Review on Beyerdynamic T5 Headphones (3rd gen)
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The Review on Beyerdynamic T5 Headphones (3rd gen)
I was recently sent the third generation beyerdynamic T5 headphones for review. I felt particularly comfortable reviewing the next-generation T5, as I’ve owned both previous models and still have the previous pair of headphones in my current collection. At this point, someone new to headphones says “but I can’t find any information on the earlier T5 models.” I understand that level of frustration. The previous models were called the T5p to indicate that they were portable. Times have definitely changed
When the T5 was first introduced, it was one of a few flagships for beyerdynamic using their new “Tesla” technology. The T1 was an open-back model with an impedance of 600 ohms. The T1 begged for a tube amp to properly power it and was certainly beyond the capabilities of most portable players at the time of its introduction. The T5p was a closed design with an impedance of 32 ohms and came with a shorter cable with a 3.5mm jack and was much more suitable for mobile use as it was easier to drive well.
An additional third model, the T90, arrived to fill the middle ground with a 250 ohm resistor, higher sensitivity and was open-back headphones. The T90 came with a 3.5mm jack and a 6.35mm adapter as it was suitable for portable or home use.
With all the changes that have hit the wearable market in recent years, it’s no wonder beyerdynamic decided to drop the ‘p’ from the name, as these days things like the Lagoon, Aventho and Amiron wireless fill that niche.
However, the T5 still occupies the closed flagship space in the market and as such is still a very relevant product despite the changes in its market positioning. The T1 and T5 are the models that beyerdynamic’s engineers spend the most R&D time and craft effort with other models that receive trickle down technology from the T1/T5 platform.
It can be argued that the advances made by beyerdynamic in driver design such as improved sensitivity, reduced impedance with better stability across the audible spectrum, improved tuning and mechanical changes in the angle of the driver relative to the ear – all started with the T1/T5 and it remains the first platform released with each new development cycle.
I have been a fan of the T5 since the beginning and still have a 2nd gen T5p in my personal collection as they offer fantastic performance for the asking price. While other competitors’ flagships can cost upwards of $3,000, beyerdynamic has kept the flagship price below $1,000.
That makes the T5 a relative bargain compared to comparable performing models from other brands. Considering what Audeze, Meze Audio, Grado Labs and HiFiMan charge for their best headphones, the beyerdynamic T5 is downright affordable.
One thing that probably hurts beyerdynamic is that all of their models are very similar in design and structure. Don’t get me wrong here as the design is well proven, comfortable and durable. The T5 uses aluminum for the cups, gimbals and other heavy-duty parts, and protein leather and Alcantara for the pads and headband.
Internals are also equally high quality with 7N OCC copper throughout. The problem is that the current generation of Head-Fi users want people to recognize what they have. That sounds superficial, but when a person spends a lot, they generally want the people around them to recognize the item. For example, the Sennheiser HD800s and HD820 that compete with the T1 and T5 respectively are immediately recognizable.
So much so that a recent Drop of the HD800 series was leaked for recognizing the silhouette. Because the T5 is very similar to several other models in the beyerdynamic line, some of which cost as little as $169, there is no cachet that comes with the T5. Those willing to forego that panache will be rewarded with top quality sound at a much more affordable price.
The current generation T5, per beyerdynamic, “achieves a better, more natural reproduction of high mids”, so I think most of the effort has gone into updating the mids and highs, while leaving the bass largely unchanged.
Some will find fault with that, but remember that one of the biggest changes from the 1st to 2nd generation models has been the improvement in low end performance, so effectively that area is already covered.
I found that through 2nd and 3rd generation A/B testing with my most resolving desktop configuration (Bel Canto DAC/Pass Amp) I was able to pick out some of those changes pretty quickly. There is still a treble peak at about 4.5 kHz, but the rise to that peak is much steeper and starts much later on the new model.
It can be argued that the second generation of T5 headphones had an upper-mid/lower treble that started around 1500 Hz and peaked at 4500 Hz before dropping back slightly above that. The 3rd generation shows no higher-mid push with the rise to that 4500 Hz peak starting near 3000 Hz, well contained in the treble region.
This does indeed give the mids a bit more even tonality on the 3rd generation and provides enough energy in the highs to bring out the vocals from behind the instrumentation, but doesn’t stop sounding highs to the front, as even that mild boost at 4500 Hz is just that – mild. Beyerdynamic T5 3rd Generation Headphones with Schiit Audio Amp
The other thing that stands out with the 3rd generation is an improvement in the size and width of the soundstage. Again, the previous generations were good, but the 3rd shows a different step-up. The soundstage in closed-back headphones always seems much more limited than comparable open-back models and the T1 is still the king of the beyerdynamic line; but the new T5 is one step closer to the T1 in this regard.
In my ear, the most noticeable change was more height. Imaging also gets a boost as the position is very well defined and movements can be easily tracked around the soundstage.
The previous T5p (2nd generation) was one of my favorite closed-back headphones for serious listening, as it does a great job of showing how the rest of the equipment colors the sound. The new T5 is even better as beyerdynamic successfully removed the little coloration that was added to the midrange in the previous version, so now the T5 is even linear and sounds even cleaner.
The other really nice feature of the T5 is that, despite being linear over most of its range, it avoids the common pitfall of being inanimate. I have had to write several times that headphones or earphones were technically very good, but boring. There’s no excuse for headphones at this price point to be boring and lacking in emotional engagement.
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