I’m not a DJ, but I have been posed the question of whether you are able to use studio headphones for DJing? With the experience I have had in the studio with studio headphones, I decided to compile why studio headphones are superior for any situation.
Studio headphones can definitely be used for DJing due to the high quality of the components that they are made of, and their critical high fidelity audio production with a flat response. Just be sure to get headphones with a close-back to avoid any unwanted ambient noise and interference.
In this article, we will take a look at exactly what studio headphones are, what variations and combinations you get with them, and why they are better overall in comparison to other high-quality headphones and gaming headphones. We’ll also look at why we would want to use them for basically any audio situation (DJing, mixing, recording, listening enjoyment, and more).
What are studio headphones?
Studio headphones are headphones that provide the listener with a flat response when listening to audio through them. This means that no frequency in the frequency range is boosted or cut to enhance the sound that is coming through them.
There are a few variations when you are trying to pick out your studio headphones, and this article covers the main aspects you’ll be looking at when using studio headphones as a DJ.
Watch Sound On Sound magazine explain everything you need to know about studio headphones.
Types of studio headphones
One cool thing about headphones is that you can get them in a wireless combination using Bluetooth. One thing to note about wireless studio headphones is that they are not always the best choice when mixing or when being used for a live performance.
The first thing to note is that they can cause latency. Latency is the amount of time (usually in milliseconds) it takes for your device, in this case, headphones, to play the sound that you are supposed to be hearing from the device that is sending the audio to your listening device.
Another thing to worry about is that wireless headphones require batteries, and if you are using them frequently and you are not using rechargeable batteries, the batteries are going to stack up quickly, and your wallet will continuously empty.
Furthermore, you do not want to be in a situation either playing as a DJ or in a live studio environment where people are paying you for your time and experience, and you’re running around looking for batteries for your headphones. It’s very unprofessional.
The last thing to consider is that some wireless headphones sound a bit strange when compared to their analog counterparts. This could be the effect of “something getting lost in translation” when the audio signal gets converted from one signal into another and travels through the air, and then gets converted back into an electrical signal and then back into analog.
This is where you want to be when you are in the realm of having to use studio headphones. Analog headphones provide you with a stable zero latency connection when you are listening to your audio. Also, the signal does not get converted again and again to distort or ruin the sound in any way.
Open or closed-back studio headphones
If you are a DJ, then I would recommend using closed-back headphones for the simple reason that you need to be able to hear your mix with no ambient sound coming through to your ears when performing live. You won’t be producing a track when mixing live, so you should steer away from open-backed headphones.
Why use open-back headphones?
If you’re not DJing and using your headphones in the studio, then sometimes getting open-back headphones are better. The reason is that when the diaphragm in the headphones produces the sound, there is as much sound going out the front of the diaphragm as there is going out the back.
If you have closed-back headphones, the sound doesn’t escape and lands up in the mix of the sound coming out of the front of the diaphragm. This can cause unwanted frequency booms and make things sound louder than they actually are. So for studio purposes, open-backed headphones are sometimes recommended more so than closed-back headphones.
How are studio headphones different from normal headphones?
Just like studio monitors, studio headphones should have a flat frequency response. The flatter (more neutral) the frequency response than the better the headphones or studio monitors because they do not favor any one frequency. Thus, when you mix and produce your track, you should be able to mix a sound that sounds good on almost any audio playback device.
The flat response is the main factor that separates studio headphones and monitors from your regular pair of headphones and home theater speakers. However, there is no way to measure the standard headphone frequency response because you need to measure the headphones with a head in the way of the diaphragm of the headphones. Otherwise, there is no point in trying to measure the response.
The next thing to consider is that everybody’s head is slightly different, so the response will be slightly different.
Lastly, the amount of response will change due to wear and tear on the headphones themselves, including the materials and the cup that holds the diaphragm in place.
The good news about studio headphones
We’ve mentioned that studio headphones won’t be that flat due to various aspects. However, you can get headphone correction software that specializes in correcting headphones, and they will supply you with a corrected EQ curve that will fix your headphones and bring them to a flat response (a flat response to what those software programs think is flat). These programs work pretty well.
Studio headphones will also be flatter than if you have studio monitors in an untreated room due to the acoustics of the room. Hence, if you have a solid pair of studio headphones and studio monitors in your untreated studio apartment, you are better off with your headphones than your monitors.
What about gaming headphones?
Like home theater system speakers, manufacturers will design and build gaming headphones to boost specific frequencies. This is because they want to make your listening experience much more pleasant. Hence, they will boost the low frequencies for extra bass and then the high frequencies to give the extra audio treble, so it sounds brighter. As a professional in the audio game, this is not what we want, either for live performances or studio recordings.
Watch AIR BEAR go over studio headphones vs. gaming headphones and why studio headphones are better than gaming headphones, not just for gaming but for any audio listening purpose.
Why do you need headphones for DJing?
As we stated, you need to be able to listen to the track you are wanting to play in conjunction with the current track that is being played. You cant test your mix while performing live, and headphones provide you with the perfect application to do so.
Also, if you are in an environment that is loud and noisy as a club, you need headphones to isolate and remove any ambient noise so you can listen at a professional and critical level. You would never be able to use monitors in a DJing situation.
What type of sound do you need when DJing?
For DJing purposes, you just need a pair of high-quality audio headphones. These could be studio headphones or just another pair of good quality studio headphones.
Depending on your DJing situation (club, radio, small Sunday, brunch, or wedding), your headphones will just be used for mixing one track into another. Typically you’ll be able to hear the sound from the PA and judge what you need to add or subtract from your mix without needing specialized flat response studio headphones.
Do studio headphones give you the sound you need for DJing?
A DJ’s situation is that they are mixing one audio track into another. So, you’re not really mixing audio for mixing purposes in relation to producing a good sounding track. You are just trying to hear what you are doing and trying to mix the current track into the next one. Hence, of course, studio headphones give you the sound you need for DJing.
In regards to just needing to be able to hear the audio you are mixing, you can use just about any headphones. If you are trying to mix live and adjust frequencies, then studio headphones would definitely be better. However, producing should be left in the studio, and live performances should be geared towards your skill at performing and not producing.
In conclusion, we arrive at the fact that pretty much any pair of good high-quality professional headphones are good for DJing. Studio headphones are great for DJing because, in general, they provide a flatter response compared to standard headphones and gaming headphones. Hence you can hear the tracks you are trying to listen to with clear and crystal high fidelity detail.
Remember, though, high-quality headphones have various bells and whistles that you can choose from, and they include wireless and open or closed-back headphones.
Pretty much for the job of a DJ, you do not want your headphones audio bleeding out into the crowd or the radio booth, so always stick with closed-back headphones.
Then lastly always go for analog headphones with a wire, because you never know when you may run out of batteries or something may malfunction with your wireless headphones and then you are going to be in trouble.