Buying a good DJ headphone today is much easier than it was 10 years ago. Sound quality has improved vastly for the price. You just need to ensure they get a few things right.
The size of the headphone drivers is important for a DJ to consider, because bigger drivers also drive clearer sound. Look for headphone with drivers at least 40mm big. You can also find DJ models with 50mm drivers. Beyond that, there is very little advantage though, so if you see a 55mm driver model, you don’t need to fret over it.
As a DJ, you will mostly be a part of very loud environment, so you need to make sure your headphones go loud enough for you to hear clearly. The best way to know how loud a particular headphone will go is to check its maximum input. The higher this number is, the louder you can hear without distortion. A headphone will a maximum input of 300mW will give you high volume with practically no distortion.
Most headphones (not just DJ headphones) can reproduce frequencies from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, which is the range of human hearing. You will also find some headphones with specified frequency ranges beyond these like 16Hz at the low end and 40 kHz at the high end, but they won’t necessarily sound better at all.
Closed or open back
Most DJ’s prefer a closed back headphone because the ear cups are sealed and you get some decent sound isolation from outside noise. Closed back headphones also deliver more bass for the same price, which is important. This is because when there is a lot of outside noise, the bass is the first thing that you hear less. However, if you want to be more aware of what’s happening around, you won’t mind having an open backed headphone with you.
Durable headband and ear cups
DJ headphones take a lot of beating and they have to be taken off and put back on more often than for regular use. This is why you want headphones which have more durable headbands, preferably made of steel. Metal headbands won’t become loose on your head as time wears on. Also, get headphones with adjustable ear cups, so they sit flat on your chest when you hang them around your neck.
Cable and jack size
For DJ’s who have to move around their station quite a bit longer cables are much better than the shorter ones. If you are worried about tangling, get coiled cables.
There are two different jack sizes for headphones – 3.5mm and 6.5mm. The smaller ones are more common as they go into any device including your smartphones, laptops and some DJ mixers. However, if your mixer has a 6.5mm input jack, you will want to get headphones with larger jacks. Also, you can get adapters to convert jacks, so there’s not much to worry about that.
Since you are going to be standing more than sitting and moving around more than a regular listener, get lighter headphones and your neck will thank you.
Most DJ headphones will follow the above specs because they are designed specifically for a purpose, but some models made for special functions may have different specifications.