DJ Headphones reviews — best and worst part of my job

DJ Headphones review (1)

Here I am again, with a pile of killer DJ headphones, having to make subjective decisions about sound quality. In among the pile of  amazing deliverers of pristine audio to your ears are the focus of my testing — V-MODA M-100s. Having met V-MODA’s founder Val Kolton at NAMM, it’s clear that he knows A LOT about audio, knowledge that is filtered down into his products.

So it’s time for me to start making highly subjective audio decisions about the M-100s, and to some how articulate one of the 5 senses into words that mean something. Of course, I have my own feelings about such things, based on my own preferences and needs, and indeed the environment I find myself in. We must also factor in the human element, which dictates that we are all different, with different physiology and different ears. So you can see that there are many variable when testing headphones, which make it  incredibly hard to come up with a conclusion that people will find realistic and acceptable.

This is made especially hard by the abject loyalty and hate that people exhibit towards certain brands. Even saying that Beats by Dre might actually be OK is enough to raise the hackles of some people, and no matter how objectively we might put across an opinion, there will always be those who simply won’t believe it. Equally, saying that Beats By Dre might be good is seen by some as a slight against their precious brand of choice.

Factor into this the black and white opinions expressed about how brand X sounds “shit”, and you can see why I say that this is the worst part of my job. Here’s the thing — each and every one of the DJ headphones in the picture sounds amazing. In fact, I’d go as far to say that there aren’t many in the market that sound “shit” at all. It all comes down to the things I outline above, and balancing all the features to offer a valid opinion that people will hopefully respect.

DJ Headphones review (2)

One more thing — DJs demand more from their headphones these days too. There was a time when DJs would use these headphones for just DJing. But with the dawn of the digital age, everyone wants to listen to music on the go, so the same headphones are used when out and about. And then you have to remember those who have started to make music too, thus these one-time single use headphones have to cover 3 diverse needs in one product.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that times have changed. The headphone market is more diverse than ever, with a number of brands that some might consider to be untouchable (either cool, uncool or fashionably hate-worthy for that matter) actually doing a bloody good job. For me, there is no longer a clear leader. And frankly, if pressed to decide between them, I’m not sure I could pick a pair out from the ones above. All sound great, feel great and do the job. Again, to underline this, there is no best.

But over to you. Some questions for you to chew over:

  • What are your favourite headphones and why?
  • What do you look for in headphones?
  • Do you exhibit brand loyalty? Brand hate? (be honest)
  • Are you swayed by looks more than sound?
  • How much are you prepared to pay for a pair?
  • Do you seem headphones as a long-term investment or as a throwaway tool?
  • Acker

    - HDJ-2000
    - Sturdy build, audio quality, big volume, comfy earbuds.
    - I love Pioneer and hate Dr.Dre. Pioneer is Pioneer, and Dr. Dre is just a fashion headphone with that all the trendy people got paid to wear them.
    - Nope, I want a reliable headphone and sound quality.
    - I don’t know, USD 500,00, maybe.
    - Long term investment. Phones are way more important than the rest of the gear you use. You almost have a feeling connection with your phone.

  • http://www.djspeed.co.uk/ DJ Speed

    I currently use Adidas Originals Sennheiser HD-25s and Fool’s Gold AIAIAI TMA-1s, I find myself favouring the TMA-1s for DJing and the HD-25s for everything else.

    I guess I do exhibit brand loyalty (and hate) but based on my experiences with their products. I must admit the DJWORX’ Beats By Dre reviews were an eye opener though; because of the Solo/Studio models I would have dismissed the Mixrs and Pros completely.

    Sound will always come before looks, but I do like a little colour!

    £200 is my limit for a set of headphones, and for that price I certainly consider them a long-term investment.

  • Otto-Ville Virkkunen

    - HD-25s, been using them for.. umm.. 12ish years now
    - longevity, audio quality, loudness
    - Loyalty, I’m on my second pair of 25s currently, with the first one lastin around 9-10 years (they’re still working partly, just need some spare parts). I do think I’m somewhat apprehensive of the “cheaper” brands (reloop, adj, etc)
    - Sound first, then looks
    - 200 euros is currently around the maximum I’ll pay, still working out to be around 20eur/year if I get a decade of use out of them
    - Definitely long term investment

  • DJ SPARK

    - KRK KNS-8400
    - Sound quality (flat and precise), isolation.
    - I don’t care as long as the sound is ok and the cups are confortable
    - Nope
    - 200€
    - All my headphones can live from 5 to 10 years with me.

