Headphones are the main DJ tool, the quality of performance, your comfort and your appearance depend on them. Those characteristics that you find on the factory boxes will confuse rather than help you in choosing. Let's see what is necessary for you to understand ,to know, and let’s arrange the optimal headphones in descending order.
We’ll talk about specifications later, first of all - 5 questions.
1. How clear are the headphones when playing at high volume?
This is usually the main component of the price of headphones, because technologically advanced speakers and cup cases are more expensive and produce a balanced (in frequency) and dynamic (the ability of the speaker to produce sharp, dense sounds - drums, claps, etc.) sound not only at low and medium volume, but also at the highest. The level of this limit is very important and it’s good when the headphones have some “reserve”. If you make it louder, then the speakers are overloaded and the sound is being distorted.
A good reserve of pressure is close to the pain threshold of 120 dB, which will safely block external sound or will be competitive with its level in the club or rave 110 dB - 130 dB. Unfortunately, in the technical characteristics the maximum sound pressure level SPL (Sound Pressure Level) is not always specified, and if it is specified, then not always true. Therefore, test, rely upon your ear, or on our guide.
2. How well do the ear cushions fit to your ears and isolate you from outside noise?
Obviously, if the ear cushions do not tightly fit to ears, the sound from the outside will be mixed into the sound of the headphones, that will be a hindrance. You can make a sound in the headphones even louder, but you will lose intelligibility and this may cause harm to your ears. The reason for the “holes” and “slots” с is, on the one hand, the design of the headphones (the rotary mechanisms of the cup, the softness and thickness of the ear cushions), on the other hand - the shape of your skull. This is an individual moment, it happens that DJs choose unpopular models for themselves, but it is on their heads that they sit beautifully and fit to their ears.
As for the material of ear cushions, all the models of the leather and leatherette ear cushions provide greater tightness and all models are initially supplied with them, and the additional velvet ones, although comfortable, but due to its porous surface they allow sound waves to “leak through” and are suitable for studio or home listening. Pay attention to how tightly one ear is attached while moving the second one to the back of the head, try different configurations. Hence the next question:
3. Is it convenient for you to keep them on your head on both ears and in other positions ?
No matter how many times you take off and put on the headphones for a set, and how you like to keep them on your head, you shouldn’t think about them. Full comfort and no distractions from the mix. Important points - squeezing the ears, the shape and weight of the headphones. Squeezing of ears should be optimal so that the head doesn’t feel like in a vice and at the same time the headphones do not fall on the floor. The shape is also an individual moment, many of the top models will fit your head as much as possible, since the turning mechanisms of the cup are well constructed , they carefully put the headphones on the head.
Not all of the budget ones will fit well, but the leaders are also represented in the guide. Weight - now seeks to a minimum, bulky models are less in demand. Some people like that “wrapping” headphones with large cups create a more isolated atmosphere when listening, more surrounding sound, but they are usually heavy, their lying on the neck can prevent the chin from falling and often look like two large mittens on the head... individually. In general, the design is being facilitated as much as possible, but what about strength and flexibility?
4. How reliable and durable is their design?
Nowadays new light plastic has been actively introduced into the production of headbands, which can be bent in different directions and they remain like brand new. The metal rods of the headband are also often found, they are difficult to break, but they weigh a little more. The reliability of the remaining parts of the headphones depends on the quality of production, even the seemingly thin plastic of the cup's turning mechanisms can withstand heavy loads if the manufacturer takes care of this.
Each brand announces its model as reliable or super reliable, but in reality only real examples of use matter. It’s like “I’ve spent six months cracking the nuts with them and they look like brand new” or “I bought them in a store and after a check was made, the wires crumbled.” It will be cool to get your feedback in this guide.
5. What kind of design do they have and how do you look wearing them?
It is impossible not to look in the mirror, or at least not to imagine yourself in your chosen headphones. This is your main DJ attribute, let it complete your image. No more demagogy.
And the most uninteresting part in DJ headphones is the technical specifications.
Frequency range. A person hears only from 20 to 20 000 Hz at an average volume, and under the age of 20. By the age of 50, the perceived range is narrowed on average to 40–12,000 Hz. In conditions of extreme noise at the club and high headphone volume, your analyzing range of the auditory system is narrowed even more due to the large amount of information and noise. It is safe to say that all modern DJ headphones reproduce frequencies from at least 40 to 16,000 Hz. Ok, that suits us, regardless of what is specifically written on the package. Looking at this information simply does not make sense when choosing, especially since the claimed frequency range of headphones is often embellished by the manufacturer, and it’s not indicated under what conditions the measurements were taken.
