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Sound: *********1/2
Value: *********
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Reviewers' ChoiceSo much attention in the audiophile headphone biz is devoted to relatively young companies, such as Audeze, Dan Clark Audio, and HiFiMan, that we tend to overlook the three European brands -- AKG, Beyerdynamic, and Sennheiser -- that were making good headphones before the founders of the aforenamed upstarts were even born. In fact, I’ve still never spent quality time with some of the high-end models from that classic Teutonic trio. That’s why I was excited to hear Beyerdynamic was releasing third-generation versions of its T1 open-back and T5 closed-back headphones. Finally, I’d get a chance to listen to them for more than a minute. I requested samples of both, flipped a coin to see which one goes first, and here we are with the new T5 headphones ($999 USD).

There’s nothing outwardly distinctive about the T5s; what’s different about these headphones is what’s inside. Unlike the brands mentioned above, which rely mostly or solely on planar-magnetic drivers, the T5s use old-school dynamic drivers, which can be thought of as miniature versions of conventional speaker drivers. The drivers are pushed to the front of the earcups and angled toward your ears, more like a set of speakers would be. The driver size isn’t specified, and they’re covered in fabric, but it looks like 40mm, and the middle 30mm of the drivers is covered with (and tuned by) an unusually thick layer of damping material.

Beyerdynamic

The earpads are especially nice, made from multiple layers of mushy stuff (including one of memory foam), and covered in protein-coated synthetic leather. The padded headband’s covered in the same stuff, with a strip of Alcantara synthetic suede across its top. But what’s perhaps the most unusual thing about the T5s’ construction is that they’re assembled by hand in Germany, from mostly German-manufactured parts.

The T5s are rated at 30-ohms impedance, with rated sensitivity of 100dB/1mW, so they should be easy for portable devices to drive.

In the box

The package includes the headphones and a 4.6' (1.4m) cable tipped in 1/8" (3.5mm) plugs on both ends, plus a 1/8"-to-1/4" adapter. If you need a balanced cable with a four-pin XLR connector, Beyerdynamic offers a 9.75' (3.0m) one for $145. A nice semi-hardshell travel case is also included.

Beyerdynamic

Use

At 0.76 pounds (352g) according to my scale, the T5s are relatively light for high-end audiophile headphones. Clamping force is a little tight, but the earpads are so plush and comfortable that I was able to use the T5s for a two-hour online jazz combo class and forgot I was wearing them until the class ended.

The T5s are, true to their specs, easy to drive. I found my Samsung Galaxy S9 phone could get them cranking loud with no hint of strain, and they easily got to comfortable volumes even with very conservatively mastered recordings.

Sound

Right on my first listen to the T5s, after giving them my requisite ten-hour break-in, I knew they were very good. I heard little coloration as I flipped through various tunes on my phone, and I ended up using them to monitor some jazz recordings and mixes I’m doing. After a couple of weeks of messing around and finding nothing to dislike, I settled down for some serious listening and comparisons.

Beyerdynamic

Diana Krall’s new recording of “But Beautiful” (This Dream of You, 24-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Verve/Qobuz) is practically everything I could want from a piece of music: one of my favorite jazz standards, a flawless recording and mix, a gorgeous arrangement, and drum kit as well as double bass and guitar performances that are virtuosic yet packed with personality. It’s all topped off with what I think may be Krall’s best vocal performance to date: a breathy, intimate, expressive take with none of that subtle grunting sound with which she sometimes finishes a line. Just try to hate it. I dare you.

I listened to “But Beautiful” over and over with the T5s and several other high-end headphones I had on hand, and I found much to love and not a thing to complain about. The balance of bass to mids to treble seemed just about perfect, and bassist John Clayton (whose sound, because of his ubiquity, all jazz fans know pretty well) had that completely straightforward, nice-but-not-really-distinctive tone that’s part of the reason he’s so popular.

Beyerdynamic

Besides the natural, uncolored sound of the vocals, I especially loved the way the strings stretched all the way across the soundstage, and the way the T5s captured the size and space of the big studio (which had to be pretty big to hold 21 string players and a conductor). I don’t know how exactly the strings were miked and mixed, but I got a realistic sense that I was at the conductor’s podium.

Another new release that’s just as extraordinary, but for entirely different reasons, is Alicia Keys’s Alicia (24/44.1 FLAC, RCA/Qobuz). Her song “Time Machine” is like the opposite of Krall’s recording. The tune’s credits list seven recording engineers, three composer-lyricists, one keyboardist, and precisely one acoustic instrument: a sitar that appears in the background of the intro. But sonically, it’s perhaps just as complex as “But Beautiful,” with all sorts of keyboard and percussion sounds percolating around Keys’s voice.

