A glimpse in to the history of Beyerdynamic headphones.

I’m a fan of Beyerdynamic headphones since I had the chance to try the DT 880 in the 90s, right now I have some models from the brand in my collection and they are a joy to hear, so what comes next is a labour of love of an enthusiast and should be viewed as such.

I tried to be accurate on my research and I’m always open to corrections and constructive opinions. Any help is welcome so please feel free to leave a comment.
This article will focus on headphones I find relevant for the hobby and will be edited when needed.
It’s quite difficult to date some models without the original launch dates from Beyerdynamic, thus most release dates are approximated. I did my best but I can only do so much with the material available. A reference is provided in the end of the article.

Eugen Beyer and Beyerdynamic.

Eugen Beyer was born St. Petersburg in 1903. His German parents would later move to Stockholm, Sweden and at the age of eighteen the future electrical engineer moved from Stockholm to Berlin, a land of opportunity for a young intelligent mind.

In 1924 he founded in Berlin the “Elektrotechnische Fabrik Eugen Beyer”, a company that would start by manufacturing / developing amplifiers and loudspeakers for the first movies with sound circa 1926, a decade later in 1937 the company would release the DT 48 the first dynamic headphones. The DT 48 model would be manufactured for 56 years with only a very few modifications.

Many other technical achievements in recording and reproduction of sound would lay the foundations to a now global company.

1965_opening of the building in Heilbronn
Beyerdynamic building at Heilbronn 1965.

With approximately 350 employees in various departments , their research and
development is made “in house” and Beyerdynamic still manufactures products in Heilbronn, Germany. The company takes pride on the handcrafted work that goes it to their products and the “Made In Germany” logo further accentuates the importance given to their specialized employees who not only manufacture but also keep a close eye in the quality of the final product, something very few companies can do these days.

Eugen Beyer died in 1959, his family still owns the company after more than 90 years, an unusual practice by today’s business standards, but in my opinion also one of the reasons the company respects and listens to their clients.

Chronology 

1937 > DT 48 – A 75 years old legend.
Manufactured from 1937 to the end of 2012 the DT48 is an unusual sight in the consumer oriented world. Few companies can brag about having made a consumer product for so long.
The DT 48S model was released circa 1964, at the time it had a frequency response from 16 to 18000Hz just like the DT48, in 1971 the frequency response would go up to 20000Hz. These headphones are still avidly collected and have a massive community behind them. Tyll Hertsens from the site Innerfidelity.com measured the DT 48 E if you wonder about the sound and quality.

DT48_Historie_Produkte_900Pix
The historical Beyerdynamic DT 48.

 

1969 > DT 480 Sound Juwel / DT 100 – The modular construction.
The DT 480 model had a impedance of 200 Ohm, with a frequency response from 20 to 20000Hz (Circa 1971), these Stereo headphones are in many ways similar with the DT 100 model which had an impedance of 400 Ohm and frequency response starting at 30Hz, much like the DT 202 model.
I still associate their modular construction with the 70’s and 80’s radio / TV broadcast headphones and headsets like the DT 102, or the DT 108 and DT 109 that would later be the exclusive headsets of the Olympic games in Seoul/Korea (1988).  

1970 > DT 900 – The 70’s child.
The DT 900 model had a impedance of 600 Ohm, with a frequency response from 30 to 18000Hz. The DT 900 came in a very 70’s red colour and even the ads were a product of that time.

1973 > DT 204 – Quadrophonic surround headphones.
A product of the sound advances of the 70’s these quadrophonic headphones would allow the reproduction of surround sound encoded media.

1976 > ET 1000 & N1000 – The electrostatics made in Germany.
The ET 1000 electrostatic model had a frequency response from 10Hz up to 25000Hz.
The N1000 was needed to push the power hungry electrostatics, in fact it could push two pairs if necessary. Sadly these were the only electrostatics Beyerdynamic ever did, they were made at least until circa 1984.
Looking at the quality of their current Tesla technology I can only imagine the amazing things they could have achieved had they continued developing electrostatic headphones.

beyer13
The Beyerdynamic ET 1000 & N1000.

1976 > DT 220 – A closed back with a lot of personality.
The DT 220 model had a impedance of 400 Ohm, with a frequency response from 20 to 20000Hz. These very robust closed back headphones probably were the inspiration for the DT 770 design.

1976 > DT 440 / DT 444 Infraphone – The silver twins.
Both models are similar in design, the DT 440 was a wired dynamic stereo headphone with a impendance of 600 Ohm and a frequency response from 20 to 20000Hz. The DT 444 Infraphone was a wireless model that needed a infrared emitter to work.
There was also a model called the DT 441. Sadly I couldn’t find more reference specifications about the 444 and 441 models.

