To be a DJ today you luckily don’t need too much gear, but it’s extremely important to get good headphones. The right set of DJ headphones will be your 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 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 went to work in testing and selecting the 8 best DJ headphones, as well as providing info on what to look for and how to shop for them.
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, club, or party 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 feel 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 due to less pressure being placed on your head, but over-ear headphones create a better seal and block out more ambient noise.
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. They 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.
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 song request - without completely removing your headphones.
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 Equipboard editorial team has a combined 15 years of DJing experience, from vinyl to CDJs to completely laptop based. We know the demands of DJing and we test all the gear ourselves to make sure it passes our rigorous standards before recommending it. In most cases we purchase the headphones ourselves. In the case a manufacturer sends us a pair, we'll make a note of it in the review, but that in no way influences our decision to include the headphone on this list or omit any of its shortcomings.
The 8 Best DJ Headphones
Without further ado, here are our recommendations!
Sennheiser HD 25
5 oz (140 g)
Soft carrying bag
The Sennheiser HD 25 headphones have become the 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.
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).
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. But again, those are much better suited for home and studio use. The HD-25 are also not as bass-heavy as the V-MODA M-100 Master. 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, 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).
Bottom Line: Are the Sennheiser HD 25 the perfect DJ headphones? Not quite. Lots of DJs flat out dislike the on-ear design, and gravitate to over-ear cans. 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. These minor issues 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.
Note: Equipboard received this model from the manufacturer at no cost, but that in no way influenced its inclusion on this list.
The original V-MODA M-100 headphones were a mainstay of our DJ headphone guide, so there was plenty of excitement to get our hands on their successors, the M-100 Crossfade Master.
The original M-100 could be seen on the heads of DJs worldwide, leaving the M-100 Crossfade Master to fill some big shoes. We're happy to say these are even better; subtle improvements all around, but improvements nonetheless.
For the uninitiated, V-MODA has carved their niche in the crowded headphone space by offering a blend of style and substance. The company ethos has valued design from the beginning.
The build quality is excellent. They're fairly hefty (9.98 oz / 283g) and use a mix of materials, though they are metal on the stress points where it counts.
Even the cables are luxurious. Two are included, a 1-Button Microphone Cable and a SharePlay cable (which lets another cable plug in and listen to the same audio source). They have a really nice woven feel, thought for DJs we would recommend buying V-MODA's CoilPro cable.
The ear pad cushions have been improved over the original M-100s and words can't do justice to how soft and plush they are.
The headband is low profile and extremely durable. There's a decent amount of pressure on the head but nothing that results in pain over long listening sessions. The pressure combined with the ear pad cushions results in impressive isolation.
The sound quality of the M-100 was already superb, and it's even better now with the M-100 Master. The soundstage is wider, and while the bass is certainly pronounced it doesn't muddy up the mix. For DJing purposes, the frequencies are boosted in all the right places.
That said, more so than their predecessors, the V-MODA M-100 Master is marketed as a "transitional" headphone between the studio and DJ booth, as seen in their promo video.
For studio work, we favor their M-200 headphone, and would call the M-100 Master best suited for 70% DJ work, and 30% studio work.
Bottom Line: The V-MODA M-100 Crossfade Master are not cheap by any means, but such is the price when aesthetics, build quality, and sound quality come together as wonderfully as they do here. All of that, including the myriad customization options, lead to an incomparable level of polish. They're not the best value around, but their versatility in and out of the DJ booth makes them one of the more impressive headphones we've ever tried.
Note: The Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2 are no longer being made and have been replaced by the HDJ-X10. If you can get your hands on them, we still think they're great DJ headphones and worthy of inclusion.
It’s no surprise that Pioneer - a name synonymous with DJ gear - would make a top-tier DJ headphone. The HDJ-2000MK2 are a follow-up to the immensely popular Pioneer HDJ-2000, and they’ve improved on it 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.
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 none of us 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: 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, especially if you need the increased isolation of an over-ear headphone and want a more premium feel.
There's a new ruler atop the Pioneer DJ headphone lineup, and it goes by the name of HDJ-X10. It's a departure both design-wise and sonically from their predecessors, the HDJ-2000MK2. We'll warn you up front... these are NOT cheap. Are they worth the money? Hell yes. Read on.
Pioneer have outdone themselves with the HDJ-X10. From the packaging, to the design, to the sound, these just ooze class and sophistication.
Inside the outermost cardboard sleeve is a refined black box with the words "DEEPER CONNECTION" stamped on top. Inside is a gorgeous hard-shell carrying case made of a cool textured surface. It's almost like Tumi made a headphone case.
You get a 3m coiled cable, and a 1.6m straight Kevlar cable, which unfortunately can only be attached to the left ear cup.
The headphones themselves are works of art. There are various textures and design accents, and they feel like they could take a serious beating. The build quality is superb; there's not a squeak or rattle when pivoting the ear cups or extending the headband.
The comfort is phenomenal. We listened for hours, and the sweat resistant ear pads are little leather clouds of joy. They have a snug fit without being painful to wear, and the isolation is outstanding.
Sound-wise, they far outperform what we expect from DJ headphones. They're extremely well balanced throughout the spectrum. They have an unprecedented 5Hz-40,000Hz frequency response, which is crazy high, since humans can't really hear much past 20,000 Hz.
