A good pair of headphones might be the most important piece of any DJ’s rig. The right headphones allow you to hear your tracks properly when you’re performing, and can be great tools for mixing at home or in the studio. Trying to find the best DJ headphones, however, can be a challenge, especially if you have a limited budget.
What to Look for in a Good Pair of Headphones
Not every pair of headphones is specifically designed for DJ use (in fact, most are not). So how do you know which headphones to look for? Generally, headphones that work well for DJing will have a few things in common. First, they should be closed-back rather than open-back. This shouldn’t be a problem to find, as most headphones (especially those under $150) are designed with closed backs for sound isolation. You’ll also want to look for a comfortable pair of cans, considering you’ll probably be wearing them regularly for long periods of time. Usually, comfort means they sit over your ears, not on top of them (although this depends on your personal preference), and can be adjusted to fit the shape of your head well.
Other factors to consider might be things like durability, portability, and personal style. As far as audio quality goes, that will also depend on your personal preference, but as long as you’re buying a good pair of cans designed for professional use (rather than a $25 pair from Wal-Mart), you should be good to go. With those factors in mind, here are our 5 top choices for the best DJ headphones on the market right now.
Audio Technica ATH-M40x: $100
Audio Technica makes some of the best budget audio gear on the market. With Audio Technica products, you always get a big bang for your buck, so just because these headphones cost $100, that doesn’t mean you’re only getting $100 of quality. The M40x’s provide a flat response, so they can be equally as useful in the studio as they are on stage. As an added bonus, the M40x’s use a replaceable cable, which means you don’t have to throw out the whole set if you end up breaking the cable.
Sony MDR-7506: $100
These headphones are designed for studio and field recording, which means they provide plenty of isolation from outside noises. This will allow you to hear your headphone mix well over your live sound and the noise of the club. These headphones also fold up nicely, and have swiveling earcups, making them a versatile tool that you can easily bring to any gig.
Sennheiser HD 25-SP II: $149.95
Although the HD 25-SP II’s sit on top of your ears, not over them, they’ve actually become some of the most popular headphones for DJs. Diplo even has his own pair of custom designed HD 25’s, which he uses regularly. If you prefer on-ear headphones with a smaller, more lightweight feel, these might be the best DJ headphones for you. And despite their smaller size, they still provide a wide frequency response and clear audio image with plenty of bass.
Sennheiser HD 280 PRO: $92
Another great choice from Sennheiser are the HD 280 PRO’s. Unlike the HD-25’s, these are an over-ear model, which some might find more comfortable. They provide an incredibly flat response, and can be folded and rotated in a number of different ways for a variety of applications. Diplo has also been spotted wearing these cans, and they’re widely used in recording studios, radio stations, and other pro audio settings.
Shure SRH550DJ: $100
As the name implies, these headphones are designed specifically for DJs. Rather than providing a “flat” response like some headphones that are designed more for studio use, the SRH550DJ’s are meant to be used in nightclubs and other live venues. In addition to the high audio quality these headphones provide, you can also be assured that anything made by Shure will be super durable (just think of how much their SM58 microphones get abused and how long they last).
Of course, the choice of what makes the best DJ headphones is entirely subjective, so as long as you find something that’s comfortable and lets you hear what you need to hear, that’s all you need. For more tips on setting up your DJ rig, check out our lessons on what gear to buy. For only $19.95 a month, you can join Spin Academy’s online DJ school and get access to dozens of video gear reviews, plus video lessons everything else you need to know to become a great DJ, like understanding volume and gain structure, or how to master complicated moves like mixing on the half time or live remixing a track.