Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2016
EDIT: After a comment by another user I looked at my review and found that perhaps there were some points of seeming ambiguity that I had not intended. So, I made a second pass to clear up my stance on a few things.

While I do not consider myself an audiophile I do like a good pair of headphones. The DT990 250ohm is a very nice set. I currently own Senns. HD558's, AT-M50's, AKG Q701's, and the DT990 Pros'. I also own an Objective 2 Amp. As an aside If you want/need an affordable headphone amp I highly recommend the O2 and JDS is an excellent supplier. The price at JDS has also dropped a bit over time and at present it's a steal at about $130. I can't recommend it highly enough. I have never tried it, though I plan to, but the Magni 2 by Schiit by all accounts is another very solid budget performer.
NOTICE: I have a particular character flaw. If I go to spend more than $100 on a luxury item I obsess over it for an unnatural amount of time. I read every review at every site twice. I dwell on it for weeks on end. Then I try one out, return it and try something else. It's borderline to being a named disease. The point is I only write a review if I think that what I landed on is a great value or if I am disappointed in all of the effort and thought that went into the purchase.
That, in a nutshell, is what I look for. Best bang for buck not just bragging rights. I think that the difference between $40 cans and $150 cans is HUGE but the difference between $150 cans and $650 is deep into the territory of diminishing returns. I have listened to some expensive setups and my impression was...yeah well MAYBE it sounds a little bit better but not THAT much better. certainly not twice as good. Not even close. It's more like a 5% - 10% gain for a 300% price increase. This is the perspective that this review is based on.
Each headphone has its own strengths and weaknesses and serves different purposes. I did tons of research before purchasing each one and I bought each one to fill a different niche. In some cases I tried out a few sets that I returned before landing on the ones that I have now. Each headphone that I currently own I am very satisfied with.
However, I have never heard of the one headphone to rule them all. That would need to have perfect freq. response, incredible sound-stage and detail, isolation, super comfy and breathable, perfect for travel, and able to be driven by even wimpy sources . It does not exist man. Not at any price. I am more into having situational variety and the best bang for buck. I think each of these sets are solid choices at their price point for a particular set of needs. I can wholeheartedly recommended each one for their respective niche. Similarly, I own a gas grill, a charcoal grill and a smoker. None of them does everything perfectly but each accomplishes a specific task exceptionally well. Get it? Cool.

So, where do the DT990's fit in?
Power Requirements:
It is worth noting that the 990's listed here are 250 ohms but there are other flavors. 250 ohms all but mandates an amp. To my knowledge the Limited Edition all black ones are only available in 250 ohms. There are variants to the 990 that come as low as 32 ohm and as high as 600 ohm. If you go for the 32 ohm an amp should not be a necessity.

Construction:
Very solid with a minor quibble. As near as I can tell there is one solid piece of spring steel for the headband that attaches to both ear-cups. The ear-cups are plastic but of the thick and sturdy variety. The cover on the headband is nice and squishy and has button snaps. So, it looks easy to replace if damaged. All the materials seem to be of great quality for a set at this price. Ear-pads are velour which is by far my very favorite option for ear-pads.
Also, the DT990 are a very long lived and well loved set. The mfg. claims that nearly all parts are easily obtained and replaceable. Even though the upfront cost is more than some other options you can sleep well knowing that your set should last you many years to come.
My one reservation is that it is not clear to me if the cord is replaceable. It has a standard strain relief. I have not searched or asked the mfg. about it. If it is indeed not replaceable, this might be cause for concern.

Comfort:
Nice. I have a close shaved haircut but I barely notice the headband. Open sets with velour ear-pads breath and rarely get hot and sweaty. I have a smaller head than some humans. The clamping force is maybe one concern. For me it's just fine. If you have a large meaty head it is possible the clamp may be a bit much. The good news is that the spring-steel is fairly yielding and should be in no danger of losing shape over time.

Sound-stage:
It is a very open sounding set. It's not on par with say AKG Q701's or the legendary AD700's but the DT990's offer a very respectable sound-stage of their own. Separation and positioning are very good. This makes the 990 a nice option for gaming just not the "best" option for competitive "sound whoring". (Pardon the phrase, I did not invent it)

Sonic Profile:
This is a matter of taste of course but I am going to list it as a big plus for me. The DT990 has a sort of V shaped sound profile.
There is some emphasis on both lows (bass) and highs (treble) with slightly recessed mids. This set makes no excuses for not being a neutral set but it pulls off an interesting feat. Open sets usually have weaker bass. So, the 990's crank it up a notch. The result is an open can with some punch.
It also has great clarity of high frequencies thanks to the 990's slight emphasis on treble and open back. If all you want are X-Ray ears for online shooters you are better served with Q701's or the famous AD-700's. Compared to those options the DT990's represent a trade off of slightly less clarity and sound stage for a MUCH more satisfying bass response.