1980 > DT 880 – A legend is born.
The release of the DT 880 would prove to be an advance in the quality of dynamic headphones. Beyerdynamic compared the performance of this model with electrostatic headphones something unheard at the time.
In the 80’s 3 versions of the DT 880 model were manufactured, the “Studio”, “Monitor” and standard versions, each had a different target market. They differed slightly between each other on design, construction choices and frequency response.
The “Studio” model had a frequency response from 5 to 35000Hz, the “Monitor” went from 5 to 30000Hz and the standard version went up to 25000Hz. All models had a 600 Ohm impedance. The vintage DT 880 is now a collectors item, after more than 3 decades some still sound amazing for their age.

DT880
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 during the 80’s.

1980 > DT 660 / DT 550 / DT 330 –  The forgotten ones.
In the 80’s Beyerdynamic had models that were sadly eclipsed by the DT 880 legend.
(Circa 1984) The DT 660 MKII had frequency response from 15 to 25000Hz with a 600 Ohm impedance. The DT 550 had a frequency response from 10 to 22000Hz also with a 600 Ohm impedance and finally the DT 330 MKII had a 40 Ohm impedance and a frequency response from 15 to 18000Hz. All the models had very respectable specifications so I’m sure many collectors still want them.

1985 > DT 770 – The musician best friend.
The DT 770 closed back model would also become a legend on it’s on right. The very robust Pro version is still cherished by musicians in every part of the world. The 10 to 30000Hz frequency response and 600 Ohms impedance (Circa 1993) were also probably very good reasons this model achieved a cult status in recording studios.

1985 > DT 990 – An open dynamic reference.
The DT 990 was for a time the best open back model Beyerdynamic had to offer, the 600 Ohm impedance and 5 to 350000Hz frequency response made these flagship headphones a professional reference.

DT770DT990Pro
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro and DT 770 Pro during the 90’s.

2006 > Headzone – Surrounded by sound.
A technology for reproducing 5.1 virtual surround sound via headphones, mostly a tool for professionals that would later be released to the mainstream public.

2009 > T1 – Tesla technology unleashed.
The T1 model was the first headphone to bring the new tesla technology to the table, the new flagship model had a frequency response from 5 to 50000Hz and a impedance of 600 Ohm.

2015 > DT 1770 Pro
Inspired by the DT 770 the new DT 1770 Pro is a closed back studio flagship which uses the same tesla technology as the T1. The frequency response goes from 5 to 40000Hz and the impedance is 250 Ohm.  

2016 > DT 1990 Pro
The DT 1990 Pro are the evolution of the DT 990 open back model. The specifications are the same as the DT 1770 Pro.

2024 > The Future.
Beyerdynamic will be 100 years in the year 2024.
I’m sure many good things are still yet to come.

Editor notes and acknowledgements.
Again please note the chronology above only refers to relevant headphones, the Beyerdynamic timeline is full of important achievements, for more information please visit beyerdynamic.com. Also I’m well aware I didn’t include the famous DT 49 used in Plattenbars (record-bars) in the 50’s.

The frequency response and impedance are there just to give an very general idea about the specifications of the headphones. You can visit the wegavision website and research the old Beyerdynamic catalogs or again go to Beyerdynamic.com and access their specification pages.

This article would not be possible without the help of many collectors who contributed with catalogs on the wegavision website and many others who devoted their time to collect, restore and measure Beyerdynamic headphones.  To all of them my sincere thank you!

My sincere gratitude goes also to Beyerdynamic for letting me use in this article the photographs of the Beyerdynamic building in Heilbronn and the DT48.
Last but not least for the correction on the city of birth of Eugen Beyer.

References:
http://www.generationaudio.com
http://www.beyerdynamic.com
wegavision.pytalhost.com (Catalogues)
http://www.gbaudio.co.uk/data/dt100.htm (Specifications)
http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/historic-beyerdynamic-dt-48-e-25-ohm
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadraphonic_sound
http://www.radiomuseum.org
http://www.head-fi.org

Copyrights:
For legal reasons all images belong to their respective owners and are not included on the main Creative Commons license of my blog. 
If you want to use any image of this article please contact their respective owners.
The Beyerdynamic building in Heilbronn and DT48 photographs are used with permission from Beyerdynamic.
All other photos belong to the Beyerdynamic catalogues found at Wegavision, they are used to depict old models of historical interest.

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