One of the most important weapons in a DJ’s arsenal is the right set of headphones. With all the technology available to DJs today making the work of DJing easier, it’s become increasingly important to select the right track at the right time. To do this a DJ needs the right headphones in order to cue up the best point to bring in the next track.
Updated Top 10 Comparison Table for 2016
|Audio-Technica ATH-M50x||45 mm||Yes||
|V-MODA Crossfade||50 mm||Yes||
|AKG K 240||55 Ohm||Yes||
|Pioneer HDJ-1500-S||50 mm||Yes||
|Pioneer Pro DJ HDJ-2000MK2-K||50 mm||Yes||
|Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO||250 Ohm||No||
|Sony MDR7506||40 mm||No||
|Sennheiser HD25-1 II||43 mm||Yes||
|Numark Red Wave||50 mm||Yes||
|Sony MDR-V55/BR||40 mm||Yes||
What to look for in DJ headphones
So what are the best DJ headphones? With so many choices out there it can be a pretty daunting decision to make. Before we look at some of the best, let’s look at features to consider.
It is important to bear in mind that the DJ environment is extremely noisy. Therefore, the first feature to consider is not necessarily the volume output, but the ability to block other noise. While you may think of doing this with something like Bose’s noise cancellation headphones, that’s not really what you want. What you want are a pair that will cover your ears but not completely block the sound from the booth monitors.
With your ears covered you won’t need extreme volume, in fact that really should be coming from your mixer or your soundcard. What you will want is a balanced range of sound so you can clearly discern the bass, mid and hi range in your tracks. You don’t need audiophile quality sound nor do you need studio quality sound. In fact, headphones that are made for hi-end listening or studio monitoring are not well suited to the DJ environment.
One model that is relatively new but has been getting rave reviews from DJs of all ranks is V-Moda’s Crossfade. These headphones feature well-padded ear cups that are sizable enough to cover your ears, without drowning everything out.
One interesting feature that V-Moda utilizes is flex-steel in the headphone band. This allows you to bend and twist them as needed without losing their original shape. So for example, if you are in the mix and you want to cue one track in one ear while also hearing the booth mix you can easily just bend one ear cup away without damaging them. Surprisingly, these headphones are very durable. Match that with a very nice sound range, including soft bass that doesn’t distort, as well as a hard-shell carrying case and you’ve got a real winner.
These are an update on the once de rigueur Pioneer HDJ-1000s made famous by countless DJs. These feature the trademark folding design common in many DJ headphones. This design is intended to allow for easy monitoring of the mixer and the booth. This design is also space friendly when packing your gear away.
As can be expected from Pioneer, the sound quality is top notch, although over time the bass does tend to distort. Also, these are not the most durable of options on the market. Pioneer has cut some corners with materials. If you’re just looking for a pair to get you through home sessions you’ll be fine, but if you’re going to be doing any traveling invest in a hard-shell case or upgrade as replacement parts don’t exist for the HDJ-1500s.
A considerable step up form the HDJ-1500s is the HDJ-2000. Pioneer has crafted a very lightweight pair that do an excellent job of isolating sound while also being very comfortable. The sound quality is also excellent, in fact you could use these also as studio headphones for monitoring mixes. The HDJ-2000s also employ foldable ear cups. Unlike its lesser sibling, replacement parts are available which make these a sound long-term investment.
Sennheiser HD 25-1 II
Sennheiser’s HD 25-1 are the headphone of choice for DJs looking for high quality sound and an extremely lightweight option. Weighing in at just under 5 ounces, it’s hard to find a quality alternative that’s lighter. Sennheiser also employs flexible ear cups, allowing you to cover only one ear without having to take off the set.
Ai-Ai is another brand that deserves consideration. With a futuristic yet retro look, these will certainly set you apart from the crowd. They have a similar build to the Sennheiser HD 25-1. The sound quality is excellent, delivering a dynamic range that doesn’t distort at high volumes. One drawback is that ear cups are slightly smaller than others, which can make isolating your mix in the booth difficult.
Sony headphones became famous in the early 2000s for two things – price and a notoriously fragile build quality. Coming in at the low range of the market these are often the choice for DJs on a budget. And having a fragile design these are also often quickly replaced. While the sound has improved over the years the design remains the same, so handle with care.
The 7506s are noted for their superior and consistent sound quality. These sound so true that they have become a standard among both producers and DJs. With a folding design akin the Pioneer models, they are more durable than other Sony DJ headphones, making them a very popular choice. If you are considering producing tracks as well as DJing these could be the right choice for you.
Allen & Heath Xone XD2-53
Allen & Heath is known for maintaining very high standards with sound quality in all their products. In addition to sound quality, Allen & Heath makes some of the most durable audio equipment on the market. The XD2-53s are no exception to both of the qualities. These are industry standard among house & techno DJs where realistic sound reproduction is essential for multi track mixing. If you’re looking for amazing sound and durability give these serious consideration.
Beyerdynamic DT 1350
The DT 1350s are Beyerdynamic’s first set of DJ headphones. Beyerdynamic is known primarily for studio headphones with audiophile quality sound and that certainly comes through in these. Design wise, these are quite similar to the Ai Ai with a retro look and smaller ear cups. However, these are very durable and should be taken seriously.
Numark Red Wave
Numark is fast becoming the favorite of a lot of new DJs primarily for making quality products at entry-level prices. The Red Wave is certainly in line with that ethos. Featuring large ear cups and a foldable design similar to the standard Pioneer 1500s, these are worth considering if you’re on a budget or looking for a more rugged pair for gigging. The sound quality is good enough for mixing although there is some distortion at high volumes. What makes these particularly appealing are the large ear cups which do a great job of isolating your mix from the other noise in the booth.
Every pair of headphones has its own strengths and weaknesses and thus no pair is absolutely the best. For me, personally, the best ones out there right now are the V-Moda Crossfade; they’re loud enough to handle a noisy booth, durable, flexible and priced right in the mid-range. The Allen & Heath XDs are a strong second for me. If you’re looking for a big name and a flagship model then go for the Pioneer HDJ-2000, they are built to last and the sound is fantastic. However, if you’re price conscious and don’t require the gratification of a big name there are some solid choices on this list for you. In the end it all comes down to a matter of taste and feel based on your own needs.