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Review of Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd gen portable high end full size headphones w/pics!!!

Discussion in 'Android Accessories' started by twister6, Feb 14, 2016.

  1. twister6

    twister6 Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    This is a Review of Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd generation portable high end full size headphones. http://north-america.beyerdynamic.c...and-headsets/mobile-portable/t-5-p-2-gen.html, also available on http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BCD3DRA/

    While looking at all the headphones I’ve tested and reviewed in the last few years, you can see a rather uneven split with in-ear monitors dominating the list. I have nothing against full size headphones, but do have a preference for a portable setup. Often full size headphones don’t fulfill this requirement since a number of them are either too bulky, or have open back design, or not easy to drive from a portable source. Furthermore, if you are in the market for a flagship full size headphones, many of them continue to rise in price and still require a pair up with a powerful source/amp to make them shine. Almost feels like you have to spend a fortune in pursuit of audio perfection.

    Two years ago when I had a chance to test the original T5p, I was impressed by its design and sound, and also remember a bit of a shock when I saw its premium $1.4k price. Fast forward to today and we have “premium” releases from other manufacturers in $3k-$4k price range where they even offer budget versions with water down performance and build quality that still cost arm’n’leg. I kept my eyes open for new Beyer announcements and was excited to hear about the release of T1 2nd gen (T1.2) followed by T5p 2nd gen (T5p.2), both with an improved sound signature, an updated design, and a reduced price. Does this sound too good to be true? Lets see what I found after taking the portable T5p.2 version of this Tesla roadster for a test drive!

    Unboxing & Accessories.

    My review unit arrived without an exterior packaging box, but from what I have seen on-line and my previous experience with other Beyer products, you can always count on a detailed cover image on the front and a complete list of accessories and technical specification on the back. I also remember my unboxing reaction of the original T5p when I discovered a rectangular aluminum case inside of the box which I referred to as “Deal, or No Deal” case :) It certainly looked great, but I didn’t find it practical enough for daily transportation.

    I’m glad Beyer revisited this important accessory, and changed it for both T5p.2 and T1.2 models, turning it into a more practical and still luxurious hard shell case with a soft felt exterior finish and form fitted secure interior mold to accommodate T5p.2 even with cables attached. Besides the point that some manufacturers don’t even include a carrying case or provide only a drawstring pouch, others do come with a case but require cable to be removed in order to close the top. This usually puts extra wear'n'tear on the connector attachment.

    Here you have plenty of room for T5p.2 with attached cable and no worries about cable bending around earcup attachment, also room to store the rest of the cable (either if you are using stock 1.4m or optional extended 3m), and even a small elastic pocket attached with velcro for 6.3mm adapter so you don’t lose it. There are also two attached ribbons on each side to keep the case top from swinging all the way open. Since you can’t fold or rotate earcups to store these headphones flat, the case is not very compact but still more portable than aluminum box.

    I also received an optional 3m extended cable with a threaded adapter intended for a desktop use. Beyer offers another optional cable with 4-pin XLR connector for a balanced connection with external dac/amp equipment. Not necessary the accessory, but the included 5-year warranty certificate is something you don’t see everyday being offered with headphones. This demonstrates a high level of German engineering confidence where Beyer putting their mouth where their money is.

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    Cables.

    I usually reserve this section for IEMs with removable cables, but here I’m making an exception because it’s actually a big deal. One of the new T5p.2 features, the same with T1.2, was the implementation of double-sided detachable cable going to each earcup with 3.5mm TRS connector in a slim housing. Beyer chose to use OCC copper conductors, with 7N rated purity, dressed in a textile braided tight shielding. This stock cable stands out with a premium look, a little on a thicker side but still flexible enough for a portable use. The only issue here is some microphonics, probably due to a braided textile shield. It’s more noticeable when music is idle and you are moving around, but not as much when you hit the play.