I was especially impressed by the T5s’ reproduction of Keys’s voice, which sounded full and clear, with no sibilance at all, no chestiness, and no edge. It’s exceptionally rare to hear headphones (or any audio device, really) get voice reproduction so right. Keys is a contemporary R&B artist, so you have to expect some deep bass hits, and on this tune, they’re deep -- but the T5s reproduced them cleanly with no bloat.

Beyerdynamic

Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” (Houses of the Holy, 24/96 FLAC, Atlantic/Qobuz) is about as far from the Krall and Keys recordings as you could get, but the T5s worked great for this tune, too -- or at least as great as any other headphones I had. I love Zep’s music, but I’ve never been crazy about the recordings; this 2014 remaster focuses heavily on the guitars and vocals, and it really needs more bass and more body in the snare drum. Based on what I heard from several other headphones I compared the T5s with (more on that shortly), the T5s seemed to get the balance as it should be, and I couldn’t note any colorations in the voice. In fact, Robert Plant’s vocals sounded as clean and clear as I can ever remember hearing them sound.

Comparison

I compared the T5s with lots of other headphones, mostly high-end open-back models (I didn’t have a high-end closed-back model on hand). These include the Beyerdynamic T1s ($999) and Amiron Homes ($599), the Audeze LCD-Xes (originally $1699, now $1199) outfitted with Dekoni Choice Suede earpads, the HiFiMan Sundaras ($499), and the AKG K371s ($149).

Overall, the T5s were my favorite of all these headphones, mainly because they sounded the most balanced. For example (and sticking with this review’s theme of extremely complex productions), all of them sounded good on the Seals & Crofts classic “Summer Breeze,” but I felt the T5s delivered the most neutral presentation, neither coloring the instrumental and vocal sounds nor elevating any element of the mix above any of the others.

Beyerdynamic

Because the T5s had no discernible (to me, at least) treble boost, they didn’t highlight the details in instruments like cymbals and acoustic guitar the way the Amiron Homes did, for example, nor did they add the exciting but somewhat artificial vividness that the LCD-Xes added. But the T5s didn’t bury the details, either, and they never sounded thin the way almost all subjectively hyper-detailed headphones do. In fact, the T5s could reproduce the different elements of “Summer Breeze” far better than my ears could catch them. Here’s what I picked out, by the way: piano, toy piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, violin (I think), clarinet, saxophone, woodblocks, drum kit, and bass, plus the vocals. (And I think there’s some “mystery instrument” blended with the woodwinds that I can’t pick out.)

Conclusion

Unfortunately, while I didn’t have the chance to compare the Beyerdynamic T5 headphones with any high-end closed-back models, they sounded so great and so flawless that I have to think they rank up there with the best. They’re also as comfortable as anything else on the market, and as easy to drive as mass-market headphones. And they include the one accessory I really like to have with high-end headphones: a nice travel case. At $999, that makes the T5s a pretty great deal.

. . . Brent Butterworth
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Associated Equipment

  • Amplifier -- Schiit Magnius
  • DAC-amplifier -- AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt
  • Smartphone -- Samsung Galaxy S9

Beyerdynamic T5 (3rd Generation) Headphones
Price: $999 USD.
Warranty: Two years, limited.

Beyerdynamic, Inc. USA
56 Central Avenue
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Phone: (631) 293-3200
Fax: (631) 293-3288

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.beyerdynamic-usa.com

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Sizer · 21 days ago
    Hi, I realize I'm late to the discussion here, but I decided to offer my somewhat different take anyway. Like Brent, I found the full bandwidth performance to be  smooth and dynamic. Bass is powerful but not boomy, providing deep extension and a clean response. Midrange and treble are smooth, generally accurate, and non-fatiguing. The problem is that the tuning of the T5 deviates so far from the Harman target frequency response that tonal balance and resolution suffer significantly. In some louder dynamic passages, for example, the large bass boost centered on approximately 120 Hz becomes overly prominent vs. higher frequency portions of the music. Also, the substantial dip centered at 400 Hz can be perceived as a certain “hollowness” in the lower midrange. These issues are especially apparent in direct a/b comparisons between the stock, unEQ’d sound of the T5s and the response after EQ. I EQ’d them as close as possible to Harman using the appropriate AutoEQ preset in my Qudelix 5K DAC/amp, and the improvement was stunning. With EQ, the T5s delivered sound that was fully balanced, tonally accurate, and highly detailed throughout the audible range. Imaging and instrument separation were more focused, and the T5s were an absolute delight to listen to. (Note: for even more refined EQ, check out the preference curves supplied by Oratory1990 at https://www.reddit.com/r/oratory1990/wiki/index/list_of_presets/.)

