To be a DJ today you luckily don’t need too much gear, but it’s extremely important to get the right headphones. The right set of DJ headphones will be your trusty, reliable best friend whether you’re gigging in your hometown or up on the Ultra Music Festival mainstage.
The headphones market is crowded with thousands of brands and models vying for your attention, and while many headphones out there could work, there are a handful that do the job better than most. And while it’s true that DJ headphones don’t need to be as detailed as headphones meant for producing or mixing in the studio, a DJ definitely has a specific set of things he or she should be looking for in a new set of cans.
In this guide, we put our expert panel of reviewers to work in testing and selecting the 5 best DJ headphones, as well as providing some info on what to look for and how to shop for them. We summarized our results in the chart below if you’re short on time, but as always we recommend you read our full reviews!
- How to Shop for DJ Headphones
- Why You Should Trust Us
- The 5 Best DJ Headphones Reviewed
How to Shop for DJ Headphones
Selecting your pair of DJ headphones is a little different than shopping for studio/production headphones, in-ear headphones or headphones for casual listening. There are several specific things DJ headphones need to do well, so we’ll be looking for the following characteristics:
Sound - Bass & Loudness: Audiophiles talk a lot about headphones having a “flat” frequency response. For mixing in the studio, you absolutely want to seek out flat-sounding headphones that won’t color the sound. When DJing, that doesn’t quite matter as much. In order to stay in the groove and hear your music in a loud bar or club environment, you need the sound of your headphones to be punchy and loud. This typically means a great bass response so you can feel the kick and the bass, and accentuated mid/high frequencies so you can discern the click of the hi-hats.
Comfort & Weight: Your DJ set may last 30 minutes, or 8 hours. The longer you go and the more frequently you DJ, the more important it is that your DJ headphones are light and the pads are comfortable. We’ve all worn headphones that felt like a vice has been clamped down on our head - that’s the last feeling you need when you’re performing in the DJ booth.
Open vs Closed: This is an easy one. Open-back headphones certainly have their place, but it’s not in the DJ booth. It’s especially important that DJ headphones be closed-back, as to block out the ambient noise around you and deliver a punchier bass sound.
On-Ear vs. Over-Ear: Some DJ headphones have ear cups that sit on top of your ear, and some sit over your ear. There’s no right answer and it’s completely up to your preference, but both have pros and cons. On-ear headphones tend to be a little more comfortable, but over-ear headphones create a better seal and block out more ambient noise.
Durability: If you had a pair of $1000+ Sennheiser HD 800s in the studio, you might handle them as carefully as a newborn child. That’s not so much the case for DJ headphones. These will likely get dropped, crushed in your backpack, covered in spilled liquids, tangled, and yanked around. You’ll need a pair that can take the abuse and keep delivering the goods.
Pivoting Cups: Headphones with pivoting cups are preferred by some DJs. The ability to move the headphone speaker away from one ear momentarily can be helpful when you want to quickly check your mix against stage monitors - or listen to the person making a terrible song request - without completely removing your headphones.
Portability: Honestly not as important as the other factors above, since for the most part DJ headphones these days are all pretty portable. Let’s call it a bonus if they fold up nice and compact, and come with a solid carrying case.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our editorial team at Equipboard is comprised of musicians from all walks of life. We have a combined 15 years of DJing experience, from vinyl to CDJs to completely laptop based. To make this list, we first do a comprehensive research phase where we search the Web for as many discussions as possible revolving around what the best DJ headphones are. We tally up each time a specific model gets a recommendation, and this gives us a good idea of relative popularity. We take the top 10 headphones mentioned, and order them ourselves to test in our studio. After many hours of testing, we take a vote on the top 5, which we review in this guide.
There is no perfect review process and we know “best” is very subjective, but we try to present a balanced selection with a little something for everyone. We don’t get paid to include any product in this list; these are 100% our genuine opinions.
The 5 Best DJ Headphones
Without further ado, here are our recommendations!
