Headphones are a vital element in a DJ setup, necessary for a DJ to deliver a good mix to the crowd. Everything you mix, cue, or think of playing will first go through a pair of headphones, and only after will it reach the audience.
There are many types of headphones, and not all are suitable for a DJ. In this article, we will take a look into some cool headsets, where cool is an umbrella term for comfortable and high-quality headphones with good sound quality that also look pretty good.
Why DJ Headphones Are Important
Just saying Headphones are essential to a DJ isn’t enough. I’d like to explain to you how important a pair of high-quality headphones really is to a DJ, and how it might facilitate their work at the venues where they perform.
A DJ shift lasts for some 6 to 8 hours, non-stop. Most of that time you cue tracks and look for a way to beatmatch them, which means finding a way to make both songs fall on the same beat, and match them.
To make this happen, you need special audio channels reaching your ears only, so the crowd can later listen to what you prepared for them. Well, the headphones will provide you with these extra channels, and you want that sound to be clear.
I’ll try to make this read more informative, so the suggested headphones aren’t just dead ink on paper, but rather texts that you can use to draw information regarding terms you were unfamiliar with, like sensitivity, for example.
Terms To Get Familiar With
We all know that we’re looking for good sound quality, noise cancellation, or comfort. What we don’t always know is what kind of features a pair of headphones comprise, to reach these expectations.
Well, comfort might be easy to define since we’re mostly talking about having soft ear pads. But how do you know that the headphones you wanna buy will have a crisp sound or striking bass response? That’s what we’ll cover in this chapter.
Frequency Response VS Frequency Range
The sound output is a result of frequencies and the way they reach our ears. There are three levels of frequency – low or bass, mids, and highs or treble. The better your headphones transmit these frequencies, the better the sound quality will be.
However, there is a huge misconception when we talk about frequency response. People often confuse it with frequency range, which is similar but quite different and misleading. So, what’s the difference?
Well, the frequency range shows you the actual span that the headphone speakers can produce. However, not all of those frequencies (sounds) will reach your ears. In the meantime, they’ll run into resistance, such as amplitude, which narrows down the frequency range.
The result that you get is called frequency response. Imagine a company that has made $1 million in revenue in the last fiscal year. When it deducts taxes and other liabilities, it’ll get a new figure, of let’s say $800K, which will represent the company’s net profit.
Now change the word revenue with frequency range, tax and liabilities with amplitude, and net profit with frequency response. Is it clearer now? The actual sound that you hear with your ears is what counts when purchasing DJ headphones – i.e. frequency response.
Over-Ear VS On-Ear Headphones
This is another important point that must be clear before you make a purchase. If you’re gonna use your headphones for DJing purposes, make sure they are over-ear headphones. That means that the earpads or cushions will cover your ears completely.
This will, of course, lead to noise isolation, but so will the on-ear ones. So, what’s the difference? The over-ear models will “vacuum” your ears, i.e. your ear shell will be completely surrounded by the cushions.
On the other hand, on-ear headphones will cover the size of your ear shells but will be pressed against them, which will lead to poorer sound cancellation. Moreover, on-ear headphones are way less comfortable and might lead to ear pain after a few hours.
Sensitivity has everything to do with the loudness of your DJ headphones. To find out how loud your headset is, you must know the sensitivity level. That will describe the amount of audio output (volume) your speakers can produce, from a certain power source.
It might sound complicated, but it isn’t. There’s this thing called Sound Pressure Level (SPL) and a meter which measures it. Usually, you feed the SPL meter 1 W of electricity and place it exactly 2.3 feet away from the sound output, or speaker if you will.
That’s how you measure sensitivity. The result is measured in decibel, dB. A good sensitivity level is everything ranging from 84 to 106 dB, although something in between, like 96 dB would be perfect. Going over 106 dB means you’re breaching the pain threshold.
Top 10 Cool Looking Headphones
Overall Best: Audio-Technica ATH Pro 500 MK2
There is a reason why the Audio-Technica ATH Pro 500 headphones are on the top of this list. The features they pack are not unprecedented but are improved and better than what we’re used to.
The rugged design gives you a sense of trust in the durability of the DJ headphones. The ear cup can swivel, but unlike other rotating headphones, you can choose whether you want the pad to turn by 50 or 90 degrees.