  • Jared Helfer

    I have a pair of Sennheiser HD25-II’s, and a pair of KRK’s
    Sound quality, build quality and comfort
    No brand loyalty or hate here. The HD-25′s were the first pair of headphones that lasted me after breaking Stanton and Sony headphones. If I get my hands on something better I’ll move on to them.
    Nope. Function over form every single time. Though, excessive branding or over-stylization will turn me off.
    The HD-25′s have lasted me around 6 years now, and I have only had to replace the cable. They are a little worse for wear, so if I’m going to blow $200, or even $300 they HAVE to last me a decade.
    Investment, definitely. Every tool in the chain is an investment.

  • IanRaWdriguez

    -Using WesC Bassoon’s for DJing. Got em about a year and a half ago, and after rigorous use since then, the only thing that gave was the coiled cable (ya never notice how useful something is til its gone). I really haven’t used enough pro ‘phones to say they’re my favorite, but no complaints about these. Good sound, although I don’t/can’t use them for casual listening as they tend to bug my ears after about 20-25min of constant use. I have an $8 pair of JVC in-ear headphones for my iPod. Ha.
    -Durability is a must, as I’m more of a mobile DJ than anything else.
    -Brand loyalty isn’t huge to me. If it does the job, it does the job. I’d rather read countless reviews and go with the best choice, as opposed to living and dying by a brand.
    -Looks? My cans are a black with silver/metal hinges. The colors on the cans don’t make the sound any better or worse. Fuctionality > Style every time, in my opinion.
    -Price? Sub-$200 region, but I’m the type of person who’d spring for quality even if it was a few extra bucks, like the Sennheisers here in the States, which I’d always figured would be my next headphone purchase if my Bassoons were to suddenly crap out on me.
    -Headphones are definitely an investment. I like what Mr. Jared Helfer said below me: “Every tool in the chain is an investment.”

    • enorjy

      my bassoon kill my ears too. That why im looking to switch to on ears

      • IanRaWdriguez

        I’d love to switch cans, but since they work perfectly fine, I can put off a new purchase for some time and expand on my other gear, namely TT carts and monitors for now. ;)

  • culture_drone

    I currently use and like V-Moda Crossfades and I’ve been considering upgrading to the M-100s but if I have to pick an all-time favorite it would probably be the venerable Sony V6.

  • Linzmar

    Love my hd 25 ii’s. one thing I want add as something high on my list of importance is isolation.

  • Lazyellow

    Favourites:

    HDJ2000s, I used to own HD25s and they were great but for mixing down productions and also for general listening I found them a bit tinny, don’t get me wrong the sound was good but the HDJ2000s definitely gave me a fuller sound especially when mixing in a club. It also helped that the Skratchworx review of it completely sold it to me in terms of comfort, sound and build.

    What do I look for:

    I look for good build, comfort and sound. The HD25s were built well to an extent but it’s more down to their form, with the HDJ2000s I love the feel of opening them out and being able to fold them down without feeling like it will fall apart, I have read ‘bad’ reviews of pioneer headphones previously but I honestly think that if people are finding their headphones fall apart, they haven’t bought them from an actual store and instead probably without knowing have bought cheap knock offs from ebay etc. Good sound is subjective, but the extra low end on the HDJs is a noticeable ‘improvement’ form the HD25s, my brother had the beats pros and although that has a certain bassy character it almost sounds ‘fake’ and extremely coloured. Lastly comfort. I can wear glasses with the HDJ2000s and I can keep them on for hours without a problem, on ear headphones tend to dig my glasses into the sides of my head, although they are a bit heavier and I had to get used to wearing them on my head ‘properly’ rather than around the back of my head with the HD25s.

    Loyalty:

    I have to admit I did dismiss the Beats range but once my brother got them, I was pleasantly surprised. Overpriced? yes completely. but ‘rubbish’? no. I did hover around the usual suspects, pioneer, sennheiser etc, but i was open to other options. I do regret being so dismissive of beats to be honest.

    Looks:

    To an extent, I opted for the black hdj2000s as I thought the stock silver model was too ‘look at me’ understated is good, the vmoda ones are a bit garish i think in my eyes atleast.

    Price:

    £200-250, anything higher I’d have to really love them but at the end of the day money is worth less now. A Rane TTM56 used to be £429 at one point and the TTM57 £699? I think and now it’s about £899. Inflation. It is what it is.

    Investment:

    Yes, sure you can make do with some cheaper models, but in a loud club isolation helps, and when there isn’t a monitor having some low end helps with the mix, it might not be 100% necessary but good headphones can last years my HD25s lasted a good few years and I managed to sell them off on ebay after as well! I’m sure these HDJs will serve me well in years to come.