Sennheiser HD 25
The Sennheiser HD 25 headphones have become somewhat of an industry standard for DJs the world over. You won’t come across a “what DJ headphones should I get” discussion where these aren’t mentioned several times. The reason these are on DJs’ heads - both hobbyist and pro - the world over is that they hit the mark on just about every point a DJ would care about: they’re comfortable, light, durable enough to withstand the rigors of live use, and they deliver great sound. The icing on the cake is that their price tag is not at all unreasonable. Let’s have a look at some of the more important specs:
|Weight:||5 oz (140 g)|
|Case Included:||Yes, soft carrying bag|
The Sennheiser HD 25 are an on-ear style, which prompts people to think they won’t provide the same level of isolation as over-ear headphones... but surprisingly, these block out ambient noise amazingly well. The magic is that they press on your ears with just enough pressure so that you can hear everything clearly, but not so much as to cause discomfort. On top of that, these are seriously light, coming in at just under 5 oz (140 g). Not only are the Sennheiser HD 25 seen around the heads of the majority of famous DJs, you’ll also notice theses are the headphones of choice for sports commentators and broadcasters for their ability to isolate from background and ambient noise.
Sound quality-wise, this headphone is on-point. The best way to describe the sound is extremely punchy. It won’t be as immersive as, say, a pair of Beyerdynamic DT-770 or Sennheiser HD-800. But again, those are much better suited for home and studio use. The HD-25 are also not as bass-heavy as V-MODA M-100. That said, they deliver exactly the sound a DJ needs: clear, punchy bass, mids, and highs. You will have no trouble hearing the beat and subtleties in your tracks as you’re mixing.
Last but not least, one of the reasons these headphones solidified their place at the top is because they’re nearly indestructible. They have a rather spartan and simple design, and every part of the headphone is replaceable (spare parts are easy to find). More than any other headphone on this list, you’ll read these types of comments from HD-25 owners:
My hd25's are now 7 years old, they still sound flawless despite having been tossed and beaten and gigged like crazy.
Bottom Line: So, are the Sennheiser HD 25 the perfect DJ headphones? As with anything, there are always things that could be better. Lots of DJs flat out dislike the on-ear design, and gravitate to over-ear cans like the V-MODA M-100. And while aesthetics are highly subjective, it’s widely agreed that the HD 25 isn’t the sexiest looking headphone on the market (and let’s face it, that counts for something when you’re in front of a crowd). Also, a soft carrying pouch is included, so if you want more protection you’ll need to buy a case separately like this one. All of these things are minor issues, and don’t take away from the fact that these are one of the most dependable, best sounding, and hardest working DJ headphones on the market. Best of the Best.
V-MODA Crossfade M-100
V-MODA has made quite a splash on the scene in recent years - so much so that musical equipment powerhouse Roland acquired them in 2016. In our tests, we were extremely impressed with the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 headphones. It’s no wonder these headphones can be spotted on the heads of DJs worldwide. Whereas Sennheiser’s HD 25 headphones are the workhorse utilitarian DJ headphone, V-MODA has carved their niche in the crowded headphone space by offering a blend of style and substance - and we’d say they very much succeed at this intersection. First, the specs:
|Weight:||9.9 oz (280 g)|
|Case Included:||Yes, hard case|
|Frequency Response:||5Hz - 30kHz|
The V-MODA Crossfade M-100 has mass appeal because it is a great everything headphone. Whether plugged into your iPhone on your way to work, or into a DJM-900 mixer at Electric Daisy Carnival, these simply work well. Their popularity has skyrocketed in the DJ world since they deliver that same familiar punchiness of the Sennheiser HD 25, with slightly more warmth and presence.
Before focusing on their sound, let’s talk a bit about how they’re made. While they don’t feel as indestructible as the HD 25, their build quality is excellent. They use a mix of materials, which lands them somewhere between the plastic Sennheisers and metal Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2. The Kevlar reinforced cable should make these withstand the rigors of DJ life, and we appreciate the inclusion of a hard case to keep these safe during travel. As nice as the included cable is, one of the DJs on our review team suggested purchasing the V-MODA CoilPro cable separately, which is longer and will allow you to roam around the DJ booth without worry. Like any good Italian product, the ear cushions have a luxurious, soft, and comfortable feel when worn for long periods. And speaking of ear cushions, these are over-ear headphones, which means the earpiece completely surrounds your ears. For this reason, these have superior isolation. As one DJ puts it:
They have amazing isolation. Even in a club environment, I have no problem hearing my cue without having to crank the headphone volume up. I’ve had to make a habit of turning down the volume whenever I’m following someone on the decks. It’s almost always too high now.
