Build Quality (10/10): My first thoughts upon opening the typically plain Beyerdynamic packaging were, “At last, an HD25 competitor”. Indeed, in typical Beyerdynamic fashion, the DT1350 is built like a tank. Whereas the HD25 emphasizes easy disassembly, replaceable parts, and lightweight construction, the DT1350 goes straight for the Panzer approach with its ample use of industrial-looking metal and minimal moving parts. In terms of cosmetics, the matte metal of the DT1350 is a little less discreet than the rough black plastic of the HD25 but the headphones are still very restrained and professional-looking. Like the HD25, the DT1350 features a split headband and additional configurations for single-ear monitoring are allowed by the swiveling earcups. Perhaps the only area where the HD25 has a clear advantage is with the detachable, user-replaceable cable. However, the DT1350 makes the best of its single-sided cord by using a reinforced sheath similar to the one found on the old Philips HP1000, as well as the meatiest I-plug I’ve ever seen. The lightweight cable is a healthy 5 feet in length – not quite long enough to sacrifice portability but not so short as to make using an extension a must for studio use. On the point of portability, the DT1350 comes with semi-hard carrying case that’s sturdier, but also slightly more time-consuming to use, than the simple zippered canvas pouch included with the limited edition HD25. No spare earpads are included but you do get both a 6.3mm and airline stereo adapters.
Comfort (7.5/10): For a headphone with more metal than plastic in the construction, the DT1350 is quite light and compact. Naturally, the plastic HD25 is lighter still and has a slight comfort advantage with the velour earpads, but the difference is small. Clamping force is a bit higher with the Beyerdynamics but whereas the HD25 relies on the earpads to distribute most of the clamp, the DT1350 hangs some of its weight on the headband as well. The cups have a very good range of motion and the padding, though firm for good isolation, remains comfortable even for lengthy listening sessions.
Isolation (10/10): Slightly better than what my HD25 manages with vinyl pads. Without a doubt the new standard for portable headphones.
Sound (9.25/10): The sound of the DT1350 is emphasizes balance and control, with excellent presence across the frequency spectrum and few peaks and drops. The low end is deep and impactful but remains tight and controlled at all times. The bass is not thin but it is quick and slightly dry, perhaps even a bit low on note decay time. In comparison, the note presentation of the Sennheiser HD25 is softer but the Sennheisers have more of a mid-bass hump for added punch and power. The bass of the DT1350 is not lacking, however, and sub-bass is a touch stronger than with the Sennheisers. Interestingly, with amplification, the sub-bass gets stronger still – high-efficiency Tesla drivers or not, performance at the very limits still seems limited with portable devices.
The midrange of the DT1350 is clean and very detailed. Control is the operative word as the powerful bass never overshadows the midrange. The lower mids are a tiny bit forward but drop down towards the top. Taken as a whole, however, the sound is reasonably flat through the midrange and treble – flatter than the HD25, for example. There is a slight bit of warmth to the DT1350 but not nearly as much as with a B&W P5 or Phiaton MS400. The smoothness, too, is impressive – both the midrange and treble have good texture and microdetail, never sounding smoothed-over, but manage to avoid grain, harshness, and sibilance. On the whole, the top end sounds more natural with the Beyers than it does with the HD25. It is more extended, a touch more detailed, and very non-fatiguing next to the sparkly and energetic HD25. Tonally, the DT1350 is darker than the HD25 and the few full-size Beyerdynamic sets I’ve heard – namely the DT770/250 and DT880/600, but not by a huge stretch.
Truth be told, the signature battle between the DT1350 and HD25-1 can swing either way based on preference, though I do think that the DT1350 has a small edge when it comes to actually being true to source. The presentation of the Beyerdynamics doesn’t make splitting them with the Sennheisers any easier. The soundstage of the HD25 can be disappointing next to many full-size headphones and really shouldn’t be difficult to beat but unfortunately the DT1350 doesn’t offer a sizeable upgrade from the somewhat meager sonic space of the Senns. The presentation of the DT1350 lacks some of the air of the HD25 and tends to be a bit more forward on average. Similarly, the aggressive, slightly v-shaped sound of the HD25 doesn’t do the presentation of the Sennheisers any favors. The DT1350 tends to image better but, surprisingly, the HD25 layers more convincingly. While the DT1350 has no trouble separating instruments, the HD25 makes it easier to distinguish between a track’s background and foreground. The HD25 can also be said to have better dynamics, though with amplification there seems to be a change in favor of the DT1350. On the whole neither really has the upper hand in overall presentation competency and it seems that even a thoroughly modern, high-end supraaural portable just can’t do soundstaging the way a full-size headphone can.
Value (8/10): It’s not every year that I see something as solid as the HD25 knocked off its pedestal but the Beyerdynamic DT1350 is a high-end portable headphone done right. Superb build quality and unprecedented isolation meet sound quality that can rival the best portable headphones I’ve heard and many full-size sets. The construction is nothing short of bulletproof and – soundstage size aside – the DT1350 is technically the best truly portable headphone I’ve come across, boasting superb detail and clarity, excellent bass control, and a level signature. That said, the Sennheiser HD25-1 still offers the more involving and exciting sound experience, occasionally making the DT1350 seem a little dull in comparison, and many will undoubtedly prefer it despite its slightly lower accuracy. In the end, neither headphone is perfect and recommending the shiny and new DT1350 over the aging, industrial-looking HD25 is made more difficult still by the hefty difference in price. As always signature preferences will likely play a larger role than the actual performance gap when deciding between the two top-tier portables but both are well worth the money for the discerning listener.
Frequency Response: 5-30,000 Hz
Impedance: 80 Ω
Sensitivity: 109 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 4.92ft (1.5m), single-sided, coiled (up to 6’); Straight Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: Flat-folding