We Review The Best Headphones for DJs

You see it all the time: DJs holding headphones against their head as they do magic on the mixer to drive the crowd wild.

How Do DJs Use Headphones?

It seems like headphones are an essential DJ item, but, what do they use them for?

It turns out that DJs use their headphones to listen the next track they will play. This is called “cue” or “pre-fader listen” and it helps a DJ select a track and match its beat to the track that is playing through the PA.

In other words, the headphone pre-listen gives the DJ a way to listen to a track “in private” to prepare it to mix it in.

‘Ok, so if I want to be a DJ, what do I have to look for when checking out headphones? And what are the best?’ You may be thinking. Since we are here to help, we created a list of the best headphones for the aspiring and experienced DJ alike.

Since headphones have several uses that range from the studio to the booth, there are different designs that manufacturers can apply.

Open-Back vs. Closed-Back

A main feature of booth-friendly headphones is that they are closed-back, meaning that the design was made to isolate from the outside sound as much as possible.

This makes sense if you consider the loudness and noise present in a booth or electronic music stage.

Headphones that are more studio-oriented tend to be open-back, which makes them a bit more comfortable for long sessions and give them a more “natural” sound, not so isolated from the environment.

Rotatable Ear Cups

DJ headphones are often ergonomically optimized for listening through one ear only.

This is extremely important since it allows you to keep an eye (or ear!) on the current track playing through the PA and the crowd.

Booth headphones should allow you to do this in several positions, holding one earcup against your ear with your hand or keeping it in position with your shoulder.

The Right Sound

It’s not enough for DJ headphones to just sound good, they need to have a special sound.

Since they are your preview device to your next track, they must allow you to hear every component of it.

And they need to do it in a noisy environment, so they need to sound loud!

Having said all this, let’s get to it and talk about the best headphones for DJing…


Monoprice 8323

Feature Pick

Monoprice Premium Hi-Fi Dj Style Over The Ear Professional Headphones – Black With Microphone For Studio Pc Apple Iphone Ipod Android Smartphone Samsung Galaxy Tablets Mp3

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The Monoprice 8323 are dirt cheap. But can good can they be for DJing, sitting in the $20-$30 price range??!!

Turns out that pretty good! For starters, their ear cups can rotate, which is pretty comfortable to use them on one ear. Also, you can fold them to put them away, which make them pretty comfortable to carry in a back-pack along with the rest of your gear.

The build quality is decent: Nothing out of the ordinary but despite being made of light plastic, they seem like they can endure the usual DJ treatment.

Sound quality on the Monoprice 8323 is decent, I mean, we’re talking about 30 dollar headphones! Highs could be a little more sculpted and refined, but general frequency response plus good noise isolation, make them good company for the booth.

All in all, a good pair of headphones to get started with your DJ carreer and not worrying about having to upgrade for some time!

Commonly asked questions about the Monoprice 8323

How are these headphones for noise cancellation / sound isolation?

They do a pretty good job, although not 100%.  There is less noise cancellation in the bass frequency end, than in the treble end of things.  In other words, it’s better at blocking out treble.

Would a true audiophile be satisfied with these?

Maybe not, but they’re still a great set of headphones for the price.  If you’re a discriminating listener with audiophile level hearing, buying under $30 headphones maybe it’s the best option for you, since presumably the rest of your gear would be top tier.

Are these headphones good for other purposes, ie. gaming and other types of music?

Lots of people use these headphones for gaming, and on all manner of other devices.  If you’re missing some little piece, many people have been known to mod these headphones until they work perfectly for the task at hand.


Shure SE215

Feature Pick

Shure Se215-K Sound Isolating Earphones With Single Dynamic Microdriver

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Moving up in the price/quality scale we have the Shure SE215, in the $90 – $ 100 range.

What sets these guys apart is that they are in-ear headphones, or more appropriately, earphones. Right now, you are probably thinking about the little crappy stock earbuds that come with smartphones and thinking “why the hell would I want to DJ with that?!”. But bear with me!

These are not regular cheap earbuds, but instead, the Shure SE215 have a little soft plastic part that sits comfortably inside your ear canal, providing much better noise isolation and reducing the need for high volumes.

Since they are a bit bigger than earbuds, their design is made to wrap around the upper part of your ear, instead of hanging freely.

This makes for a comfortable DJing use, where you could leave one of these guys on all the time and just boosting up the volume from the mixer when you need to cue a new track.

