A reliable set of headphones is a must for any DJ. The quality of your blends and smoothness of your mix will live and die on how well you can hear what’s going on. Thankfully, we’re here to help. In this guide we’ll highlight some of the best DJ headphones on the market today, with options for all styles and budgets.
From premium noise-cancelling models to cheaper, portable options, we’ve rounded up a selection of top-quality headphones which will suit any DJ of any level. Plus, if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve added some useful buying advice at the bottom of the page.
Best DJ headphones: MusicRadar’s Choice
When it comes to the best DJ headphones, Sennheiser’s HD 25s are close to being an ‘industry standard’ – and not without reason. These are brilliant all-rounder headphones at a reasonable price. They boast solid sound that can cut through a busy club environment with a flexible, lightweight design that’s perfect for monitoring in the booth and should hold up to a heavy touring schedule. Most elements of the HD 25s are replaceable too, so a lost ear pad or cracked headband needn’t warrant a whole new set of headphones.
That said, HD 25s are far from being ‘top of the range’ when it comes to their sonic specs. Neither are they the cheapest DJ headphones going. Depending on your personal requirements, your money may be better spent elsewhere.
Special shout to the Campfire Audio Cascade (opens in new tab) which can be used for live performance but are better suited to the studio, where their extra quality and sweet sound rewards the user immensely. They’re expensive, sure, but they sound darn-near perfect to us.
Best DJ headphones: Product guide & reviews
While everyone will have their own personal preferences and tastes, the Sennheiser HD 25 is as close as you’ll find to a universally well-loved set of cans. The HD 25s are designed specifically for monitoring, providing high levels of attenuation over external noise and the ability to cope with extreme volumes with ease.
They feature a rotatable capsule for single-ear listening, and while the leatherette pads aren’t the most comfortable in the world, they certainly perform better than others in the same price bracket.
Read the full Sennheiser HD 25 review
Pioneer DJ’s latest set of headphones take many of the winning design choices from the brand’s more expensive HDJs – see below – and bring them down to a price point to suit beginners and cash-strapped DJs.
While the sonic specs, such as impedance and frequency response, don’t quite match Pioneer’s top-end cans, they’re still very impressive for a set of entry level DJ headphones. Sonically, these outstip many of the more expensive pairs on the market.
The thing we like most about the Cue1s though is their styling. Many budget sets of DJ headphones tend to look cheap and toy-like – HF125s we’re looking at you – but the Cue1s have a stylish and pro-feeling design, which can be customised by purchasing replacement coloured ear pads and cables. The sharp look is matched by some DJ-friendly design touches, such as the lightweight, foldable body and detachable cables.
If you want to go fully wireless, Pioneer also produces a Cue1 BT model offering Bluetooth functionality for around £30/$30 more.
At the top end of the selection today, at least price-wise, sits the Campfire Audio Cascade headphones. While their cost and appearance would indicate you’d want to wrap them in cotton wool, they are extremely well made and deliver outstanding audio results. The Cascades are classed as monitor headphones, so are arguably better suited to studio use where their wide frequency range will ensure mixing and mastering are accurate.
On a design level, the Campfire Audio range are all among the best in class too. Attention to detail is high throughout the range, as evidenced in the sheepskin earpads on the Cascade range and in the custom drivers which deliver the sound. They are expensive, sure, but you certainly get what you pay for here.
While they might look like something from the last century, the Technics RPDJ1210 favour robust design and strong build quality over fancy aesthetic touches. And it’s in the trenches where they excel, with a number of features designed specifically for professional DJ use, as you’d expect from one of the biggest brands in the DJ world.
We like the coiled cable, which means you have more room to roam around the booth, while making them resistant to perspiration – or, sweat proof – means they’re ideal for work in hot, busy venues.
Danish brand AIAIAI delivers a bit of Scandi design flair with its TMA-2 range. The real hook with this range comes in your ability to design your own dream setup. From the types of drivers employed to the headband and cable – everything is up for customising here, depending on your requirements.
There are, however, a selection of models available as ‘presets’ if you’re not interested in the process of choosing your own. One such design is this DJ-centric setup, which is spec’d for powerful, bass-heavy sound and includes a robust, reinforced headband.
Higher up the price range, AIAIAI has also recently released the new TMA-2 Studio Wireless+ headphones, which are created in collaboration with Richie Hawtin. These boast ‘ultra-low latency lossless’ Bluetooth audio, although come in at nearly twice the price of the standard DJ configuration – and we’re not convinced it’s worth shelling out on wireless functionality in the DJ booth.
Audio-Technica is well-respected in the DJ world, and the ATH-M50x’s do a great job of showing why. They’re well-built headphones, for a start, which look like they could survive years of service before they give out. We also liked the over-ear design which, when combined with the closed back, means isolation from external noise is great.
There are a couple of DJ-specific tricks too, like swivelling earcups and interchangeable cables, making for a solid mid-range choice all round.