Whatever Pioneer did with the design of these 50mm drivers, kudos to them. The sound feels so full. We couldn’t believe it compared to the other DJ headphones we tested - which are quality - but the Pioneer HDJ-X10 make them feel stifled in some way. The sound stage is amazing, like you're in a room.
Bottom Line: Really the only downside here is their price tag. It's really quite high for a set of cans that you're probably not going to baby for their intended use in the DJ booth. You could go down to the less expensive siblings, the HDJ-X7 and HDJ-X5, but you'd be losing out on the dazzling soundstage of the X10. They're a splurge, but you're not just getting some of the best DJ headphones around; they're some of the best headphones we've ever listened to, period.
When researching what headphones to test out, we were surprised to see how many DJs recommended the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x as their favorite DJ headphone. They're one of our favorites when it comes 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.
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 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. You’ll probably want to use the coiled cable when DJing, and straight cable otherwise (studio, casual listening, etc). One minor gripe is that the cable can only attach and lock into to the left ear cup.
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. Unfortunately these suffer a bit in the comfort department. Luckily during a DJ set you can take them off periodically to give your head a break, so it's not a deal breaker.
The sound is nicely balanced, and while these are most often recommended for studio use the bass is nice and punchy, and there's a subtle 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. They’re not marketed specifically to the DJ market and thus aren’t quite as glamorous or solidly built as 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.
When Sennheiser released the HD8 DJ headphones in 2014, the price point was simply too high for us to recommend them, despite their merits. Fast forward to now, the price has significantly come down to where we feel they are much more fairly priced, and you would be remiss to not consider them for DJing.
We're here to tell you that they absolutely deliver on that promise, but overall the HD8 is a pretty different animal than the HD 25. These actually have more in common with V-MODA and Pioneer's flagship DJ headphones.
The HD8 feature an over-ear design, and the seal they form around your ear is tight to say the least. Don't confuse that for discomfort; the tightness is by design which makes their isolation second to none. If you're sensitive to tight-fitting headphones the pressure might pose a bit of a challenge over long wearing sessions.
The ear pads are leatherette, but they come with replacement velour pads if you prefer that (swapping them out is simple).
They come with a premium hard protective case, but the HD8 are built so solidly they don't really need extra protection. They're stylish and elegant, and the components that are subject to the most stress like the ear cup pivot rings and headband are made of metal.
The ear cups can swivel away from your ear and click into place to provide one-ear monitoring if needed. They come with a straight and coiled cable, which you can attach to either ear cup.
In terms of sound, the HD8 offer mind blowing quality. The hallmarks of a good DJ headphone are all here: crystal clear, loud, thumping bass, detailed mids, and present highs. Combine that with their superior isolation, and the HD8 are right at home in any DJ booth.
Bottom Line: Sound-wise, the HD8 take all the best things of the HD 25 and repackage them into a very attractive, solidly built over-ear headphone with some luxurious fittings. With a price that's far more competitive than what it debuted for, the HD8 is almost a no-brainer.
Shure is known for making great headphones, and their flagship option for DJs - the SRH750DJ - is no exception.
Let's get some downsides out of the way first. They're not the sharpest looking headphones around, and their mostly plastic build leaves something to be desired. That said, it keeps the price lower.
The price needs to be mentioned because sound-wise, they sound like headphones that should cost twice the price! The sound quality is a DJ's dream come true. The soundstage is very wide, the 50mm drivers get loud with plenty of bass and no distortion, and the high end is very pronounced.
Other DJ-friendly features include ear cups that swivel 90 degrees, a very good level of isolation, an included coiled cable, and soft carrying pouch to protect the SRH750DJ during travel.
While they're not the most comfortable headphones we've ever worn (the headband feels a little stiff), they're comfortable enough. The ear pads are soft, and Shure includes a replacement set. Weight-wise you're looking at 10.26 oz (291g), which is about the same as the V-Moda and Audio-Technica M50x.
Bottom Line: If you can live with the way they look and the slightly flimsy feel, rest assured you're getting some of the best sounding DJ headphones around.
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. If that sounds daunting, AIAIAI has made presets which are preconfigured for different purposes. In our case, the one we loved is the DJ Preset.
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 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 minimalistic style which looks really sleek. Despite being mostly plastic, the build quality feels really solid. We're not keen on breaking ours, but suffice it to say they feel rugged. The headband fits comfortably; tight but without feeling like a vice. The earcups unfortunately do not swivel. The coiled cable is great and has a soft touch surface.
Being on-ear headphones, 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 to test out.
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 floor-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, substance, and we wholeheartedly recommend the TMA-2 DJ Preset.
Q: Do the best DJ headphones change every year (2019 vs. 2020)?
The answer is it depends! Manufacturers generally don’t release new models too often; once every year or two 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.
Q: What’s the best DJ headphone to buy?
That’s a hard question to answer and depends on so many things! It’s the reason we wrote this guide, to help you navigate the world of DJ headphones and make a selection that fits your budget and needs. The good thing is that whether you DJ weddings, occasionally play a set at the local club, or are a headline act at a giant festival, the same basic principles apply when selecting DJ headphones - they need to sound punchy and loud, and the build quality has to be good.
Q: What headphones do the best DJs use?
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 is a sampling 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
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
Michael bought his first guitar, a Fender California Series Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, in 1998. He likes rock of all types, from classic to punk to metal. Michael co-founded Equipboard to satisfy his curiosity around what gear his guitar heroes use. Read more