This parameter by no means shows the “purity” of the sound, as they say on some resources. At this stage in the development of the industry, the methods and criteria for computerized assessment of the "purity" of sound are only being developed, and so far people’s subjective assessment prevails. Why, in fact, in all Hi-Fi forums, there is a constant debate about the quality of this or that piece of hardware , and many audiophiles vehemently prove their “expert” hearing and the veracity of sensations. Therefore, be an expert yourself and determine the sound purity.
The graph of the amplitude-frequency characteristics can tell us about a good balance of frequencies, and its “evenness” is needed only in studio models for accurate monitoring and absolutely unnecessary in DJs’ ones, because at high volume our hearing needs comfort and dips in the area of 2-5 kHz - the most sensitive and painful frequencies for hearing. The graph is rarely drawn on the box or in the manual, since for an inexperienced user this curve looks too curved.
The nonlinear distortion factor explains how much percent the output sound from the headphone is different from the original signal that was sent to it. That is, how much the headphones distorted the signal. Moreover, nowhere is it indicated in which particular frequency range it was distorted. And in a noisy DJ room we will absolutely not notice the changes by 1 or even by 3%. This parameter also doesn’t matter.
The only parameter that is always indicated on the box of DJ headphones and that is important is resistance (or impedance). The lower the resistance, the easier it is for the sound source to shake headphones — for the player, sound card, mixing console, etc. — less voltage is required from them. There is a second feature: when connecting low-impedance headphones, the source will provide more electric current and the signal distortion increases along with it. Therefore:
With low resistance: a weak source is enough to achieve maximum volume; more distortions.
With high resistance: you need a more powerful source; less distortion.
As you can see, in studio or hi-fi models, in pursuit of a pure signal, high resistance is made and an additional preamplifier is required.
The average value for all DJ headphones is 30-90 Ohms, an additional amplifier is not needed here, they all have the ability to sound loud not only from the mixer, but also from a laptop or smartphone. Below 30 ohms there may be audible distortion at high volume, above 90 ohm you will not be able to listen to your headphones at high volume by means of small gadgets.
Max SPL (Sound Pressure Level) - the level of maximum sound pressure at which the sound remains without distortion. This is a very important parameter for DJ headphones, we wrote about it at the beginning of the guide, but there are almost no manufacturers who write it on box.
Sensitivity shows how loud the headphones are. But in order to estimate this loudness, it is necessary to compare several parameters that cannot be found on the box. The sensitivity value is indicated according to marketing plans and does not have valuable information.
It must be said that sensitivity in particular depends on resistance and, in terms of very approximate concepts, one can remember that the lower the resistance, the higher the sensitivity (loudness) and vice versa. Paying attention to this option on the box does not make any sense.
Maximum input power is a parameter that indicates what power, supplied to a headset, can make it out of order. Moreover, this parameter on the box is served as something cool, when in fact it is a technical moment that has no meaning. You can burn the DJ headphones by connecting them to powerful external amplifiers, look at the maximum input power to be sure.
As far as we can see, almost all of the specifications are absolutely useless. Knowing the impedance of the headphones is enough, make sure that it is within the normal range and move on to a subjective personal assessment of sound, design and convenience. Most of the specifications become important only when choosing studio or Hi-Fi headphones, but we will describe this in another guide.
So, a guide on DJ headphones. First of all let’s consider the worthiest of them, then the affordable ones , but also good. Do not cling strictly to the position in the ranking, for someone the arrangement may seem a little different. But the list itself is important and occasionally will need updating.
Sennheiser HD 25 Headphone Series
The headphones themselves and the headband are the same, the models differ only in wires and configuration:
Sennheiser HD 25 1 II Basic Edition (new name - just HD 25): straight wire 1.5m, corner jack.
Sennheiser HD 25 1 II (the complete set is discontinued): straight wire 1.5m, corner jack, extra velour ear cushions, pouch.
Sennheiser HD 25 II (the complete set is discontinued): straight wire 2m, straight jack, extra velor ear cushions, pouch.
Sennheiser HD 25 C II (new name - HD 25 Plus): twisted wire, 3m in the stretched state, 1m in the compressed, straight jack, additional velor ear cushions, pouch.
Impedance in all headphones is 70 ohms, the maximum volume can not be achieved if used with portable players, but when connected to professional amplifying technology (mixers, amplifiers, etc.) they sound loud and have the advantage of purity. By intelligibility and depth of sound, this brand is one of the leaders.