Another cool thing is the size of the speaker drivers. Until recently, I thought that a diameter of 50 mm is the biggest, but the Pro 500 MK2 took it to 53 mm! They say that the bigger the driver the stronger the bass, so, you do the math.
The cables didn’t disappoint either. There are two of them, actually, one coiled and one straight, both detachable. Detachability is a very important thing when it comes to cords since you like them to be separate and not influence the housing of the headphones in any way.
These DJ headphones have a superb frequency response going from as low as 10 Hz to as high as 30 kHz. There certainly are headphones with a lower bottom limit, but this is by far one of the better responses when it comes to frequencies.
Loudness is also not an issue here, since the Audio-Technica ATH Pro 500 MK2 DJ headphones have a maximum sensitivity of 106 dB (decibel). This is a volume level that I don’t recommend you try, but it’s good to know how far it can go.
- Earpads swivel by 50 or 90 degrees;
- Biggest drivers on the list – 53 mm;
- Good frequency response;
- Loud and clear;
- Two separate detachable cables;
- The straight cable is a bit too long;
- Concerns about uncomfortable head-band.
Runner-Up: Sennheiser HD-25
The Sennheiser HD-25 are probably some of the most widely used headphones in the professional DJ sphere. They owe most of their popularity to the robust, but extremely compact design and good sound isolation.
Sennheiser HD-25 DJ headphones combine good sound and high sound volumes with an extremely practical and portable design. The headphones are stable on the ears, but not so tight that they would be uncomfortable if worn for a longer period.
This headphone set has everything a DJ needs. Very good isolation, closed-back design, comfortable even with long sets, high volume, long durability, and last but not least, compactness and lightweight, so you can have them on the go.
The cable is detachable, so an issue in this area of the headphones can be easily repaired. The headband can be widened to ensure a secure fit, and the ear cups can be swiveled to enable comfortable track monitoring with one ear.
The Sennheiser HD-25 DJ headphones comprise aluminum voice coils, which is a good thing if we know that this metal has a way lower mass than copper, but is able to transmit the same amount of electricity.
The sound quality of the Sennheiser HD-25 is on point: it perfectly transmits the mids, the highs, and the low-end frequencies.
The price is similar to the Audio-Technica ATH M50X, costing around $150.
- Robust design;
- Good sound isolation;
- Detachable cable;
- Good audio quality;
- Swiveling ear cups.
- Could be cheaper;
- Not the most comfortable pair of DJ headphones.
Best For Studio Use: Audio-Technica ATH M50X
The Audio-Technica ATH M50X DJ headphones are the most praised unit of the company’s famous M-Series. It has a unique folding design making it very easy to transport, while comfort is a huge friend of the ATH M50X due to both the ear cushions and the headband.
They are very durable and also provide lots of comfort. You can use them for hours in the studio or at your gig without experiencing any pain.
The Technica are also really easy to use. Not only are they foldable, but the ear cups swivel by 90 degrees so that you can ear monitor without any problems.
These closed-back DJ headphones provide excellent sound output, with an extended frequency range that specifically affects the strong bass response. Frequency response, on the other hand, is pretty wide, stretching from 15 Hz to 28 kHz.
Sensitivity is on point, amounting to 99 dB. If you followed the introduction, you know that this is the perfect sensitivity level that you could have. You don’t need anything louder than this, and every tone will be transmitted perfectly.
The Audio-Technica ATH M50X DJ headphones have detachable cables which is a big pro, especially when you want to fold them and take them somewhere with you. It provides less stress and no chances of ruining the whole headset if you pull one cable the wrong way.
However, the Audio-Technica ATH M50X headphones with a closed-back design are not cheap. They will cost you some $150, but you get what you pay for. Always better to spend more money in order to get real high-quality headphones.
- Folding design;
- Detachable cables;
- Over-ear design;
- Swiveling earcups;
- Good frequency response.
- Not strictly for DJing.
Best For Music Production: Status Audio CB-1
The Status Audio CB-1 headphones were primarily supposed to be studio headphones. They were the alternative to Audio-Technica ATH M50X, which is how they became famous.
This pair of closed-back headphones cover your whole ear shell. They are great for sound isolation and provide crisp and clear sound quality. They are pretty loud with their 97 decibels (dB) sound output, which is the right amount.
