Link: Pioneer – Price: $179/€179/£149
Over the years, there have been a handful of standards in the DJ industry. And it’s reasonably safe to say that Pioneer have had more than their fair share. DJMs and CDJs have pretty much owned the club scene for a long time, and it’s almost certain that the DJ stood in front of them had a pair of Pioneer HDJ-1ooos sat atop their head, hung round their neck, or casually scattered around the booth.
But even standards need an update sometimes, and that’s what the HDJ-1500 headphones are. Having overhauled the top and bottom ends of the DJ headphones food chain, the space in the middle was due for an overhaul – and what a stylish overhaul it is.
In The Box
Pioneer offer a pretty standard in the box experience – a soft pouch, a removable and lockable flexible cable and the obligatory 1/4″ adaptor. Seems that manufacturers have the common sense to go with the minijack standard for mobile devices and offer the adaptor these days. The box is an exercise in landfill overflow. It’s time for manufacturers to take a long hard look at just how much of their packaging is totally wasted. Not just Pioneer, so don’t take it personally.
It’s worth mentioning the optional hard case. The HDJ-1500s aren’t cheap or lightweight, so it may well be worth paying the hard case insurance premium.
Given the heritage, it makes sense to not stray too far from the classic HDJ-1000 looks. Whilst being radically updated, the HDJ-1000 DNA is clearly there. It’s not so evident on the Black pair I have here, but is unmistakable on the Silver PR shots. Suddenly the 1000s look really old.
Pioneer have also grafted in genetic material from their flagship HDJ-2000 headphones too. The headband is more or less identical and give the 1500s a much more modern look and feel. The family resemblance is strong here.
On your head, they’re sleek and low profile. The hinge parts stick out a little just as the 1000s did, but I’m sure the upgraders will welcome that anyway. Stealth DJs will be happy with the Black ones, but those wishing to wear the Pioneer badge with pride should do for the Silver.
Despite their popularity, the 1000s broke. A lot. So this was an ideal opportunity to wipe the slate clean, reset the QC counter and make sure that the HDJ-1500s didn’t suffer the same issues. It’s clear that lessons have been learned, and the much simpler but higher quality construction is a testament to that.
The HDJ-1500s are a mixture of matt rubber feel plastic and coated magnesium alloy. They still come complete with the usual screws and covers to allow repairs. Speaking of which, the hinges are upgraded from the 1000s as well. And so they should be as this was the weak spot that usually broke first. Without doing delicate surgery, the normally weak spot looks to be a solid moulded piece fitting into alloy parts. I really can’t see how these will break the same way as the old ones. But time will tell on that one.
The pads are made from plastic and memory foam. Rather usefully, the ear pads can be swapped with the considerably more comfortable HDJ-2000 pads, and the locking cable is the same at the HDJ-500. So for most potential wear and tear issues, Pioneer have you covered.
Overall, they feel absolutely lovely – solid, weighty and are creak and rattle free. They flex and return without complaining and have taken quite a beating in my hands. For those worrying about another broken pair of HDJs, I’d say the chances of that happening are considerably less now.
Given that I feel the HDJ-2000s are one the best sounding headphones around, the HDJ-1500s have a lot to live up to. Testing on their own, the 1500s offer a very loud and full sound. They’re perhaps a bit full in the mids for me, but do deliver a really great sound regardless of my own personal preferences. Knowing that people will want a comparison, the 2000s are a little quieter and also for me more refined. I’d be much happier with the 2000s for purely listening, but for DJing I’m perfectly happy with either.
When looking at the ear pads, I thought that isolation might be an issue. But I was wrong. Without getting intricate measuring instruments out that I don’t actually own, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the 1500s and 2000s i.e. it’s good, and if the PR is to be believed, it’s scientifically better than the 1000s by some 4dB.
Comfort and Stability
The pads, both head and ear, are a bit firm. In particular the width of the ear pads combined with the memory foam’s firmness do make them feel a tad perched on my head rather than being a snug fit. I will counter my own opinion here with the fact that I’m switching between the 1500s and 200os for comparative tests for this review, and there’s nothing quite as comfortable as the head sex that is the HDJ-2000.
That said, because of the heavyweight construction, the HDJ-1500 cans do move around a little more that I’d like when I’m getting all head-bobbing. But if you’re more of a heads down kind of DJ, these new headphones will serve you well. But I’d probably drop the extra £25-30 for the HDJ2000 pads myself, or maybe give the cheaper Zomo third-party ones a go.
With the hinges and swivels, the cups quite happily fold up into the head band without an issue. So bag space isn’t a worry. Just bear in mind that if you go for the hard case option, that’ll take up more room.
Taking them in isolation, the HDJ-1500 headphones are excellent. I’m probably being picky with the comfort issue because I generally struggle with anything on my head. However, I think for most potential customers, the question is whether the HDJ-1500 headphones are a worthy update to the now relatively ancient HDJ-1000s. For me, the answer is a resounding yes. I never liked them, so I can see where the changes have been made, but the legacy has been preserved. Purists will want the Silver model, but the Black model is stunning on the eye as well.
Value wise, these are pitched at the same level as before. And if you were prepared to pay that much for the HDJ-1000s, you’ll be very happy indeed with the 1500s. Looks wise, they’re modern but not forgetting their heritage and the quality is solid leap up from the 1000s and all the regular weak spots are replaceable. Buy with confidence, but if you can, try them on first.
Hype: HDJ-1000 legacy looks, quality and replaceability.
Gripe: Comfort, but it depends on your head.