The Best DJ Headphones (For Me)

Aug 28, 2023 | Gear

For years I rocked a version of the Denon DJ headphones. First with the DN-HP500 and then the DN–HP600. This combination of good sound meets long term comfort was a welcome addition to my main setup for as nearly as long as I started my Wedding DJ business. But at the end of July 2023 my current pair broke and I was left wondering what could replace it. I had tried a couple replacements when my first pair died some years back but I was very displeased with the couple models I chose. So I went back to Denon. But now this model is completely discontinued, which leaves me with a big choice to make, what is the ultimate DJ headphone that is right for me?

And I want to really emphasise what is right for me. Sound is so very subjective and we all have varying head shapes, sizes, ears, glasses, and so much more that can affect one’s final decision. So as you read this article, or watch this video, please bear in mind that this is a very subjective topic.

A Note On In Ear Monitors

I have talked to many peers who have switched to In Ear Monitors (IEMs) and all of them swear by them, especially with brands like Ultimate Ears. For the DJ the suggested model is the UE 11 Pro. Now with custom-fit IEMs you need to get a mold of your ear first, and then make your purchase. But this is not for the faint-at-heart coming in at $1299 for the pair. But again, those that I know have switched have sworn by them. I may go this route in the future (be it near or far) but for now this is a discussion on the best cans for a DJ.

Four Models Take The Stage

Now I already had a couple models in mind when I was contemplating this test, but for good measure I threw the question up on a popular Facebook group to see what the general consensus was and it included the two models I had in mind, along with two other models. I am going to list them in the most to least amount of times mentioned in the Facebook group.

  • V-Moda Crossfade M-100
  • Sony MDR7506
  • Audio Technica ATH-M50X
  • Sennheiser HD 25

There were some other models mentioned but I can’t test them all, so it was the top 4 that would make the cut. Now each of these models reflect different feels, price points, and the like so my question to the group was not disappointing. So I went ahead and snagged these and did an unboxing, a first impression, a listening test, and ran a set with them. All while trying to compare comfort, quality, and other factors that are important to me. This blog post is going to condense those findings per-product but if you’d like to get a more linear look at this I encourage you to watch the video.

I am going to just based of the following criteria to help guide my decision making and hopefully give you some added information if you are deciding for yourself. These scores are not going to be cumulative since for me, my personal preferences are going to be on comfort, sound quality, bulkiness, and quality of the frame (in that order). But for others there may be some other factors that weight more heavily.

  • Unpackaging
  • Initial Impression
  • Bulkiness, Weight, Etc.
  • Quality of Frame
  • Quality of Cup Material
  • Cable(s) Provided
  • Initial Fit
  • “Pull To The Back” (taking one cup off and tracking it back to the head)
  • Long Term Fit
  • Sound Quality

For sound quality I am going to do two main tests, one through my Rane One phono jack and then through my personal Hi-Fi. While these are going to be primarily used for DJing it’s nice to have a more “clean” reference to check against as well. I am going to be testing a DJ set that I am going to be playing at Atlantic City during DJX, and then I’m going to use my personal reference songs that I have grown to love all the nuances. For those that may catch a theme here, many of these songs are also part of my Harvest Of Sound Shootout Songs which is a Expo that I am proud to be a part of and it gives me a wide range of music types, responses, and little idiosyncrasies that I can pick up on. You can take a listen over at Spotify for these tracks.

  • Dave Brubeck – Take Five
  • Prince – When Doves Cry
  • Sade – Sweetest Taboo
  • Mobb Deep – Shook Ones Pt. 2
  • Bee Gees – Night Fever
  • Level 42 – Something About You
  • Isaac Hayes – Walk On By
  • Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
  • Dead Prez – Hip Hop
  • The Eagles – Hotel California (Live)
  • This Is It – Kenny Loggins & Michael McDonald
  • Van Halen – Hot For Teacher
  • Soul II Soul – Back To Life
  • DMX – X Is Gon’ Give It To You
  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
  • Boz Scaggs – Lowdown
  • John Coltrane – In A Sentimental Mood
  • Erykah Badu – Other Side Of The Game
  • Stevie Wonder – As
  • TOTO – Rosanna

