There’s no doubt about it, to be a DJ in a club you have to look cool and there’s not better way than owning a pair of of the best headphones for the job. That can mean wearing an all-black outfit, graphic but stylish t-shirts, funky hats or wild hair colors. But headphones are the one constant that makes a DJ stand out from the crowd.
The best DJ headphones are definitely stylish, but that’s not the reason DJs wear them. A major part of the job (other than choosing the right music to keep the crowd going) is to create perfect mixes; it’s nothing like the technical work most radio disc jockeys do, which primarily involves hitting a button to start the next song. A talented DJ will be listening to his next record while the current one is playing, so he (or she) can pick the exact moment when the beats and tempos match and then “cross-fade” them perfectly.
Beginning DJs might be tempted to save a little money and just use the same headphones they use at home or while running, but that’s a big mistake. Consumer phones are designed to produce the most enjoyable audio experience for the wearer; that might mean one thing for bassheads and something completely different for audiophiles who want perfect sound reproduction. In either case, that’s not what DJs need. And many who listen critically to their music or spend a lot of time in noisy environments opt for noise-cancelling headphones, but that’s a very bad feature to have when you’re spinning in a club since you need a sense of what’s going on around you.
Above all else, headphones designed for those who are mixing records must deliver the best-possible deep lows and crisp highs. The reason is simple: dance music mixes require the DJ to match elements like the bass line and the highs of snares and cymbals, making completely accurate mid-ranges and vocals much less important than the quality of the highs and lows. You also need comfortable (because you’ll be wearing them all night), loud (because you’ll be in the middle of a club) and durable (because they’ll take a lot of abuse when you’re behind the turntables)
headphones – meaning you can’t grab any set of cans you have at home. You need the best specialty phones you can afford.
We’ve sorted through the options to come up with the five best DJ headphones, with several somewhat-expensive choices for professional DJs and a few that are price-friendlier for those just DJing for friends or for fun.
The Best DJ Headphones Of 2020
The Pioneer HDJ-2000 and HDJ2000-K phones have been a DJ standard for quite some time, and this updated model looks better, sounds better and feels better than ever.
We’ll deal with the aesthetics first; the MK2-S version looks sleeker and more modern than its predecessors, with the headphones no longer featuring by the name “Pioneer” plastered all over them. The construction of these cans has also been altered to make them more flexible and useful; the cups are attached to lightweight magnesium alloy double hinges so they can rotate 270° and swivel 90°. That’s a perfect construction for dual or single-ear listening, or for making regular comfort adjustments without eventually breaking. The headband is shaped differently than on most phones, oval rather than round, so it adapts to the head’s contours more naturally. These Pioneers also feature new memory foam pads with leather backings to look impressive on the outside, feel comfortable on the inside, and perform a technical function we’ll discuss momentarily.
Now for the sound, which is terrific. There are 50mm dome speaker drivers in each cup along with CCA voice coils, and the combination produces tight and accurate bass reproduction without being overpowering, along with crisp and clean highs – the two elements you need most when DJing. Their power output is strong and you can get great levels from them, and the audio quality won’t degrade as the sound gets louder.
One other improved feature in the MK2-S cans is the noise isolation provided by the memory foam pads we mentioned a moment ago. Noise isolation is not the same as noise cancelling; you can still hear the outside world when wearing the new HDJ-2000s. But they block a lot of the ambient noise that normally forces you to crank your phones way, way up. In other words, you’ll be able to hear what you’re trying to preview or mix – with great quality – without risking permanent damage to your hearing. If you’ve spent any time DJing, you know exactly what we’re talking about and why that’s a real benefit.
These cans are durable and we believe they’re the best DJ headphones for comfort and sound. They cost a few hundred dollars and are the second-most expensive model on our list, but they’re worth paying extra.
Those who’ve spent any time in the audio or broadcast industry swear by Sennheisers for good reason. HD25s originally hit the market more than 25 years ago and just keep getting better; if you head out to a club or music festival, chances are better than 50-50 that any DJ you check out will be sporting a pair of HD25s.
