There are a flood of options to choose from when it comes to DJ headphones. Filtering out all of those options and finding the right set for your needs is vastly important. The right set of headphones are certainly one of the most foundational components in any music-making venture.
Whether you’re a beginner DJ, or an experienced veteran, any good pair of headphones can really improve your quality of life in the studio or on the stage.
How to choose a good pair of DJ headphones
In this guide, I’m striving to help you along on your journey of finding that pair of high quality DJ headphones that’s just right. There are numerous variables that come into play in this research process though. Let’s get into breaking down these factors…
Frequency Response & Sound Definition
It’s incredibly important to seek out a specific type of sound quality in your headphones, especially for DJ use. Let’s break down why this is…
Headphones For Studio Use vs. Live DJ Performances
Contrary to a general pair of headphones meant for studio use, the best DJ headphones require a different frequency response in order to give you the effect that you’re after. In most cases, you’d be looking at a pair of studio headphones for surgical mixing purposes.
Therefore, the desired response of those studio cans (like the Beyerdynamic DT series) would be more of a flat response with as little embellishments across the sonic range as possible. Just to be clear, Beyerdynamic DT series headphones are NOT ideal for DJ use.
That’s not necessarily the case with DJ headphones. An ideal frequency response for this type of use typically consists of an enhanced low-end, clear mids, and vibrant highs. Most importantly the enhanced low-end part.
You’ll definitely want to hear all of what any given song has to offer when you’re performing live in the DJ booth or fine-tuning your set at home. In short, you’re looking for a well balanced sound here.
Best Of Both Worlds
It is also true that some headphones on the market can be good at both studio work and DJing. But, it’s usually a wise decision to have multiple headphones for each specific requirement rather than relying on one pair of DJ headphones to do everything.
Isolation & Open-Back vs. Closed-Back
These are both widely debated topics, but as you’ll soon find out, it’s yet another subjective matter. Let me explain why…
Why Noise-Cancellation Matters For DJ Use
Next, let’s talk about sound isolation. Essentially, we are talking about the difference between open-back and closed-back DJ headphones. This goes back to the last point I made in the previous topic about having multiple headphones for different uses.
Open-back headphones are widely regarded as the best option for mixing and mastering tracks in the studio due to their optimal soundstage.
This is not what you’re looking for in live DJ booth performances though. A pair of closed-back headphones is ideal for taming outside noises in loud environments so you can focus on giving a great performance.
You are an artist after all, and hearing everything you’re doing is the best tool you can have in your arsenal. This transitions into another topic which is the debate between on-ear DJ headphones and over-ear DJ headphones and which is better.
On-Ear Headphones or Over-Ear Headphones: Which Is Better?
In terms of noise cancellation and isolation, over-ear is definitely the better option. Conversely, on-ear headphones are more comfortable than their bulkier over-ear counterparts, but don’t have great noise isolation. There’s no clear cut way to settle this debate considering the fact that it’s almost entirely subjective. It boils down to comfort vs. isolation, it’s that simple. Whichever sounds better for you is all that matters.
Build Quality For Live Performances
This is a big one because of the manner in which these types of DJ headphones are handled. During live performances they will be taken off of your ears repeatedly, you’ll be dancing and grooving to the music, packed in a bag, carried around everywhere, you get my point.
Having a sturdy pair of high quality headphones is a must if you want them to last beyond your first gig. This is another reason why you should have headphones dedicated to both studio and DJing separately. Make sure to check this off the box before pulling the plug.
Features To Keep In Mind For DJ Use
The best DJ headphones out there usually have some very unique features. These aren’t features you would find with most of the other types of headphones.
Swiveling Ear Cups For Easy Monitoring
A notable example would be swiveling cups. This feature will come in handy constantly. If you want the ability to comfortably monitor your live mix in one ear while still hearing all of the finer details of the incoming track in your other ear. Swiveling cups are a must for DJ use and single ear listening.
Collapsible Design For Some Added Portability
Another great feature to keep an eye out for is a collapsible design. This is somewhat self-explanatory, but this helps with transporting all of your gear. The last thing you want is your DJ headphones to be a pain in the neck when you’re packing up your gear. This feature isn’t necessarily the most important thing in the world, but it’s a huge plus when it’s included.
A Variety Of Cables For Any Scenario
The last feature that can make life easier for you is having a variety of cables for your DJ headphones. A long coiled cable is more compact during transport and obviously gives you plenty of range when mixing. Now, for live performance a long straight cable will give you more freedom to move around and less tension.
The Best DJ Headphones 2021 List
Sennheiser HD 25
“The frequency range is solid at 16Hz-22kHz. The low-end is warm and satisfying. These headphones simply have a great sound to them.”
The Sennheiser HD 25 on-ear headphones are a staple amongst DJ’s for a reason. They’re renowned for their incredible well balanced sound quality and durability. The frequency range is solid at 16Hz-22kHz. The low-end is warm and satisfying. These DJ headphones simply sound great.
Sennheiser has made a product in the HD 25’s that can really be a jack of all trades. But, they are especially a great choice for DJs because of the unique features that they have like the swiveling ear cup set and detachable cable.
