10 Best: DJ Headphones 2020
We look at ten of the best sets of DJ headphones to suit all budgets, with perennial classics and fresh examples of design all making the grade.
Whether you’re a staunch vinyl advocate, a dab hand with a pair of CDJs, or one of the ever-growing number of digital DJs, a decent pair of headphones is vital to ensure your mixes are cued up on time and at the right volume. However, with a bewildering number of brands and models, making the right decision for your particular DJ needs can be a tricky process. In this round-up, We’ve picked out what we consider to be the best sets of DJ headphones money can buy; from the flashy to the understated, each model offers the best sound quality and functionality for their price points.
Like pizza toppings or Tinder matches, DJ headphones are a deeply personal choice. Most of us are looking for the same key features when it comes to headphones – comfort, clarity and punchy sound for clear monitoring when cueing tracks – but everyone has a different idea of what that means. One person’s idea of comfortable headphones might not work for another’s head shape. One person’s idea of punchy sound might even be another’s idea of harsh and tiring.
Sennheiser’s tried-and-trusted HD25s might be the closest thing we get to a consensus among the Juno team. Originally designed as broadcast headphones, their sound and comfort have proved hugely popular among DJs since they were first released way back in 1988 (and plenty of producers like them for studio work too). Aside from durability that belies their apparently lightweight construction, the HD25s are a hit thanks to their no-nonsense sound and We’d go for the Plus version, which includes a coiled cable (handy for moving around a DJ booth), replacement velour ear cushions and a protective pouch to keep them safe in your bag.Buy from Juno
Danish brand AIAIAI take the idea of customisation to extreme levels, offering a huge range of optional drivers, ear cups, cables and headbands for their TMA-2 headphones. The modular design means that owners can customise and tweak the headphones into thousands of different configurations to suit their personal needs, whether it’s for DJ use, studio production or just listening.
The obvious starting point is with one of the brand’s own ‘presets’, sold as a complete package designed for specific tasks. The DJ preset is configured with bass-heavy titanium-coated S02 drivers, durable H02 nylon headband and on-ear PU leather E02 earpads for comfort and isolation. It’s a combination that works perfectly for the demands of most DJs. There’s no doubt they’re also some of the most attractive headphones on the market, which is why they’re often seen on the heads of style-conscious DJs like Benji B and Richie Hawtin.Buy from Juno
Technics is, of course, a brand best known for turntables. The Japanese company continues to make the definitive DJ turntable in the form of the SL-1210 MK7 but over the years they’ve also put out a decent range of mixers, headphones and other DJ-related kit.
The RPDJ1210 is one of the brand’s tried-and-tested headphone offerings, very much in keeping with the no-nonsense approach of the turntables. The RPDJs have a slightly old-school look to them when compared to the sleek, smooth aesthetic of the AIAIAI model above, but it’s very much a case of function over form here, with a focus on durability and comfort to match the powerful, clear sound.
Given that DJ headphones are inevitably subjected to harsh working conditions and occasional abuse, durability is a huge concern; without the ability to withstand the rigours of the DJ booth, it doesn’t matter how good a pair of headphones sound. The RPDJs are reassuringly solid and clearly built to last.Buy from Juno
The German company Reloop is still relatively young compared to old-school brands like Technics and Sennheiser, but their range of DJ-focused products has seen them rise very quickly to the top of the market. Many of the brand’s products – most notably their excellent turntables – are built around the concept of updating and improving classic designs for modern DJs. That’s emphatically not the case with the brand’s main headphone offering, the RH2500; there are no added bells and whistles here, just a straightforward design.