At the end of this article I will give you my final impressions and which model I intend to keep

#4: The Audio Technica ATH-M50X

Avg. Street Price – $149.00 (Amazon)

Lots of people had recommended the Audio Technica and for good reason. These are very acclaimed cans with a very similar design to my Denon headphones. Unpacking these felt above par. However the biggest thing I feared existed with these cans, these are CHONKY. At 10oz / 286g these are the heaviest of the bunch and they feel like a beast. Now you get some added benefit from a more-bulky design. These things feel like a tank, a plastic tank, but a tank nonetheless. If I had not experienced the V-Modas these would be the “it feels built well” champions. Oh you also get one really long ass straight cable along with your typical coiled cable.

Wearing these cans were the most uncomfortable both in initial and long term fit. Again my big ears, head, glasses, they all are not as well suited for these being super comfortable. These are oriented to the bassy side, but not as over-pronounced as the V-Modas. I’ll be completely honest, while these are renowned reference headphones I felt the Sony and Sennheiser had significant edge in clarity. Maybe it’s part the fit on my head, but some of the subtle nuances of songs escaped me with these on. I’ve also have read up that for those that sweat a bit that the pads will deteriorate quickly. Luckily there are plentiful replacements out there for it.

  • Unpackaging – 7
  • Initial Impression – 5
  • Bulkiness, Weight, Etc. – 3
  • Quality of Frame – 7
  • Quality of Cup Material – 6
  • Cable(s) Provided – 7
  • Initial Fit – 4
  • “Pull To The Back” – 4
  • Long Term Fit – 3
  • Sound Quality – 7
  • Cans – Over The Ear / Closed Back
  • Wire – Interchangeable
  • Drivers – 45mm
  • Foldable – Yes
  • Frequency Response – 15Hz – 28kHz
  • Impedance – 38Ω
  • Sensitivity – 99dB @ 1kHz
  • Weight – 10oz / 286g
  • Warranty – 2 Years

#3: V-Moda Crossfade M-100

Avg. Street Price – $249.00 (Amazon)

First impressions can mean a lot, and I see where V-Moda has a winner in that category. The boxing screams premium, the feel of the materials are top notch. The V-Moda has a metal frame, and it’s only one of the bunch that does, so it immediately stands out. The quality of the cup material is buttery smooth. I can say without question from the initial impression standpoint the V-Moda was a clear standout.

Looking at the specs they are, maybe, a little over-inflated. Seeing a 5Hz – 40kHz frequency response seems a tad overstated. And given the street price of $250 I was starting to wonder if there may be more hype than substance.

After some listening tests these started to lose just a little their luster. The tightness of the cups started to put some pressure between my glasses and ears even with the ultra-comfortable memory-foam cup material. The somewhat over-pronounced bass with a hair of mids lacking started to fatigue my ears after an hour. I would classify it as being a little “warm” in the sound, not that it’s a bad thing, but these headphones are going up to some stiff competition for sure. If your jam is all EDM or Hip Hop all the time the sound stage is really emphasized in that direction. They certainly feel like they would hold up for decades, but do I want to use them for that long?

  • Unpackaging – 9
  • Initial Impression – 9
  • Bulkiness, Weight, Etc. – 7
  • Quality of Frame – 8
  • Quality of Cup Material – 10
  • Cable(s) Provided – 5
  • Initial Fit – 8
  • “Pull To The Back” – 7
  • Long Term Fit – 4
  • Sound Quality – 6
  • Cans – Over The Ear / Closed Back
  • Wire – Interchangeable
  • Drivers – 2x 50mm
  • Foldable – Yes
  • Frequency Response – 5Hz – 40kHz
  • Impedance – 32Ω
  • Sensitivity – 107dB @ 1kHz
  • Weight – 9.9oz / 280g
  • Warranty – 2 Years

#2: Sony MDR7506

Avg. Street Price – $99.00 (Amazon)

Talk about a pedigree. Debuting in 1991 you know you have a good thing if you have over three decades under your belt with the same design. I mean come on, Boyz In The Hood and Terminator 2 were just hitting the theaters when these came out!