    With a main intention of portable use, the default cable is 1.4m in length and 3.5mm jack is not threaded with corresponding 6.3mm adapter that slides right in. One thing I'm not too thrilled about is connector being a bit too thick to accommodate rugged phone cases - I had to push hard the headphone jack through my Note 4 case (a slimmer connector collar would fix that). The extended 3m cable has a threaded jack with corresponding 6.3mm adapter for a more secure attachment. All the connectors have metal housing and you will also find a small and sturdy plastic y-splitter combining L/R sides while keeping individual ground references separate 'til the headphone jack. The connector plugs going into earcups are color coded with white rings on the Left side and red ones on the Right side, and with left housing strain relief having 3 bumps for a "blind" ID. Due to an angled non-symmetric placement of Tesla drivers inside of earcups and a symmetric exterior design, such ID bumps are quite useful when putting T5p.2 on in the dark.

    I know some people might wonder why two sided cable with headphones intended for a portable use on the go? The answer is very simple – to keep Left/Right sides separated for an optional balanced wired connection and to increase reliability by eliminating wires going through the headband which usually required with a single earcup cable connection. Yes, it’s not as convenient dealing with 2 earcup wires when you are walking around, but it’s a small price to pay considering these are audiophile quality headphones with an option for balanced cable connection.

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    Being a fan of replacement cables, because I do hear the difference in sound when dealing with high end premium conductor material, having removable cables opened up the opportunity to test my TWag v3 Modular (pure silver) with T5p.2 in both single ended and balanced configurations. Due to a modular nature of this particular cable, I didn't have to get a new one and just added a modular extension with a pair of slim 3.5mm connectors for my test purpose. I can confirm that retrieval of details did scale up with TWag cable, and sound became a little brighter and more analytical while low end became more articulate and tighter. But if you prefer a little smother and more organic tonality, especially at the top, then stay with a stock OCC copper cable.

    The option of removable cable gives you a choice, and I assume that sound signature of T5p.2 was probably tuned around stock OCC copper cable to give a sound slightly warmer tonality with a smoother top end. But if you want to push the retrieval of details further, pure silver or gold plated silver cables will do the trick. Also I noticed a little improvement in soundstage expansion when switching between Single ended and Balanced ports of AK120ii (and switched TWag modular to 2.5mm TRRS balanced connector). At the same time, single ended 3.5mm TRS output of PAW Gold yielded nearly the same wide soundstage as I have experienced with 2.5mm balanced from AK120ii. Also keep in mind that you can get an optional cable with XLR balanced connection to pair up with external amp.

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    #1 twister6, Feb 14, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016

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  2. twister6

    twister6 Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    Design.

    In comparison to the original T5p, the exterior design of T5p.2 remained nearly the same, and overall it still has Beyer signature look with large round earcups and a wide steel yoke with "T5p" stamped out at the split of y-fork. The earcups itself have a very elegant look with a premium laser etched aluminum cover plates on outside and soft touch hard plastic housing around it. Facing back, each earcup has a single 5mm vent which I suspect is a culprit of sound leakage. At the bottom of earcups you have angled 3.5mm ports which bring the cable forward over your shoulders instead of pointing straight down.

    Earpads are soft, not very deep, filled with memory foam covered by a butter soft synthetic leather material. I spent hours wearing T5p.2 and my ears never got hot or sweaty. The earpads look like they are removable which makes me curious to try replacement with either velour material or something deeper in design. With Tesla driver placed asymmetrically angled back toward ear canal, there is plenty of room inside of earcup and my ears never touched the drivers. Even so earcups are a bit on a large size in diameter, they don't stick out too much and actually have a very slick shape for a comfortable use on the go.

    The steel yoke slides tight into headband and has a small degree of rotational adjustment, just enough for a comfortable fitment of earcups around your head. The headband height adjustment has a precise soft click and round markers for a visual feedback. I was a bit surprised that headband plastic end-caps where the yoke goes in didn't have assembly screws, perhaps being press fitted. Also, in there you will find on a right side "Made in Germany" and on a left side a serial number with "L" label and 3 bumps for a touch "blind" ID, as I mentioned before - very important to put headphones on the correct away.

