My 'current' headphones
I get asked by many DJs about headphones. Which are the best? Which brand do you recommend? What do you think of Beats? Unfortunately there are no easy answers to these questions. Headphones are as unique to the DJ, as the DJ is to their music. You really need to find a pair that are right for you! That said, perhaps discussing my headphone history will help.
Please understand that these are in no way an endorsement to any particular brand or model, I have no deals with any manufactures to review, rate, or recommend gear. These are all my personal experiences, and opinions, simply for the purposes of informing and training DJs.
My very first pair of headphones. They were affordable, comfy, and folded up into a nice little bag (which I still have btw). As these were my first pair of headphones I got used to several features of them. The number one being the swivel earpiece. When you begin to gain your DJ technique there are certain things that develop in regards to your headphones. One is how you cue your music, the other is how you listen to your mix. Your gear teaches you your technique, and that fact is never more apparent until you use new gear.
When you find gear you love it becomes a part of you. It goes everywhere with you. It's seen things!!! If you are a DJ you will know exactly what I mean when I say that you will do everything you can to keep gear you love. I had so much electrical tape on these headphones they were literally being held together by the tape! Eventually though it was soon time to let them go.
Sennheiser HD 280 Pros
My next set. I went through three pairs of these over about 10 years. A DJ I was training at the time must have taken pity on my Pioneers cause he gave me a set of these Sennheisers. Apparently they were given to him from a friend, and he only kept them as backup. I accepted. I really did need new headphones, I just couldn't bring myself to go and find another pair. Perhaps this was fate.. though it felt more like an intervention now that I think about it.
First thing I noticed.. These were not technically 'DJ' headphones but studio monitors. While the industry still labels headphones this way as DJs we need only concern ourselves to whether or not they are open ear or closed ear headphones. Basically, open sits on the ear, and closed, fits around the ear. The closed type is better for isolating the sounds from the headphones, eliminating outside noise. Open types are better for listening to the cue and the mix without needing to remove the cup from your ear. I've never been able to keep my headphones on all the time so as to whether this is true or not, I couldn't tell you. I personally find that closed ear types are more comfortable with a wider range of frequencies, while the open are more bass heavy and tend to irritate the ear after long periods of use.
These were the closed type. Very comfortable, sounded amazing, swiveled and had replaceable ear cups. I have never taken advantage of the replaceable ear cup features of headphones, mostly because I've never seen them readily for sale. My guess is that you would need to order them from the manufacturer, then figure out how to go about the replacement. I loved these headphones so much that after three pairs and nearly 10 years, I felt it was time to explore what else the DJ world had to offer.
AKG Tiesto K267s
I had always heard good things about AKG from several of my DJs so I decided to give them a try. They lasted me about 3 months before they decided to just fall apart at a show. The band to cup connection was the issue. Like most headphones the headband slides up and down an inner band that is connected to the cup. The inner band is screwed to the cup at the bottom, while being flared out on the top so it doesn't fall out of the headband when extended. The issue here was that inner band kept falling out of the headband! So like any DJ would, I taped it together (love my electrical tape!). This worked for awhile.. until not only did the inner band come out, but the wiring too! Thankfully I keep a set of Shure SE846 earbuds on hand at all times as a backup.
Needless to say I have never, and will never purchase another pair of AKGs. Nor will I ever recommend them. It is very hard to trust a company again after an equipment failure. Not only does it cost us money, it creates distrust in our gear, which creates stress for us. We must be able to trust our gear. I am not sure what happened here and I don't really care. All I know is that I purchased my first set of gear from AKG and this was my experience with their product. Perhaps if I had had a better experience previously I might accept that this was a fluke or one off. I may have even looked into the warranty too. That isn't the case though. Companies need to be mindful that every piece of tech and gear that goes out is good enough to impress a first time buyer. Given my experience I believe that AKG is just a company that creates cheap products and slaps a well known DJ name on it to sell it. Be it true or not, I have had better experiences with other companies so why would I spend more money on AKG products to change my mind? This is a great lesson to DJs and all business owners as well, you can do 100 great shows, however the moment you have 1 terrible show this reasoning begins to form in client's minds.
Don't get me wrong headphones and gear don't need to last forever but they need to be able to take a decent beating. I am in no way hard on any of my gear, however I do put some heavy use on my gear. These might be ok for a new DJ just starting out, but if you are doing 6-7 shows a month, this was my result. Gear for professional DJs need to withstand the wear and tear of being used, and these failed. 3 months of steady use before literally falling apart is not acceptable at all for a professional product.
The Pioneer HDJ-700-Ns
That brings me to my current pair of headphones! Once again I found myself trying on different headsets, checking for on-ear and over ear comfort. Listening to sound quality, checking the bands, etc. A lot of people ask me why I don't check into reviews before heading to the store. I do actually, however it is difficult when it comes to gear for several reasons which I will get into in another post.
First thing I noticed was that instead of the swivel I have gotten so used to, there was now a single rotating ear cup similar to the Beats headphones. They are on-ear and they do NOT fold up. I wasn't sure how I was going to like this, but the price was right, and I needed a pair of headphones.
It's a good thing I kept my original Pioneer case because most headphones do not come with cases. Come to think of it, the case has outlasted all the headphones. It is now on it's 6th set of headphones!
I have had these headphones now going on 1 year.
I will admit that they take getting used to if you are used to the ear cup swivel. I have developed the habit of resting the cup on my shoulder and leaning my head in and out of the cup while mixing. While it is not impossible it is awkward as you end up bending the frame to make that happen. I have had to essentially retrain myself to use these, which is fine. The only other thing that is again more habit than complaint is when they are around my neck. As the cups do not swivel out and lay flat, I either need to expand them fully so the cups hang low enough, or turn them to the side so the cups are out of the way of my chin. Old habits die hard so I still find myself looking down at my tables only to have the headphones lodge into my throat.
These are pretty sturdy cans and so far they have withstood my heavy usage. I do not foresee these falling apart anytime soon. I would expect as with most headphones the lining will begin to wear along the cup and at the top of the headband. These are the most common traits of wear and tear on well used headphones.
As for my next pair... stay tuned to find out where I turn to next!
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