Headphones are a DJ’s best friend and they’re a crucial tool and component of any DJ setup at any level. Headphones connect us to our mix and isolate us from the noise of the club, room or venue, they’re a wise investment and it’s sensible to not go for the cheapest normal or non-DJ headphones available when there’s so much awesome choice out there.
DJ headphones range from ultra-cheap models that are designed for hobbyist DJs or bedroom DJs to very expensive pro headphones that hit festival lineups and sellout shows for the world’s top DJs.
DJ headphones come at many levels of spec suitable for every user, there’s more choice than ever now and thus, the price of headphones has been reducing over time. We can now get better headphones at more reasonable prices than ever before, banging basslines and super-crisp hi-hats are no longer exclusive to top-level headphones – rejoice!
Here, we’ll be looking at some of the best headphones under $100. You can get some very good headphones for this price, they’ll deliver night after night and will last years if you treat them well!
|Audio-Technica ATH-M40X||Over-Ear, Closed-Back Design; 40mm Dynamic Drivers; 90-Degree Swiveling Earcups; Frequency Response: 15 Hz to 24 kHz||PRICING|
|OneOdio Over Ear Headphones||Foldable Design; Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz; 50mm Drivers;||PRICING|
|Sony MDR 7506||40mm Neodymium Drivers; Closed Design; Swiveling Earcups;||PRICING|
|Numark Red Wave Carbon||50mm Neodymium Drivers; Frequency Response: 15 Hz to 20 kHz; 90° Swiveling Ear Cups;||PRICING|
|Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones||On-Ear Design; 4-Conductor Cable Design; Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz;||PRICING|
|Sennheiser HD 200 PRO||Closed, Around-Ear Design; Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz; 50mm Drivers; Soft ear cushions;||PRICING|
1) Sound Quality
Priority for most audio output devices including headphones is sound quality. With poor headphone sound quality, you’re basically screwed as a DJ. You won’t be able to hear things effectively, sounds might be quiet, muffled or distorted.
You might lose track of your hi-hats, your bassline might be muddy and hard to distinguish or your synths might scream with a tin-can-like distortion that bothers you more and more as the mix goes on. Every component of your song needs to be clearly audible, that’s a basic necessity.
Many DJ headphones these days offer impressive levels of audio quality but not all of them produce adequate audio for demanding high-volume events.
Speaker drivers: Speaker drivers affect sound quality greatly, the bigger the driver, the louder headphones can be and so long as the drivers are good quality, bigger usually is better. Of course, this isn’t always the case but large-diameter drivers, typically 40mm or above, should produce more powerful and clearer bass at least.
2) Sound/Noise Isolation
Headphones need to isolate outside noise to be effective in DJ situations. If you can hear the rumble of the soundsystem and monitors, noise from the crowd and stage noise like smoke machines or pyrotechnics then you’ll be put off your mix. The noise of a gig can be a huge distraction and a well-isolated headphone allows you to retract into your bubble to focus your mind and ears onto your mix. If you’re unable to do this, you might find it very hard to concentrate on the music, it’s very annoying!
Active vs Passive Sound/Noise Isolation: There are two types of sound isolation available. Passive sound isolation involves special padded earpieces that are tuned to reduce and absorb outside sounds. This is the most common form of sound isolation, it’s simple but effective and manufacturers have really squeezed the best out of it.
Active noise isolation, or noise cancellation, involves a microphone that picks up sounds from the environment and then emits an exact negative of that tone to cancel it out. Pretty genius right? Thing is, in a DJ situation, where the ambient noise is extremely loud, this microphone will be overloaded and the results would probably be poor.
3) Comfort and Ergonomics
DJ sets are long and they’re often sweaty, stressful and enduring on the ears, besides all the fun stuff of course! Comfort, therefore, is incredibly important. Bad fitting headphones will rub, chaff and dig at your ears and skull, throw in some inevitable sweat and things can get pretty horrible. You don’t want to be constantly reaching for your headphones, adjusting them and scratching your head and ears!
Audio-Technica are a longstanding audio giant with a major reputation in manufacturing excellent quality headphones. These awesome over-ear headphones deliver excellent audio quality and top comfort. They’re larger than some but they really shield you from outside noise and other stressors allowing you to home in on your mix and reach your DJ zen.
These headphones are not small and they don’t have a low profile by any stretch. However, they’re strong and durable, comfy and pretty ergonomic. The large ear pads are soft and they provide a good deal of sound isolation. Some might find them too large, though, but at the end of the day, you want them to be big enough to cover your ears comprehensively and not just hang loosely over them. These headphones have a thick headband and they clench quite strongly across the head which some (with bigger heads!) might find uncomfortable.
With 40mm drivers that feature rare earth magnets and copper-aluminum coils, these headphones pack a serious punch in the audio department with plenty of volume, depth, bass, and clarity. These headphones are easily powerful enough to cut through the loudest noise, though you should obviously always be careful when cranking the volume too high. High-quality drivers combined with excellent earpads make for solid audio quality across the frequency spectrum.
The OneOdio range are exceptionally well reviewed across Amazon and forms and posts across the internet. They do sit well below the $100 mark but they’re very good for the money and they deserve a mention in any headphone lineup. These headphones combine OneOdio’s considerable skill and experience in audio manufacture with excellent drivers and comfortable design.