    On the inside the headband has the same memory foam and butter soft synthetic leather material as found on earcups, and on the top there is a strip of felt material with "beyerdynamic" stamped name/logo. The steel spring band inside of the headband is flexible where I can stretch it nearly flat or fold it looped, and it returns back to the original shape. As a matter of fact, I folded it a few times just to tighten the clamping force.

    T5p.2 has a very comfortable fitment and with 350g of balanced weight distribution you forget these are even on. Clamping force is just perfect and along with soft earpads it creates a good seal with a noticeable sound isolation. You will not get a dead silent isolation which in my opinion perfect for outside use to keep the awareness of surrounding environment. My only gripe here is sound leakage which prevents using T5p.2 in places where you require to stay dead silent (like on a couch next to my wife :)). It's not quite as bad as semi-open, but perhaps at "quarter-open" level where you can still hear some muffled sound 3-4 ft away.

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    Fitment

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    Sound analysis.

    After a proper 75hr burn in, I hear T5p.2 as having a balanced signature and a neutral tonality that has a slight tilt toward warm organic color. It has a high level of transparency with a dynamic sound performance which remains coherent not only at my usual comfortable listening level but also as I went up and down in volume. It remained consistent with all of my sources, either using summit-fi level PAW Gold or just a Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, where I actually found T5p.2 to be quite forgiving even with poorly recorded songs.

    In more details, T5p.2 has a very resolving dynamic balanced sound with an excellent separation/layering and a neutral tonality. Detail retrieval is close to a micro-detail level yet not grainy or analytically-harsh (I refer to this as smooth micro-detail level). Low end extends deep down to sub-bass with a nice quality texture and a somewhat polite quantity, and a tight articulate mid-bass punch with a semi-fast attack, but not as much slam, while the decay gives it a more natural feeling. Bass is well controlled, accurate, balanced, and with absolutely no spillage into lower mids. Lower mids have a nice body which adds a touch of warmth to the sound. Upper mids are leaning more toward smoother analytical level (the best of both worlds), not too bright or too harsh. I was very impressed with clarity and details of vocals, both male and female, with an organic hint of smoothness. There is absolutely no sibilance or metallic sheen. Treble has a good extension, a nice detailed sparkle, crisp definition, no piercing frequencies or exaggerated brightness, and a polite level of airiness. Definitely great for an extended non-fatigue listening.

    Soundstage is 3D holographic, for a closed back headphones the expansion is way above average in all 3 directions (width/depth/height). Imaging has a nearly 3D placement of instruments and vocals with an excellent separation and layering effect. The angled Tesla drivers create a natural sound space, in no way does it sounds artificial, and when I close my eyes it felt like I was in a room listening to speakers rather than headphones. The soundstage expansion came through shining especially when watching the movies where I felt like being right in the middle of the action.

    In terms of a pair-up, 32 ohm T5p.2 is very efficient and easy to drive with authority from most of the sources - these are truly portable headphones that don't even require a powerful amp, though can certainly benefit if you have one. It paired up great with PAW Gold and X7, having more analytical brighter sound. Using L5 Pro and AK120ii - the sound is very detailed with a warmer low end and a little more bass slam, and actually 120ii AKT5p EQ preset did some interesting smoothing of the sound. It performed great with both X5ii and X3ii, though the sound was a little less dynamic and soundstage shrunk a bit. I also enjoyed how it paired up with my Galaxy Note 4, though sound was warmer and less resolving, but with Note 4 + HA-2 dac/amp (set to high gain) it scaled up with higher resolution and improved detail retrieval. In general, unlike some other flagship demanding or high impedance cans, you can make T5p.2 shine even with mid-fi sources.

    Comparison to other headphones.