    • DJ Justin Time

      I agree with Lazyellow, Hd-25s sound unreal, push out an incredible amount of volume without distortion, have suprisingly good isolation, and are more durable then anything else…. had mine for 5 years and they are bloody champs!

  • flipper

    sennheiser hd25 , great sound and most important durable , mine around 8 years old and in shape like new , heavy used in clubs for hours and afterhours :) and at home , at studio and still like new conditions. only cable and earpads changed , unbreakable , i would try some new brand but when i look nothing seems to have quality of these.

    • IanRaWdriguez

      The appeal of the HD25s, to me, is their long life span and, should the worst happen, all the parts are replaceable!

  • The_KLH

    Sony MDR-7506. The standard headphones of professional studios, radio stations, and Hollywood. I love them because they have the best sound ever. If headphones made sound a food, the MDR-7506 would make sound taste like milk chocolate.

    I look for headphones to make recorded media sound “good” like the producer intended. While comfort is a close second, sweet sound is paramount. Needless to say, the 7506s are comfortable for hours.

    While I tend to be brand conscious, functionality and practicality trump brand every time. Sony, while being a popular brand, hasn’t been as powerful a brand as it has been in the past; I’ve only owned PlayStation products from them.

    I’m swayed by sound over looks. I’d use them if they looked like a bicycle helmet. Yes, the sound is that sweet.

    Back in the mid 90s when I bought my first pair (I have two; my original and a 10 year old backup), I never thought that I’d spend more than $50. The 7506s are $100. I’d pay $400 if I had to.

    Great headphones are an essential tool. Anyone who doesn’t do research into such a person and intimate item is a fool… and doesn’t deserve the 7506s. http://www.djheadphoneshub.com/images/headphones/Sony/sony_MDR_7506.jpg

    • MQParty

      I am a radio dj,I have used the MDR-7506 for over 10 years…best headphones I have ever used, and I have tried other brands…always come back to these.

  • Gulli Johansen

    1.HDJ-2000 is the once I have and the best I’ve ever had.

    2. Build qualetie, sound looks

    3. No hate or favorites

    4. no otherwise I would be using Beats

    5. $400-500
    6. Before getting the HDJ-2000 they were something that needed to last a few gigs

  • White Wulfe

    1. At present my favourites are still my old (and thoroughly thrashed) Sony MDR-V500′s. They’re so comfy (well, until the earpads wear out…), and I can typically wear them for hours. They also work well with glasses. However, I’m pretty certain that once I pick up a pair of Pioneer HDJ-2000B’s that this will change, since after testing them at a local store for over an hour they have that lovely comfort with glasses and just sound so much better than my older MDR-V500s, or even my current Audio Technica ATH-M50′s (which I find hard to wear for anything longer than an hour).

    2. In order of general importance, I’d probably say comfort comes first (especially with glasses), followed closely by how they sound and reliability/durability.

    3. I’ll admit to having been on the Pioneer hate train for a few years, especially with the problem the HDJ-1000s had with hinges, but after having tried out a pair of the HDJ-2000′s they feel solid, and several friends have had them for some time without destroying them. Sony used to be my favourites, but now it feels like I have no real brand loyalty.

    4. Some would say I’m easily swayed by the gorgeous glossy black Pioneer makes their HDJ-2000s in.

    5. In all honesty, I have trouble even with the $350 CAD price point the Pioneer HDJ-2000′s are at, but will more than likely pick up a pair simply due to how much I like them. Would be hard to justify anything higher priced though (even things like Beyer-Dynamics or the higher end Sennheisers for production or general listening)

    6. I prefer to consider headphones as a long term investment, hence why I’m willing to spend more than I used to, but $350-400 CAD at most. I’d rather keep the pair for several years, over disposing of a pair after a few months.

    • Ron Maran

      I literally made the same move a few years back (V500′s to HDJ-2000) and you won’t regret it. The V500′s are a solid headphone for the price, and I still find them extremely comfortable over long periods.

  • Funky ß

    -Ultrasone Pro 900 for the reasons below.
    -Sound isoation, large soundstage, flat sound, tight/accurate bass, comfort, coiled cord for djing and straight cord for other use
    -No, but I really like the Pro 900.
    -No, but high end cans should look good
    -Up to $500 USD. Mine were about $320 on sale (Amazon)
    -Long term

  • Dj L-BIZ (BEAT3)

    Hd25′s

    sturdy comfortable for long sessions great in a booth or studio have sound that is flat but full enough. Isolation is good and important as i am often on the move when listening to review tracks (eg no pissing off fellow commuters.) As well as cutting out external noise.

