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If you have heard what a $3,000 headphone sounds like, the realism and musical clarity isn't something you can easily forget. And it becomes a reference point of sorts to keep in mind, just how good a pair of cans can be. However that amount of money is some serious investment to make, not to mention the extra investment needed on the amplifier needed to drive the headphones properly.

That's why when I received the latest generation of beyerdynamics' T1 and T5 headphones: the latest and greatest from the almost 100 year old German audio maker, I was curious to see how it weathers against modern headphones from companies that are decades younger.

From a price standpoint, it's surprising that the top headphones that beyerdynamics has to offer are not the price of a small car - which rings true with many other audio manufacturers. Could it be any good then when compared with other cans twice its price? Let's dive in to find out.


No frills design, solid build

The top cans from beyerdynamics don't strut in rosewood or carbon fibre, they are as no frills as they come: dressed in black and grey. The no nonsense color palette looks all business, but it's simplicity doesn't mean the build was done without thoughtfulness.


The plastic components are made with durability in mind, and the yoke of the ear cups are made of anodized, brushed aluminum. There's a touch of comfort and class with the Alcantara covered headbands as well, which again is not flashy, but quietly classy.


For both the T1 and the T5, their most emblematic aesthetic feature is the house covers, which consists of a lattice of machined vent holes on a stainless steel plate on the open back designed T1, while the T5 features an aluminum plate with the same signature pattern etched in.


Accommodating and comfortable to wear

Though the aesthetics of the top cans from beyerdynamics lean towards the utilitarian side, they are surprisingly comfortable to wear. The large ear cups easily close around my ears without applying any pressure on them, which are on the larger side. So even while wearing glasses, these were comfortable to wear for extended periods. The clamping force is firm but easy, applying minimal pressure to the side of the head - also attributing to the comfort factor.

Both the T1 and the T5 headphones have generous cushioning, on the headband as well as the earpad. The cover of the ear pads however differ between the two, as the T1 is covered with lush Alcantara while the T5 sports synthetic leather - most probably for an improved seal for its closed-back design.


Top class sound

When it comes to sound, this is where beyerdynamics' experience and expertise really shines. The Tesla dynamic transducers that are angled for the optimal projection to the ears produces quite an impressive sound, especially in terms of a wide soundstage and realism.

In my experience, high end headphones produce a realistic texture to the sound that is beyond frequency response that can't be easily achieved. As a drummer, I used some familiar tracks to listen for a papery quality to snare drum hits that most headphones are unable to reproduce, and the T1 and T5 were able to deliver. This is quite impressive especially when considering I wasn't driving them with an expensive DAC, but just with a PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 module's headphone output.

I did find that using the T1 or T5 with FiiO M11 Pro's capable output, the dynamic sound was not fully opened up. So even though both headphones are rated at 32 ohms, I recommend driving them with a more powerful output to get the best sound out of them.


Consistent sound for both open and closed

As a general rule of thumb, open back headphones would usually give you a better soundstage, while the closed back provides the air pressure for a better bass response. However, I've learned that when you go to high end headphones, these rules are either bent or broken. In the case of the beyerdynamic T1 and T5, these rules are indeed broken.

Doing extensive A/B testing, I found the T1 and T5 sounds to be very much alike, dare I say identical both in bass response and staging. Which means the only choice that you need to make between the two headphones is whether you want an open or closed feel with your headphones, and whether sound leak is an issue for you.

Having my own office space got me always choosing the open back T1, as the leaked sound won't bother anyone, and I also don't need to block any environment noise. The open design also allows me to converse with colleagues without taking the headphones off. However if I was in a shared office environment, or in a recording situation, I would choose the T5 instead.


Professional accessories

Both the T1 and T5 come with a serious soft shell carrying case. Since the headphones are not made to travel like the beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC, the uncollapsible design and large headphone housing needs the sizable storage.


A difference between the T1 and the T5 is the cable that comes with the headphone. T1 comes with 3 metre textile-covered cables, while the T5 comes with a 1.4 metre cable instead. The 3 metre cable for the T1 is optimized more for home listening, while the shorter cable with the T5 is geared towards mobility and portability.


Final Verdict

The willingness of those who are serious about their music to reach deep into their pockets is what drives the top-end headphone market, and many headphone manufacturers capitalize on it by putting hefty price tags on their top creations. But beyerdynamics have set the bar for their best much lower, making their top tiered products more accessible to the masses. After testing the third generation of the T1 and T5, I've found that though these are much more affordable than other top shelf headphones, they are on-par in terms of sound quality.

So for the purists who don't need the bells and whistles, but simply want a workhorse headphone that provides the top sound quality in the market, saving a large sum of budget in the process that can be used for a better DAC or amplifier, I highly recommend the beyerdynamic T1 and T5 headphones. They provide market leading sound at an accessible price for music lovers.


For its affordability as a top-tier headphone, we're awarding the beyerdynamic T1 and T5 headphones the IBTimes Great Deal badge.

David is a tech enthusiast/writer who is often on the move, but since the lock-down is on a mission to explore gadgets to improve his 'home work'. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Home Productivity.