Shopping for new headphones can be exciting, but if you’re not sure what type you need, or the differences between the different styles of headphones, then finding the perfect pair can be a lengthy process.
If you’re new to the DJing scene, then you may be wondering what makes DJ headphones different, what types of features they have to offer, and why they’re usually pricier than a standard pair of headphones.
I’ll explore the differences between both types of headphones and the features that the DJ headphones possess, as well as how these features can impact your performance as a DJ.
What makes DJ headphones different? DJ headphones differ from traditional headphones in both design and their capabilities. With DJ headphones, you can play two different songs simultaneously. There will be a different song playing in each earcup, which is what allows the DJ to listen to the current track that’s playing for the crowd, and the upcoming track. This enables the DJ to perfectly blend the two songs together at the perfect moment, based on beat and tempo. The design of DJ headphones is also different. Their swivel design allows a DJ to wear only one earcup at a time if they prefer to listen to the current track playing while wearing one earcup to listen to the upcoming track.
Traditional headphones cannot play more than one song at a time and they don’t feature the classic DJ swivel headphone design. DJ headphones can also be listened to at a higher volume, without the fear of distortion or blowing the speakers. They also have superior noise canceling features, compared to traditional headphones.
As you can see, there are many differences between standard headphones and DJ headphones. With the right pair of DJ headphones, you can easily monitor upcoming tracks and expertly mix them into one seamlessly long piece that will really showcase your DJing skills and style.
DJ Headphones and the Spinning Culture
Headphones have been a major part of the DJ culture for decades. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a DJ that’s not at least wearing a pair of headphones around their neck. And while headphones are often considered part of the DJ’s uniform and are even considered a fashion accessory, they do serve an important purpose for the beginner and pro DJ.
In fact, top of the line DJing headphones can even be looked upon as status symbols, since these pairs often go for hundreds of dollars.
But regardless of price, all DJ headphones are designed to perform the same functions in the booth, giving the user control over their set and allowing them to expertly go from one song to the next. However, while they may look alike, DJ headphones definitely serve a different purpose compared to studio headphones, gaming headphones, and traditional headphones.
The Two Crucial Features Only DJ Headphones Offer
In the DJ booth, using a pair of high-quality headphones can mean the difference between a smooth set and a transition falling flat. But what makes these headphones so different from the headphones we normally wear at home when we’re listening to music?
One of the major differences between a pair of standard headphones and DJ headphones is that headphones for DJs are designed to swivel when they’re worn, so the DJ can wear one earcup over a single ear.
DJ headphones also have the ability to play a different track in each earcup. Both of these features allow a DJ to listen to one track and cue another, simultaneously. This is essential for mixing purposes. When mixing a track, the DJ needs to pay close attention to both the song currently playing and the song that’s about to play.
As previously mentioned, the DJ headphones feature a swivel design in order to allow the DJ to easily mix two songs. When mixing, the DJ must pay attention to beat matching the upcoming track with the track that’s currently playing.
They also have to mix the upcoming track with the currently playing track at the perfect moment in order to blend the songs in a manner that makes them sound like a single piece. They also have to pay attention to compression and EQ’ing certain parts of a mix.
These are just some of the basic things the DJ needs to pay close attention to. This job may seem easy if you’ve never tried DJing and only experienced it from the dancefloor, but the DJ needs to do all of this in a dark, noisy environment, which can make it difficult to hear the music or cue in a song at the right moment.
The best DJ headphones can make all the difference, especially for the DJ who prefers to only mix through their headphones and wear both earcups at the same time. Most DJs will have the current song playing in one ear, with the cue song playing in the other.
Keep in mind, this is only possible if the headphones they’re using are wired for this and if their mixer or controller has the popular split cue setting.
Higher Volume Capabilities
Using this technique when DJing has its own advantages. The DJ will be able to hear both of the tracks exactly as they are and their beat-matching will be more accurate. They will also be able to block out a noisy environment to a larger extent.
However, they can also quickly get ear fatigue by listening to two different tracks at the same time. This technique definitely takes some practice and getting used to.
When you DJ with headphones, you have to play music at a higher volume in order to drown out the sounds of the club environment.
Additionally, the speakers in the club may not replicate the tracks the way they should, so the DJ’s mixing can be off slightly, for the crowd.
Other DJs will usually have just one of their ears covered with the headphones in order to listen to the cue track. The ear that’s left uncovered will listen to the monitor speakers that are playing the current track. If you’re not sure what monitor speakers are, check out the speakers the next time you’re in a club.