    I would love to try other brands but listening in a store does equate to real life situations so i’d find it hard to take the leap especially as these have served me so well in numerous situations.

    I have no brand hang ups really…

    I would love to own a pair of reloops rph20 (partially on looks alone tbh). but after reading the (djworx) review it would seem isolation isnt quite as good as i require and i have a fairly small head)

    I must say in regards to the flat sound of the hd25′s i do sometimes wonder if it would be nice to have an alternative to get all the highs and lows in a more home stereo type sound….

  • Dirk

    Technics RP-DJ1210.

    not to be confused with the RP-DH.

    Im currently using and abusing the same headphone for the last 5 years, and it is still as new. I’ve yet to find a headphone that is this strong, and this cheap. its only like a 100 euros, dirt cheap for this much quality. Sound quality? great! build quality? it feels a bit flimsy, but that is just the outside. it is immensely strong. These are stronger than HDJ 2000s, HD25s etc. The hinges are genius.

    People seem to buy the HDJ 500 over this one, even though theres hardly a price difference. but the HDJ 500 will break on you in a year, this won’t. not even in 5 years. Hell, I’ve heard stories of people touring the world with the RP-DJ headphone for 8 years with the same pair without it breaking. If that isn’t a testimony, then how about some famous users:

    DJ Sneak, Derrick May etc etc. Look around and you’ll see endless amounts of DJ’s having these around their necks.

    When mines break in the next century, I’m going to buy the same one again, no question about it

    • Lide

      I agree 100%
      I use the RPDJ1210 for 4 years now. Before that i had the HDJ for about 1,5 years and as you mentioned, the hinge broke. But the technics ones really are my choice. Using them in the club regularly. I would buy them again if i had to get new ones.

      Greets

  • disqus_ySPRXrcGOA

    I both have the hdj2000 and hd25-1 and to me both of them have issues.
    Sound qualtiy wise these are really good, but in my opinion the hdj2000′s really sound like the music is coming from a tin can, and i dont like this very much so i use my hd’s more.
    My only gripe with the hd’s is that the earcups a very loose with sizing, one little grab or touch will slide the cups down instantly.
    Really hate this, cause my head is small, and you see a lot of people who have tape under there earcups so its stays in place.
    My perfect hp will be: hd size & sound, on ear but with full swivels cups.
    Something like the beyer dynamic dt1350.
    I am in the market for a new hp, so if anybody has tips i would like to hear them. Am waiting for the new hd-26 pro now…

    • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

      Given the universal love and classic status of the HD25, I don’t see an upgrade any time soon. The Amperior model came out last year, but they’re considerably more expensive.

      • disqus_ySPRXrcGOA

        But the hd-26pro will be out soon, dont know exactly if its an hd25 upgrade, but it does look solid, and hopefully with tighter earcups, that stay in place..

        • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

          Well look at that – there is an HD26 Pro coming. It’s not a DJ headphone though, but then again neither is the HD25 technically.

          • disqus_ySPRXrcGOA

            Indeed, just like the 25, its meant for broadcasting or long recording sessions..but i cant find a headphone that suits my needs, in terms of build. maybe i am to critical, so am waiting for this, and otherwise i am gonna try out the dt1350.

  • BelgianJungleSound

    I use the hd-25s, and I’ve got used to how they sound so my first impressions with any other headphones is always bad (I tried my friend’s aiaiais for example and thought they were too bassy). However, when I’m djing, it honestly doesn’t matter as long as they can be loud enough for me to cue up a track, which even then isn’t all that important if I’m using traktor because of the sync feature. That being said, I would never use Beats simply because they’re overpriced and because of the statement you’re making if you do wear them. I’m sure they sound fine if not great.

  • matrick

    After using AKG K181DJ for about 5 years I just recently got a pair of TMA-1s. Both pairs give me great sound, great styling and great fit. I have a small head so its difficult to find a pair that stay on my head comfortably but the AiAiAi’s are sturdy without being tight.

  • Ron Maran

    I normally switch up between the HDJ-2000′s and HD-25′s myself, I’ve probably become more used to the HD-25′s now. Both great headphones in their own way, and I’m definitely not brand biased. Looking forward to trying out many more in future :)

  • allstar720

    I happily mix with my Koss Pro 4AAs. They sound great, look super cool in their Band-Aid color heavy plastic and isolate background noise. Best $100 bucks I’ve ever spent. Plus, they aren’t super efficient so if I accidentally bump the volume knob on my mixer my ears aren’t blown out by the nose.