Sound quality is nice enough for such little earphones, offering a nice frequency response in low and mid frequencies.

Treble frequencies don’t shine much though, since it’s not easy to offer a set of headphones that can really be up for the task of true audio quality in this price range.

The SE215 are mainly marketed as in-ear stage monitors for musicians, a kind of use use that has a lot in common with DJ needs.

If you are up to the challenge of using in-ears, these guys may be the right choice!

Commonly asked questions about the Shure SE215

Is there a warranty with Shure when it comes to these headphones?  If so, how long does it last?

It should be for 2 years, from my experience, and it will be honoured as long as it wasn’t your fault and you didn’t damage them on purpose.

Is there a black case included here?

Yes, the case with the “Shure” logo is included, as well as 3 silicone ear tips, as well as 3 foam ones, plus an earwax cleaning tool.

What’s the durability of the Shure SE215 like?

By all accounts, these are durable headphones with strong cords, and ear hooks.  Not easy to break them unless you somehow go insane and try to smash them.


Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

Feature Pick

Audio-Technica Ath-M50Xbt Wireless Bluetooth Over-Ear Headphones, Black

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Audio-technica has a reputation for creating quality products with very reasonable price tags.

These headphones, sitting in the $150 range, are marketed as an integral solution for all things audio: Take them to the booth, but also use them to track and mix in the studio. That said, how possible is it to deliver as promised on all fronts?

As far as construction quality goes, The ATH-M50X are rugged and seem like they can endure the stage and booth treatment, offering a wide head band and tough looking cups.

Although the cups are big, noise isolation is not as neat as it could be, but it’s possible that this is a trade-off for studio audio quality.

Indeed, when it comes to audio quality, the ATH-M50X offer a different kind of sound than the other headphones: Although they are not super clean and neutral studio headphones, these can be described as DJ headphones that can still be useful for tracking and mixing tasks.

This is interesting and useful for DJs that also produce music, since very few headphone models can boast sounding right for several settings.

Commonly asked questions about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

How is the sound quality of these headphones across various devices?

Depending on the source itself, the sound quality is all around very high quality.  The only thing that will lower the sound quality is the source.  The headphones are set up to process high quality sound, if that’s what you feed into it.

How comfortable are these headphones for wearing with reading glasses over long periods of time?

Users have reported some discomfort over several hours of listening, but generally, these are headphones which will conform to your head without pinching.  You should be fine to wear glasses and use these headphones.

How much noise is cancelled with these headphones?

A fair bit, due to their closed back design.  Although they’re not 100% noise cancelling headphones, most dins, fracases, and melees are effectively blocked out.


Sennheiser HD8 DJ

Feature Pick

Feature Pick

Feature Pick

Feature Pick

Feature Pick

Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

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Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

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Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

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Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

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Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

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Warning: Now entering the $300 tier! As it should be at this price tag, Sennheiser delivers what’s promised:  No nonsense kick-ass DJ headphones.

For starters, they come with a nice soft case that’s very comfortable to carry them around safely, two spare earcup pads and two cables that you can switch around: a coiled cable and a straight longer one.

Build quality is supreme: Being metal the main material (yes, including the headband), they feel like they could last forever.

The cups are elliptical instead of round, which makes them feel really comfortable. The shape and design are very ergonomic and wearing them doesn’t get tiring, even in long sets. Of course, the headphones adapt very well to one-ear use.

In terms of sound quality, the HD8 DJ are excellent: The audio is super clear and defined through all frequencies.

Low frequencies shine: Since it’s easy to lose them in the club context, Sennheiser has gone the extra mile to ensure that you can appreciate the basslines of your tracks correctly.

Noise isolation is greatly achieved, helping you to take care of your ears by reducing the need of high volumes. But, if you ever need to crank them up, the DH8 DJ can achieve high-pressure levels and they will definitely bite back.

There is no doubt that Sennheiser has created a pair of headphones that will deliver what’s promised and last for at least a big chunk of your DJ career. This comes with a price of course, but it’s one definitely worth paying.

Commonly asked questions about the Sennheiser HD8 DJ

Is there any sort of sound bleed with these headphones?  Can people hear what I’m listening to?

No, these are closed back headphones and there’s no bleed, so no one should be able to hear anything, unless you’re DJing with one headphone off.  In that case, yeah, probably.

If the ear cushions get worn down, can I replace them easily?

Yes, replacements can be ordered online.  HD8 ear pads for the win.