The aesthetics of the Status Audio CB-1 is superb. With a minimalist approach, they combined black and white to put a strict note to the already serious appearance of these headphones. Once you’re done with your gig, you can fold them and easily carry them around.
When the package arrives, you’ll get one straight and one coiled cable. Also, the cables are detachable which is a good thing when it comes to reparations and damages. Even if something were to happen to your cable, that’s only a cable issue and the whole housing isn’t involved.
Anyway, the Status Audio CB-1 headphones were made for professional DJs. They comprise soft ear pads and a headband that feels extra comfortable on your head. You can wear the Status Audio for hours and not feel any pressure.
They have good bass response thanks to the drivers with a huge 50 mm diameter. If I’m not wrong, the second biggest ones on the list. The Status Audio CB-1 headphones provide amazing sound on the mids and highs, but the bass is something totally different. (in a good way)
- Pretty loud;
- Sleek design;
- Detachable cables;
- Huge drivers resulting in a good bassline.
- More suitable for a studio;
- A bit pricey.
Best Frequency Response: V-Moda Crossfade LP2
The V-Moda Crossfade LP2 DJ headphones are very popular within the DJ community, and there is a good reason for that. They cost around $150, and they have some of the best features and build quality of all the headphones on the market.
The most outstanding thing in the V-Moda Crossfade LP2 is the sound quality. With 50 mm drivers, you’ll get clear sound without a single error. The sensitivity level reaches 105 dB (decibel), which might be a little too much, even.
I was most surprised by the frequency response with a low end at 5 Hz, going up to 30 kHz. That’s just wow! Keep in mind that the human ear detects frequencies from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, if young and healthy. The V-Moda Crossfade LP2 Dj headphones have the greatest frequency response on our list.
At the same time, the V-Moda Crossfade LP2 headphones are extremely comfortable because of the ergonomic ear pads with foam cushions. No discomfort will be felt even if you wear them for hours.
They are also very durable and made to last, to quote the company. You’ll notice that it comes with a ¼” gold-plated jack adapter, which proves how serious the approach to this pair of headphones’ build was.
V-Moda Crossfade LP2 includes a foldable design, two cables, one of which is for a microphone, and the other one is for the audio transmission, both detachable. The product comes with a 2-year warranty.
- Foldable design;
- Comfortable, ergonomic;
- Huge driver units resulting in good bass response;
- Two detachable cables;
- Stunning frequency response;
- 2-year warranty.
- Could be cheaper.
Most Durable: Pioneer HDJ X7
The Pioneer HDJ X7 DJ headphones have the brains and looks. It’s a sleek rugged design with a flexible headband that fits perfectly on your head, providing you the comfort you need. On the other hand, the sound is clear even at a high volume.
The design of the Pioneer HDJ X7 DJ headphones is made to be flexible and durable. It comprises rotating ear cups that are covered in soft cushions for comfort. Also, these won’t break if you drop them accidentally sometimes, as they’ve actually passed the US Military Shock Test.
The sound quality is outstanding and I say that without hesitation. The fantastic 50 mm drivers will make sure to deliver the best bass response. The mids and highs are also remarkable with this model of Pioneer HDJ headphones.
These DJ headphones are very easy to take care of and carry around. They have a foldable design, which makes them really compact on the go. They come with a detachable coiled cable as well as a straight one, which is somewhat longer.
To support the claim that the sound is superb with the Pioneer HDJ X7 headphones, let me say that the sensitivity output reaches 102 dB, while the frequency response ranges from 5 Hz to 30 kHz. This is the lowest that the low-end can go, while the upper limit is also unusually high.
Pioneer also sells replacement parts for the X7 in case you need them which I highly doubt. There is a two-year warranty on the DJ headphones to back up the quality. The pair of headphones is a bit more expensive than what you’d guess, reaching some $200.
- Rugged, foldable design;
- Coiled and straight detachable cables;
- Great and loud;
- 50 mm drivers;
- Good frequency response;
- Two-year warranty.
- Not affordable for everyone.
Best Splurge: V-Moda Crossfade M-100
The V-Moda Crossfade M-100 Dj headphones are perhaps the most expensive ones on the list at some $250, but also the most professional piece of DJ gear. This is due to the features, specifications, and build quality that make up the M-100.
The sound quality is outstanding thanks to the 50 mm dual-diaphragm drivers, which are ready to provide you with the best possible sound transmission, especially at the low-end. The V-Moda M-100 has such a clear sound that you won’t miss a tone.
