I was tempted to do a full-on T1.2 review, but I kept comparing the T1.2 to the DT880. So, I figured I would do a face-off post of T1.2 vs DT880; two birds with one stone, as it were. I will also give a few general thoughts about the T1.2. Most of this face-off was done with the two headphones fed by a Liquid Platinum and iFi Zen DAC. The signatures of the two headphones are quite different. For face-off purposes I used the Zen’s bass boost for the DT880 and ran the T1.2 straight. In some sense this evened the playing field, bringing the signatures closer together so that I could focus more on technicality differences. I did however spend several hours-long listening sessions listening to just the T1.2 playing a huge shuffled playlist from Spotify through my SU-8 DAC and Liquid Platinum amplifier. I did do some listening of the T1.2 on the Asgard 3 too, just to see how it sounded. I’ll first give those general thoughts about the T1.2 and then get into more details of the face off.
General Thoughts about T1.2
The T1.2 is a good headphone. I’m about to be quite critical of it, but I don’t want that to detract from the fact that from an objective standpoint it’s a high-performance headphone that many listeners will enjoy for a wide variety of music. Also, it’s an outstanding headphone if you like jazz. The timbre is pretty natural, the resolution is excellent, and the spatial presentation is strong. The physical build is excellent – as one would expect from Beyerdynamic – and it’s a light and physically comfortable headphone. The signature is V. It’s not as pronounced a V as the DT990 or a Fostex X00 series headphone, but the bass and treble both have a fair amount of elevation, or the mid-range is fairly recessed, depending on how you want to describe it. However, in the end DT880-600 exists and is often had for under $200 brand new. IMO, that’s a problem for the T1.2. The T1.2 is a technical upgrade from the DT880 hands down, but it’s a small upgrade, and hard to justify a >$500 price difference brand new, IMO. Read on if you want to know why I say such things.
DT880 vs T1.2
I’ll further divide this section into subsections that focus on important aspects of headphone build and headphone performance: sound signature, bass, mid-range, treble, detail retrieval, spatial performance, and timbre. In case it wasn’t already clear, I’ll be using the 600 ohm variant of the DT880 in this comparison. Also keep in mind that my DT880 has been balance modded. That may be a (potentially huge) factor for someone else deciding between these headphones. Those notes aside, here goes…
I have no complaints about the overall build quality of either unit. The T1.2 is definitely targeted more at long listening sessions at home than the DT880’s primarily studio-targeted design. The T1.2 headband has more padding and it has an overall more luxurious feel. However, both headphones are built ruggedly and are what one should expect from Beyerdynamic build quality and comfort. The DT880, frustratingly, has that attached cable that is 3m long and kind of a pain the [insert your favorite body part for pains in here]. If you’re feeling plucky, the construction of the 880 is pretty modular and there is plenty of room to do a detachable cable mod, if you’re comfortable doing so. There are also services that will do them for $75 or so. The T1.2 has dual-entry detachable cable entry out of the box with 3.5mm inputs on either cup.
The T1.2, while also being 600 ohms, is easier to drive than the 880. I was consistently adjusting my Liquid Platinum’s volume potentiometer by about 1 hour and 30 minutes worth higher for the 880 than the T1. Finally, when the volume gets pushed, I noticed that the T1.2’s earcups vibrate more than the 880’s. I didn’t feel those vibrations on my head as the earpads did a good job damping those. But, when I touched the cups with my fingers when lots of bass was happening, I could feel the T1.2 cups vibrate more than the 880’s.
The DT880 is neutral-bright. Its frequency response is pretty even with a slight elevation in the treble. The T1.2 is V. The bass is warm and full but the treble is also boosted, even moreso than the 880’s treble. The T1.2’s ‘V’ is shifted more toward the treble than most V headphones, though, and that recess is narrower than many other headphones with V signatures. The apparent recess in the midrange happens more between 1 and 3 KHz.
With stock tuning the DT-880’s bass extends quite low, digging deep, but is a little on the lean side. It’s also quite fast and well-tuned. To my ear, there’s more bass extension with the 880 than the T1.2. The T1.2 has much more forward bass. This bass forwardness can be both good and bad. The extra quantity of bass on the T1.2 makes it play more friendly with a wider range of musical styles, it also is overdone and can often come across as forced or strained. The DT880 excels with acoustic music that is less bass-dependent. It sounds wonderful with classical and jazz. However, with rock, metal, hip-hop, or EDM its lean bass can rob it of the necessary body those styles of music need to sound their best. The T1.2 has the necessary low-end weight for those genres. However, I do think Beyerdynamic pushed the drivers a little too hard here. Right away on bass-heavy music the bass sounded a little artificially inflated to me. That resulted in a tonal quality that came across as forced. It struck me as the T1.2 going out of the way to tell me it can do bass rather than just doing bass. Now, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m a bona fide bass head. I LOVE bass. I’ve written elsewhere on the forum how much I love the HiFiMan Edition X V2 because of its bass extension and slam, and how my Lawton modded TH-X00 is a bass cannon that feels like it can give me a concussion at times, and I’m not complaining about that. The difference is that those 2 headphones I just mentioned have ease to their bass. They don’t sound like they’re working hard for it. They just do it. While deep and impactful and plentiful, their bass is still clean, smooth, and effortless. The T1.2’s bass is impactful, but it comes across as effortful too often. It’s not distorted or sloppy, it just sounds a little bit begrudging. It sounds like Beyer pushed their Tesla driver all the way up to the maximum bass output it could handle and then backed it off to leave just enough headroom for the vast majority of music out there. The result is a driver that just comes across as doing something it’s not really comfortable doing. Further evidence for that comes from the fact that the DT880 doesn’t even break a sweat when iFi’s bass boost is applied. Remarkably it ramps up its bass quantity and impact and sounds quite comfortable doing so – more comfortable than the T1.2 does with its stock tuning. Now, the T1.2’s bass quantity is till more than the DT880’s with the bass boost applied. This makes me wonder if Beyer went just a little bit overboard with the T1.2’s bass and should have backed it off another 2-3dB. In fact, when I added the bass boost to the T1.2, it would often distort and get sloppy. This almost confirmed that Beyer pushed these drivers almost right to the edge of their capability.