The RH-2500 is surprisingly simple in a way. It’s a clean and simple, no-frills pair of headphones that gets the job done. Sometimes terms like ‘no-nonsense’ or ‘cheap and cheerful’ might sound like damning with faint praise, but in this case they should be taken entirely literally. No, the RH2500s can’t quite match the build quality or sound of some of the premium models on the market, but they’re really not all that far off models costing five times as much. Very impressive for DJs on a budget.Buy from Juno
Although it’s always tempting to look straight to the top of the range models, there are often good deals to be had lower down the line-up. Pioneer’s HDJ X5s are a good example, coming in somewhere in the midrange, at a significantly lower price than the brand’s flagship HDJ-X10 model https://www.juno.co.uk/products/pioneer-hdj-x10-dj-headphones-black/662213-01/
The X10s and slightly cheaper X7s are fantastic headphones, but with the X5s you can see many of the same design ideas and engineering principles applied to a much more affordable model. They use slightly smaller drivers than the bigger models (40mm as opposed to 50mm) but the technical specs are largely irrelevant if the sound lives up to expectations, which is certainly true with the X5s. They may be less than a third of the price of the flagship model, but in practice they’re much closer in sound and build than the price difference might suggest.Buy from Juno
Boasting some of the biggest drivers on the market at 53mm, there’s no doubt that Denon’s flagship HP1100 headphones have been designed with bass response very much in mind. That’s evident in their sound presentation, which is heavy on bottom end but doesn’t sacrifice clarity or precision as a result.
As with some of the other models on our list, the HP1100s have been on the market for quite a few years without an update, but that’s really more of a sign that DJ headphone design is mature than a suggestion that Denon are slacking in some way. Having been refined and updated over the years, the basic concept of what a pair of DJ headphones should look like, feel like and sound like is very firmly established at this point. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The HP1100s are built to last, and they’re durable enough to give you many years of service.Buy from Juno
Even on the tightest of budgets, it’s still possible to get a pair of DJ headphones that will do the job. Numark’s HF125 model takes an interesting approach, breaking away from the bigger, heavier designs we’re more used to seeing aimed at DJs. The long-established American brand have always been good at catering to learners and home DJs, but the HF125 is targeted at a particular type of DJ who’s interested in portability and versatility on the go. Sound quality, isolation and comfort are all acceptable for such a cheap, lightweight design. An interesting option for anyone looking to put together an ultra-portable DJ setup alongside a controller.Buy from Juno
Down towards the lower end of the market, there are plenty of affordable options for DJs on a budget. Most models follow a very clear formula of shoehorning as many pro features into a cheaper design, usually sacrificing a bit of build quality to meet the lower price point. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, as most of these budget models find themselves used carefully by beginners and bedroom DJs rather than facing the rigours and abuse of serious touring DJs.
Rane’s RH1s are another decent budget model, sitting at a very affordable price and based around an endearingly retro design with a leather-effect headband, plain over-ear cups and telescopic arms. At this kind of lower price level, the watchword is functionality. There are no big features to get excited about here, just plain and simple stuff. As a basic, no-frills option, they do exactly what you’d expect.Buy from Juno
The Gemini DJX05 is the obvious choice for budget-conscious DJs who just want a plain and simple, old-school pair of DJ headphones. The DJX05s look a bit like a budget version of the Technics RPDJ1210 model we picked at a higher price point, and in practice they feel quite similar to use, albeit with noticeably cheaper construction and a step down in sound quality as you’d probably expect.
Once again, at this kind of price level it’s about straightforward functionality rather than anything revolutionary. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, and the DJX05s are very capable headphones, certainly up to the demands of learners and bedroom DJs.Buy from Juno
Japanese company Audio-Technica has been manufacturing high-end turntable cartridges and various other audio goods since the early 1960s, but in recent years it’s the brand’s headphone range that has really emerged as a firm favourite among everyone from producers to casual listeners, offering high-quality sound and great value for money.
Our pick of the brand’s more DJ-focused offerings is the ATH PRO-5X, a mid-priced model that performs well above its price point. It’s interesting to compare the PRO-5X with the brand’s similarly priced M40x model, based around broadly similar technology but designed more for studio use. It’s clear to see how a few basic principles differ, making the PRO-5X much more of a DJ-friendly design: a more rugged build, clearly aimed at durability; a greater focus on long-term comfort; drivers tweaked for louder monitoring in club environments. All round, a great midrange option.Buy from Juno