There is a model HD 25-13 II with impedance of 600 ohms, but this is not a DJ model, so we won’t consider it.
The advantages of Sennheiser HD 25 are based on our criteria:
1. Clear deep sound and high maximum pressure threshold.
2. Cups at the expense of the movable design easily find their place on the ears and fit tightly. Soft ear cushions, made of leatherette, are very comfortable.
3. The weight is little, only 140g, they easily fit to your head even in a horizontal position.
4. Plastic headband and other parts are very resistant to hits and bends. Not like in the following models, but that's enough. All components and parts can be purchased separately and replaced.
5. The design is stylish, minimalistic, the size is small and the headphones look very neat on the head.
Among disadvantages, you can only note a peculiarity of insufficiently cut-out area of 2-5 kHz, at high volume, when DJing, your ears will get tired earlier, but this is not that crucial. But at medium volumes, while listening to music or working in studio, a more natural balance of frequencies is supported.
All the same advantages can be said about the following two leaders:
AIAIAI TMA-2 DJ Preset / Modular Headphone Series
The design is without great differences, but in the sound there are a few of them. A slightly less transparent sound, but a more comfortable balance between frequencies is observed, this does not allow the ear to get tired quickly. In particular, the range of 2–5 kHz is sufficiently reduced and does not “strain” the ear at high volume. How many people do notice this? Let's discuss it. Weight 190g, an excellent indicator of comfort. Plastic is very resistant to deformation. The design for many is the most successful, one-piece arc, movable cups, plastic matte exterior looks very noble and pleasant. Impedance is 32 ohms.
There are several models of different color designs created in honor of famous labels.
With the AIAIAI TMA-2 series, you can assemble your own professional headphones from a set of components. This is the first "modular" series in the world - a very cool and flexible approach to the consumer. There are 4 specific speakers to choose from, 7 kinds of ear cushions with different soundproofing and shape, 3 types of headbands for different head shapes and different application conditions, 7 types of wires, twisted, straight, different in length, with a microphone and without it. We recommend these headphones, in our store you can test any combinations, choose what you need. We described the TMA-2 series in detail here.
NOCS NS900 Live
Insignificant differences. Slightly higher threshold of maximum sound pressure, which is already abundant for hearing and more than enough. They weigh 232 grams and wearing them on the head is not that comfortable, your head may get tired if you do not take off your headphones for a long time. But the reliability of the design, owing to the metal details, is very high, they are unlikely to break, even if you accidentally sit or step on them. The design is great, you see yourself, the size is slightly more than HD 25. Also a twisted wire, a pouch and a couple of additional short wires for portable gadgets, the impedance is 32 ohms.
Beyerdynamic DT 1350
Strange, but Beyerdynamic does not advertise this model. High-quality headphones with Tesla technology, providing excellent balance of frequencies, detail and depth of sound, super high sound pressure level SPL 129 dB. The body of the cups and the arms is made of flexible metal. Compact design, weight is only 174 g. Leather isolating ear cushions. This is the best performance. The design with retro shade is made in a manimalistic style.
Straight wire 1.5 meters is more than enough for professional work, but still it may not be enough in some situations, that’s why they are located in the fourth position. If you do not need the length of the twisted wire, look at the Beyerdynamic DT 1350, this is a real standard of quality. Impedance is 80 Ohms. Ask for a discount in our store, this is an expensive model and we do everything to attract customers.
We proceed with the headphones, which are inferior to the leaders
The model is impressive for its low price, excellent balance of frequencies at maximum volume and a unique cable, for which it occupies top position in the rating. And, indeed, with the same AIAIAI TMA-2 DJ’s external and functional specifications, they are only slightly weaker in terms of maximum sound pressure and intelligibility of sound, while the price of Zinken is 2 times lower than the latter. But what did the Swedes do with the cable?) In one ear there is a JACK 6.3 connector, in the other - a miniJACK 3.5, and the twisted cable has the same different plugs at the ends.
Depending on which connector your audio source has, you turn over the cable, changing your ear for enter without additional adapters. But this is not all, the second ear connector remains free and can be used as an output for linking second headphones - this is a very cool option in everyday use, if you suddenly want to listen to the same source together. But that's not all, Urbanears created a lot of color options for the model, staying in the same high-quality matte version with leather ear pads and headband. There are a lot of advantages and only one question - is there enough pressure for noisy club conditions?