I have a giant head.  Will that be a problem?

No, these headphones should fit nicely on your giant head, no problem.


Wrapping Up

Whether you are testing the waters of an aspiring DJ career or if you are looking to raise the bar with your next pair of headphones, we believe this list will serve as a reference of the current DJ headphone market.

The market changes constantly and there are always new releases, so stick around for the next list!

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Headphones Review

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones Review

Today I review the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Headphones, which are headphones that are most often used by audio engineers, pro DJ’s, and high end audio lovers due to their particular design which lends to such work, due to their large-aperature drivers that come with copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils and rare earth magnets.  Fancy stuff!  But it does have a purpose as well.

Of course, if you just love listening to music recreationally, gaming, or you listen to audiophile types of things re-mastered studio albums, or you like to put on binaural beats that are made for long sessions of studying or meditation, then these are other applications these headphones were made to enhance.  More on that in a bit. 

Basically, these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s are purported to be an all-around tour de force when it comes to listening to music or any audio at all really.  Seemed quite promising to me going in!

Album Production 

Personally, reviewing these headphones at this juncture couldn’t be better for me.  Why?  Because it timed perfectly with some recording work I was doing at my studio and I needed a new pair of headphones, so having these available for mixing was perfect, or at least it seemed so a few weeks ago when I got started with what ended up being over 100 hours of mixing.  Here’s a tune I mixed with these headphones recently.

I was looking forward to using these, partly because I expected these headphones to be made for the job, as they’re designed to convey audio from a source to your ears without any manipulation, but also because I would be doing this work for hours and I heard these were comfortable.  So that’s what I’m going to get into first here – are they comfortable?

Comfort, Professional, Portable

Feature Pick

Audio-Technica Ath-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black

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Honestly, I was willing to sacrifice comfort for being able to mix properly if it came to that, but luckily these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s really lived up to their “professional” label, as I was able to hide out in my studio for hours on end, and I wasn’t leaving with a headache due to any discomfort from the headphones. 

I think if you’re going to call something “professional”, you should be able to do your actual profession using the product and have no complaints.  In fact, it should be the opposite – you actually WANT to use the product for that job, because that’s what it was designed for.  This may sound redundant, but I’ve used many products that claim to be professional grade, and they seem about as good or worse than products that don’t make such claims. 

Luckily, these headphones aren’t just called “professional” for nothing.  In all the literature I’ve read on these headphones, they insist that they’re designed for the pros.  Personally, I was able to do up to 4 hours of work at a time wearing these, and I probably could have gone longer, but when it comes to mixing, I find it best to do work in 3-4 hour stints, so that’s when I take the headphones off regardless.  That said, wearing these headphones for 3-4 hours of a time was “like buttah”, if you get that old SNL reference.  If you don’t have time to Google that, it means these are smooth headphones in that they’re very comfortable to wear.

The padding around the ears is super soft and pillow-y, which makes these excellent for the purpose of wearing for long periods, but it does nothing to interfere with the sound whatsoever.  This, in combination with the headband, which doesn’t apply too much pressure on your head, is the perfect recipe for wearing these for longer sessions if you prefer. 

Whether it’s studying, meditating, mixing, listening to podcasts, listening to full albums – I don’t think you’re going to have a problem with these at all.  In addition, the ear cups swivel in whichever direction you please, so that makes them customizable to any shape of head.  I personally have a huge head, so that works for me!  It’s also good for doing single ear mixing, when you’re trying to balance something.  My friend did notice that they put some pressure on her glasses which caused a tiny bit of strain, but she ended up taking the glasses off after a while, which I would also recommend, if you’re just listening.  If you’re reading something at the same time, I can see how this might be a problem.

Also, I should mention that at 953 g, these are super light headphones that aren’t going to drag you down to the ground as you carry them around in your bag.  Which, by the way, these headphones have a cool way of folding up so they’re great for popping into your bag or backpack.

I certainly wouldn’t wear these to the gym or anything, but I’d be tempted to just because of the comfort and the audio quality.  That said, no one wears these types of headphones to the gym that I’ve ever seen.  No one wants to look like a dork at the gym wearing some big honking headphones, and these aren’t exactly hard to notice!  I mean, these headphones aren’t that huge, but I just wouldn’t wear them to the gym, is all.  I have the bluetooth adapter for these, which makes them a lot easier to wear outside, but I still don’t really like wearing them at the gym, or running with these on.  For that I still prefer ear buds.