The included cable is a 10-foot long straight cable, but there is a coiled option available on Sennheisers website. Be aware that the included straight cable is quite thick. Therefore, I would definitely recommend using a rubber band to keep that included cable under control when you’re at home.
Despite the on-ear design of the Sennheiser HD 25 DJ headphones, the isolation is surprisingly good. It’s not quite as good as a closed-back pair of headphones, but it cancels out more outside noise than you’d expect.
It’s worth pointing out that ear pads have a tendency to wear out easily. This is especially true when sweat is involved from heavy use during live performances.
Why These Are My Favorite
Thankfully, there are various ear pad options out there in case you run into this problem. In fact, almost every component of these DJ headphones are replaceable! That’s a big plus in my eyes. It’s a bit of a bummer that these on-ear headphones are not collapsible. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not a huge deal, but it would have been a nice touch.
I’m fairly certain that you’ve heard of these bad boys before. They’re a beloved pair of headphones from one of the most respected manufacturers in the music industry. The Sennheiser HD 25 headphones have been around for a long time, and still stand out above the rest. It’s clear to see why they’re one of the best DJ headphones out there right now.
“The lows are punchy, but not too overemphasized. The mids are clear and separated, and the highs aren’t overpowering. These headphones don’t leave much to be desired in terms of their sound quality.”
The Pioneer HDJ-X7-K Professional DJ headphones are the middle-child of the HDJ-X series. The HDJ X5 are the younger brother. They start at a lower price point, but suffer from a less impressive sound quality, and flimsier build quality.
The HDJ X10 are the older brother to the X7’s, and they are certainly a high-end option that doesn’t come without a hefty price tag. They feature a robust sound definition, and excellent build quality.
The X7 are a perfect mix of it’s two siblings. However, if you have a little cushion, the HDJ X10 are very much worth it.
The sound definition of these headphones is great. The lows are punchy, but not too overemphasized. The mids are clear and separated, and the highs aren’t overpowering. These DJ headphones don’t leave much to be desired in terms of their well balanced sound quality.
The sonic range of these bad boys is amongst the best I’ve seen at 5Hz-30kHz. This ultra-wide range will really allow you to hear everything clearly. It’s quite impressive, especially considering the 50mm drivers on these things are loud and powerful.
The build quality is what you’d expect from Pioneer. They’re Military-Grade headphones passing the MIL-STD-810G shock test, so they’re likely to last a long time. Also, there is a nano coating throughout the headphones that resists sweat and grime. Lastly, every component on these DJ headphones is replaceable, which is always a welcome feature. The ear cups do swivel and they’re also collapsible.
The Pioneer HDJ-X7’s don’t come without some drawbacks. Firstly, the ear pads have an odd shape to them and they’re a little small. I wish Pioneer would’ve made the pads just a tiny-bit bigger because they can get a little uncomfortable after an extended period of time.
Secondly, despite being closed-back, the isolation in loud environments could be better. This could be due to the small pads, but it’s hard to tell what exactly causes this.
In any regard, the isolation isn’t as bad as open-back or some on-ear headphones. Lastly, there are both straight and coiled cables included in the box, but they’re a little shorter then you might need. The included straight cable is 5.2 ft. and the coiled is 3.9 ft. Not terrible, but worth pointing out.
Overall, these Pioneer DJ headphones are a great option from a respectable brand. They have all it takes to suit any DJ’s needs. Plus, those 50mm drivers really punch it. This is why I’ve placed them quite high on my list of best DJ headphones.
Rugged & Durable
V-MODA Crossfade M-100
“The M-100’s are no suckers when it comes to isolation either. They do a wonderful job at cutting out outside noises in virtually any environment you could think of. They have an outstanding frequency response of 5Hz-40kHz as well.”
The V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Noise-Isolating DJ headphones are another prominent name in the DJ headphone field. There are two main reasons why they’re so desirable for both home mixing and live performances.
To start out, the durability of these puppies is insane with its steel frame, SteelFlex headband and 3D mesh exterior. The shields on the exterior of the pads are customizable and interchangeable so you can add your own style.
The included SharePlay cable is also reinforced with Kevlar, and there is a separate coiled option available. These V-MODA headphones are tanks! They are collapsible and most components are replaceable.
The V-MODA Crossfade M-100’s are no suckers when it comes to isolation either. They do a wonderful job at cutting out outside noises in virtually any environment you could think of. They have an outstanding response of 5Hz-40kHz as well.
What’s really a stand-out feature here is the bass separation. V-MODA gave these DJ headphones the ability to truly separate the bass frequencies from the mids and highs, which leads to a concise well balanced sound quality. Also, despite being closed-back, the soundstage on these guys is very wide. These headphones are really transitional and can be used in a variety of ways.
The V-MODA M-100’s aren’t perfect by any means though. They do fit a little tight depending on your individual ear and head sizes. The memory foam pads sound nice, but the shape of the ear cups can be a little awkward for some folks.