Yes, enough, and they are used by very serious DJs, just go to Instagram @urbanears. Therefore, if you have a limited budget, we recommend paying attention to Urbanears Zinken. Moreover,the inner headband and mounts with cups are made on metal basis, this is a guarantee of strength, the twisted cable stretches up to 2 meters and has a one-button remote controller, and 85 Ohm resistance is not enough only for weak players.
The company has other models, including those for listening and wireless ones. All the colors and models can be found on the link - Urbanears.
The pressure is at the excellent level, the sound is slightly inferior to the leaders, Pioneer lowered sharp “metallic” upper frequencies at high volume, this is a big advantage. Dimensions are similar to HD 25, and weight is 200g. The design looks reliable, but I would like to discuss it in the comments. As you know, the first shipment was defective, the headbands were easily broken in many copies. But now, if the headband is fixed, it is necessary to understand how other components behave.
Please share your experience with us.
The design is superb, with a general minimalism and high quality rubberized finish, there are some silver elements of luxury :) It includes a main twisted wire, a pouch and an additional short wire for portable devices with impedance of 40 ohms.
Pioneer HDJ-2000 / HDJ-2000 mk2
Purity of sound and sound pressure are at a high level. Wrapping headphones with large cups, someone will find such a shape convenient. The design of the cups is very ergonomic and fits almost any skull, it provides comfort and soundproofing. Weight is not the lightest for their size - 290g, but your head can only get tired during long sets, you can listen for 2-3 hours at home. The design is simple and stylish, there are 3 colors to choose from. In early 2015, they allegedly updated the model range for the new MK2 series, but there are no technical differences. The package includes main twisted wire and bag. Resistance is 36 Ohms.
V-Moda Crossfade M-100
In Italian Crossfade M-100 headphones by V-moda, the design, build quality, details and equipment are impressive. Everything, from the box, the case to the small details of the headphones, is made with the highest accuracy. Metal parts of the headband guarantee durability. Two wires - shorter and longer, with a fabric sheath and high class connectors, one of the wires has control buttons for mobile devices. Headband and ear pads are made of genuine leather. Very scrupulous approach to production - it seems strange nowadays, Italian perfectionism :)
The sound in this model is also not lagging behind. Very pure, legible, transparent throughout the spectrum at medium and low volume, which will suit well for listening at home and with a record player. If you take their maximum volume for noisy rooms and DJing, then here they also cope with it, not the same result as the leaders have, but there is enough pressure. So , if you like the design, you value the build quality and design, and you do not need an ultra dense barrel for monitoring in noisy conditions - then these are the headphones for you. Weight is not the lowest because of the strong metal in the knots - 280 g. Impedance is 32 ohms.
Technics RP - DJ 1210 / Technics RP - DJ 1200
Legendary RP-DJ. Pressure and frequency balance are at a very high level, the main indicator is achieved. The clarity of sound is slightly inferior, but these headphones came in the sixth position, partially due to their relative availability, they are not so expensive. Weight is 270g because of the headband, there is a metal plate for strength and a lot of plastic outside. If they were made now, probably, the headband would be more subtle. The design is more than reliable, if you do not sit on them, they’ll live for a very long time. Design is successful to this day. 32 ohm - impedance.
In addition to differences in color, there are differences in the wire structure: Technics RP-DJ1210 - twisted wire 3m, Technics RP-DJ1200 - straight wire 3m. In all models there is a tight leather bag.
Pressure, sound, reliability designs are excellent. Still, this is a very serious Japanese manufacturer, who will not make a bad product. The weight is 275g, and the size of the cups is slightly larger than those of the leaders, but it will also be convenient for many people. They are good like the previous ones, because they are inexpensive and really undervalued headphones. On the one hand, little is said about them, but on the other hand, the design is not suitable for everyone, for example, this shiny logo on each side shines in vain in our opinion) You can cover it. Twisted non - detachable wire. 38 ohm impedance.
Gradually we turn to more budget and amateur headphones, which are unable to provide extremely high pressure, but within their limits they sound quite clearly and are made with high quality.
And again underestimated headphones from the Japanese - Denon. The pressure, as already known, is not the highest, but the sound is clearer and deeper compared to the representatives below. Weight is about 150g, soft ear pads and cups, moving in all directions, fit your ears perfectly.
Headband is with metal plate and high-quality plastic. The speakers of amateur headphones are less powerful and smaller in size, so the cups are also smaller and it looks much more ergonomic. Judge for yourself about the design, but as far as we can see, everything is in order. Twisted wire goes from one ear. 40 ohm impedance.