These headphones sport a classic look with a chunky but funky plastic design and large earcups. They’re not small and don’t have a particularly low profile so don’t expect to be able to slip them into a reasonably large pocket or wear them around your neck for the duration of the night. They are comfortable, though, and the earpads are soft and pleasant to wear for long periods of time.
These headphones feature 50mm drivers with neodymium rare earth magnets which is quite impressive for headphones at this price range. They have an extra long 10ft cable which is far longer than average, excellent for DJ use. This use doubles up in the studio too where it’s handy to have an extra long cable to reduce the need for extension cables. These headphones deliver very loud and crisp audio with plenty of low-end oomph, exactly what you need!
These headphones sit just below $100 but they’re excellent for their price tag combining classy sound quality with Sony’s superb styling and great comfort. Quality soft earpads provide more-than-adequate sound isolation and overall, these headphones deliver performance above their price.
These headphones look great; they’re simple and elegant which is what we expect from Sony who produces some of the finest looking audio tech in the world. They have excellent large earpads that are super soft and don’t chafe the ear when worn for extended periods. The headband is easily adjusted, strong and rigid.
These headphones sport large 40mm diameter drivers with neodymium magnets. They produce rich lows and crisp highs and are generally more dynamic and sensitive than some other headphones at the prices. Excellent sound quality is a given for headphones at around the $100 mark these days, such is the consistency of audio technology, but these headphones pull a little more out than others.
These Numark headphones are designed specifically for DJing with swivel earcups and bulky earpads. They look cool, are very cost-effective for their features and provide pretty awesome audio quality. They might be a little garish and bright for some but you can’t knock it and Numark are known for their larger-than-life designs.
These headphones are very large and bulky with pretty huge earcups and a massive headband. The somewhat industrial design is mirrored by the aesthetics of the headphone which include Numark’s triskele logo on each earpad. They’re big but have big attitude and they’re comfortable to wear for long durations.
Delivering 50mm neodymium drivers, these headphones pack a punch that goes beyond many at this price bracket. Super clear bass combines with a great stereo image and high-end clarity to deliver audio which is superbly suited for DJing. They’re loud too, and combined with the super padded earmuffs, this gives these headphones excellent performance at loud gigs and events.
Grado is making waves with its series of retro-styled superb quality headphones for studio, every day, and DJ use. They might look old-school and minimal but Grado has risen rapidly through the rankings for a reason and these headphones are their entry-level model with a more-than-entry-level set of features for the cost.
These headphones are markedly different to the others reviewed here, they’re far slimmer and more minimal with smaller earpads and a generally more compact design. Not everyone enjoys the massive earpad typical style of DJ headphone and these are a worthy alternative which many people learn to love. The build is strong and durable, though, and these headphones don’t really compromise on comfort anyway. The best of both worlds, you could say.
The usual 40mm neodymium drivers are expertly engineered with some additional tech which improves their bass dynamics and high-frequency performance. These headphones are well known to sound better than their sub $100 price tag, they’re superbly well designed and optimized for quality. For DJs, these headphones deliver reliable and clear bass with plenty of clarity and an excellent stereo image. What more can you ask for?!
You can’t have a headphone review without some Sennheisers, the brand has become a household name in audio tech and with good reason. The HD Pro range of headphones delivers some excellent models at a variety of price brackets but the HD 200 Pro fits firmly in the sub $100 bracket delivering top audio quality across the spectrum.
There’s nothing complex here, these headphones are minimalist, simple and most importantly, comfortable. The earpads are harder than average which suits some who prefer a more rigid fit but they’re very stable on the ear and provide excellent sound isolation. The cable extends to a pretty hefty 5m+, though you probably don’t want to go that far from your decks with your headphones still on.
Again, there’s nothing here that blows away the competition but Sennheiser has engineered a very precise driver which provides a superbly clear and honest picture of your mix. The clarity of these headphones is excellent, they really separate out the instruments and sounds of a mix so you can quickly lock onto different elements of a tune and concentrate fully on executing your set.
Some excellent headphones on show here altogether showing how brands are delivering extremely good quality gear at lower price ranges than ever.
For superb tried-and-tested quality, the Audio Technica ATH-M40X are pretty unbeatable. They’re large but comfortable, bassy but clear and strong and easily adjusted. They pack everything a DJ might need and at the cost, it’s no wonder they’re some of the most popular DJ/studio headphones in the world.
The Grado SR80e are the new kids on the block, the look cool, are very well made and best of all, they deliver amazing audio that is suitable for DJ, every-day and studio use. These are a classy pair of multipurpose headphones that deliver quality for anyone looking for headphones under $100 and DJs are certainly included!
Numark’s Red Wave Carbon headphones look cool if you’re that way inclined but to be fair, they’re not just gimmicky and pack some of the best drivers of any headphones in the lineup. Loud, clear and well-optimized for DJing, the Red Waves are indeed making waves as being a quality piece of audio gear at a very reasonable price.
The Sennheiser HD 200 Pros, Sony MDR7506 and OneOdio Over Ear Headphones are all tremendously good headphones for the money too. In short, any of these headphones will probably exceed your expectations in delivering quality audio for DJing alongside comfort and wearability for prolonged periods of time. The competition is hot out there, pick your weapon of choice!