Beyerdynamic T51i

It’s been a considerable amount of time since I’ve last laid hands on a Beyerdynamic headphone. I’ve been somewhat of a fan of Beyerdynamic, especially during my audiophile adolescence.

I hold much love for their Premium line of headphones, particularly the DT990, which I have owned multiple times, in various impedances (I’ve owned two DT990 Pros, one 250ohm, three 600ohm, one 32ohm). Despite it’s polarizing treble emphasis, the DT990 remains as one of my absolute favorite ‘fun’ headphones. Solid bass performance from an open can (which at the time wasn’t common), airy soundstage, and very clean, detailed sound overall. Not much to hate, to be honest.

I’ve also owned a very spectacular DT880, a DT770 Pro 80, and a thunderous DT770-600ohm (which surprisingly had an overwhelming bass emphasis that gave me headaches). That’s as far as my knowledge and experience goes for Beyerdynamic headphones.

In comes the Beyerdynamic T51 portable on ear headphone ($299), the first Beyerdynamic headphone I’ve heard with Tesla drivers, which to be quite honest, had an uphill battle from the onset. On paper, the T51 has quite a few things I don’t want from a headphone, things which aren’t the fault of Beyer or the T51 in general.

First: It’s Supraaural/On Ear. I generally avoid on ears mainly to comfort reasons. By sheer coincidence (or hypocrisy, depending who you ask), my current line of headphones mostly consist of on-ears. They are the few exceptions to my on-ear prejudice, mainly because I find these chosen few to be absolutely top notch in comfort.

Second: The T51 is a closed-back design. I personally have no need for closed-back headphones, and feel that for those who don’t need the sound isolation of a closed-back headphone, open headphones generally have better sound quality.

Third: The pads. I have sensitive skin, and leather of any kind (whether real or synthetic), irritate my skin. They also tend to get hot and sticky, which is among the last things I desire to feel. I have a finite amount of tolerance for these types of pads, and actively only look for velour or cloth-equipped headphones.

For the purpose of this review, I will scale back my prejudice, and look at the T51 objectively, as I know there are plenty of people who are looking for the very things I actively try to avoid when purchasing headphones.

Build Quality

Upon first glance and feel, you’ll find the T51 to be an elegant, mature, and (like all other Beyerdynamic headphones I have tested or owned), ruggedly built headphone with a small form factor. It’s frame is mostly comprised of silvery metal from head to toe, with a few, scarce, dark blue plastic pieces thrown in to beautifully contrast and enhance the overall metallic appearance.

The thin, twin styled headband arches out widely over your head, with the belly of each covered by very soft, synthetic leather that allows the T51 to rest comfortably on the head. Unlike the legendary Sennheiser HD25 models, the twin headband design is purely aesthetic, and does not separate from one another.

At the end of the T51’s headband are the meeting points between the headband and each cup’s metal extension arms, which thankfully extend far enough for my large sized head with some room to spare. In pure Beyerdynamic fashion, size adjustment is a bit ardous a task to do blindly. Not easily done without using a mirror or taking the T51 off and adjusting by sight.

The cups housing the drivers have a beautiful, brushed metal finish with dark blue accents, followed by a silver, brushed metal ring that meets the synthetic leather pads. Prior to acquiring the T51, I was a bit put off by how the pads looked in pictures, as they reminded me of every cheap, sweat inducing, and uncomfortable sets of pads found in most budget, closed headphones (Sony MDR-V150 anyone?). Thankfully, my fears were for naught, as the pads on the T51 feel quite well built, soft, and more comfortable than I would’ve ever hoped for. They aren’t cloth/velour, so they aren’t as comfortable as I’d like, but that’s a personal complaint that I doubt many people share.

The cups thankfully have freedom of movement both vertically and horizontally, and should sit on all manner of ear shapes/sizes. It will lay flay in either direction, making it an ideal choice for those who tend to leave their headphones around the neck when not in use.

At the bottom of each cup are the non-detachable, dual entry cables which I felt could’ve used a better strain relief. The cables thankfully aren’t rubbery like other cables, which tend to grip on clothes and snag on random objects, much to my chagrin. The cable itself looks and feels fairly average, neither being horribly thin, nor rugged enough to be considered premium. The length is a bit on the short side, reinforcing Beyerdynamic’s intention of making the T51 mainly for portable use. The cable terminates into a right angled 3.5mm rubberized plug, with a proper strain relief. To my eyes, it looks like there is enough clearance for the plug to fit most smartphone cases without issue.

My review unit is the T51i variant, and as such, the cable holds a small, 3-button, Apple certified remote and microphone. I own an Android device, and find that I can only use the center button to pause/play my media (didn’t test the microphone). Unfortunately, I find the remote to be a bit too close to the headphone, and felt that it could’ve been positioned at the left/right cable splitter, where remote control adjustments could be seen. However, it took me just a brief period before I could control the remote blindly.

All in all, I find the T51 to be solidly built, practical, and lightweight. With the T51, Beyerdynamic showcases why German engineering is considered to be among the best in the world.

