Headphones – Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro+

Do you believe that headphones should sound amazing no matter what genre you’re playing in them? Do you think an inline remote and a microphone are convenient? Would you like to be able to get killer sound even though you don’t feel like buying or lugging around a headphone amp? Do you like to modify and personalize your gear? Do you like the sound profile of the Audio Technica ATH-M50, but wish the ear cups were deeper? Do you want superb passive noise isolation with either pleather or velour earpads? Do you think it’s a good idea to let users modulate the amount of bass a headphone produces? Would you believe me if I said you could have all of this from one of the most respected names in personal audio for less than $200?

Well, believe it.

Beyerdynamic’s Custom One Pro Plus is the second generation of this big ol’ pile of bells and whistles, and it may very well make you rethink the concept of having your cake and eating it too. I don’t know why, but there seems to be an unspoken rule (oh, who am I kidding, they practically shout it in every review) among audio snobs that you can’t make a closed-back, audiophile grade headphone “portable”, and the mere suggestion of including an inline remote instantly disqualifies you as a clueless noob who should probably just go buy yourself a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre. If your headphones don’t cost as much as a Mercedes E Class, and are rated anywhere below 7,000Ω nominal impedance, well then you’re just not serious about sound. “What’s that?” they scoff indignantly, “You actually play music on your… iPhone??”

Look, I get it. When I’m sitting at my desk at home, I’ve got my AKG K702s jacked into an external DAC/amp on my desktop, and when I want to unwind after a long day at work without the brats upstairs ruining my Coltrane with their jungle gym antics, I strap on my Philips Fidelio X2s. But neither is particularly suited to camping out at Starbucks with your laptop, or riding the Metro -unless you enjoy looking like a douchebag in public, that is.

That’s where the Beyerdynamic COP+ has you covered.  As I mentioned in the intro above, they have a frequency response that is (to my ears, at least) virtually identical to the vastly underrated ATH M50s, but they wrap it in that exceptional German engineering Beyerdynamic is known for, and they give them some seriously deep ear cups. No flap-squashing here, folks. The fact that they designed this set specifically to be tweaked, modded, and personalized with different color and material ear pads, head bands, and covers is just icing on the cake. They look pretty tight with the stock black and red logo on the outside of the cans, but if you want to flex your creative muscles, you can go crazy tailoring them. The first thing I did -right out of the box- was ditch the pleather ear pads for some grey/silver velour. I didn’t even want to try them with the pleather first, because I knew velour would slightly change the sound signature, and I didn’t want to get used to it before making this crucial comfort decision. If I can help it, I’ll never buy another pair of headphones with pleather pads -they make my ears hot and itchy, and they invariably start shedding little black flakes when they fall apart (which seems to happen fairly quickly with today’s designs).

I’m pleased to say that the Beyerdynamic velour ear pads still do a remarkable job isolating outside sound, as well as keeping the tunes in, and they give these cans a wider sound stage than you might expect from a closed system. They’re still not as airy and transparent as the higher-end AKGs and Sennheisers, but they are a great deal wider acoustically than every other set of closed-back cans I’ve heard.

Much has been made of the adjustable bass ports on each earcup, and I will only add my reassurance that it is absolutely not a gimmick. There is a profoundly perceptible difference in all four attenuation levels. Also, I hear this feature referred to in a lot of reviews as a “switch”, which is terribly misleading. These are not electrical switches; rather, they are sliding gates that cover holes in the ear cup. Opening them up incrementally allows a certain amount of bass “porting” by relieving the pressure on the back side of the driver. So your options are:

  1. Completely closed – Rapid roll-off below 100Hz, more mids come through
  2. First hole open – Flatter performance overall. “Accurate, but boring.”
  3. Second hole open – About a 6dB boost to everything below 100Hz. “Fun.”
  4. All three holes open – About a 12dB boost to everything below 100Hz. “Muddy, flappy crap that starts to interfere with high-end resolution and will only please Beats graduates.”

With the velour pads, I spend most of my time on the 3rd setting.

Both the yokes and the arch underneath the removable, generously-padded headband cover appear to be stamped out of solid spring steel.  So, you know, no risk of the headband snapping like a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre.

So yeah. What’s not to like? Great sound, rugged build, customization, easy to drive with a smartphone or tablet, and the convenience of an inline remote/mic. My only beef is that they don’t lay flat when you hang them around your neck, and they don’t collapse or fold in any convenient transporting arrangement.

$200 street (less if you hunt around a bit) buys you the COP+ with black pleather ear pads, a 1.5m cable with 1/4″ adapter, a 1.3m “portable” cable with inline remote/mic (play/pause/skip/back/answer/hangup -sorry, no volume control), and 8 pairs of double-sided cover plates (so, 16 possible design pairs). Alas, no carrying case.

By the way, if you don’t care about the inline remote cable and the included cover plates, you can still find the original COP out there for about $30 less. That’s a pair of ear pads, bro.

  • Materials: A+
  • Construction: A+
  • Carrying Case: F
  • Weight/Comfort: A
  • Accuracy/Transparency: B+
  • Sound Stage: B+
  • Versatility: A+
  • Value: A (Throw in a case, and yo get your “+”, Beyerdynamic)

Buy them here.