The Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2 are top-end headphones. They cost £849 / $1,049 / AU$1,999 and are a bit like a turbo-charged version of the popular Beyerdynamic DT880.
If you already own the first version of the Beyerydnamic T1s and are wondering what the differences are, with this second edition you get slightly modified drivers and removable cabling. That’s a handy feature in a headphone as expensive as some people’s cars.
Design and features
The Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s' big rivals among dynamic driver headphones are the Sennheiser HD800s, which are perhaps still the most space-age headphones money can buy. By comparison, the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2 look positively ordinary.
Maybe that's no bad thing, though. You could get away with wearing these in the office without earning a cast of mocking onlookers, where the Sennheiser HD800s make you look like you’re in costume.
The Sennheisers are a little more comfortable, but only because they’re in their own league in this respect. With the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s you get a lovely leather-topped headband and big velour ear pads. They feel luxurious, and hug the head rather than using a frame that sticks out like a radio tower.
Among high-end headphones, the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s are unusually non-embarrassing. At one point, unable to resist the allure of a rare sunny day in London, we even took them out to the park for a listen. They could almost pass for a pair of street headphones.
These headphones are absolutely not for general portable use, though. The Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s have open backs, their rears covered by a largely opaque but still open metal gauze. They leak a lot of sound and isolate very little, although perhaps a little more than headphones where you can almost see the driver through the back. Beyerdynamic calls them 'semi-open'.
The metal gauze has a neat shimmer to it, and is indicative of the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s' all-round excellent build. Take a look at these headphones: any of the silvery-gold parts are metal, while the black parts are either leather or high-grade plastic. They're also made in Germany rather than China, a ‘feature’ they share with the Sennheiser HD800s.
New for this second generation of T1s, the cable is removable. It plugs into both cups at an angle, and terminates in simple stereo 3.5mm jacks. Removable cables are a nice insurance policy, but unless something terrible goes wrong we can’t imagine there being too many problems anyway. The cable is thick, and has a high-quality fabric sheath that acts as extra protection.
The cable is three meters long, and ends in a 3.5mm jack with a thread for a 6.3mm adapter, which is included. You also get a large semi-rigid case with moulded contours for easy carrying.
Everything about the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s, from the open backs to the long cable and very high 600Ohm impedance, screams that these aren’t to be used out on the street, but with pro equipment. However, we were surprised by how efficient they are, able to achieve the sort of levels we use for normal listening without maxing-out the volume on a phone.
They're at their best when used with a great amp, of course, which helps improve mid-range definition a little and gives more volume headroom.
At this sort of price you start seeing more exotic sorts of headphones, like planar magnetic and electrostatic pairs. The Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s have a normal dynamic driver, but use a 'tesla' coil magnet much more powerful than that of your average pair of headphones.
Beyerdynamic suggests that this explains the extremely high volume output for a pair with such high impedance. Your average pair of 600Ohm headphones couldn't be driven by a phone, but these work passably well with one.
The Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s sound fantastic, and largely justify their high price. With top-performing, expensive headphones like these, the question isn't whether they’re good enough, but whether their character will suit your ears better than everything else around the same price.
These headphones are warmer, richer-sounding than most, and outright warmth isn’t that common in ultra-high-end headphones. It’s a bit like chocolate; the more expensive a bar is, the more likely it is to be all cocoa and no milk. The Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s are milk chocolate headphones.
This characteristic gives the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s an ear-caressing smoothness that distracts from the actually slightly pronounced, very detailed treble.
There’s also more bass than from most alternatives, and as well as punch there’s real weight to the low-end. It’s fat bass, for headphones like these. Don’t confuse this for a comparison with a basshead pair, though – the T1's bass is still very natural and ‘fast’, providing great rhythmic precision.
A full bodied-sound gives this pair an indulgent edge, and this is also one of the reasons why you’ll want to use the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s with an amp. It helps firm-up the mids a little, giving the sound improved focus.
This defining characteristic of the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s will to some ears be a drawback, rather than a draw. Listening alongside HiFiMAN’s classic HE5 planar magnetic headphones, the Beyerdynamic pair have less rigorously defined lower-mids, which can detract from the finer points of the timbre of certain instruments and vocal lines a little.
For example, it bulks up Kendrick Lamar’s nasal rapping on 2017’s Damn, reducing its separation from the rest of the mix and simplifying the character of the vocal in general. Then again, the whole arrangement sounds richer and fuller through the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s, which many will find more rewarding.
Like all the best headphones, these are largely genre-agnostic. They sound as at-home with Mesuggah as with something more thoughtful, such as the cod-electro Jazz of GoGo Penguin. While it's been some time since we donned the original T1s, Beyerdynamic does seem to have tamed the treble peak of those headphones, one of the few complaints some buyers had about the earlier pair.
There’s a sense that these headphones have been designed to take account of the enjoyment factor for the average ear, rather than just pure accuracy, which is a little unusual at the price. The Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s also have a very large soundstage – it's still smaller than that of the epic Sennheiser HD800S headphones, but few sets can compete on that front.
While we’d probably pick the Sennheisers if money were no object – the newer HD800S are actually hundreds of pounds/dollars more expensive than the Beyerdynamic T1s (the older HD800s have a treble peak that many people find tiring).
There’s nothing tiring about the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s to our ears, and their sound profile makes them particularly good for skipping between movies and music.
The Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2s are excellent high-end headphones that are much less of a pain to live with than many similar offerings. They look more, well, normal than the Sennheiser HD800s, and are lighter than most planar magnetic alternatives.
Add surprising efficiency (high volume) and less sound leakage than most open headphones and you’re onto a winner.
The sound is lusher and fuller than most at the price, which will either seal the deal or be a turn-off, depending on your taste. But that’s the quandary when buying an ‘ultimate’ set like this – you’re not just buying headphones but, hopefully, a music partner you’ll live with for years.