If you're a seasoned DJ, I'm pretty sure you have long-since decided which are the best DJ headphones for you. I have my firm favourites that's for sure.
But if you're a bit fresher to the DJ scene, choosing the best headphones for DJing can get a bit confusing. There are a hell of lot of options to choose from and the price range is staggering.
When it comes to choosing the best DJ headphones, it's all about cutting-edge technology and innovation in equipment design and functionality. In fact, DJing generally has always embraced advancements in technology and that's not about to change anytime soon.
Choose your headphones carefully.
It's definitely worth taking your time and loading up on information before parting with your cash.
A well bought pair of headphones will reward you many times over.
Best Headphones for Djing
When we talk about what really makes for a pair of great DJ headphones, we are mainly talking about sound quality (there are quite a few different elements that go in to producing great sound quality), noise isolation, comfort and reliability.
Sound quality should never be compromised. The last thing you need as a DJ in a noise club or bar is a set of cans giving you muddy sound.
You want natural sound that is both crisp at the high-end as well as responsive to the type of subsonic bass that electronic music often produces. When checking the midrange you should listen to both male and female vocals to make sure they both sound natural and not over produced.
If you're planning on DJing outside of your own bedroom, owning a pair of headphones with great noise isolation will be important to you. When it comes to DJing, I've never got on with headphones that have an active noise cancellation feature, preferring instead to find those DJ headphones with great passive noise isolation.
With all the technical stuff to consider when buying a new set of DJ headphones, it's easy to overlook the need for comfort. You may well be wearing your chosen cans for two, three or four hours at a time. You'll want something that sits both comfortably over the ear as well as across the top of your head for prolonged periods of time.
When compiling our shortlist of what we consider to be some of the best DJ headphones available right now, it's these key areas of sound quality, noise isolation and comfort that we have mostly focused on.
DJ Headphones Buying Guide: Manufacturers
For pretty much every product out there, you'll tend to find a few big names dominating the marketplace. The DJ headphones market is the same. Every time you do an online search for the best DJ headphones, regardless of how much you vary the wording of your search terms, a handful of names just keep cropping up.
Though each have their own unique designs, the core technology underlying each brand of headphones is pretty similar. But that isn't to say there isn't very significant difference in performance, because there definitely is.
Quality of manufacture and production are key drivers in what makes one set of DJ headphones deliver an altogether different listening experience to another.
And after all is said and done, you may just find that one brand simply make headphones that are just exactly right for you, regardless of what everyone else thinks!
Here's a few of our favourite headphone brands:
Sennheiser: Worn bylive TV sports presenters, TV crews, airline pilots, studio engineers…and DJ's. This is a big name in the world of headphones, and for good reason. These guys have notched up seven decades of studio sound equipment manufacture experience in their pursuit of perfect sound. Their HD 25 cans have been around for ever, undergoing several upgrades along the way, and are loved by DJ's the world over.
Technics: Their name is readily associated with high quality sound equipment for home, studio and live performance. They too have bags of manufacture experience and showcase this through a meticulous attention to detail. The people at Technics have a knack of turning out super-cool looking cans (not that this should be part of your buying criteria) and are another big favourite with DJ's right around the globe.
Audio Technica: Multi-decade experience creating high-performance microphones, headphones, wireless systems, mixers and electronic products for home and professional use. These guys also regularly get chosen to provide the microphones and headphones for globally televised sporting events…a great indicator that both their sound clarity and sound isolation is at the very top-end.
Beyerdynamic: These guys knocked out their first set of cans for serial production in 1937…now that's experience in pretty much anyone's book! Ticking all of the boxes for beautiful sound quality, outstanding sound isolation and comfort, the range of headphones produced is up there with the very best.
DJ Headphones Buying Guide: Key Specifications
Browsing for the best DJ headphones can be an intimidating experience for newer DJ's who may be a little unfamiliar with the technical jargon that tends to get used on the manufacturer specification sheets. Here's a brief overview of some of the common terms you'll encounter when buying headphones:
Over-Ear (circumaural), On-Ear (supraaural), In-Ear: Over-ear headphones completely enclose or cover the ear. On-ear headphones sit resting against the outer ear. In-ear…I reckon you can probably take a pretty accurate guess at this one.
Open-Back or Closed-Back (sealed): Closed-back headphones are designed to block outside noise using a passive acoustic seal. Open-back headphones have the back of the cups open or vented. This lets more sound out of the headphone and also lets more outside sound into the headphone.
Isolation: How much a pair of headphones eliminate outside noise naturally through their design, fit and manufacture.
Noise Cancellation: How much a pair of headphones eliminate outside noise by employing dedicated active technology within the headphone itself.
Driver: Probably the most important part in a set of headphones. The driver converts an electrical signal into sound pressure that can be heard by the ear, or more simply…sound. Headphone spec sheets will note the diameter of the drivers diaphragm in milli-meters. As a general guide (but definitely not always true), the larger the driver, the better the sound.
Sensitivity and Sound Pressure Level (SPL): These two terms are interchangeable and you may find either on the headphones specification sheet. Very basically, they tell you in decibels (dB) how much volume the headphones can push out.
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): When you push any piece of sound equipment to the point where it's close to it's peak volume level, you expect to start getting some level of distortion. This number is expressed as a percentage and tells you just how much distortion you can expect when the volume is close to its maximum level.
Frequency Response: This is measured and expressed in Hertz, and as a range, on the spec sheet. It's simply the range of frequencies that the headphones can detect and produce from bottom to top…or bass to treble. For example the Sennheiser HD 25 has a Frequency Response of 16 – 22,000 Hz, which I think is a slightly wider range than the human ear.
Impedance: How to explain this clearly? High electrical resistance = high impedance = more power required to drive your headphones. Lower electrical resistance = lower impedance = less power needed to make your headphones work. Most headphones for Djing tend to come in within a range of say 60 – 80 Ohms which is comfortably below the point where you'd need a dedicated amplifier to power your cans.
As you'll be starting to gather, DJ headphone specifications can get complicated and pretty involved.
What we've noted above are really the basics without going into the underlying detail. This should be enough to help you make a better informed decision when buying your new set of cans. But should you be so inclined, and if there's a tech-geek inside you waiting to get out, you should have plenty of fun getting to grips with the physics and electronics that go into producing every set of headphones.
Don't get too obsessed with the specifications when choosing the best DJ headphones for you. Use the numbers as a guide in narrowing down which headphones might be the right ones for you, and what's right for you will depend on a number of things including the type of music you're looking at playing, whether it's very bass heavy etc.
Anyway, this has been great but it's probably time to nail our colours to the mast and tell you which DJ headphones are our personal favourites, and why.
Our Top 5 DJ Headphone Models
Latest fashion and trends, along with the marketing strategies of some manufacturers can make choosing the best headphones for DJing a nightmare for beginners unfamiliar with the some of the technical terms.
But once you scratch the surface, it becomes apparent that as long as you arm yourself with a bit of knowledge around a few key areas, such as sound quality, noise isolation, comfort and reliability, you're pretty well equipped to make a well-informed buying decision.
If you are a beginner, looking at selecting the best DJ headphones you can afford, please don't get dragged into paying attention to hype and looks. None of that stuff will serve you well.
Got Something To Add?
We'd love to hear from you.
If you've used any of the DJ headphones mentioned in this article, please drop a comment in the box below and let us know what you think.
Or, if you own a pair that you think knock all of the above into a cocked-hat and believe to be the best DJ headphones on the market, share your thoughts.