Comfort is another important aspect of the V-Moda M-100. Designed with ergonomic foam cushions for the ear cups, the over-ear headphones won’t give you any pain after wearing them for hours on your head.
These headphones are really built to last. The headband is made of metal but is also very flexible, while the cables are detachable and almost indestructible. Of course, they will be destroyed if you try to cut them, but nothing will happen to them from regular use.
Traveling with the V-Moda M-100 DJ headphones is easy-peasy with the smart foldable design that fits their custom-designed travel case. You don’t have to worry about space in your bag when going from club to club, or even town to town.
Loudness and response are a sure deal with the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 DJ headphones. From 5 Hz to 30 kHz, you will hear every sound in the song, while loudness can reach 103 dB, which is far more than you actually need.
- High-quality build;
- Foldable design;
- Loud and clear;
- Ergonomic ear pads and headband;
- High-quality cables.
- The highest price on the list.
Most Fashionable: SOL Republic Tracks HD
The SOL Republic Tracks HD DJ headphones are unique from the moment you open the box and realize that you have to put the pieces together. This is an easy task, however, with your only job being to join the ear pads to the headband, and plug in the detachable cable.
This is a good thing because SOL Republic allows you to swap part by part without having to sacrifice the whole setup. They offer custom headbands or ear pads so you can make your own, custom DJ headphones.
Durability is a strong side of the SOL Republic Tracks HD headphones. I’ve seen people mixing with them for years without any traces of damage. However, there is another thing that I don’t like about these DJ headphones – the ear cushions.
Although ergonomic and very soft, these are on-ear headphones. This means that your ear shell will not entirely fit inside the cushion, but rather be used as a support for the headphones. This is fixable by purchasing additional over-ear pads if you want to bother with that.
The sound quality is something that I admire with these Dj headphones. They come at some $110 but match the quality of high-end setups, especially regarding bass. Not the clarity of studio monitor headphones, but very close to that sound quality.
The design is very fancy and light, with a thin headband and earpads supported by LED lights to make you look (literally) lit at the club. It’s not foldable though, which can cause a mess when you want to carry them around. You could, however, dismantle them to make room in your case.
- Possibility to custom-design the headphones;
- Light and modern design;
- LED lights included;
- Good bass.
- On-ear headphones;
- Not foldable.
Most Easy On The Wallet: Sennheiser HD 206
The Sennheiser HD 206 are over-ear headphones that will offer you high-end sound quality and durability for some $50. They are the living proof that not all quality DJ headphones have to cost a fortune.
Besides the durability, the rugged design of the Sennheiser HD 206 has impressed a lot of people. With a classic look – i.e. a massive set of headphones – there is this feeling of safety when you put them on.
Besides safety, comfort is a good friend of Sennheiser. The ear cups comprise leather ear cushions, so there will be no pain in your ears even if you wear them for hours.
The Sennheiser HD 206 headphones will give you all the sound isolation you need from the outside so you can safely continue with your mixing. The sound they provide is crisp, especially on the low-end, which is great if you work mostly with EDM (electronic dance music).
The package arrives with a gold-plated ¼-inch jack adapter. At the same time, you’ll get a 2-year warranty which will prove that the low price of the headphones has nothing to do with the quality.
The cable is 10 feet long, which I don’t find to be an advantage. You’ll be able to move freely around the stage, but the length might get in your way. Add to that the fact that it’s not detachable, which means that one tripping hazard can ruin your headphones for good.
The Sennheiser HD 206 DJ headphones are very loud, reaching up to 108 dB, which you should never listen to if you care for your ears. However, when used responsibly, you’ll listen to clear sound at a volume that’s loud enough for you to focus on your mixing.
- Rugged design;
- Loud and clear;
- Good noise cancellation;
- 2-year warranty;
- Big minus for the cable which is too long and non-detachable.
Best For The Studio: Shure SRH-440
Shure rarely disappoints and their SRH-440 headphones are living proof. At a very affordable price of some $80, Shure offers a highly professional pair of DJ headphones, packing solid features and specifications, as well as a cool design.
These DJ headphones are quite comfortable, featuring an ergonomic headband and soft ear cushions. The headband is adjustable and way more flexible than with other headphones on the market. It fits almost every head flawlessly.
