If you’re looking for a pair of ‘phones to go with your Allen & Heath gear, you may sway towards this brand so everything matches, but even if not, they’re good value for what you get and appeal to me due to their size – I am a minimalist at heart! They’d be a good second set of headphones for a DJ who already has a full-sized pair, but equally, they’d be fine as your only set, working well for travelling and general use too.
First Impressions / Setting up
In the compact box, you’ll find the headphones, folded up and wrapped in bubble wrap; the soft drawstring carry case; the gold-plated adaptor to turn the 1/8″ headphones jack into a 1/4″ jack; and the instructions. There is nothing revolutionary about the design of these headphones, nor need there be: They’re the classic over-the-head design, with a padded, stitched headband featuring an Allen & Heath logo on the top, racheted metal adjusters on each side, and pivots in two of the three directions where the headphone cups join the headband.
The cups are, as mentioned above, smaller than full-sized DJ headphones, and have detachable/replaceable leather-effect padding encasing the fine mesh that covers the 40mm drivers, again stitched. They have silver detailing with the Xone logo across the middle of them, on a black background.
The coiled cable is just over a metre in length, stretching to three metres when uncoiled. It is attached firmly to just one of the cups, which is convenient compared to having a split cable with a lead going to each cup.
The headphones seem excellently made, and unlike some equivalent models, show no hint of weakness at the joins between the cups and the headband, or the cable and the cups – two obvious weak points in headphone designs. Just as well in the latter case, because the cable is not detachable. The overall impression is of professional DJ headphones, just shrunk a bit.
DJ headphones need to “go loud” and isolate the ear from external noise, the latter feature so you don’t need to use the former more than necessary. Because these have a smaller cup size, they do not completely cover the ear (well, they don’t completely cover my ears, anyway), but they cover them enough to do a good job of isolating the outside.
Once a pair of headphones isolates you from the booming DJ booth, the sound quality is the next hurdle. The XD-40s promise a wide frequency response on the box, but let’s forget that and give them a test run.
I tried them on the Xone:DX Serato ITCH controller with a 320kbps MP3 and a WAV file of the same track (Mike Monday’s excellent unofficial remix of Imogen Heap’s Hide & Seek, in case you’re interested); both versions sounded mighty fine. They don’t have a booming bass like larger headphones tend to, but they do sound extremely true to the original sound source. They sound crisp, clear and they go loud without distortion. (By the way, I could tell the difference between the 320kbps MP3 and the WAV.)
I proceeded to listen to net radio streaming across the iPhone and also just plugged them into a MacBook to listen to Mixcloud, and again – enjoyable, clear and true, even over time and at high volume.
This is for me where smaller headphones can win because when you have then hanging around your neck rather than on your ears, smaller cups don’t dig into your inner shoulder or the underside of your jaw as much as full-sized one – hence the popularity of the Sennheiser HD-25s. These aren’t as comfortable as those in that respect, but they’re definitely more comfortable than full-sized headphones for wearing off the head.
In use, they are very light (240g) and don’t apply too much pressure to the ears – this means for extra isolation from external sound you have to hold them on a bit harder with your hands, but the flip side is that they remain comfortable over time – I wear thick-armed glasses and unlike my Skype headset, for instance, these remained comfortable listening to an hour’s online radio, so I can be pretty sure they’ll not dig in and cause discomfort in a DJ set.
However, the way the cups fold out of the way for one-eared monitoring isn’t to my taste; you can either turn them horizontally through 90 degrees so they sit at right angles to your ear, or flip the unwanted cup vertically through 180 degrees so the driver is facing outwards. I think I’d prefer something that moves forwards or backwards 90 degrees so the ear is left comfortably open to the world, like the Technics/Panasonic DJ1200s, for instance.
Having said that, though, I have got so used over the years to simply moving my headphones’ headband so the unneeded earcup sits behind my ear on my head that I’m not going to lose any sleep over this, and if these were my headphones, I’d just continue doing it the way I’ve always done it.
I like these headphones. If you’re looking for a pair of ‘phones to go with your Allen & Heath gear, you may sway towards this brand so everything matches, but even if not, they’re good value for what you get and appeal to me due to their size – I am a minimalist at heart! They’d be a good second set of headphones for a DJ who already has a full-sized pair, but equally, they’d be fine as your only set, working well for travelling and general use too.
Comparable headphones include the aforementioned Technics/Panasonic RP-DJ1200 which are about the same size but slightly more expensive, and the Pioneer HDJ500s, which are about the same size and price but don’t fold. The latter gives you a detachable cable and the choice of coiled or straight, though, which is something you might prefer.