IMO, the mids are a highlight of Beyer’s sound. Their treble can be polarizing and their headphones vary wildly in bass response, but their mids are excellent in the price classes they put their products. These two headphones are no exception. Vocals and instruments sound excellent on both headphones. I think the T1.2’s tuning makes it a better match for male vocals and the DT880’s increased presence in the 1-3KHz range makes it a little better for female vocals. But really, I can’t fault the overall quality of either headphone in the mids.
Who wants to argue about Beyerdynamic’s treble? It’s not for everyone. Both of these headphones are very bright. However, the T1.2 sounds more sharp more often. There is a more pronounced peak in the T1.2’s consonant range which makes is more susceptible to sibilance. The sharp ‘s’ and ‘t’ sounds are definitely there. The T1.2 wanders into sibilant territory more frequently and more aggressively than the DT880. Also, on poorly recorded music, the T1.2 has a more forward and persistent edge to its treble. Both headphones get grainy in the treble with bad recordings, but the T1.2 brings that out more. In my Zen DAC review, I mentioned that the Zen sneakily and surprisingly has more treble sharpness than I expected. The T1.2 consistently brought that out more. It was noticeable on both headphones, but more pronounced on the T1.2. So while the added bass can help the T1.2 with rock and metal, this treble sharpness hurts it just as much for the same kinds of music as they often have lots of treble energy. It’s up to each individual listener to decide where the balance is for them.
Here’s where the T1.2 separates itself for the better. The T1.2 is the more resolving headphone in the midrange and treble, but I’ll still give the bass edge to the 880 in terms of overall quality. Reverbs and room echoes were more easily noticeable on the T1.2. Things like guitar string plucks and drum ghost notes were also resolved better. The gap isn’t huge, but the T1.2 is consistently the more detailed headphone above about 150Hz.
Here the T1.2 pulls ahead again, but also again not by a huge margin. In general, both headphones have a reasonably wide soundstage. I would say their width is similar. Both headphones are also strong imagers. They place sounds in that soundstage quite well. The T1.2 handles separation better, though. I’ll define ‘separation’ here as the negative of imaging; it’s the ability to create space between sound images. The T1.2 also creates a soundfield that is slightly more in front of the head where the DT880 makes more of an arc over the head.
Overall, the T1.2 has a very, very slight advantage in timbre. One exception is female voices where its dip in 1-3KHz gets in the way. Outside of that, and outside of the very deep bass, the T1.2 makes voices sound a little bit more like voices and pianos a little more like pianos… However, with poor recordings, the T1.2 will break timbre faster in the treble. Because it gets sharper quicker and more frequently, the window of quality where it has a timbre edge is small. Thus, in practice, the DT880 often has a timbre advantage in the treble with real-world material. Cymbal crashes have less hash-y quality to them in such cases.
Two caveats I need to spell out that I haven’t yet: 1) I don’t have an OTL tube amp on hand to test the T1.2. I understand it tubes really well and much of the above could change when comparing tube-to-tube performance; 2) I’ve also been told that both headphones scale with higher tier amps quite well, and it stands to reason that the T1.2 being the higher tier model will scale higher than the DT880. Unfortunately, I do not have the amps on hand to address either of these potential limitations. I’ll leave it to other members of this community to chime in here and fill in these holes. Also, while it’s not inherently a limitation of this comparison from a technical standpoint, it should be mentioned that the T1.2 is not a direct upgrade from the DT880. Their different signatures indicate that the T1.2 is not meant to simply be the DT880 but better. I did this comparison because I was curious what the real differences were between the two headphones and I think many HFGF readers are curious too.
The DT-880 is an absolute keeper and one of the few headphones that genuinely does punch above its weight. It has a long-term home in my collection. Did I like the T1.2? Overall, yes, I did. I also don’t think it does enough that I don’t already have with other headphones to warrant the expense of keeping it around. However, I can listen to and enjoy the T1.2 quite easily. In fact, while writing this I am listening to the “Brave Enough” album by Lindsey Stirling. The T1.2 is doing an admirable job with it. The bass issue I mentioned above isn’t showing up much because Lindsey Stirling’s bass isn’t particularly fast moving most of the time (still doesn’t sound effortless, though ).
At any rate, a quick sum up: The DT-880 is neutral-bright and the T1.2 has a, let’s call it “narrow V” signature. The DT-880’s stock tuning has deep and fast but lean bass, the T1.2 has slightly less extended bass but more bass, which at times sounds like a bit too much for the drivers to comfortably handle. The DT-880’s bass performance can truly outclass the T1.2’s with a bit of a tasteful bass boost, though. Both headphones have excellent midrange. Both headphones have elevated treble that can get sharp and sibilant, with the T1.2 being more sharp more often. The T1.2 consistently has better detail retrieval above ~150Hz though and has slightly better overall spatial performance and timbre. For my money, the T1.2 is a slight technical upgrade from the DT880, but not enough for me to justify spending over $500 more (new prices) for it. The attached cable for the DT880 is an ergonomic irritant, though. A potential user may want to factor in an additional $75 plus shipping to have it detachable cable modded if they’re not comfortable doing it themselves.
OK, thanks for reading everyone. I look forward to your feedback. Enjoy the music!