Recommended for:
Solo listening: Open design offers no real isolation but when alone I will take the sound-stage of an open set any day of the week.
Non-competitive gaming: Sonic profile is a lot of "fun" and sound-stage is great with Dolby or CMSS. If competitive gaming is ALL you want maybe get the AD700's instead.
Bassy music tracks: Rap/Hip-Hop, DnB, Dubstep...etc. The "fun" sound of these cans offer a really great mix of traits for an open set. The 990's may not be neutral but when paired with material to match its strengths the rewards are great.

Not Recommended for:
Privacy: You may bothers others in the room because of leaking sounds.
Travel: See above. Just forget about work or airplanes. They do not fold up or lay flat on the chest when taken around the neck like "DJ" headphones. Plus they all but require an amp with decent power. This is a set for at home.
Movies/TV: Again, this is an open set geared for "fun". If you want neutral/accurate reproduction this is maybe not the best set.

A WORD ABOUT GAMING HEADPHONES
I love to game. At least in part, my choices in headphones came by way of the massive review guide by a user called Mad Lust Envy over at Head-Fi. As far as a resource for headphone reviews revolving around gaming his sticky thread over at Head-Fi should be listed as a National Treasure. I would be remiss not give him a shoutout. If you are interested in gaming headphones and have not heard of the Mad Lust Envy Thread over at Head-Fi I strongly recommend a visit. Just be careful. The motto over there is something like "Welcome to Head-Fi! Sorry about your wallet."
If you want to make a headset out of your headphones you could do a lot worse than the Antlion Mod-Mic. It has a magnetic mount. You can put magnetic mounts on more than one headphone allowing a lot of flexibility. It also works better than most dedicated headset mics. There is also a good cheaper option form Zalman.

*Comparisons may be useful to those who are considering one of the other sets that I own. So, here it goes...*
COMPARISONS:
DT990 vs. AT-M50:
The M50's are a DJ Headphone that can be taken down around the neck and the cups will lay flat on your chest. M50's are closed back, do not leak much sound, they are easy to drive. The Bass is controlled and deep but not too muddy or overly intrusive. True Bass Heads that really just want their teeth to rattle may not be satisfied but I find them to be a real joy for Drum n' Bass, Dub Step or Rap/Hip Hop Tracks. That being said it is a closed back headphone and while the sound stage is not bad for a closed back, it is also not ideal for nit picking finer details in competitive games. Take all of these traits as a whole and what you have is my go-to cans for travel or when I don't want to bother others in the room with what I am listening to.
The 990's being open and power hungry (more on this later) are no good as portable cans. Where they impress is the fact that they have almost as much of a "fun" bass response as the M-50's. In open cans this is not typical. Being open and able to dig deep in bass is one of the traits that makes non-competitive gaming with 990's just awesome. They have great bass response in an open design with better sound stage and detail retrieval. If I am alone at home I reach for the 990''s over the M50's. On the road or with the wife in the room it's the exact opposite.

DT990 vs. Q701:
Q701's are renowned for having a very wide open sound stage and high degree of clarity in the mids and highs. They are equally known for lacking in the bass department. Bass Heads need not apply. They are great for "detail whoring" in competitive online games or listening to fine details in less bass heavy music. X-Ray ears. The sound stage is truly a standout in this set but again many will left wanting for more bass. Also, a very comfy and well crafted set.
The DT990 stacks up quite well against the strong points of the Q701. They are very open though not quite on the same level of the sound stage of the Q701. Though it does put up an admirably large sound stage of its own. Both sets are comfort kings. The 990's may have less detail and sound-stage but the bass is much better.

DT990 vs. HD558:
The 558's are comfy and open and have nice velour pads. They are more like semi-open. They have a good soundstage. The clarity across the spectrum is good with clear mids and highs and nice punchy bass that can get satisfyingly deep but not overly boomy. This is the most neutral of my sets. They are also a low impedance can that is easy to drive and at about $150 they are a very easy set to recommend. I hope you are picking up that I really like the HD558's because for the price (IMHO) they are a solid all-rounder that won't break the bank. This is my go to set for movies and TV.
The 990's sound-stage is improved over the 558's and by my estimation positioning in is also a bit better. As noted the Freq. response is more V-shaped in the 990's. The 558's are more neutral and the 990's are more "fun". So, the bass digs a bit deeper and the highs are a bit more detailed though the mids are slightly recessed. The 558's and 990's don't come different worlds the way that the M50's and Q701's do. Detail retrieval is very good. The 990's are a 250 ohm headphone and some sort of amp is pretty much mandatory. Depending on the source you may be able to drive them to a listenable level but a power starved driver will not respond the way it is meant to and the results will be underwhelming. The same is true of the Q701's.
Also, the materials and craftsmanship of the DT990 are noticeably more solid than the 558's. I'm not saying the 558's feel cheap, they do not, but the 990's are clearly built to last.

In closing:
Take all of this with a grain of salt. This is all very subjective and your mileage may vary. You might try something and not feel the same way about it. There is no accounting for taste.
I hope that at least someone out there was helped by this review. If you have any specific questions about one of these headphones I would be happy to share my thoughts if you care to hear them.

Happy listening,

-Heretic
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