They have a single-ear detachable cable, which is a plus for both the reasons that I just listed. At the same time, there is a locking mechanism for the cable, so, good job on that! The headphones are foldable and very easy to transport.
Shure has also decided to drop a ¼” gold-plated jack adapter in the case, which is usually something that only high-end brands would consider.
The Shure SRH-440 DJ headphones provide excellent sound quality, with crisp mids and highs, and a strong bassline. The frequency response is strong with this one so there won’t be any sound or even vibration that you’ll miss.
The company offers a two-year warranty on the product which sends a clear message. Shure is sure of what they make, and even though these are not the best DJ headphones out there, they’re worth it!
- Excellent sound;
- Detachable cable;
- Good price;
- Cables’ quality is questionable.
There is an infinite number of DJ headphones on the market and you have to choose one or maybe two in some cases. You’ll agree that you have to be prepared before you go and set your eyes on some cool-looking DJ headphones.
There is a lot to take into account apart from the headphones’ appearance and a couple of features that everybody’s familiar with. In the introduction, I mentioned some terms you should know before purchasing, but let’s see how you should approach your DJ headphone shopping adventure.
Do Your Research
Some things are clear the moment you see them, but for some, you need to warm up your computer a bit. I’m sure you’re aware that for a DJ, over-ear headphones are preferred. But the question that you should ask yourself is: “Why?”
By better understanding terms like frequency range, response, the three frequency levels, or what closed-back headphones are, you’ll end up with a happier purchase. I guarantee you that since I’ve felt it on my own skin.
I mean, don’t be impressed by a pair of headphones just because you saw that they have dual-diaphragm drivers. Sure, you know that’s good, but do you know why? Maybe it’s just a myth, like the belief that loud headphones also have a clearer sound.
Set Your Budget
Remember: you don’t always have to spend every cent from your “headphones budget”. Just because you planned on spending $200 on a pair of DJ cans doesn’t mean that you can’t find a pair for less money, which might even be better than what you initially planned.
Don’t be lazy and compare items all the time. If the ones you want are not available now, be patient, and in a week they might be yours. Anyway, the best headphones for up to $200 should have the following features and specifications:
- Well-built housing;
- Detachable cable, preferably a ¼” adapter, too;
- Good frequency response;
- High sensitivity;
- Rotating earpads;
- Foldable design.
If your headphones don’t have these characteristics, don’t spend $200 on them.
Hopefully, this article has helped you gather your thoughts and consider more options for your new DJ headphones. To find the best headphones for you, you have to know what you’re looking for, and of course, how much you’re willing to spend.
In the sections above, I tried to bring you closer to some terms as well as tips and tricks so you could know what your goal is. All that’s needed is patience and a clear head. If you take this approach, you will have the best possible DJ headphones around your neck.
Let me give you a couple of final suggestions.
I’d say that if you’re looking for something that won’t cost you an arm and a leg but will still do the job, consider the Shure SRH-440.
If you want something that you will use in your studio more than on a gig, take another look at the Audio-Technica ATH M50X.
If you’re not worried about damaging your pocket a little bit more, you certainly won’t regret getting the V-Moda Crossfade M-100.
Finally, my choice of DJ headphones that are good for everyday use and the club, cans that offer great durability, are the Pioneer HDJ X7 DJ.
Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Good For DJing?
A DJ’s job is to select tracks and mix them together. To do so, they need peace and quiet so they can concentrate on the task. Therefore, noise-canceling headphones are a must if they’re gonna do the job properly.
Why Do DJs Only Use One Headphone?
While a song is playing in the club, the DJ usually has a cued song waiting in line. To throw the next song in the mix, they have to beatmatch it, i.e. to adjust the tempo of the tracks. That’s why they “one-ear monitor” the song, so they can hear the beat better.
Why Do DJs Pretend To Turn Knobs?
DJs do not “pretend” to turn knobs. The audience might not notice the difference in the track when a DJ turns the knobs, but that’s a pretty vital part of the whole performance. If a DJ turns knobs, it means they are equalizing the sound in terms of different frequencies.
Do DJs Actually Mix Live?
Yes. Almost every DJ mixes live. This could be easily proven, especially by someone who stands behind the DJ and follows their moves. If your ear is trained enough, you might even notice some slips made by DJs, since they mix live.