To reiterate, this is all entirely dependent on you, and it can be hard to tell if these V-MODA DJ headphones will fit you comfortably without trying them on in person. Honestly, there’s a good chance that you’ll be fine, but there are enough reports of the tight fit that I needed to point it out. There are XL earpads that you can buy separately which seems to help.
Something else that’s annoying about the V-MODA M-100’s is the fact that the cups don’t fully swivel. Most of the best DJ headphones that have this feature will swivel 90°, but V-MODA awkwardly made these sit at about 60° when folded out. This might not be the best for you if you’re looking to comfortably perform your set with one ear monitoring.
There’s not a whole lot to complain about with the V-MODA Crossfade M-100’s, and they have made their stamp on the market for a reason. The true bass separation alone is enough for me to recommend these headphones to any DJ.
Audio Technica ATH-M50x
“There’s a lot that the ATH-M50x’s have to offer, namely the exceptional emphasis on bass frequencies that they have. The frequency response is a tight 15Hz-28kHz, and the mids are clean.”
The Audio Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor headphones are probably the most recognizable set out there. They’re used for anything and everything in the music world, but you mainly expect to find them in the studio. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t desirable as DJ headphones though.
There’s a lot that the Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones have to offer, namely the exceptional emphasis on bass frequencies that they have. The response is a tight 15Hz-28kHz, and the mids are clean. Overall, the sound definition is good, except for the high-ends which we’ll get into later.
The Audio Technica ATH-M50x’s do feature a collapsible design, and the cups swivel 90°. Both of those features are usually found in dedicated DJ headphones, so that’s a plus. There are also straight and coiled cables included, which is great. The cables are detachable and are a decent length.
The earpads are surprisingly comfortable for extended use, and the isolation is about as good as you’d expect from a pair of closed-back cans. The Audio Technica ATH-M50x’s check off most of the boxes. It’s clear to see why they’re such a beloved pair of headphones.
One of main problems with these headphones is the high-ends, which are not represented very well for DJ headphone use. This shouldn’t be a huge issue considering the rest of the sound definition is good, but it’s worth keeping in mind when mixing your set.
So, the Audio Technica ATH-M50x’s are made almost entirely with plastic. They feel tough overall, but they do have a tendency to wear out over time. The pads and headband can start peeling from sweat and grime. It might be a good idea to leave these guys at home from time to time.
What can I really say that’s bad about the Audio Technica ATH-M50x? They’re an important set of headphones to have in any musicians toolbox. They’re some of the best headphones on the market for almost any use. They are versatile and reliable with a sound-quality that’s undeniable. I’m happy to see them gain influence as some of the best DJ headphones, hence why I’ve included them on my list.
“The MDR7506’s have neodymium magnets in conjunction with 40mm drivers that push out a loud and powerful sound. The frequency response is a solid 10Hz-20kHz with a wonderful emphasis on mids and highs.”
The Sony MDR7506 Professional Diaphragm headphones have pretty much been around since dinosaurs were still walking the earth. Over the years, they have seen extensive use from radio broadcasters, tv stations, music studios and even DJ booths. These are some of the most widely used headphones around.
To this day, they still have a huge impact. The main reason for this is due to the fact that they have an audio quality that you can’t really find elsewhere, it’s really a unique listening experience. Also, they have a value that’s unprecedented for their price tag.
The MDR7506’s have neodymium magnets in conjunction with 40mm drivers that push out a loud and powerful sound. The frequency response is a solid 10Hz-20kHz with a wonderful emphasis on mids and highs.
Everything in those ranges sounds crisp and clear, which is a sound that any musician will fall in love with. The low-ends are a little underrepresented compared to many studio headphones, but it’s by no means a hindrance on how great these things sound. This fact alone might explain their popularity as DJ headphones.
If you’re looking for punchy bass, I’d say you should look at a different set of headphones though. The cups do swivel, though it’s not quite 90°, and the frame is collapsible. You’d also be surprised at how tough they are even though they’re predominantly plastic.
The included coiled cable is 9.8 ft. long giving you some room to move around. The MDR7506’s seem great for live performances, but the ear pads aren’t comfortable enough for extended use. These headphones are outstanding for mixing your set at home, however.
That being said, some people love these things so much that they just push past the uncomfortable design. I’ve seen plenty of folks using these things on stage as DJ headphones, so it’s definitely subjective.
The Sony MDR7506 headphones are classic and well renowned. Though they’re not specifically tailored to DJ’s, you can’t count them out that easily. I love these things, and many others do too. The sound definition and versatility are the two main reasons why they’ve gained my recommendation.
Conclusion – The Best DJ Headphones 2020
My favorite DJ headphones are clearly the Sennheiser HD 25‘s. They just do their job so well and they have so many essential features for DJ use. The HD25’s have a sound that’s attractive to pretty much anyone with a comfortable design to boot. The HD 25’s are forever ingrained in this industry as some of the best headphones ever created.
Furthermore, I have a lot of love for all of the headphones on this list. I hope this guide has given you some insight. Make sure to keep those key factors we talked about in mind. I wish you luck in finding the best DJ headphones for your needs.