    All the testing was done using PAW Gold as a source.

    T5p.2 vs EL-8L: EL has a thinner sound, sub-bass doesn't extend as deep, mid-bass is not as fast or tight and overall it has less bass quantity, lower mids are thinner, upper mids are similar in terms of retrieval of details and clarity, except T5p is a little smoother and more organic, while EL is brighter and has some metallic sheen. Treble in EL is a little thinner and brighter. Soundstage width is similar but T5p has more depth and height. EL has much better isolation and nearly no sound leakage, its earcups rotate for flat storage but it's heavier for portable use. T5p sound has more body, and it's more balanced, more organic, and sounds more natural.

    T5p.2 vs PM-3: Low end has a similar tonality, but T5p mid-bass is faster and tighter, and overall bass is more controlled with a better separation from mids. Lower mids are similar, while upper mids in T5p are more detailed and have more clarity. Also, T5p treble has a better extension and better definition. PM3 is smoother, warmer, more organic, less detailed. T5p is a lot more detailed, more dynamic, with a better layering. PM3 soundstage has a similar width but in comparison to T5p it has less depth and height. PM3 is more portable with rotating earcups and slim storage case, and it has better isolation and no sound leakage in comparison to T5p.

    T5p.2 vs R70x - a lot of similarities in sub-bass extension and quantity of mid-bass, though T5p has a faster attack and bass is a little tighter, while R70x is more relaxed. Very similar lower mids with a body that adds warmth to the sound, but the biggest difference is in upper mids where R70x is smooth, darker, more organic, and less detailed, while T5p shines with clarity and details. Also, T5p has a slightly better treble extension and a little more sparkle. Soundstage has a similar open sound (impressive for closed vs open back!), but I still feel that T5p edges it out due to a brighter and more detailed sound which enhances the perception of width and depth.

    T5p.2 vs Momentum 2 (wireless in wired mode) - M2 has deeper sub-bass with more rumble, slower mid-bass, and overall bass performance is not as tight. M2 lower mids are similar, upper mids are less detailed, not as bright and sound is a bit more artificial in comparison, while treble extension and upper frequency sound quality is similar. M2 sound is more v-shaped and not as dynamic or layered, while T5p is more balanced, more neutral, more transparent, and with better retrieval of details. Keep in mind, in this comparison I was using M2 Wireless in wired mode with a cable.

    T5p vs T5p.2 - I wasn't able to compare them side by side and this is only by memory, but I recall 1st gen having a more anemic low end performance with rolled off sub-bass and less mid-bass quantity. Upper mids of 1st gen were a little brighter and a bit more analytical, maybe even harsher. Don't remember exactly the treble, but I think it was similar. In terms of design difference, 1st gen didn't have removable cable, and had a real leather earpads and headband padding.

    Conclusion.

    Prior to this review, I was satisfied with my budget and mid-fi full size headphones for everyday basic listening needs, and left high-end listening experience to multi-BA IEMs/CIEMs. It wasn't even my intention to embark on high-end full size headphone journey, but after taking T5p.2 Tesla roadster for a test drive I arrived to a conclusion that I could be looking at $1k Giant Killer (crazy I even mention "$1k" and "giant killer" in one sentence)! I'm very impressed with T5p.2 balanced sound signature and neutral tuning, with its low end extension and smooth (yet energetic) top end, with its great transparency and retrieval of details, open-back like soundstage expansion, and a solid 5-year warranty. While sound leakage, especially at higher listening volume, and stock cable microphonics knocked a few points down from otherwise nearly perfect score, I was able to mitigate these issues with a replacement cable and by lowering my listening volume. This is just my subjective opinion, and considering how many people use open-back and semi open back full size headphones, for others T5p.2 will probably feel "silent" in comparison. I hope to continue with my full size flagship headphone journey, but for now have doubt that other flagship models at 3x-4x the cost will offer an improvement at the same rate. Will see...
     
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