Sennheiser HD 25 Light
HD 25 version goes with less powerful speakers and a simplified headband. Two wires, that go separately to each earphone, can cause inconvenience, but the sound quality, lightness (120 g) and convenience make them in demand. Another disadvantage is the long (3 meters) straight wire, which some users have to twist or shorten so that it does not roll on the floor. It would be better to make 1.5 meters and add an extension cord . The design is great. The impedance is 65 Ohms, on miniature players they will not play loud.
Pioneer HDJ-500 / HDJ-700 Series
There is enough pressure and sound quality for professional work, which, apparently, was realized by Pioneer and they also set a low price. The weight is rather low - 195 g. But you need to be careful with them, the design is very shaky, the arms are easy to break. You shouldn’t pull the headphones strongly to the sides before putting them on the head. The main wire is twisted, an additional short one is for portable devices. 45 ohms impedance.
Sound and pressure are at a good level. The weight is little, only 210g, headband is with a metal plate, seemingly high-quality plastic. And here is a reasonable price too. The design is good and does not resemble others, a sort of minimalistic shape of a hockey puck, it may be very suitable for someone, in any case they ergonomically fit heads. It was probably a mistake to put them with Tiesto brand, since this “musician” is not the idol of many DJs. Twisted long wire 1.2 - 5 m. Resistance is 32 Ohms. As for strength and reliability, we don’t know. Who uses more than half a year? Please write your comments how you feel.
AIAIAI TMA-2 All-Round Preset
The sound is satisfactory, but the pressure is low. Considering that the ear pads are velour and thin - the soundproofing is not very good. Therefore, for professional work in conditions of great noise they will not be convenient. They are made for cafes and bars, home events. They fit well, light - 160g, comfortable, durable branded plastic. Design is super as always by the Danes AIAIAI. Resistance is 34 ohms, suitable for portable devices.
AKG K 81 DJ / AKG K 518
The only headphones , that are close to the professional ones in pressure and sound quality. Weight 150g seems to be light and convenient, but it strongly puts pressure on the ears of an adult. We know that many people buy these earphones when they start practising DJing. Dual wire to each headset is also inconvenient, like in the Sennheiser HD 25 SPII, it’s a great budget option in many other aspects.
32 ohms impedance.
Probably the leader from the most budget category. If you are satisfied with the design and you have only a couple of thousand dollars, then it is worth looking at them. Their parameters are not high, but balanced, and headphones are suitable for amateur work and listening. Sennheiser declares them as DJs’ too, and it's not in their style to make a thing that sucks. Weight - 200g. 32 ohms impedance.
Dear readers and colleagues, I would like to add or change this guide in the right direction with your participation. We hope that your comments below will allow us to do this. Offer your headphones for a specific position in the guide or other amendments.
What other headphones are worth seeing?
We didn’t include some good headphones here, because they don’t fit everyone. These are quite large and heavy cups of headphones Audio-Technica ATH-PRO500, Audio-Technica ATH-PRO700, Technics RP-DH1200, Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro, which look like real cups from the kitchen on your head. We exaggerate :)
Pioneer HDJ-1500 and Allen & Heath Xone: XD2-53 are not comprised for cutting low-pitched sound at high frequencies.
There are no Zomo and Ultrasone headphones due to their unsuccessful design. Despite very high sound quality in Ultrasone and the good quality / price ratio of Zomo.
We didn’t include in the guide headphones of the brands Reloop, Numark, Stanton and Behringer for their striving, on the one hand, to reduce production costs due to cheap materials and components and, on the other hand, to try to make an “attractive” design and increase the cost of sales. Or in other words - for trying to make money on inexperienced users.
Behringer’s attempt to surprise everyone with a beautiful picture and a copied design is not new. Almost all of their headphones are just a dump for sound quality, design and materials. Stanton and Numark are more or less tolerable, but like Reloop they set high prices for their very simple product.
We remind you of the only “designer” of headphones from the Danish brand AIAIAI. AIAIAI TMA-2 is a whole family of components from which you “assemble” your own model. There are ready-made optimal solutions - “presets”. We’ll talk about them and about all the components in detail in this article.
Let’s recall another series of 2014 Sennheiser HD6, HD7, HD8. You should pay attention to them, now those are one of the best headphones with closing cups.
There are a lot of headphones, that are good in sound pressure for comfortable DJing. This can be a variety of headphones for the record player or home use, but they are not suitable for working in the club. You can visit the "Street and House" section and have a look at such models there.