As far as On-Ear headphones go, the T51 is among the least offensive to my very sensitive ears. Starting from top to bottom, the headband sits on my head without much discomfort, though it does not truly disappear off the top of my scalp, exhibiting some minor downwards pressure at the very top, though truthfully not much of a concern.

The clamping force is on the moderate side for my large head, which I find more or less ideal in most situations, though the pressure felt on my ears isn’t stellar considering the feel of the synthetic leather pads. The T51’s clamp falls in between the clampy Sennheiser PX100-II, and the loose, slippery, head balancing, circus act of the Sennheiser PX200-II.

The pads are comfortable enough to not cause major offense to my prejudiced ears, though as always, I much prefer non-leather pads like the Alcantara pads found on the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear. The T51’s pads pale in comparison to the amazingly comfortable pads found on the Momentum On Ear and Ultrasone HFI-15G.

The T51 exhibits wonderful, passive isolation. Noise leak is kept to an impressively bare minimum even at very high volumes, and external, ambient noise is blocked out reasonably well at moderate to higher volumes. I consider the T51 to keep external noise out better than many, many closed headphones I have tested. I personally didn’t think an on ear headphone could seal this well. Kudos to Beyerdynamic for exceeding my expecations in this regard.

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Christian Gabiel [Mad Lust Envy]

Under the name Mad Lust Envy, known for the surprisingly popular headphone gaming guide on Head-fi's Video Game Discussion sub-forum. Avid anime and gamer geek with a penchant for headphone audiophilia, though admittedly more for general media use, less so for music. Plenty of music listening when reviewing, however. While the headphone hobby started in 2010, it was full steam ahead from the start, never looking back.

  • sidspacewalker
  • 2016-05-27 04:55:00
  • Hi dude, really enjoyed your review. As an owner of a pair of these myself, I can relate and agree with all the points you've made. Lucky for me, EDM and rock are two of my favorite genres so I feel at home with these headphones haha. Could you please recommend me a DAC that would go along well with these headphones? I am looking into Dragonfly and Dacmagic XS.
  • Reply

  • Adrian Collazo
  • 2015-09-22 19:36:00
  • I was looking for a great pair of closed back portable headphones and read most of the reviews for the T51i. I decided to buy them (by the way, your review was the best). I've been listening to them for a couple days now. You are the only reviewer who mentioned the sometimes overwhelming bass issue - and for that very reason I've decided that I want to return them. I don't like the exaggerated low bass. Whenever I listen to any music with a strong funky bassline, it becomes so pronounced and thick that it is very distracting. This is not the case with every track I'm listening to - but it does happen with enough of them to bother me. I listen to alot of disco, funk, boogie and house. It's a shame because I know that most people wouldn't find fault with this - and really, these cans are excellent in every other manner. Would you say the Sennheiser Momentum 2 (either on-ear or over-ear would be a better choice for me? How's the bass on those? If not those, would you have a recommendation for an excellent portable closed back headphone?
  • Reply

  • Ian Cole
  • 2015-06-01 13:39:54
  • I've read many, many rave reviews for these Beyer headphones, and while I think of all those I've listened to, they are my outright favourite (the Momentums being nearest, but can't touch these overall, especially the weak midranges, a nd the even more emphasised bass and - to my mind - tizzy treble....but I still very much liked them!). However, whenever I read comments about the T51i cans being 'neutral' I was thinking 'absolutely not the case' every time I read it. No WAY are they neutral. They are, in fact, just as, you, Mad Lust Envy have described them, when being more critical. But as you say these are observations and don't detract from an otherwise truly excellent headphones. I don't regret buying them one little bit. I would buy them all over again. They are really superb, and as you rightly say, engaging! Exciting cans and very much more 'alive' than many other phones, IMO. They make music sound 'real' as opposed to a mere recording. They do 'add' in order to achieve this, but in such a great, open and balanced way (save the peaks you speak about). I think, in truth, this about as close a review to how these phones actually are, as I've had the pleasure to read. Thanks for just being honest, Mad Lust Envy.
  • Reply

  • Ismael
  • 2014-10-16 15:30:28
  • oops my bad lol
  • Reply

  • Mad Lust Envy
  • 2014-10-16 15:02:54
  • Yeah, it's a very exciting, portable headphone for sure. Thoroughly enjoyed my time with them while bangin out to Chillstep, Trip Hop, trance, etc.
  • Reply

  • Mad Lust Envy
  • 2014-10-16 15:01:37
  • Hi there Ismael. I'm actually the one to review these, not Frank, lol. :)
  • Reply

  • Michael Mercer
  • 2014-10-16 00:49:02
  • I've always loved Mad Lust Envy reviews - and you're DEAD ON again! I bought a pair of these cans for the reasons you speak of! I wanted a great, wearable, extremely portable set of cans for listening to my favorite underground electronic music - and they are perfect for that! I wouldn't use them to judge a mix, but, then again, I bought em to BUMP, while being a small-sized set of cans!
  • Reply

  • Ismael
  • 2014-10-15 20:06:22
  • Frank, with all due respect, feel bad for you, headphone enthusiast with sensitive ears, man that must be tough! Great objective review, I am looking to get a pair of closed portable headphones, now I definitely have to hear them first. Wonder how the compare to the HD-25s or Vmoda XS.
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