Audio Justice

One thing I’ve read about these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s is that they sound good on just about any device, and I’d say that’s pretty much true.  But that doesn’t mean that all devices will sound great, since certain devices just aren’t that great to begin with.  So, if you’re plugging these into a Macbook vs. an iPhone, you will get a different result from the same song.  Or a gaming PC, or what-have-you.  It depends on the sound quality of the device as well, ie. sound card.  So, if you’re running your headphones into an adapter, that runs into a pre-amp, that runs into an audio interface, being used on a computer you got out of a dumpster, keep that in mind and don’t necessarily judge the headphones if the audio you’re hearing isn’t up to snuff. 

The main thing about these headphones is that you’re getting the god’s honest truth about what you’re listening to regardless of the device you’re using or the platform.  Certain sound formats will be exposed for the bad audio they are, and certain recordings will show themselves to be inferior, if that’s how they are recorded.  This can be jarring to some folks who are used to hearing their recordings all artifically enhanced by speakers and headphones they’ve used before. 

Budget Vs Expensive Headphones

There is a raging debate about these headphones being sort of mid-range in terms of price, in that you can get cheaper headphones by the same brand like the M40x’s, which are the relatives of the M50x, of course.  You can also go into a higher price range if you are an audiophile with very specific requirements for listening.  That said, these are great because they offer you the comfort (extra padding for this model) as well as the audio clarity and honesty, but for a price that is not too high, if you’re basically investing in a pair of headphones that will last you a long time and excel at multiple applications. 

Bass

One big reason I wanted to try out these headphones is to see how hard it was to mix bass with them.  The problem with some headphones, not to mention monitors, is that bass is often over emphasized.  For instance, on my car stereo, bass is always given a “boost” just because they assume I want it boosted.  I have adjust the bass manually to get it in the right spot.  Same with a lot of headphones I’ve owned – they also give the bass a boost.  These Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s are meant to give you the bass as it is – that is, completely accurate. 

Your average music listener probably isn’t going to be too finicky about the mix of the music they’re hearing, as most people I know just listen to MP3’s, meaning they don’t really care about sound quality all that much to begin with.  That said, that’s not actually true.  Just because you listen to MP3’s doesn’t mean you don’t want quality audio – it probably just means that you don’t know that MP3’s aren’t designed to be high quality, but that is a different discussion.  In any case, the base, as conveyed through these headphones, is very much in it’s own place in the mix, and doesn’t bleed into other frequency ranges.  This makes bass, in particular, very easy to mix with these headphones.  Dig it!

Binaural Beats

As I mentioned earlier, one application that these headphones are great for is listening to binaural beats.  If you’ve never heard of this, we have a great article on this website here you can read about this:

http://youtubemusicsucks.com/brainwave-entrainment-binaural-beats-and-affecting-the-mind-through-music/

Anyway, these ATH-M50’s are actually great for this.  If you want to enhance your meditation practice, or get some serious studying done while listening to the right “waves”, I highly recommend these particular headphones for doing so.

Sound Isolation

athm50x folding headphones

This is a big thing with these headphones, as the advertising emphasizes that these are excellent headphones for sound isolation, owing it to the circumaural design contours.  This is very important for audio mixing, but also for studying, and especially meditating.  Basically what this means is, you can be in a loud environment, and the audio coming through your headphones is all that you can hear.  I agree that these headphones are excellent for this, as I’ve been in loud environments and I can still get things done while wearing these.  It’s actually amazing what sound does NOT get in while you’re wearing these headphones, as people have basically tried to talk to me while I’m wearing them and I can’t hear them at all (thank god). 

On the flip side, people also can’t hear what I’m listening to unless I crank the volume up a bit.  So, if I listen to something with these headphones at a moderate volume, someone near me can’t tell what I’m listening to or really how loud it is.  This is also handy, if you are at a library or in an environment where they want you to be quiet.  The sound will leak out eventually, but not unless you turn it up quite a bit – about 50% or more on various devices I’ve tried.

Conclusion

Yes, these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are all they’re cracked up to be, and more.  For me, they’re great for mixing or doing whatever else that might involve listening, such as meditation.  Sure, I could go for something more pricy that has a few more features, but I think when you include the bluetooth adaptor into this whole package, there’s very little you can’t do with these headphones.  It’s also nice that they offer different colours, and the removable cord is a nice touch as well. I think you’ll love ’em!