A V-MODA review is not complete without talking about how good they look. We had the privilege of speaking to the company's founder at the NAMM show, and after chatting it’s clear he is passionate about creating a headphone that looks as good as it sounds. As part of this mission, V-MODA has made the Crossfade M-100 infinitely customizable. A number of the world’s most famous DJs have the ear plates customized with their name and logo. You’re able to do the same, which is not only fun but might help as you build your brand. The available colors are great as well, whether you’re into the Matte Black Metal, or the stand-out White Silver.
In terms of sound quality, the V-MODA M-100 headphones are extremely well-suited to DJing. The frequency response is not flat, meaning we would not recommend these as the top choice for mixing and mastering in the studio. The bass response is strong, punchy, and deep. The mids are clear and the highs are accentuated without being harsh. In our tests, we were impressed how clearly we were able to discern all of a track’s elements while DJing, despite simulating very loud external conditions. This is no doubt helped by the fact that they isolate better due to being over-ear headphones.
Bottom Line: If we had to dock points from the V-MODA M-100 in any category, it would be their hefty price tag. They cost a good bit more than the Sennheiser HD 25, we believe due in large part to V-MODA’s emphasis on aesthetics and build. Over time, the V-MODA M-100 have amassed nearly as many mentions as the HD 25 in discussions over what DJ headphones to buy. It’s a tough call to make, but we give the edge to the HD 25 in terms of being the better value. However, the M-100 are a close second. If the customization options appeal to you, you prefer over-ear headphones as opposed to on-ear, and are able to spare the cash, we say go for these.
It’s no surprise that Pioneer - a name synonymous with DJ gear - would make a top-5 worthy DJ headphone. That’s how we (and 100s of other reviewers around the web) feel about the Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2. The HDJ-2000MK2 are the newer edition of the immensely popular Pioneer HDJ-2000, and they’ve improved over the original version in nearly every way. The HDJ-2000MK2 can be seen on festival stages around the globe, so Pioneer is definitely doing something right with these. Before digging into our impressions, let’s take a quick look at the basic specs:
|Weight:||10.5 oz. (298 g)|
|Case Included:||Yes, hard case|
|Frequency Response:||5Hz - 30kHz|
You’ll notice the specs are remarkably similar to those of the Pioneer’s closest rival, the V-MODA M-100. 10.5 ounces is roughly double the weight of the Sennheiser HD 25, but there’s a good reason for that. The HDJ-2000MK2 are made with significantly more metal than both the HD 25 and M-100. All things considered, 10.5 ounces still makes for a relatively light headphone, and we have nothing but good things to say about how these feel. They have a very sleek minimal look; they’re both luxurious and hefty, which is a combo we can get on board with.
They come with a nice zippered clamshell case for protection, a straight cable, and a coiled cable. Props to Pioneer for including two types of cables. The headband has an ergonomic shape, and after wearing these for several hours no one on our review team reported any discomfort. The earcups can swivel which is a nice feature for DJs, and the earpads are soft and comfortable (and easily replaceable in case they start to flake).
In terms of how they sound, we’ll immediately say that these Pioneer headphones sound great - the soundstage is nice and wide, they’re pretty loud, and the bass is punchy and full. They’re definitely purpose-built for DJing, and you’ll find their frequency response is very tailored to accentuate the low and mid frequencies (300Hz to 1,600Hz range). When it comes to the more dance-floor oriented genres of music like electronic dance music, pop, or hip hop, these cans do their job exceptionally well.
