Podcasting. It’s a thing now. Weather you caught a whiff of it when things started to get hot around the release of Serial or you’ve been a loyal downloader since the platform launched, the longevity of the straight-to-download format has perhaps surprised more than a few. Also, there is a thing called video game streaming now, “streamers” even. Not only has the term “Twitch” become a household name to more than few hardcore video game lovers, the idea has been successfully integrated directly into gaming platforms and nearly every corner of YouTube. This type of prosumer content creation has given birth to a new market of gadgetry, and one that might just bestow a few more precious entries for audiophiles as well.
This year at CES Beyerdynamic unveiled a one two punch for podcasters and streamers. First out of the gate is the DT 240 PRO headphone that launched into this “new” pro-ish market at a cool $99. A corresponding FOX microphone is also in development for a release date TBD. $99 is a hot price point to push out for entry-level producers. Aside from Grado fans, Audio-Technica ATH-M40x, and a few options from Sennheiser and Sony, the field of play is still fresh for a new game. Of course, open back options like Grado are easily ruled out for some, and even more so for those looking for portability within their creation. That all brings us back to the new 240. It is relatively portable, closed and comes with a coiled cable ready to tell you weather you walked too far away from the mic or if you just nailed the greatest line of your life.
Let’s start with the build. The DT 240 PRO is plastic in parts. But the plastic seems thick, well-designed and durable. At 196 grams (without the cable) the headphone is much lighter than your average audiophile headphone. That’s important for a lot of reasons, the least of which is comfort over long recording (or editing/listening) sessions. Too much weight and not enough clamping pressure and a headphone will slide right off your head if you tilt it down at a severe angle, not good if you want to check your phone for something during playback. The caliper pressure of the DT240 was slightly higher/harder than both the Meze 99 Classic and V-Moda Crossfade Wireless 2 we had on hand. Now, both those headphones have seen some use, so some expansion may have taken place within the confines of both those can’s headbands. But even so, it appears Beyer has made a concise effort to keep these headphones on your melon, even during heavy movement activities like field recording. Beyer also classifies the 240 as a circumaural or around-the-ear headphone. The experience we captured with the headphone lands it a bit more lean than some others, with an earcup opening that measured at a 3 ¼” for the outer circle and 1 ¾” circle for the internal diameter. Not a deal breaker by any means, but something to keep in mind if you have more definitive preferences in that area. Isolation did proved to be fairly good, and somewhat more than the Meze 99 Classics were able to muster under the same conditions.
The earcups swivel both up and down and in and out, fully flat in one direction. This allows the headphone to find rest flush with any surface and won’t be restricted in a hard edge to table scenario that could lead to an untimely doom – again, a bit more durability for the portability. The included coiled cable is detachable and 53″ in length at rest, but stretches a good distance longer when extended. One of the more unique features of the DT 240 PRO is its ability to pass both left and right channels from either side of the headphone. The cable can be inserted into the 2.5mm plug on either earcup and both channels will be connected – a interesting implementation that reduces cable clutter and allows for a small customization based on the users physical setup. The single-piece headband suspension system provides adequate comfort, but helps greatly reduce microphonic issues over the more two part, audiophile-structure found on headphones like the Meze 99 Classic. The size itself plays a large part in the portability of this pair of cans. There is a hard case option available, the but the 240 ships with a decent bag and screw-on 3.5mm to ¼ inch jack adaptor.
At times it is a little difficult to separate out the DT 240 from more expensive closed-back headphones. $300 is usually where things get a little more distilled, but this newest entry from Beyerdynamic is happy to reach up and blur the lines. Treble is neither too sharp, nor the most relaxed recreation on the market. It hits where it matters, but doesn’t overrun the show with exaggerated movements. Spatial placement is excellent as well, pushing a good image left and right from the head and never rushing a blurred or smeared stroke across the sonic landscape. Even our house favorite the Meze Audio 99 Classics ($300) didn’t outright oust the little guy. Listening to hard panned acoustic guitar on Into The Mystic by Van Morrison, it was possible to pick out a little more in-front-of-the-head placement from the Meze, but the all-important side to side stretch felt dimensional in a refreshingly mature way on the DT 240.
The definition and focus are playable all along the sub $500 range, but flagship planars were able to justify themselves for a more long-term buy. Along the same lines, the mids didn’t do much wrong either, providing an interesting energy and accurate tapestry to hang your music on. The bass end was perhaps the most curious of the curve. Closed back designs incorporate a stunning amount of proper R&D to nail down (due to all the extra reflection of the inner earcup), something that open back options luckily do not have to worry about. While isolation from outside noise (and vise versa) is a necessary evil for many applications, the bass tends to sound a little more direct and thusly a little less natural to the ear. While no closed headphone escapes this fully, the bass here is slightly elevated for an energetic and fun sound. The level of which surely lands within audiophile thresholds, so extreme bassheads may still find themselves reaching for the EQ. Where this slight (and I do mean slight) emphasis starts and ends did vary slightly from both the Meze 99 Classics and V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless (in wired mode) on hand. That is to say, it reached up a little further, as the bass guitar goes. The high priest of the low end kept up the energy slightly longer up the neck on standard rock tracks like Sultans of Swing by Dire Straights. Still, a very commendable effort along the whole frequency range, where even $1k+ headphones can get things wrong from time to time.
Truth be told, there have been quite a few bad sounding $100 headphones made over the course of history, this isn’t one of them. The DT240 appears to be the grand sum of a lot of manufacturing and design know-how, collected together over Beyerdynamic’s long history in the medium. The German company managed to squeak in just enough detail, dynamics and entertainment into this versatile pair of cans. Clearly they have their target marked, but the real surprise may well be their crossover to audiophiledom and the ever-hungry collection of budget-seekers within the personal audio enthusiast category. The experience is fully engrossing, loading all the benchmarks necessary for the pricepoint and then layering on just a little more. It’s easily a cousin to the larger-cup Beyerdynamic family, if not even a brother – from a sound standpoint. The build materials are a clear indicator of its price, but the construction backs up what appears to be solid physicality along with tolerable cons – masked beautifully by pushy pros waving you off in their direction. The clamping pressure starts off fairly stern, but it keeps the DT 240 on your head, even in motion. The internal real estate of the earcup isn’t as big as the rest of the DT PRO line, but the isolation does a good job of lowering the internal noise floor. The hard case is an option, but the ‘phone does come with a decent bag for a mere $100. That’s a whole lot of Beyer and not a lot of excess fat on the cut. Lovely.