Review: 7 Compact Digital DJ Headphones
Digital DJs spinning in bars, lounges, house parties, on beaches, poolside, while travelling (and yes, in the clubs too) have slightly different headphone requirements than “traditional” DJs. The main thing is portability. What’s the point of having the rest of your DJ kit fit in a backpack or your cabin luggage if your ‘phones are the size of industrial ear protectors? Lightweight helps here too, not only for comfort but also to keep carrying easy. Headphones that fold up are a definite plus point, although thin headphones that don’t fold are better than bulky ones that do.
More than just portability…
We couldn’t cover them all, so we chose 7 that we’ve tried, and that interested us enough to write about. The headphones we’ve covered have:
- Different prices – If you’ve saved up €150 for a Mixtrack, are you really going to spend more than that again on a pair of top-of-the-range Sonys or Pioneers? Thought not. There’s something to go with every aspiration and budget here
- Different levels of performance – You don’t need huge isolation and great volume in a pair of headphones you’re going to use to DJ with in a small bar, or on New Year’s Eve at a house party with your Ion Audio iCUE3! But if you play the occasional club, your portable phones must be up to it. We’ve got you covered whatever
- Different styles – There’s nothing wrong with liking what your headphones look like. Whether you want to look like a traditional DJ, like a post-analogue controllerist, or like you’re not even wearing ‘phones, we’ve got something here for you
- Flexibility of use – If a pair of headphones can cleverly serve you on-the-go, at home, for gaming, and for DJing, we like them. Why should you have loads of different headphones in your life? We’ve looked out for universal rather than specialist
AKG K 518 DJ
Foldable: yes; Weight: 0.3lb (150g) not including cable; Carry pouch: yes; Cord: double-sided, straight; Plug: 1/8″ with 1/4″ adaptor
They say: Great sound for small venues. The K 181 DJ’s little brother is playing it big at small clubs and private parties. Obviously, informal parties deserve the same kind of professional sound quality as large-scale events do. Semi-professional DJs need dependable equipment too. The K 518 DJ headphones fit the bill perfectly.
We say: Great value headphones with a real bass thump. Come in a variety of colours so you can match them to your digital DJ kit with ease. Quite tight so not good for big heads or constant use for a long time. Not the best isolation but good enough for their semi-pro purpose. Lightweight, compact, strong.
Foldable: no; Weight: 0.4lb (195g) not including cable; Carry pouch: no; Cord: Single sided, detachable, straight & coiled.; Plug: 1/8″ with 1/4″ adaptor
They say: The HDJ-500 DJ headphones are designed for a flexible DJ lifestyle by adapting to both DJing at home, in the club or auditioning your dance music on the go. 3m cord for DJ use & 1m interchangeable short cord included for listening on the go. Sound engineered to strongly reproduce low and mid level frequencies.
We say: Although these don’t fold we’ve included them because they’re very lightweight, strong, and fashionable enough – especially as they come in a choice of red, white or black – to be your only pair of phones, for use at home, on the go or DJing. The clincher was the TWO detachable cables – a coiled one for DJ use and a short, straight one for on-the-move.
Sennheiser HD25-1 II
Foldable: no; Weight: 0.3lb (140g) not including cable; Carry pouch: yes; Cord: single-sided, straight (coiled also available), detachable; Plug: 1/8″ with 1/4″ adaptor
They say: The closed-back HD 25-1 IIs are purpose-designed, professional monitoring headphones offering high attenuation of background noise. Capable of handling very high sound pressure levels and of extremely robust construction, these headphones perform exceptionally well in high-noise environments. The capsule is rotatable for one-ear listening.
We say: The ultimate “crossover” headphones – like a crossover record, every scene loves them! They’re built like a tank, all parts are replaceable, they’re as small as “real” DJ headphones can be, they won’t break in your travel luggage. The lead is detachable and they’re available with coiled, or straight cable – or buy both. They sound unbeatable, and isolate the outside world really well.
Shure SE-425 CL
Foldable: n/a; Weight: 0.1lb (31g) incl ear pads & box; carry pouch: Yes; Cord: double-sided, straight, detachable; Plug: 1/8″ with 1/4″ adaptor
They say: Award-winning earphones feature sound isolation technology, a variety of cable configurations and unique sound signatures. Featuring Dual High-Definition MicroDrivers, the SE425 uses a dedicated tweeter and woofer for an accurate and balanced sound. Detachable cable with formable wire enables easy replacement and secure, comfortable fit.
We say: These are professional monitoring earphones for use on stage by live musicians and as such are the perfect minimalist DJ’s headphone. It’s a very different way of DJing but some people swear by it. They are great quality and block outside noise excellently too. The ultimate in light-packing and subtlety – great if you don’t want to appear to have headphones on at all.
Foldable: yes; Weight: 0.5lb (200g); Carry pouch: no; Cord: double-sided, straight; Plug: 1/8″
They say: The Skullcandy Lowrider headphones are as loud as they are portable. With 40-millimeter speakers and an ability to fold in half, these headphones are favorites of travelers and athletes alike. The plush, leather wrapped earcups and leather headpads will keep your comfort level at an all time high with your seat back and tray table down or while you’re bumpin’ on the lift. A 47-inch cord gives you the mobility you need.
We say: Not DJ headphones, but cool, funky out-and-about earwear that at a push could double up for impromptu/small-scale gigs, thanks to a 4ft cable and swivelling earcups. Come in a wide range of colours, but not bassy, loud or durable enough for a club/regular DJ. But if you’re on an extreme budget, an iPad or iPhone DJ hustler, or play occasional house or pool parties, you’ll get away with it.
Sony MDR-V500 DJ
Foldable: yes; Weight: 0.5lb (200g); Carry pouch: yes; Cord: single-sided, coiled; Plug: 1/8″ with 1/4″ adaptor
They say: Feel the rhythm with the MDR-V500DJ Studio Monitor Series DJ headphones. Features include swivel earcups for DJ and remix applications, reversible earcups for added flexibility, a supra-aural design for excellent listening comfort, and 40mm diameter driver for high fidelity sound.
We say: A good value full-enclosure DJ headphone. They’re light and compact for this type of design, have a decent 3-way swivel action, but are not as loud as the professional phones and lacking a bit in the bass department. For the semi-pro and for smaller gigs, though, they’re a good choice.
Foldable: yes; Weight: 1lb (0.5kg); Carry pouch: yes; Cord: single-sided, straight; Plug: 1/8″ with 1/4″ adaptor
They say: The RP-DJ1200 headphones from Technics are designed with the professional DJ in mind. The folding design keeps them portable for jumping from gig to gig, and the comfortable adjustable headband and cushioned earcups keep things comfortable. The earcups have swivel capability for single-ear monitoring.
We say: A “traditional” DJ headphone (padded band, heavy-looking drivers, swivel earcups, coiled cable), with great sound quality and isolation for the biggest DJ boxes. But they’ve also got the smallest earcups we know in this design and they fold up into themselves and into their bag too, so are great for portable DJ set-ups.
We’ve tried to highlight headphones that are, in some way, different. After all, digital DJing is the best fun of all DJing! Us digital DJs are pushing boundaries in all kinds of ways, so let’s do it with our headphones too. The purists might squirm, but we’re used to that – let them. We’ll just throw our bright yellow AKG K518’s back over our ears and tease in another auto-synced loop… 😉
What headphones do you swear by? Do you keep back-up headphones or different headphones for different gigs? Have you got old phones you wouldn’t change for the world, or do you seem to go through two pairs a year? Let us know…