Bottom Line: Being one of Pioneer’s flagship DJ headphones, the HDJ-2000MK2 are not the cheapest ones on this list by any means; they’ll set you back a similar amount to the V-MODA M-100. It’s worth noting that you are paying for the legendary Pioneer name, experience, and reliability when it comes to the world of DJ equipment. The Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2 are a fantastic choice, and make a great alternative to the Sennheiser HD-25, especially if you need the increased isolation of an over-ear headphone and want a more premium feel.
In our initial research phase, we were surprised to see how many DJs recommended the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x as their favorite DJ headphone. After all, the ATH-M50x’s claim to fame is that it’s a relatively affordable headphone well-suited to producing music in the studio. As it turns out, these are also very capable DJ headphones featuring superior noise isolation, nice and punchy sound, and a price tag that’s easy to swallow. Let’s have a quick glance at the specs:
|Weight:||10 oz (285 g)|
|Case Included:||Yes, soft pouch|
|Frequency Response:||15Hz - 28kHz|
Coming in at 10 ounces, these weigh about the same as the V-MODA M-100 and Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2. They’re hefty, but the build quality doesn’t feel as premium as the other two. The construction is almost exclusively plastic; make no mistake, it still feels like a quality headphone, it’s just not as lux feeling as the V-MODA and Pioneer, which is reflected in the price tag. The more plastic we see, the more we think “easy to break.” The plastic hinges and swivels is likely where these would break if subjected to abuse, so make sure you’re not throwing or dropping them while you perform. They fold up nicely to fit in the included soft carrying pouch, which is a nice touch but doesn’t offer the same level of protection as a hard case would. On a positive note the ATH-M50x comes with three cables - two straight cables that are 3ft and 9ft long, and one coiled cable that stretches to around 12ft. You’ll probably want to use the coiled cable when DJing, and straight cable otherwise (studio, casual listening, etc). Unlike the Pioneer and V-MODA, a cable can only attach and lock into to the left ear cup; we kind of wish you could choose which ear cup, but it’s not a huge deal.
DJs will appreciate that the ear cups swivel, so you can wear them around your neck without discomfort or do the one-ear-on/one-ear-off thing. And speaking of comfort, these are extremely comfortable, even when worn for several hours. Sure, they’re not as light as the Sennheiser HD 25 cans, but they don’t apply too much pressure to your head, and the faux leather underneath the band and on the ear cups is remarkably plush and comfortable.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are frequently recommended for studio use, where a “flat sound signature” is desirable. That said, the ATH-M50x aren’t truly that flat. The sound is nicely balanced, but they do color the sound a bit - the bass is pretty strong, and there’s a definite bump in the highs, which actually makes these extremely versatile and pretty well suited for DJing. One of the best parts about these headphones is the sound isolation. We were astounded at how little the sound leaked, which will spare your precious hearing when you’re DJing at a super loud club.
Bottom Line: It’s actually very good news that the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x have gained popularity in the DJ booth. They are fairly inexpensive considering their quality, and if you’re primarily a producer who would like to dabble in the art of DJing, or a DJ who wants to try his hand at producing in the studio, these headphones will do double-duty better than any other on our list. They’re not marketed specifically to the DJ market and thus aren’t quite as glamorous or solidly built like top of the line offerings from Pioneer or V-MODA, but they’re a very serious contender for any DJ who might want to also produce now or in the future. Combine that with an attractive price tag, and you’ve got our vote for Best Bang for your Buck.
Rounding out our top 5 list is a DJ headphone with a very unique concept. The AIAIAI TMA-2 headphones are modular, meaning that you can basically construct a headphone tailored to your needs using their online configurator. You get to pick the headband, the speaker units, the earpads, and the cable, and when it arrives at your door you quickly snap all of the components together. The “choose your own adventure” path is great but also daunting, since you might not really know what components are best for your needs. Luckily, AIAIAI has made presets which are preconfigured for different purposes. In our case, the one our review team loved is the DJ Preset. Let’s have a glance at the specs:
|Weight:||9.5 oz (270 g)|
Unboxing the AIAIAI TMA-2 is a lot of fun. All of the components come in their own envelope, and it’s fun (and easy) to put the headphone together. The DJ Preset comes with the H02 headband which is supposedly more rugged and offers better grip. The S02 speaker units are probably the biggest thing differentiating this preset from more studio-oriented presets. According to AIAIAI they make the middle bass more “clear and punchy.” The E02 earpads sit on top of the ear, much like the Sennheiser HD 25. And finally, the DJ Preset cable is the C02 model, a coiled cable that extends to 3.2 meters (about 10.5 ft).
