From my experience I have to say that Beyerdynamic are one of very few companies who can make a very good sounding closed headphone, in fact they make the wonderful T5p that is one of just four closed headphones (along with the ZMF Headphones, Audeze LCD-XC and Fostex TH900) that I would live very happily with and have nothing else and on top of that the T70/T70p is a headphone that I very much enjoy. Recently they have released a new closed back model but this time it is a superaural (on-ear) opposed to the circumaural design of the other two. It features their Tesla technology which means the magnet in the driver is a lot stronger than what you would find in other headphones meaning that the driver is a lot more efficient, has very little distortion and a lot more capable. It is not the first superaural model they have done with a Tesla driver though and this is actually a revised version of the T50p (there is also a professional model, the DT1350), similar in looks but this now uses a better driver and has a new sound tuning. The T51p comes in at £245 that is actually at the top end of prices for superaural headphones and although it isn’t the most expensive it is going to have to make sure it stands out.
Right out the box these headphones are SO Beyerdynamic and SO German. They are robust, well made and using only the most high quality materials for most of the contstruction. In terms of looks they are very professional looking and the use of metals just makes them look expensive. They don’t just look good though because these are very solid headphones. The headband is completely metal as is the yokes and then the cups themselves are a metal with a plastic bumper. On top of that everything is seamless, well put together, well aligned, feels good and really does not feel like its going to break very easily at all. When using them though I did notice the connection between the headband and yoke started to get loose and then started to swivel, because it happened early on I just thought it was part of the design but I have further realised that this not meant to happen and it is meant to be securely locked into place. These plastic discs that hold the whole chassis together are the only part of the headphone that has me a little worried and while I did contact Beyer and find out that this is the first they have heard of this problem, even some screws holding this part together would probably feel a bit more secure and this is the only part of the headphone preventing me from saying that these had a flawless build quality, which is a shame. My second nitpick would be with the cable and that is because they hardwire it. Now that is not a problem because the stock cable is not well built but just because people like me like to do some cable rolling, have a balanced cable for some set ups, single ended for others and a hardwired cable prevents these further options. Also if something was to go wrong it is a lot bigger problem and a longer process than just switching cables. I know some of the bigger connectors such as the mini XLRs the Audeze use would be way to big for the T51p but a lot of headphones such as Shure and Ultrasone models have adopted the MMCX connectors that started of as purely an IEM connector and they would almost certainly fit in the T51p, something to look into Beyer. As for the cable it is a bit on the thin side and is also very short, which does make it ideal for portable use. The y-split is low profile as is the nice right-angled jack it has. It feels sturdy enough and it has nice strain reliefs coming out of the headphones but for some reason, the cables above the y-split keep twisting, which is annoying. To keep the headphones protected when not in use they come with a Velcro lock pouch that is not the hardest but is handy with a cut out of the headphone inside and some pouches for accessories or source components.
For me the comfort of these is just right. These allow me to get the combination of a seal and comfort that not a lot of superaurals get that right (the HD25s are the only other that comes to mind and even they have a tighter clamping force). I think the seal is very attainable because they have enough clamping but they don’t overkill it so they are fatiguing. Add that with the adjustability, the cups swivel on their axis so that they sit on your ears at the right angle and headband adjusts in nice increments so that they line up on your ears correctly. The headband is light and they have a little bit of padding and the ear cushions sit on your ear very well due to them having a memory foam filling.
As they are portable you will want them to block out that annoying ambient noise when on the go so you can just get lost into the music and the T51p allow you to do that. Active noise cancelling cans could outdo this in blocking out some extremely noisy situations but this still has left me thoroughly impressed with its isolation and is certainly the best isolating Beyerdynamic headphone that I have tried so far.
Compared to the T5ps and the T70s these are certainly voiced in a more consumer manner with a small hump in the mid-bass and warmth in the sound when the track calls for it but overall the balance is very good and the sound is very snappy. There is an uncanny quality that I have found with all the Tesla drivers and that is a great sense of speed and a very tight sound and it has an amazing sense of impact to it. The bass is the most present between 100 and 200 hz, where its bump sits and the headphones roll of just a little bit from there with great presence still to 50hz and a little less by the time we get to 20hz. The bass therefore has more focus on the mid-bass but the sub-bass is still full and capable. The mid-bass is very groovy with a very rhythmatic response that has a great sense of PRAT. The bass is not heavy or thick, it just sounds complete, has a great timbre and while it does rarely colour the sound, especially the lower midrange instruments and male vocals, it is only with a little warmth and not in a way that sound veiled or distant. The deep bass can provide a whollop when called for as well, but a whollop that does its bit and then controls itself, listening to “After the Thrill is Gone” by the Eagles and the kick drum really does provide a great sense of power but it is not left ringing or warm after a little bit of natural decay. The midrange is pretty balanced too about 2khz where things start to pick up a bit allowing a strong sense of clarity and very lush and striking female vocals. Before that though we have relatively dry lower midrange with the vocals being just a little behind the bass and sometimes also having a bit of warmth. The detail can sometimes not feel the most amazing and the lower midrange is probably the most uninvolving range in the headphones. Get past 2khz though and the details are amazing, the sound is so tight and everything in the range is crystal. The little presence peak is very well executed so you get that extra sense of clarity but it does not make for a bright sound, sibilant or ever overbearing. The treble is well extended, very vivid and very balanced and cohesive with the midrange, they flow together very well. There is a little 10khz sparkle that gets cymbals and high hats nicely into the mix and pianos sound delicate and real. There is no sibilance from these and a generally non-fatiguing top end.
Soundstage is something that superaural (and closed models in general) headphones struggle a great deal with and in all honesty I have not really ever though one managed anything better than a direct picture of the sound straight into your head. The T51p betters this and while I must say it has a fairly 3 blob soundstage, it does have one that is slightly more expansive that right between your ears. When I say 3 blob I mean that you have a clear centre image, and then you have the stereo images that are two the left right but they do not all blend together to create one well imaged piece of music. This is not a real issue, in fact I feel it helps exaggerate the soundstage on a closed headphone and your hear instruments getting thrown around the headspace and is an issue I have found in real high end headphones and with all this said, I am very pleased with the soundstage for them being a superaural.
These headphones have thoroughly impressed me and I think this is mainly down the quality of the driver because even though the T51p and T5p are far apart in sonic signature, they both possess similar marvellous qualities in the sound and that is likely due to the very powerful Tesla magnets. I personally think a more neutral version would suit me better, something similar to the T5p on ear would be surely as good as it gets but all in all I still found these a fantastic sounding headphone with a very musical sound that was certainly the best sounding superaural I have ever heard and I don’t say that lightly. Throw in the fact they look great, are comfortable and isolate well and the knowledge that Beyerdynamic are always going to be looking after you and I think that you have the superaural to buy.