Read the full Audio Technica ATH-MX50 review
Another big brand in the DJ world, Pioneer has as much heritage as anyone so you’d assume its upper-mid range headphones would be good. You’d be right too! The Pioneer DJ HDJ-X10 are over-ear closed back headphones with what Pioneer claims is the widest frequency range in any DJ-specific headphones. Quite a claim, but we can attest to the great listening experience we had from them. The highs were high, the lows were low, and everything was a balanced and clear as you’d hope.
Pioneer also says the HDJ-X10 were subjected to ‘military grade’ testing while they were being developed, so you’d imagine they’d stand up to small to medium sized venue use pretty well.
Korg’s first entry into the DJ headphone market, the NC-Q1s boast some unique smart features that set them apart from the competition. These are active noise cancelling headphones, and their over-ear cups do an excellent job of blocking out background noise even in a loud environment.
That’s only half the story though; of particular interest is the Smart Monitoring feature, which allows users to de-activate noise cancelling for one or both ears with a quick tap of a button. The idea is to allow DJs to monitor without the need to constantly take off/put on their headphones.
These features work well and the NC-Q1s sound good too. However, they’re inherently more complex in-use than the straightforward passive pairs in this round-up. You could argue that, when you already have a multi-channel mixer and at-least two players to deal with, you probably don’t want to be thinking about your headphones’ noise cancelling too.
The NC-Q1s also require charging to use their active features. While battery life is decent – and they can be used in wired, passive mode when depleted – this does add an extra thing to worry about, particularly for marathon multi-hour sets.
Sitting right at the bottom of the price range we have the Numark HF125s, which can be picked up for a little under $/£20. Cheap must mean rubbish, right? Actually no; these are some of the best-selling DJ headphones on the planet, adding in features like swivel earcups and an extra-long cable to make them an interesting package for any aspiring DJ.
As you’d expect, sound quality isn’t the same as the Campfire Audio set, and they’re not as well made as the Pioneers. But they do the job fine, and as a pair of budget studio headphones set they’re pretty near faultless. As you’d expect, sound quality isn’t the same as the Campfire Audio set, and they’re not as well made as the Pioneers, but as a cheap (or backup) set they’re pretty near faultless.
Rounding off the list is the V-Moda Crossfade 2, which provide a ‘best of both worlds’ approach to headphone monitoring. On one hand, the Crossfades can be wired to provide zero latency feedback, and a wide frequency range, making them ideal for studio work. On the other hand, they boast Bluetooth so can double up as ‘regular’ headphones for the walk to and from the studio. Ideal.
There are specialist headphones on this list which, for a similar price, offer a purer DJ experience, but if versatility is important to you then the V-Moda Crossfade 2 set are superb.
Best DJ headphones: Buying advice
What to look for in the best DJ headphones
Not all headphones are created equal. The qualities that make for a good pair of DJ headphones aren’t necessarily the same as those of a good home-listening pair or a decent set of studio headphones. For listening purposes, it’s often desirable to have a set of cans that will flatter your favourite music, while studio use requires an honest set of headphones that will reveal any flaw or off balance element of your mixdown.
For DJing purposes power is important. You’ll likely be using them in a noisy environment in order to monitor and cue up tracks, so it’s important that they can compete with crowd noise and the backdrop of another track playing over a powerful PA speaker system. Honest, high-quality sound is obviously still desirable, but what’s most important is finding a pair that make it easy to pick out key track elements you’ll rely on when mixing, such as bassy kicks and upper-mid rhythmic elements like snares, claps and hi-hats.
Ultimately though, each individual DJ is different and has their own preferences. It could be that you require something you can throw on and off your head every couple of minutes, relying only on the key frequencies you need to match your beats. Alternatively, you may prefer to keep them on permanently during your set, making comfort a priority.
Should you go wired or wireless?
As with all modern headphones, one question to ask is, should you go wireless? We’d argue against this for most DJs. While latency is becoming less of an issue with modern Bluetooth tech, it’s still a factor, and timing is incredibly important when beatmatching. What’s more, your DJ setup is likely to require you staying within arms reach of a mixer/controller anyway. Unless you’re desperate to dance, thrust or climb your way around the stage during your sets, is it really worth the extra cost of going cable-free?
As with any music tech, there is a big difference in price and quality. You’ll know yourself the budget you have to work with but what we would say is that a quality set of headphones is an important investment. You can get away with cheap models to a point, but nobody who invested in a decent set ever regrets it in the long term.
How we test DJ headphones
Our guide to the best headphones for DJs is based on the experiences of our team of writers and reviewers. What we look for in a set of headphones for DJ use isn’t exactly the same as the way we’d test a set of headphones for studio or home use. Of course, it comes down to sound quality in part; we’ll use each set of headphones to play tracks we know well so we can hear the nuances and differences. In the case of DJ headphones we’ll focus particularly on electronic, pop and dance music.
As much as the sound though, the criteria for testing a set of DJ headphones comes down to how they feel in use. A good pair of cans for mixing need to feel comfortable but reliable. How heavy are they when worn around the neck for long periods? How easy is it to get them on and off your ears when beatmatching? Do they feel sturdy enough to stand up to regular gigging and if anything breaks, how easy are parts to replace?
Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.
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