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Not all headphones are created equal, especially if you’re using them to DJ. While there are plenty of decent headphones in the market for casual listeners, the best headphones for DJs are designed to filter out artificial audio enhancements and block out noise, so you can easily and more accurately hear the track you’re cuing up.
“It’s important for DJs to have a reliable pair of headphones so you can hear the next song that you are going to mix in,” explains Hannah Bronfman, the New York-based DJ who’s played everything from fashion weeks to festivals, and opened up for the likes of Ciara and rapper YG. “Being able to hear the beat means that you’ll transition on beat.”
“DJ headphones [also] have the power and noise cancellation to block out very loud audio, so DJs can focus on their own mix,” adds Joe Depace, one half of the Canadian production and DJ duo, Loud Luxury.
While some headphone manufacturers manipulate the audio to say, boost the bass, DJ headphones will typically offer a flatter sound profile, with no sound bias. “You want clean and clear sound,” Bronfman says. That lets you hear the track you’re working with in its most neutral, accurate form. When you’re mixing multiple tracks over each other, you want clarity, to make sure all the beats and melodies blend well together.
DJ headphones are also different from traditional headphones in their construction. “Some DJ headphones are larger and fully encompass the ear, with a thick strap over the top,” Bronfman explains. Look for “closed back headphones,” which seal off more noise than ones with open casing around the ears. The best DJ headphones should also have swiveling ear pads that let you rotate them to be worn on one or both ears at a time. Why do DJs sometimes only wear headphones over one ear? So they can listen to the current track that’s playing through the monitor speakers, while cuing up the next track in their ear pads.
Make sure you’re picking up the most comfortable DJ headphones too. “Make the effort to actually try them on,” Depace says. “How do they feel on you? They should be durable enough to handle the wear and tear of parties and shows.”
While wireless headphones are taking over a larger share of the audio market, a number of musicians, DJs and producers still rely on wired cups that can be plugged into a mixer. We’ve included sets that come with long cables, so you can move around the DJ booth freely without feeling like you’re — literally — tied down. (Note: wireless DJ headphones are slowly entering the market, but when it comes to Bluetooth headphones versus wired headphones for DJs, a wired pair will still be better for consistent connectivity and reducing latency).
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite DJ headphones that all deliver crisp, accurate audio, noise isolation, and comfortable wear all day — and all night — long.
“There’s nothing that makes us happier than seeing people have a good time,” says Depace, “and being the soundtrack to that is the greatest feeling. Still,” he adds, “You can only mix as well as you can hear the mix, so reliable headphones are everything.”
1. V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Over-Ear Noise-Isolating Metal Headphones
Beloved by DJs, musicians and gamers alike, these slick V-MODA headphones win points for clean, detailed levels, an immersive soundstage, and a virtually indestructible design.
V-MODA says it developed these noise-isolating headphones by crowdsourcing hundreds of DJs and audiophiles, to find out what they needed in a pair of industry-ready cups.
The finished product delivers patented 50mm dual diaphragm drivers that clearly separate bass from mids and highs. Levels are cleaner and richer, with more vivid mids, and bass that is crisp and punchy without taking over the track.
The steel frame is lightweight yet durable and V-MODA says its specially-designed “steelflex” headband is virtually indestructible. The hexagonal shape of the pads, meantime, mimics the shape of the area around your ears, minimizing any gaps that could let outside noise seep in.
This set includes two detachable cables and a carrying case.
PROS: Metal headband is stronger and more resistant to wear and tear compared to plastic headbands.
CONS: Some users found the ear pads to be uncomfortable and suggest upgrading to larger cushions.
2. Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone
This popular set of professional headphones delivers natural, balanced sound in a lightweight package that weighs just eight ounces. Unlike headphones designed for casual listening, these reference headphones are designed for DJs and studios, so there is less sound bias; all the levels are delivered in clear, nuanced tones, and bass is never pounding or overpowering. The closed-ear design provides comfort and helps to seal out external noise.
This set includes a nine-foot coiled cable that’s great for DJs or musicians who need to stay plugged in while performing. The headphones fold down when not in use and can be stored in the included carrying case.
PROS: No frills, consistent sound across all levels. Extra-long cable lets you move around while DJing and not be tethered to your deck.
CONS: Some say the faux leather headband cover and ear pads get sweaty if worn for long periods of time.
3. Master & Dynamic MH40 Over-Ear Headphones
Good looks go with good sound in these high-performance headphones from Master & Dynamic, which deliver clean, consistent sound in a premium package.
The MH40 features 45mm neodymium drivers which cast a wider soundstage with warm, generous sound. Bass and mids are well-balanced and highs ring clear, not screechy.
Other features include dual audio ports, an easy-access mute button, removable ear pads and inline microphone. Made from premium materials (think: stainless steel and aluminum frame, leather-wrapped headband and lambskin ear pads), the headphones fold flat for easy storage and travel.
This set includes a protective carrying case, 2.0m cable, 3.5/6.3mm gold-plated adaptor and a leather storage box.
PROS: The memory foam ear pads are comfortable and deliver a snug, noise-isolating fit.
CONS: At 0.8 pounds, these are the heaviest headphones on our list.
4. OneOdio DJ Stereo Monitor Headphones
If you’re looking for a solid beginner pair of headphones, or are a casual DJ/musician who doesn’t want to commit to some of the more premium options just yet, you can’t go wrong with these stereo monitor cups from OneOdio.
Large, 50mm neodymium drivers deliver surprisingly powerful bass and full, even sound. Users say levels are well-defined and vocals aren’t muddled.
What we like: the earcups swivel 90° if you ever want to only listen out of one ear at a time. The extra-long 9.8-foot cord allows flexibility and movement. The set includes a detachable standard-sized 6.3mm plug and a detachable 3.5mm plug.
PROS: Decent sound for the price point. Sleek, minimalist design.
CONS: Professional DJs will want to consider some of the more feature-rich and detailed headphones on our list. Some users say the parts and joints felt cheap.