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  • Drz Incorparated

    My favorite headphone is still my trusty Koss Porta Pro. I own 3 pairs including the 25th anniversary version.

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  • thugsucker

    My favorites are TMA-1′a and next comes Sennheiser HD25′s. Isolation, comfort and looks are the most important parts for me. No brand loyalty here on headphones. I care about the sound more than look, but I wouldn’t buy Pioneer HD2000′s or other shiny headphones. 200€ is my top limit. Headphones are necessary accessories for me, just like my carts. I have a pair in my studio and another one always in my DJ bag.

  • Daniel Lazarus

    Favourites would still be the HD-25s, durability (and easy of repairs) weight and comfort are the main reasons. Although I’ve since found them to be ideal travel headphones when I fly constantly.
    Durability is the first thing I’d for, which is probably the case with an ex-HDJ-1000 user.
    You could say I’m one of the ‘biased against beats’ people- but that’s mostly because I use to work in a retail store that sold them and the conversations had with people about them used to drive me crazy.
    Not really, I think the HD25s are actually quite ugly- but they sound great to me.
    $300ish
    A long term investment (if you buy a decent set)

  • Feffen

    HD-25s, they are the only headphone that wont get me shot in NYC on the train at 5am after a gig. Others are too flashy and big.

  • http://www.facebook.com/edd.hopkinson Edd Hopkinson

    HD-25s for me too!

    I wear glasses and find them the most comfortable on the ear. (they dont press my ear into my glasses frames and make them sore) I’ve found over ear headphones much more uncomfortable. I use them for most of the day. half hour on the tube in the morning and maybe 5 hours out of an 8 hour working day they are being used. then back on the tube again. Then there is using them for djing! so they get at least 6 hours virtually continuous use every day. Most of the time i dont even notice im wearing them which is a big thing for me.

    To my ear they are the best sounding. I’m a drum and bass dj and i find their flatness makes djing a whole lot easier (i tend to mix as much as i can in the headphones so i like a flat sound so im not over or under compensating eqs etc.). I’ve found others (beats being one of them) to be way to bass heavy which to my ear makes the music i play much too muddy and means my mixing becomes less accurate.

    as i use them so much its all about sound, after all it doesn’t matter what they look like to me as i can’t see them on my own head! and with that budget is as much as i can afford – i look for an investment. For me its important to get used to the sound and be familiar with headphones in the same way that producers know their monitors.

  • Chris

    Mark for being in college and djing is hard. The ammount of units i take a uni dont allow me to have time for a part time job. So I DJ when i can. Being so I really don’t have extra cash to spend on nice cans that may end up breaking. I look for durability and quality. I have the Xone’s and love them. I use them to produce and for djing. I wish i could afford good cans and top notch gear. Shit Ive never owned a mixer. Anyways just thought i would throw in my 2 cents.

  • Luke Thomas

    thing is, everyone has their own sound signature preference, and with sound technology becoming so sophisticated, its harder for the ear to focus on certain sound signatures, so one may love one headphone, but then after trying another the next day, may prefer the latter. Basically, we all know what we want, but we can never actually achieve it, as things will always improve (not for beats… never). In this way, manufacturers can’t decide on the best sound, as they have their own preference of sound and style (and budget, etc). For example, i really liked the beats pro

  • samson

    I’ve had the Technics RP-DJ1210′S for 10 years and its time to replace them… 10 years is a good lifespan for headphones so they lasted a long time. They fold up into themselves nicely which made them convenient to store. Most importantly for me, they swivel at the ears which i prefer when I’m using them to dj… The unit actually still works on both sides, but the housing has broken in two different areas. I superglued them about a year ago after the right cup broke from its housing. I also loved the coiled cord. I think i only paid about $100 for them 10 years ago but now they are selling for $150-200 online. So now im ready for a new set of headphones and have been looking at reviews of a couple different models, even though i would be happy buying the technics again. Just want to try something new. im not a brand whore, i.e. beats by dre, and tend to stay away from anything commercial or big flashy units. The front runner would have to be the Sennheiser hd25 i… . i like their low profile look and stealthy look. I will write a review on them in a month after ive used them for a couple of weeks…

  • Nawaz Roodi

    The most prominent part in every DJs job is to get a nice pair of headphones. This will let him give the best performance. There are different types of headphones available, but being part of the team of a leading name of Wedding DJs in Michigan, I have found the stereotype headphones as the best.