I can’t fault these headphones. As with all headphones, things like styling and fit are a personal thing, but the build quality, comfort and sound quality are unsurpassed for a DJ design. The sound has subtleties that you simply don’t get with cheaper headphones (and that means basically all other DJ headphones)! So these are really for use way beyond the DJ booth. If you’re considering one pair of headphones for production, DJing, and general use, and can’t afford to drop any balls as far as sound quality goes in any of these areas, the Ultrasone Signature DJs should be right up there on your list.
First Impressions / Setting up
Inside the rather large box is an equally large hard case in black with a white zip, bearing a smart “Signature” metal faceplate and with the “Ultrasone DJ” wording embossed. The plastic-moulded, velvet-effect inside contains cutouts for the headphones themselves and the supplied leads. There’s a standard 3m DJ headphones coiled cable with a gold-plated 1/4″ TRS plug, and a 1.5m braided, plastic-covered straight lead with an iPhone-compatible remote control / microphone (one button for the usual mute, voice control, call answering, transport etc controls, but no volume control). Both leads are of course detachable and interchangeable, and they screw into the headphones to stop them begin accidentally yanked out. There’s also the usual registration card and instructions.
The headphones themselves are closer in design to the Ultrasone DJ1 rather than the Ultrasone DJ1 Pro, which makes sense to me; the DJ1 is actually a more conventional design for DJs whereas the DJ1 Pro are kind of a dual-purpose model, good for studio use as well as DJing but maybe a bit big and loose to be the ideal DJ headphone.
However, whereas the DJ1 – excellent headphone though it is – is utilitarian (cable is not detachable, carry bag is insubstantial and offers little real protection, leather quality on headband and earcups is standard), none of these things can be said for the Signature DJ, which exhibits pure luxury in all of these areas.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that the basic construction of both is the same. In the same way that, say, Denon doesn’t make cheap DJ controllers, Ultrasone simply doesn’t make cheap headphones – any model is going to last you a long time.
However, the Signature DJ headphones do, as mentioned, take luxury to another level. They’re in two-tone white and black with silver decal, a look which may or may not be to your taste. But the second you pick them up you know they’ve had some money spent on them, before we ever get to the sound quality.
To start with, the leather is the softest I’ve ever felt – anywhere. Apparently it’s Ethiopian sheepskin, and has been chosen because it can absorb sweat without the leather corroding or becoming porous. Good news for small, sweaty clubs then. The full length of the headband is also padded and stitched up with the same leather.
Next, the earcups are backed with glass, again adding to the feel of quality when you pick them up, in the same way an iPhone feels nice when you pick it up. Finally, each set is individually numbered on the left headband coupling. Apart from that undeniable luxury, though, they’re what you’d expect from DJ ‘phones – adjustable, padded headband; strong couplings; “Y” attachment to deep, closed-back cups, which swivel (180 degrees vertically, 90 degrees horizontally forward).
To start with, the Ultrasone Signature DJ headphones are comfortable to wear, at least for this type of headphone. They have brilliant acoustic insulation – mainly due to the fact that they hold quite tightly on your ears (similar to the DJ1s, and tighter than the DJ1 Pro). But comfort is not substantially compromised, which is due to the quality of the leather. Thus they achieve a good balance between comfort and acoustic isolation.
I am a fan of Ultrasone’s S-Logic technology, which all of its headphones have. The idea is that the drivers are positioned so the sound isn’t pumped directly into the ear, but fed naturally through the outer ear’s contours, for more “space” and a truer sound. I have no idea exactly how this works or even if I’ve described it hugely well, but stereo staging and overall realism are wonderful with all Ultrasone headphones, and that continues with these.
However, these take it all a stage further. They have a bassier frequency response (it’s claimed down to 5Hz which is crazy!), and the 50mm drivers deliver a blistering 115dB sound level. You wouldn’t want to listen to music that loud, but what it means it that they’re extremely sensitive, so deliver distortion free music at any realistic volume.
I tested them with two set-ups. Firstly, I used them on the Pioneer DDJ-SX controller for Serato DJ, which has a good 24-bit audio interface in it. The WAV of “Garden” by Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (why can’t I get that song out of my head?) sounded the best I’ve ever heard it – bassy, clean, well staged, with massive presence and a real thump on the kick and bleeps. They’re extremely sensitive, so deliver distortion free music at any realistic volume.
Secondly, I plugged my iPhone in and played a 256kbps AAC – the Breakbot remix of Royksopp’s “Happy Up Here”. It sounded warmer, fuller and more engaging than I am used to hearing from the iPhone Music app, and the volume available to me was noticeably more than with other headphones. It also felt good having the background noise so effectively removed – I’m more used to my iPhone battling over the ambient sonics, something anyone who listens to music on the move will understand.
For DJing, they take a little getting used to when putting them on and taking them off, as they’re quite tight. You learn to pull them over your ears and swivel the earcups slightly forward as you release them onto your head. Once there, they hold firm. Of course, DJs spend a lot of time with their headphones around their necks, and these are big headphones, but because the earcups have that ready swivel vertically, once they’re round your neck the earcups naturally swivel downwards out of the way, so you don’t feel like you’ve got a neck brace on.
I can’t fault these headphones. As with all headphones, things like styling and fit are a personal thing, but the build quality, comfort and sound quality are unsurpassed for a DJ design.
The sound has subtleties that you simply don’t get with cheaper headphones (and that means basically all other DJ headphones)! So these are really for use way beyond the DJ booth. I do believe the S-Logic technology delivers the best stereo imagery of any headphone, but aside from that, it’s the clarity that stands out the most – bass that’s deep but not boomy or muddy, slightly muted mids (as befits a DJ headphone) but that are still clear, and crystal highs, with no harshness but no tail-off either.
If you’re considering one pair of headphones for production, DJing, and general use, and can’t afford to drop any balls as far as sound quality goes in any of these areas, the Ultrasone Signature DJs should be right up there on your list. The only issue with them would be that because they’re designed for DJing, the grip on your head is tight. Despite the lovely leather, I suspect after a few hours you’ll start to feel that.
Of course, they’re at a price that to most people will seem crazy expensive. That’s why I mentioned earlier on that their basic design shares much in common with much cheaper Ultrasone models, that still give you S-Logic and class-leading sound quality – so the choice is there.
But if you’re a pro DJ or aspiring to be one, who DJs five nights a week, who produces, who sorts his or her music out on the plane between gigs, and unwinds watching movies late at night with your ‘cans on – well, you may have your headphones on for many hours every single day.
In this situation you’ll very quickly learn the difference between very good and excellent, in all areas, and you’ll want something that is going to last you a long time and give you the best experience possible for all of that time. And if that’s important to you, and music is your life, not just your hobby – well, the Ultrasone Signature DJs are aimed in your direction.