair and replacement parts department. With the second order Beyerdynamic specified 3-4 days delivery, but again they didn't respond after nearly two weeks, so it was back to the parts department to get someone to see that my T90 was shipped. Lesson: Beyerdynamic needs to learn about customer service, or stop selling direct to end-users from their website.

    Summary of sound: A light bass with a very strong upper treble, and a deep recess around 5 khz with strong responses at 4 and 6 khz - which combine to create a sense of constriction in the sound. The EQ adjustments I made with the Audioforge Parametric Equalizer (link above, or found at my dalethorn website under Photos and Audioforge) smooth out these anomalies to reveal the best sound I have in-house (18 headphones currently), and probably as good a sound as the highly regarded Final Audio Pandora VI. I was immensely pleased with the EQ'd results I got from the Sennheiser HD-A280 I purchased recently, but in direct comparisons the T90 has a much more natural/musical sound, no doubt because the HD-A280 was designed for Audiometry. I don't have the HD800 Sennheiser on-hand now, and while I would expect the HD800 to resolve upper harmonic details** better than the T90, I wouldn't expect those differences to be important to my music listening since the T90 is the more musically enjoyable headphone.

    **I've tested the HD800 against several different headphones using computers, headphone amps, and even an Apple iPod alone, and certain of the details that the HD800 does better than those other headphones can be heard even on the iPod without additional amplification. Presumably those differences are far more obvious with the better headphone amps, but I don't think that's the case since all of those headphones improve greatly with the best amplifiers.

    Conclusion: Based on my tests, with direct comparisons to my other headphones and using notes from 70-plus prior reviews, I can't judge the T90 Jubilee to be satisfactory for a wide range of musical genres, although it may be fine for certain genres that play well with a very lean bass and strong upper treble. However, using the EQ settings noted above, I find it more than satisfactory - outstanding even - for nearly every genre of music I enjoy, ranging from EDM and metal to acoustic, classical, and jazz. The T90 isn't a warm-and-fuzzy or laid-back sound that takes the edge off of all music - the bad recordings as well as the best recordings - it's a highly-detailed sound that some critics might describe as a 'technical' sound. My EQ objective** was to not only reduce the colorations and firm up the low bass, but to preserve the maximum detail while minimizing the harshness that suggests the 'technical' characterization.

    **Since the EQ I use reduces the T90's colorations etc., the music tracks shown below with my comments as to how the T90 plays those tracks will use that EQ. I've been told by a few people that they don't believe EQ will improve the sound of a headphone in a useful way, so for those users they can expect the T90 to sound as good as I've described here, since my EQ won't harm the sound either.

    The T90 fit is nearly perfect, with big earpads that should surround the largest ears in full comfort. The headband clamp is light, particularly so for a full-size headphone. The earpad edges may feel a little stiff on first use, but they are soft and spongy, so adjusting to the feel should take only a few seconds. The headband adjustment goes about one inch smaller on each side from where I use it to about 3/4 inch larger on each side, and that should accomodate a very wide range of sizes based on my average-size head. The cable is fairly thick and very long (~10-12 feet), and terminated by a 3.5 mm miniplug with threading for the included screw-on 6.35 mm (1/4 inch) adapter plug. I'm not a fan of screw-on adapters, since they're not as secure as the snap-on types. The T90 is an open-back design, so there's almost no isolation. Leakage is such that you won't be able to play this headphone in a quiet office without disturbing persons close by. Public transport may be OK at very moderate volumes.

    The comments in the music tracks listed below can be compared to other headphone reviews I've done, to get an idea of how the T90 plays the different music tracks listed here compared to other headphones. My suggestion is instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare these notes to other reviews as they get posted, and see how the T90 compares with each individual track.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Beyer T90 Jubilee review part 2 - music samples

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone with a modest weight, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The T90 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 T90.

    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 feel some of the weight they carry with the T90.

    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 T90 plays this music 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 extremely well by the T90.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The T90 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 T90 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 T90 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The T90 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are detailed but not overly 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 sound is as realistic as I've heard with any other headphone since doing these detailed reviews.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The T90 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 T90 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 *should* have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response, but the T90 is somewhat light on bass impact here. Still, the T90 plays this music very well overall.

    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 uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The T90 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 T90. 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 T90 provides excellent detail. 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 instrument separation and detail, and the T90 does those exceptionally well.

    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 T90 reproduces the fundamental tone with an appreciable weight.

    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 2014, 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 T90 is an excellent example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    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 fairly subtle with the T90.

    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 T90 reproduces those sounds perfectly.

    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 T90 conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a neutral-bass 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 T90 renders the tones and transients quite well.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are quite strong, and work very well with the horns and other instruments. The T90 delivers the impacts with good weight and excellent detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): This is about as close as I want to get to easy-listening music. The string tones beginning at 0:18 are fairly soft, and while the bass isn't 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 this track.

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