Review: Allen & Heath Xone XD2-53 Headphones
Allen & Heath has recently updated its well regarded top-end DJ headphones, the XD-53s, with the new (and not altogether originally named) XD2-53s. Apart from changing the colour (they’re now in a gun-metal finish), the company has also made the cable detachable, something most top DJ headphones tend to have nowadays. Let’s take a closer look and see how they perform.
They are a big, blokey DJ headphone – chunky, with a bit of weight to them and “full sized” in every way. They’re not going to feel out of place in the biggest, baddest DJ booth. The styling is very traditional for DJ headphones; Sony’s MDR-700s have looked like this for many years and these don’t really break the mould too much; big, padded leather stitched headband, metal-inserted adjusters to fit your head size, chunky hinges, and closed earcups containing large (53mm) drivers, sporting leather ear padding. However, these have a deeper cup than the Sony model, which is better for isolation and comfort.
The drivers are covered with a thin stretched piece of nylon mesh, which again is usual, and they’re given splashes of branding, both subtly on the outside edge of the earcups (the “Xone” name is embedded there) and more obviously across the top of the headband, with the Allen & Heath name, the Xone symbol, and the “Xone” wording in white on black.
As is de rigeur with many such headphones, they come with a basic drawstring leather-effect bag to move them around in.
These feel solidly pro, and if you’ve ever used any of the top brand DJ headphones, everything you’d expect is in place; good quality sound (the clarity was excellent, with deep bass but also perfectly clear mids and highs) and an excellent degree of sonic isolation.
Other design elements that make them good to use in the DJ booth include a coiled cable that doesn’t get under your feet, a good, wide earcup so they close enough completely cover your ear, and of course lots of movement both vertically and horizontally in the earcups for easy monitoring, whether with one or both ears.
One thing I liked about the swivel design is that the earcups move a full 90 degrees forward, so when you whip them off of your head and put them down on the mixer or wherever, they lie flat naturally to the surface. This feature also means that although they’re a chunky headphone, when you wear them around your neck the earcups naturally swivel out of the way, so they don’t feel like you’re wearing a neck brace, as some models of bigger headphone can do.
While they have roughly the same type of hinges that the Sony MDR-700s have, there’s no reason to suspect that they’ll suffer from the same reliability problems of the Sonys, which are legendary for breaking at the hinges. Only time will tell – but then again, their predecessors, the XD-53s, don’t have that reputation, so I’d say you’re fine. These hinges don’t “stick out” like the Sonys, and seem sturdier.
So they have a new colour scheme, and now come with a detachable cable. They’re still a pro phone, like their predecessors; they have clarity and sensitivity (I used them with a Vestax VCI-300 – not known for its headphone volume – and they were plenty loud enough); they’re comfortable; and they are of a design that pro DJs know well, with the slight style change of a new colour scheme. That’s about it.
If you’re in the market for a set of pro DJ headphones that will serve you well at gigs all the way up to the biggest, loudest and so most demanding of DJ booths – and especially if you have Allen & Heath equipment you want to pair them with – they’re a good choice. They give everything a pro needs, without attracting the price tag of some of the most expensive DJ headphones.
The flimsy, cheap carry bag provided is the only slightly disappointing thing in a flagship headphone model.
Nice improvement on the XD-53s? Better than the Sonys? What would you go for – or what do you already use – in this price bracket? Please share your thoughts in the comments.