I’ve listened to a vast swath of Beyerdynamic’s headphones over the last few years. The German manufacturer’s products have a distinct flavor to them, mixing high-end build quality with a sound signature inspired by the older diffuse field target. Most of my reviews of their products have some sort of variation on the following sentence:
“If you can stand to listen to treble that comes just short of stabbing you directly in the head until you hate it, then you’ll love these!”
Outside of maybe the DT 880 and Custom One Pro, every single Beyerdynamic headphone I’ve used has overtly aggressive, bright treble. This quality makes their product line a love-it-or-hate it proposition. Some like the “enhanced” air and detail this provides, but others feel like they’re taking a bath in a sibilant nightmare land.
In stark contrast to the rest of their lineup, the DT 250 shares some of the same excellent sonic qualities without the crazy treble. It proves that Beyerdynamic could re-tune the sound signature on some of their iconic models without losing their distinct flavor. A new revision of this 15-plus-year-old headphone that fixed a couple of its obvious flaws could stand proudly next to modern greats like the AKG K371.
The Beyerdynamic DT 250 (official site) is a closed-back, wired headphone that’s available in 80 ohm and 250 ohm varieties. I’m reviewing the 80ohm version, which is generally thought to be a touch warmer in its sound signature, though Beyerdynamic claims they were shooting for similar performance.
It has a standard retail price of around $199, though it regularly goes on sale for less than that. I bought mine for around $155 from Amazon.
Inside its spartan cardboard packaging, you’ll find a manual, a warranty card, a detachable cable, and a small bag with German text warning you that it contains a screw. The screw allows you to more permanently attach the cable, if you’d like.
The DT 250 is part of Beyerdynamic’s professional audio gear lineup, which also includes headsets and one-sided monitoring options. The cables and accessories are designed to work across the entire series, great for studios and other production groups.
Shockingly, the DT 250 has a flat, nice, pleasant sound signature that’s both reasonably neutral and enjoyable to listen to. The bass is slightly elevated and warm, but with the same precise feel as the classic DT 770. The midrange is clean and prominent, with accurate-sounding female vocals and none of the typical flaws that plague closed-back headphones. Highs are slightly rolled off, without any obvious sibilance, aggression, or peakiness.
They’re like a more restrained M50X, or a Sony 7506 but with the highs shaved down, or like a slightly more sculpted AKG K371.
The good sonic news keeps going with the imaging and soundstage, which are both more precise and open than I was expecting…though the imaging has one massive flaw I’ll get to in a second.
Many will enjoy the sound signature of these more than Beyerdynamic’s classic 770/880/990 trifecta. Those headphones are all more aggressive, and a little colder overall. The 880 is the “Best” sounding out of that bunch, and the closest in overall character to this 250 model…though the 250 has warmer, creamier bass thanks to its closed-back design.
It’s not perfect though. The DT 250’s are infamous for having a built-in channel imbalance due to the way the cable connects, and I can confirm it’s absolutely there and absolutely audible. It’s easy to pick out if you put on a test tone and rotate the cups back and forth on opposite ears, and with critical listening you may hear it in the mid range of your favorite tracks as well. It manifests itself as a certain section of the midrange being slightly louder on the right side, which screws up the balance of all sorts of things.
For the first day I listened to these out of my last week or so of testing, it really got to me. All I could hear was this slight channel imbalance. After that, my brain adjusted and I could enjoy the pleasant, generally wonderful sound these produce. But once your brain starts investigating again, it’ll shoot right back to the imbalance.
It’s a real shame that a professionally-targeted product with such a nice sound signature has an immediately obvious sonic flaw. A redesign of the cable connector could probably fix this, and then Beyerdynamic would have a headphone that could stand right next to the K371 as one of the finest sub- $200 closed back headphones that you can use either in the home or for creative work.
Beyerdynamic’s models are generally known for their wonderful comfort. That’s not as much the case with the DT 250. While these can still be comfortable over long sessions, it’ll depend on how sensitive you are to clamping force and pad size.
These are quite clampy out of the box, and although they loosen up a little bit over time, it’s part of their design to help with isolation and bass response. They’ll press into your head with authority, and the pads aren’t as large as the similarly-clampy DT 770 Pro, so you’ll feel a little more of that pressure.
The small pads are similar to the “racetrack” pads on the Sony 7506. They have an inner area that sits smashed against your ears, and an external pad that seals around them. The entire pad presses into your ear and head, and when combined with the clamping force, you’ll always know you’re wearing headphones.
Fortunately, at a mass of just 240g, they don’t bog down the top of my head. The headband pad is rather thin, like a baby brother to the robust DT 770 pad. Fortunately, it still does its job just well enough to prevent hotspots.
I don’t really love how these feel on my ears even though they don’t cause me any real pain. And for all they’ve done design-wise to improve isolation, the actual isolation and leakage performance is not as impressive as I was expecting. The DT 770 outclasses the DT 250 quite easily in both comfort and isolation, though the 250 is still just above acceptable.
Adjustment range isn’t as high as on the 770’s, and I have to wear them extended to the 8th of their 9 notches.
These are not style headphones. They’re a weird black brick made mostly out of plastic, with a little bit of aluminum in the headband. They don’t fold down at all. There’s a little bit of lateral rotation in the cups, but they don’t rotate all the way flat.
On the plus side, every single part is user-repairable and replaceable. It’s pretty easy to pop off, unscrew, or otherwise access every piece of the headphones, so if you love to mod or tinker, you’ll have a good time. And if you’re looking to stock a studio, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to fix pairs that do eventually break. That’s one thing these have over the K371’s, and it’s right in line with the expectation for professional headphones.
I don’t like the feel of the plastics used here as much as those on the DT 770. They’re thick enough, but they have a cheap rough feeling to them that’s not pleasant. It’s like they went halfway through the process of finishing the surfaces, and called it good.
The detachable cable uses a proprietary 7-pin connector. Unfortunately, it’s not acoustically sealed, leading to the channel imbalance issue mentioned above. Some folks have tried to solve this with different mods, but it’s really something that Beyerdynamic themselves should have taken care of over the last 15 years. Plenty of headphones with detachable cables don’t suffer from a channel imbalance.
I’m not as bothered by the concept of the connector itself as I normally am by proprietary connections, because it’s so large and silly. But it loses any points it gained for being fun due to its technical shortcomings.
A modern revision of the DT 250 with a fixed and more universal connector, larger pads, and a nicer finish would be a nigh-unstoppable headphone that could compete aggressively for both home and professional users. This is perhaps the most pleasant-sounding Beyerdynamic product I’ve ever worn, and even with the flaws there’s still enough cool stuff going on here that it might be worth it for the most adventurous out there.
This is a better “portable creation” headphone than the newer DT 240 in my estimation, which is less comfy, not as good-sounding, and has a cheaper-feeling cable. But at least that model has correctly-centered audio.