But because of that the initial experience seems underwhelming. I am not a fan of the 90s design on the outside of the cans. But those seeking retro-looks can definitely admire them. The initial fit on the ears was quite pleasant. There is a certain springiness to them that make it feel firm on the head without being too tight. The cups are on a fully articulating mount so they have a more “custom” feel to your ear than some others that rely on simply a firm clasp on your head.

While the initial impressions were just a bit better than average, these headphones were absolutely stellar in real use. The somewhat crispy highs and flat bass response allowed some real nuance in some songs to shine. Simply put the sound replications was the best of the bunch and that led to a very comfortable experience overall. That being said it was almost a hair lacking on the lower end, so with that in mind I give them a tie for overall sound quality with my #1 choice. If you are looking for more pronounced bass out of your cans these are not going to be the pair for you, the V-Modas are the better experience in that category. If you are looking for just a bit more punch then read on, because my top choice may be the right one for you.

  • Unpackaging – 6
  • Initial Impression – 7
  • Bulkiness, Weight, Etc. – 6
  • Quality of Frame – 7
  • Quality of Cup Material – 6
  • Cable(s) Provided – 6
  • Initial Fit – 7
  • “Pull To The Back” – 8
  • Long Term Fit – 9
  • Sound Quality – 9
  • Cans – On The Ear / Closed Back
  • Wire – Hardwire
  • Drivers – 40mm
  • Foldable – Yes
  • Frequency Response – 10Hz – 20kHz
  • Impedance – 63Ω
  • Sensitivity – 106dB @ 1kHz
  • Weight – 8.1oz / 230g
  • Warranty – 90 Days

#1: Sennheiser HD 25

Reg. Street Price – $149.00 (Amazon)

I find it so interesting that two of the most referred choices are headphones that have stood the test of time. These Sennheiser HD 25’s are the oldest on the lot, dating back to 1988, back when I was still in high school. So like the Sony’s these are truly in a class where few live. These are also the lightest of the bunch by a country mile.

The unpacking was the most lackluster of the bunch, with a paper wrap around the headphones themselves. I will say one of the biggest oddities is the split-frame design. You can put them together, but it is just an odd design choice. I would suspect that adds a level of comfort if you are wearing a hat, or something like that.

They fit very comfortable on the ears, although the padding used seems to be the worst of the 4. Not necessarily the worst in terms of durability but just feeling less silky than some of its competitors. These also have a distinct advantage of being able to rotate the cans up from the front or back. This is a very unique pivot option for sure.

Sound is pretty damn close to the Sony with a slight weighting towards bassier frequencies, but because the Sony’s design is more enveloping you have a bit more isolation to hear more nuance in the tracks. I found the sounds slightly more pleasing with that sound stage vs. the Sony with bigger bend towards pure accuracy.

  • Unpackaging – 5
  • Initial Impression – 7
  • Bulkiness, Weight, Etc. – 10
  • Quality of Frame – 7
  • Quality of Cup Material – 5
  • Cable(s) Provided – 6
  • Initial Fit – 8
  • “Pull To The Back” – 8
  • Long Term Fit – 10
  • Sound Quality – 9
  • Cans – On The Ear / Closed Back
  • Wire – Hardwired
  • Drivers – 50mm
  • Foldable – No
  • Frequency Response – 16Hz – 22kHz
  • Impedance – 70Ω
  • Sensitivity – 117.8dB @ 1kHz
  • Weight – 5oz / 140g
  • Warranty – 2 Years

Conclusions

I can’t stress enough how sound is in the ear of the beholder. Too many factors go into someone’s selection for their ideal perfect headphone. For me after testing out all four comfort was the most paramount, and a slight bend towards punchier bass rather than flat replication. I may keep the Sony’s for video editing and audio mixes. But for my DJ bag the Sennheiser HD 25’s have found a permanent home.

Action

Consulting Services

Patreon Logo

Event Planning Evolved

Patreon Logo

Support This Site