Best DJ Headphones

| June 3, 2012 | 1 Comment

Welcome to my list of recommendations for DJ headphones.

You might be asking yourself, “What classifies a headphone as a DJ headphone?” It is really just a loose term that applies to headphones with most of the following characteristics:

  • Good isolation so the music comes through clear even in loud environments (this is increased with clamping force and type of ear pad used)
  • Swivel features for one-ear listening
  • Folding features for travel
  • Rugged construction that can withstand abuse
  • Moderate to to high clamping force so that they don’t fall off while DJ’ing
  • Medium to long cable length
Some of these headphones have extra features that cater specifically to DJs, including:
  • Downmixing to mono output for one-ear listening
  • Single-sided cable entry to decrease obstruction
  • Coiled cable

[Disclaimer: these recommendations are not comprehensive. Instead, we have tried to find something for everyone while keeping the lists short. At the same time, this is a living document so let us know what we’re missing!]

In order of increasing price:

Monoprice 8323 – $23 (Over-ear)

The Monoprice 8323 is arguably the best bang/buck headphone on the market today. It is incredibly versatile in terms of usability: it swivels, folds, and comes with two detachable cables: one that is 11.4 ft for DJ or home use, and one that is 4 ft for portable use. Surprisingly and amazingly, the sound can compete with many $100 headphones. The sound signature is warm and dark, with treble that is recessed as to avoid any harshness. [Monoprice 8323 Review | Buy at Monoprice]

 

 

AKG K81DJ aka K518DJ – $45 (On-ear)

The AKG K518 takes the portability crown of the headphones on this list thanks to AKG’s “3D-Axis” system which allows them to fold up in several unconventional ways. The sound signature is dark but the strong, rich bass does not overpower the the mids and highs. Clamping force is significant, but this results in top notch isolation and a very secure fit. The K518DJ is a very fun headphone to listen to and you get way more than your moneys worth if you can find it for under $50. Worth noting is the K518LE which is the consumer version which comes with many color options and a shorter cable. [AKG K81DJ / K518DJ Review | Buy at Amazon]

 

Sony MDR-V6 – $75 (Over-ear)

The V6 is a true “do-it-all” headphone. It performs admirably in the studio, is rugged enough for a DJ to take on the road, and has a fun enough sound to be used for casual listening. It lacks the bells and whistles of some of the more expensive headphones, but that is also reflected in the price. It has hard to be disappointed in the V6 since it offers a revealing, close to neutral sound with a nice boost in the bass. Isolation and comfort are both very good, and it does have a few nice features: a foldable design, coiled single-sided cable, and tilting cups. [Buy at Amazon]

 

Ultrasone DJ1 / DJ1 Pro – $115 / $145 (Over-ear)

The Ultrasone DJ1 is the same exact headphone as the Ultrasone HFI-580 but with a different paint job and a longer cable. It packs more bass punch than any other headphone on this list but the overall sound is not stereotypical bass-head. The bass is very powerful, but the frequency response is V-shaped meaning both the bass and treble are emphasized more than the mid-range. This generally makes for an energetic headphone, and in the DJ1 is no exception. It is a pretty revealing headphone especially in the treble, but some might find it harsh (hard to say without trying it yourself). The Pro version is the same headphone, but it comes with a hard case and  and a pair of straight/coiled detachable cables (the standard version is not detachable). [Buy at Amazon]

Audio Technica ATH M50 / M50S – $150 (Over-ear)

The M50 is a total package DJ headphone: solid build quality, good comfort and isolation, a forward and engaging sound, and folding/swivel features. The frequency response is just slightly V-shaped, which emphasizes the firm, well-defined bass and the clear, sparkly treble. For some reason have a reputation as having very powerful bass, but they are far from bass-head cans. The bass makes itself very evident but it does not step out of line.  The only difference between the M50 and M50S is the cable used: the standard version comes with a coiled cable, while the S version comes with a straight cable. [Buy at Amazon]

 

Sennheiser HD-25-1 II – $200 (On-ear)

The gold standard of DJ headphones. The HD-25-1 has been around for over 20 years but still carries one of the highest reputations among all DJ/portable headphones, and rightly so. It leads the pack in isolation, delivers a very well-rounded and highly technical sound, and pairs well with all genres. The soundstage is rather small, but it more than makes up for it as an overall package. Though it lacks folding capabilities, you will have no hesitation to stuff the HD-25 in your bag and be on your way; the HD-25 is famous for its supreme ruggedness. There are also some amazing customization options out there. [Sennheiser HD-25-1 II Review | Buy at Amazon]

 

AIAIAI TMA-1 – $200 (On-ear)

The TMA-1 was designed specifically as a techno/electronica DJ headphone but is actually quite versatile in terms of genre pairing. The black matte brand-less finish makes for an undeniably classy look (and there are some color variations). The sound signature is dark, with the bass being given a clear boost. The quality of the bass is very good: full-bodied with strong impact. It does not reach bass-head status but maintains better resolution because of it. The mids are thick and lush, and the treble is detailed but slightly recessed. Compared to the HD-25-1, soundstage is improved and the mids and treble are less forward. Clamping force is reduced, but this results in less isolation. Overall an excellent headphone – the only genres it doesn’t sound great with are acoustic-based such as classical and jazz. [Buy at Amazon]

Skullcandy Mix Master Mike – $300 (Over-ear)

Skullcandy is a new entrant into the hi-fi market but has made quite a splash with their flagship Mix Masters.  My favorite feature is Cue Control which downmixes the input from stereo to mono whenever one of the ear cups is swiveled. It also comes with a detachable cable that can be plugged into either ear cup. The Mix Master is no slouch in terms of sound either. The presentation is unique compared to most headphones at this price: it is forward and aggressive with strong, punchy bass. The sound matches up very well with modern rock, pop, and hip-hop. They are first and foremost excellent DJ headphones but they deserve consideration from average consumers as well. Still on the fence about dropping $300 on a pair of headphones? Calm yourself. The Mix Masters come with a lifetime warranty. [Skullcandy Mix Master Review | Buy at Amazon]

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Category: Best Headphones

Comments (1)

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  1. rudeboybass says:

    Nice list! Durability seems to be one of the most underrated qualities for proper DJ headphones, but people sometimes seem to forget how much abuse they suffer during a live performance.

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