There’s lots of choice in DJ headphones, especially at the budget-to-mid part of the market. Nowadays it is possible to find headphones that look similar to the pro models costing US$200 or more, but for well under US$100. That’s where the budget Numark Red Wave headphones fit it. To the untrained eye, they look no different to many far more expensive pairs.
Big, bold (they’re red, silver and shiny gloss black) and with a number of features that should appeal directly to many types of DJ, these therefore appear to be a good contender for those who can’t afford one of the higher-end models. Let’s take a closer look.
Unboxing and first impressions
In the box is the headset itself (folded into moulded plastic), plus a box containing “cable and accessories” – that means the cable and a standard soft carrying bag.
The cable is straight (ie not coiled) and is detachable, with an 1/8″ TRS on one end and a dual 1/4″ and 1/8″ TRS on the other, so it will work with MP3 players and their smaller headphones sockets as well as with DJ gear.
I’d rather have seen a coiled cable. Coiled cables are great for DJing…
The cable is plenty long enough, roughly eight foot at a guess. However, the end that plugs into the headphones is moulded to fit snugly in a certain way, meaning that while there’s no chance it would accidentally come out, it can be set to come out if yanked hard – probably a good thing, because that means if someone trips on your cable while you’re playing, it’ll pull out rather than snap or break. Alternatively, a quick twist and it’ll stay in no matter how hard you pull on it.
I’d rather have seen a coiled cable. Coiled cables are great for DJing because when you’re stood right by your gear, they coil up and don’t get under your feet, but they still give you the option to walk away from the equipment without removing your headphones should you wish.
The headphones feel quite light for the size. The headband is bendy steel covered with grey and red plastic padding that’s stitched on.
The earcups and swivel connectors are in moulded silver-effect plastic, similar to the Sony MDR-700s in look although functioning in a slightly different way. The earcups have striking brushed silver Numark jogwheel logos on a black background, a gloss black plastic ring around the back, the ear-side section being stitched black leather with a red detail. The internal covers for the 50mm drivers are padded.
The earcups tuck up into the headphones for transporting, can fold 180 degrees vertically to point outwards for single-ear monitoring, and they also swivel 90 degrees backwards.
The quality is as you might expect for phones in this price range – there is a lot of silver plastic, but there are also some nice details, and the leather – while certainly not the quality of the best DJ headphones – is OK.
They are comfortable to wear, with a good two inches of adjustment possible on each side to fit your head. While the ‘phones apply reasonable pressure to the ears, this is countered by the soft and comfortable earcups, and also bodes well for proper isolation from outside noise in use.
I tested the headphones in our studio using the Novation Twitch, a controller not known for its loud headphones output. I used a 320kbps MP3 of the track Garden by Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – a warm-sounding house track – as my test music.
Compared to the Xone XD-40s, the sound was fuller and the isolation from the outside world more complete. The Xones sounded punchier, with the Numark headphones having a more muted, comfortable sound. With their bigger earcups and superior padding, the Red Waves were also more comfortable.
Compared to the Reloops, the Red Wave headphones had similar sounding mids and highs (ie a little tailed off and muted, but still with enough clarity for easy manual beatmatching), but the bass response on the Reloops was truer. The bass sounded boomier on the Red Waves compared to a more natural sounding bass response from the Reloops. Both felt equally good regarding how well they isolated the outside world, but the Reloops had softer, superior leather and stronger, higher quality hinges.
The Numark Red Waves look striking (you’ll either love them or hate them, but if you have say the NS6 or the NS7, or even the Vestax Typhoon, they’ll match up pretty nicely with your gear), are comfortable to wear, and sound OK for the price. They are sensitive enough to give you decent volume, and isolated enough for you hopefully to never need to turn everything up to 10.
They offer good value, and would be fine for home use and occasional public gigs.
I’d have preferred a coiled cable, and for me there’s a question mark over how strong the hinges are (this is always a weak spot with headphones and I’ve broken a few pairs with a similar design of hinge in my time).
Overall, they offer good value, and would be good for home use and occasional public gigs. If you were playing night after night with them I think you’d end up accidentally breaking them in the end, but you can’t expect true pro quality at this price.
For what you pay, they’re a decent set of semi-pro DJ headphones and a step up from smaller-drivered and cheaper phones.
- Striking looks
- Detachable cable
- Mids and highs clear but not harsh
We don’t like:
- Straight cable (coiled would be better)
- Plastic swivels are a weak spot
- Bass is a little boomy
What do you think?
Have you got or are you considering the Numark Red Wave headphones? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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