    It’s a little perplexing to me that a manufacturer with the engineering prowess of Beyerdynamic would design headphones with fabulous Tesla drivers like the ones in the T5s and not tune them properly. These are high-end, $1,000 (retail) headphones whose stock tuning is significantly worse than that of a $300 or $400 pair of Sennheiser HD6XXs. I’m keeping mine because their sound after applying EQ is astonishingly good. If you’re willing and able to EQ them, I highly recommend the T5s, especially at the $799 Amazon sale price. Otherwise, I’m guessing there are better alternatives.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mauro · 1 years ago
    Hi guys, after COVID restrictions it was not possible for Brent to have a listening panel. 
    I thought I might leave my take on sound:
    Intense bass, but v
    Soundstage on my ears is unluckily in the head but quite wide. 
    But there the soundscape is cohesive from left to right. Going back to other headphones a central voice seems split in two on the horizontal plane. Crossfeed systems as in the Radsone ES100 or Qudelix 5K have a similar effect as the T5p. 
    Cable is microphonic. 
    In general, v-shaped in the upper bass and mid treble.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Mauro · 1 years ago
      A big chunk of my take is missing. A bit upset by the website/Safari glitch. I will try again later 😰
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Doug Schneider · 1 years ago
      I'll perhaps talk to Brent and see if he can answer. But as we know, COVID changed a lot of things for everyone. It kind of stopped everyone in there tracks in terms of what they were doing and sent people in different directions. I suspect that when things subsided, the panel Brent had wasn't in quite the same place anymore in terms of head space and even location.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Brent Butterworth · 1 years ago
        Yeah, and I moved toward the end of the pandemic and never was able to get a new panel together. Geoff has these headphones now, I think; maybe he has a fresh take on them....
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Mauro · 1 years ago
          Thanks both for your replies.. after tapping the post button a piece of my post went missing. 
          I was trying to share my experience with the T5p 3rd gen. Anyway, good headphones with intense bass, slightly hollow vocals (vs AKG K371) and fun elevation on cymbals and upper treble. I commented above on soundstage. 
          It would be cool to have Geoff take!

          Keep up the good work!
          Hey Brent, glad to see that you are still posting here! 
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Rice · 2 years ago
    Great reviews. It seems you said that the T-5 and the Celestee are quite close sound wise with Celestee having a touch more bass and perhaps a touch less in the mids and the slight edge for sound going to the t-5, is that right? Thanks.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Brent Butterworth · 2 years ago
      Thanks! I have to say, I am not sure I can responsibly and confidently answer that. I did give the Celestee a 9 after directly comparing it with the T5 3rd-gen, to which I gave a 9.5, so I must have liked the T5 slightly better -- but at that point, they're so close, and tastes vary so much, that I can't reliably predict which you'd like better. The T5 3rd-gen definitely has a less flat, "smilier" response, but increased flatness in a headphone doesn't necessary equate to better, and often, maybe usually, the opposite. Both headphones are very good and voiced to appeal to a broad spectrum of listeners; neither is for detail-craving enthusiasts. Hope that helps ...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Revan · 3 years ago
    Comparison to Focal Radiance?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Stefan · 3 years ago
    Hello again,

    It is pitty that you didnt have any closed back rival at hand. But from your memory, how would you compare these to Focal Stellia and Elegia (which sound I know).
    I mean in terms of resolution, or general music perception, perhaps even wearing confort, are you able to compare these somehow?

    Thank you,
    Stefan
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Brent Butterworth · 3 years ago
      It's been a while, and I don't have any Focal headphones on hand. But from reading my past reviews, the Elegias have a mid push, which would suggest I'd prefer the T5 gen3. The Stellias I did nothing but rave about, but of course they're 3X the price of the T5 gen3. I found all very comfortable.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MadMex · 3 years ago
    I love your first sentence. This applies to all hifi across the board, and life in general to me. It's easy to gravitate to the new, especially in young folk, and overlook long established renowned institutions.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    stefan · 3 years ago
    Hello. Since when is AKG a Gernam brand?? :))

    (Perhaps you wanted to write German-speaking countries)

    Anyway thank you for nice review!

    Stefan
  • This commment is unpublished.
    timeleeward · 3 years ago
    Have you heard the versions before? Any way to compare them?

    Tim
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joel Lee · 3 years ago
    How do you know you have the 3rd Edition if the cups only say T5?

    Joel L.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Brent Butterworth · 3 years ago
      Good question. According to Beyerdynamic:
      1) Both plates on the earcup look entirely different
      2) The new T5 Gen 3 has the new beyerdynamic Y logo
      3) The T5 name was removed from the headphone yoke on the Generation 3 model
      I've attached an image of the Gen 2 model. You can see it has kind of a horizontal stripe pattern on the earcups.

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