These cans are, in many ways, exactly what you’d expect from Sennheiser. They’re not flashy, while they rotate so you can listen with just one ear they don’t fold up or swivel, and they’re not going to survive being run over by a truck. What they are is lightweight and comfortable, extremely durable and well-built considering their mostly-plastic construction, and capable of delivering incredibly clear and tight sound for live mixing. (Don’t be concerned about the “plastic” part, because any experienced Sennheiser user will tell you that the manufacturing quality of the company’s products is impeccable.)
As with any great set of DJ headphones, you won’t be blown right onto the dance floor by throbbing bass when you turn up the levels; the lows are clear, punchy and exactly what you need to seamlessly mix one track with the next. That’s not at the expense of the mids and highs, however, which are clean and precise even at high volumes. Because the HD25-1 IIs are so light you can wear them for hours without fatigue, but what’s even more impressive is the noise isolation that rivals or beats just about any closed headphones you might own. We don’t know how they do it, but they do.
This iteration of the HD25s sells in the same price range as the Pioneer Pros. They each have their advantages; the Pioneers have a greater frequency response range while the Sennheisers can pump out more power, for example – but you won’t regret choosing either one.
V-Moda doesn’t have the pedigree of Pioneer or Sennheiser, but has been making some great headphones over the ten years it’s been in business. Many will tell you that the company’s XS headphones produce clearer and better-balanced sound, and they’re probably right. But the Crossfade LP2s are definitely better suited for DJ use.
These are marketed as having “military grade” construction and they are indeed tough and well-built, although they weigh only nine ounces even with 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers inside. They’re comfortable (with memory foam and a flex-steel headband that can be bent to just about any angle) and distinctive-looking as well, thanks to the six-sided metal shields on the cups that are available in ten colors (and can be laser-engraved if desired).
We mentioned that the Crossfades are a better choice than the V-Moda XS for DJing, and that’s because of their audio profile. The bass is louder but not objectionable and the highs are crisp and clear while the mids take a back seat, exactly what you need for perfect mixes. Noise isolation isn’t quite as good as with the phones listed above but it’s still decent. There’s a second cable with a mic and remote if you prefer to use these cans for casual listening rather than while spinning in a club, but that’s not really their strength. They’re better for DJ use and we think they’re the best DJ headphones in their price range, about half of what you’d spend on our first two choices.
Beats. But if you’re looking for a set of black, white or red cans that will definitely blast the bass while the Beats logo shouts “cool” at the crowds (the crowds who are impressed by that sort of thing, of course), you may find these worth the $400 or so you’ll have to pay for them.
For that kind of money you’d expect the Pro Over-Ears to be solid and durable and they are, made with an aluminum gunmetal frame and overstuffed synthetic leather flip-up and pivoting cups that create very good noise isolation. The bass is big, boomy and loud – as you’d expect, since these are Beats – but the highs are also clear and accurate, giving you all you need for quality mixes. There’s also a second cable with mic/remote.
Don’t get us wrong, the Beats Pros are very good and belong on a list of the best DJ headphones. We just think they’re somewhat overpriced for those who don’t care about the brand name.
We close with a suggestion for those spinning at home parties, small gigs – or in their bedroom. These Numark phones have many of the features you’ll eventually want in higher-end cans, but you can pick them up for less than $100. These are a spiffed-up version of the company’s Red Wave phones with a sharp carbon fiber look.
It’s unusual to find less-expensive DJ headphones that are strong and durable with 50mm drivers, voice coils and neodymium magnets. But that describes the Red Wave Carbon phones, which also have comfortable synthetic leather padding on the swivel cups and a flexible headband. The sound isn’t as authentic as with our other reviewed products; the bass is loud but a little distorted at high levels and the highs are somewhat buried as a result. For beginners or those doing casual mixing, however, the Numarks provide good quality at a great price.