The TMA-2 have a very minimalistic style which looks really sleek. While they’re built with mostly plastic, the build quality actually feels really solid. We didn’t abuse them enough ourselves to personally comment on their ruggedness, but reviewers around the Web haven't had many issues with them breaking. The headband fits comfortably, they are tight without feeling like a vice. The earcups unfortunately do not swivel, so if one-ear monitoring is your thing these might not be for you. The cable is great, it’s got a soft touch surface and it’s smart of AIAIAI to include the coiled cable that stretches for the DJ Preset. And remember, these are on-ear headphones, so the isolation isn’t as good as over-ear. The great thing about these being modular is that so long as you have some cash to spare, you could order some over-ear replacement earpads.
Sound-wise, we have no complaints. We can definitely hear the punchier bass and mids that the S02 speaker units deliver. We mostly tested dance-oriented genres of music, and everything came through loud and clear.
Bottom Line: AIAIAI offers up something truly unique with the TMA-2’s modular concept. Getting to “build” your own headphones is fun and they make it super easy, and the great thing is that if you don’t like anything about them, you can switch it out (provided you have the cash to buy more components). AIAIAI also offers a generous 30 day return policy if you buy directly from them, so you have plenty of time to test if these headphones are up your alley. A few downsides are that the TMA-2 are kind of pricey, and they don’t come with any kind of protective bag or hard case. Still, they’ve got style, they’ve got substance, and for the purpose of DJing we’re super happy with the TMA-2 DJ Preset and can wholeheartedly recommend it.
Q: Do the best DJ headphones change every year (2017 vs. 2018)?
The answer is it depends! Manufacturers generally don’t release new models too often; about once per year seems to be the average. Most manufacturers have a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude with DJ headphones. For instance, Sennheiser’s HD 25 headphones have been dominating the DJ market for quite some time, but the company continues to innovate. They released the Sennheiser HD8 DJ Headphones which are much more specifically marketed to DJs. And while they’re good headphones (we tested them), it’s very hard to dethrone the HD 25s which have been on top for so long.
We continually update our buying guides as new products are available and we get the chance to thoroughly test them out.
Q: What’s the best DJ headphone to buy?
That’s a hard question to answer and depends on so many things! It’s also why we wrote this guide, to hopefully help you navigate the world of DJ headphones and make a selection that fits your budget and needs. If budget is a concern, the best bang for the buck pick in our eyes is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.
Q: What headphones do the best DJs use?
The short answer is this - the most-used headphones by the best DJs in the world are the Sennheiser HD 25 and V-MODA M-100. If you want more info, you’re in luck! It is our mission here at Equipboard to document the gear used by the best musicians in the world, and DJs are no exception. Curious what headphones Tiesto uses? Head to his Equipboard to find out. Here are a few of the world’s top DJs (source: DJMag Top 100 Djs list) and what headphones they’ve been spotted wearing most often:
- Martin Garrix: V-MODA Crossfade M-100
- Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike: V-MODA Crossfade M-100
- Armin Van Buuren: Technics RP-DH1200 and Philips A5-PRO
- Hardwell: Sennheiser HD 25
- Tiesto: AKG K267
- The Chainsmokers: V-MODA Crossfade M-100
- David Guetta: Beats Mixr
- Afrojack: Sennheiser HD 25
- Steve Aoki: SOL REPUBLIC Tracks
- Marshmello: Unknown!
- Don Diablo: Audio-Technica ATH-M50
- KSHMR: V-MODA Crossfade M-100
- Oliver Heldens: V-MODA Crossfade M-100
- W&W: V-MODA Crossfade LP
- Calvin Harris: Sennheiser HD 25
- Skrillex: SOL REPUBLIC Master Tracks and various Beats headphones