One of the most important pieces of gear for a DJ is a good set of headphones. Many beginner DJ’s start by getting a midi controller, but wait with getting a headset or try mixing without a headset at all. Headphones are often the last thing a new DJ gets. Often the piece of gear even an experienced mixer spends the least money on. They overlook that a good set of headphones is crucial to a good performance and mixing as a DJ. Using headphones to pre-listening to your mix and for cuing up tracks are essential parts of being a DJ. And having a good set of headphones will allow you to make better mixes.
There are tons of headphones on the market. From cheap earbuds and headsets that often come free with consumer audio gear and even cell phones, to relative cheap headphones meant for listening to mp3 players and home stereos or PC’s . The latter are often with quite a low dynamic range with a bass enhancer or bass boost. This kind of headphones can even be an advantage for beginner DJ’s, (that mix solely by listening to bass beat). It’s a good idea to consider a more pro set of headphones for the long run.
This is a question often asked on different DJ forums. While the topic of what brand or model is the best is a subject of discussion between DJ’s; there are a few things most pro working DJ’s agree on when it comes to finding a good pair of headphones. It’s important to point out that what headphones one prefers is a subjective and comes down to personal preferences. However; there are a few things that good headphones should have in common.
First, it should of course produce good sound. Obviously, you need your headphones to sound good, especially when reproducing highs and lows since this will greatly assist you with your beat matching, and better aid you to harmonic mixing. It’s important that the reproduction of the sound feels natural and has a good range. Bass boost will only serve to corrupt the sound for experienced DJ’s and make it harder to do a good blend. A good DJ headphone should have a relatively flat and natural sound.
Quality is also important. Let’s face it, DJ headphones have a hard life. They get twisted around your head, shoved in bags, dropped, pulled hard by the cable and pull on and off very quickly. If quality of the headphones is not good they will not last very long regardless of how good they sound. They should be durable enough to withstand the “abuse” of a working DJ. Mobile and touring DJ’s especially need a headphone that can take a little beating.
A DJ uses his headphones a lot, and for long hours so it is important that the headphones feel comfortable to wear. It should not be too heavy, and it should have a comfortable headband, padded closed ear cups and a good long cord to allow you to move around without pulling out the headphone plug from your mixer. It’s important that the ear cups provide good isolation. Your headphones need to block out surrounding noise so your can hear what is going on inside them. This is one of the key features of a pair of DJ headphones as apposed to cheaper consumer headphones. If you end up DJing for a long period of time, you’ll be wearing your headphones for much of that time making comfort important both for body and ears, otherwise you may end up with a sore head.
Good DJ headphones resemble studio headphones in many ways, and produce a more natural sound and dynamic range than cheaper consumer headphones. You’ll find lesser bass boost and more hifi sound definition with good isolation (keeping outside noise out). To an experienced mixer this is golden allowing for a more precisely adjusted EQ to avoid sour clashes, and better harmonic feel in the mix. Such headphones naturally cost more than the consumer ones, but the investment in durability makes worth it.
If you are a club DJ, the headphones should also allow you pre-listen at a louder volume without the sound saturating; a problem for many cheaper headphones.
It is strongly recommended to try before you buy at a DJ store. Check to see if the headphones feel comfortable and right for you.