Beyerdynamic T1 / T5 Review: The Best Starter Headphones for Audiophiles?
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Trying to get into the audiophile scene is difficult, in more ways than one. And the barrier to entry is a big reason, especially if you’re looking at gear like speakers or full-sized headphones. Beyerdynamic has launched their T1 and T5 3rd gen headphones that I think might be a great option for people looking to start their audiophile journey.
Anyway, a bit of backstory. When I was younger, I considered getting some headphones for use at home. After trudging through a pile of information about headphones themselves, I realised that for higher-end headphones, you most likely need an amp to get the best out of them. That’s additional cost that has to be factored in, and if I was already going to drop a thousand or two on headphones, it was a bit upsetting that I had to spend again on an amp if the headphones had a high impedance.
So what Beyerdynamic has done here is refresh their T1 and T5 headphone series with the new T1 3rd generation, and the T5 3rd generation. The previous T1 2nd gen came with a 600-ohm Tesla driver, and that definitely needed an amp to drive. The T1 and T3 3rd gen, however, are both 32-ohm. It’s drawn a lot of flak from audiophiles online, but personally, I think it’s a great change.
This makes high-end gear a bit more accessible to beginners and people looking to get their first set of flagship cans. It’s not to say that because of the 32 ohms impedance, these don’t benefit from amplification. They scale very well, and I’ve seen people commenting that the T1 sounds great when paired with amps like the Chord Hugo 2, with the soundstage opening up.
But anyway, enough about that, I just wanted to say, don’t write off these headphones if you’re used to high impedance headphones. Give them a try, because they do scale well and if you’re just using a DAP or even a phone for audio, they are very easy to drive. Moving on! Let’s talk about the design.
The main difference between the T1 and T5 is that one is an open-back headphone while the other is closed-back. It’s easily seen from the earcups. The T1 has open grills while the T5’s grills are filled in. For the uninitiated, open-back headphones allow air to pass through the earcups, essentially trading off sound isolation for an airier, clearer sound and better soundstage. The downside is that people around you will be able to hear what you’re listening to since there’s sound leakage. You’ll also be able to hear the world around you, so these are best suited for home listening instead of bringing them on public transport.
The T5 are closed-back headphones, which means you’ll be able to block out some external noise and people around you won’t be able to hear your music unless you’re blasting it at a loud volume of course. It does come at the trade-off of having a smaller soundstage, however, so that’s something to take note of when considering which is right for you.
The headphones definitely feel luxurious. The T1 comes with velour earpads, and the T5 use leatherette. The leather earpads definitely get a bit warm, especially if you’re in a climate like Singapore’s, but it’s nothing too bad. The clamping force for the T1 is definitely stronger than the T5, and I had to wear them for a few hours before getting comfortable. The T5 was super comfy off the bat.
You get a strip of Alcantara fabric at the top, which definitely breaks up the monotony of the headband and adds a nice textural contrast.
With the headphones, you also get a velvet-covered hard case which offers pretty good protection for the headphones. Do take note the earcups don’t swivel or fold in, so the case is pretty big. You also get a 1.4m cable with the T5, further solidifying the idea that it’s the more portable of the two, and the T1 gets a 4m cable.
It’s definitely a bit overkill, but I’ve found it to be pretty useful when I’m plugged into my computer, and I want to get up to close my room door or get something from my bedside table. If you have a big room, then maybe it won’t be long enough, but otherwise, there’s plenty of slack for you to move around with the headphones on. The cables are also fabric covered and there’s next to no microphonics or kinking with them.
Let me just stop here, and talk about the price for a bit. These both go for US$999, and I think, for the most part, it’s pretty worth the money. What I would have liked to see here though, was perhaps the addition of a balanced cable. You do get a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter though if you need it for pairing with an amp.
But let’s get to the sound. As always, everybody’s ears and preferences are different. These might sound great to me, but terrible to you. I will always recommend demo-ing headphones or audio gear if possible before making the purchase.
Do take note that the folks at Beyer actually burnt them in prior to passing these to me, so I can’t speak about how the sound is right out of the box.
Starting with the T1, these are a pair of dark headphones, like, really dark. If you’re used to bright headphones or looking for reference headphones, you most likely won’t like these all that much.
It’s not to say that these are bad headphones, far from it. It’s just that Beyer has taken an interesting approach to the tuning for these headphones, and it’s definitely not for everyone. The bass is tight, punchy and definitely impactful. There is a bit of a dip in the mids and upper treble, but the overall sound is meaty and resolves details pretty well. It takes time to get used to a new sound, so my advice again is to give them a try and give yourself time to get used to the tuning.
As for the T5, there’s also the same emphasis on bass here, but you get a bit more body because it’s a closed-back headphone. The mids are a bit clearer and more even here, compared to the T1, which had a warmer touch to them.
The treble is where it starts to differ a bit more from the T1, in my opinion. I found the T5 to have a bit more sparkle and energy in the highs as compared to the T1. Imaging and layering is pretty good, but the soundstage is definitely a bit narrower. Again, these aren’t bright headphones, so if you’re comparing the T5 to other headphones, you’ll definitely notice the reduced treble and boosted bass.
Overall, I’d say there are major differences between the T1 and T5 3rd gen when compared to their predecessors, and while these are excellent headphones, they only really shine if your preferences match their tuning. But I will say this, I have to give Beyerdynamic a lot of credit for taking the leap and making these both 32ohms, at the risk of alienating their existing audiophile customer base, because it really just opens up the scene to more people and makes the hobby that much easier to get a foot into.