These are the speakers that are placed facing the DJ. Wearing just one earcup can make it easier for the DJ to closely monitor the quality of their mix exactly the way the crowd is hearing it.
Regular headphones designed for consumers obviously can only play one song at a time. Many of the latest models are Bluetooth capable, so the wearer can workout or wear their headphones without having to worry about tripping over a wire.
Traditional headphones do not feature a swivel design and both earcups are worn at the same time. These headphones cannot be used for DJing purposes since their functionality is so limited.
How to Choose the Right DJ Headphones
A high-quality pair of DJ headphones will be able to block out the sounds from the crowd, allowing you to focus on your mix. Lower-priced models usually can’t do this, which makes them a total waste of money.
Many models of DJ headphones these days are in-ear instead of on-ear, due to the importance of the noise cancelation feature.
The in-ear headphones will cover the entire ear, blocking out any environmental noise to a much larger degree compared to the on-ear headphones, which only cover part of the ear. On-ear headphones are mainly designed for comfort and they usually offer mediocre noise canceling capabilities.
The DJ headphones you choose should be durable, sturdy, and able to withstand heavy duty use. They’re actually much bulkier than traditional headphones and can take a beating without any of the plastic components chipping or cracking.
They’re also usually more flexible than traditional headphones and work better at a higher volume. You may notice that when you turn the volume up with your traditional headphones that the sound begins to crackle and become distorted.
In fact, many lower-priced traditional headphones can easily blow if you use them at a high volume. But that’s not the case with DJ headphones. These are the headphones that are designed for high volumes and you won’t hear any type of distortion when they’re cranked up.
Of course, a higher volume is necessary when you’re spinning in a club, even though most DJ headphones come with top of the line noise canceling features.
DJ Headphone Protection
In the long run, DJ headphone use can damage your hearing. If you’re worried about your hearing, the best solution is using in-ear monitors, which are basically earpieces that can play audio via radio transmission into the ears.
The biggest advantage is that you don’t have to play music at such a loud volume like you will with your standard pair of DJ headphones. However, the biggest drawback is that you’ll only be able to mix when you use your earphones if you decide to go with in-ear monitors. For DJs who prefer to mix their sets live, this will not fly.
While it’s possible to mix without using DJ headphones, it’s not the best idea. To learn more about mixing sets, click here and check out my article on how to be a good DJ mixer.
The Safest Pair of DJing Headphones
If you’re on a budget and you’re looking for a versatile pair of DJing headphones, a pair that is gentle on your hearing but comes loaded with all of the essential features and capabilities that the pro DJ needs, I recommend the Sony MDR-V700DJ. These headphones are top of the line, reasonably priced, and a great buy for beginner or pro DJs.
Can You Use DJing Headphones for Gaming?
You can, but that doesn’t mean you should. Traditional headphones designed for gaming will not offer the same type of sound quality that you’ll get from DJ headphones, and they aren’t quite as flexible. Many gaming headphone sets are wireless and come with mics, which can be essential if you’re playing against other people online.
For this reason, DJ headphones will be a bad fit. However, if you’re in need of a pair of headphones on the fly, you can use DJ headphones, they just won’t offer the type of functionality you’ll need for live gaming.
What’s the Difference Between Studio Headphones and DJ Headphones?
Studio headphones are very different from DJ headphones in the sense that they’re designed to provide a flat frequency response. Essentially, a song will sound exactly as it is, without any compensation that the speakers in headphones will normally make in order to improve the quality of a track.
This allows the producer or engineer to more accurately improve the quality of a track.
So, what makes DJ headphones different from traditional headphones? DJ headphones are designed to play two different songs at the same time, with a different song playing in each earcup.
One song is the current track that’s playing for the crowd, while the second song is the upcoming song the DJ needs to mix perfectly with the current track that’s playing, in order to combine both of the songs into one piece.
This transition can be tricky for beginners, but the experienced DJ can do this effortlessly, as long as they have a good pair of headphones. DJs also use these special headphones because of the swivel design that allows the DJ to wear just one earcup.
Many DJs prefer to wear just one earcup in order to hear the upcoming track while leaving their other ear free to listen to the song that’s playing for the crowd. Most pairs of DJ headphones can also be used at a higher volume, without damaging the headphone’s speakers.
Additionally, these headphones offer superior noise canceling capabilities compared to traditional headphones, which will definitely come in handy in a noisy nightclub environment.
As you can see, DJ headphones serve a very specific purpose, and without them, mixing and transitioning from one song to the next would be very difficult.