We’ve been checking out some of the latest affordable DJ headphones recently, and the field has plenty of entry-level contenders. In the affordable realm, our favorite (thus far) is the $149.95 (list)Numark Electrowave. If you can get past the white-blue-silver styling (and glow-in-the-dark logo), which isn’t necessarily for everyone, this is a very comfortable, powerful pair of headphones with the typical DJ features, like flip-away earcups and detachable cables. The fact that it’s more affordable than respectable competing models like the Pioneer HDJ-1500 and Technics RP-DH1250, while keeping up with them from an audio performance standpoint, wins it our Editors’ Choice.
The white-blue-silver design scheme for the Electrowave, complete with an involved logo emblazoned above each earcup that, for good measure, glows in the dark, might be a turn-off for some. It’s not my favorite look, but style is very personal, so we’ll focus on the functionality of this sturdy pair. The earpads are plush and covered with felt, while the headband uses plenty of cushioned padding in a white, leather-like material.
The headband has a very nice locking feature so that once you’ve adjusted it to the preferred size, it stays in place. Unlike the Pioneer HDJ-1500, it has a very secure fit, so leaning forward or backward quickly is not a concern—these won’t fall off. The earpads are exceedingly comfortable, as is the cushioning of the headband.
As would be expected of a DJ pair, the earcups flip away and the headband is fairly flexible, though not as flexible as the designs of the Technics and Pioneer pairs we recently tested. Regardless, it’s easy to free up an ear in a hurry, and like all of the pairs we’ve looked into lately, the Electrowave features a detachable cable that locks into place.
In fact, the Electrowave ships with two cable options—one coiled, stretching cable, and one straight, both about 10 feet in length. Neither has phone controls, unlike the Technics pair, but this hardly seems like something a dedicated DJ needs on his or her primary mixing tool. Both cables terminate in 3.5mm connections, but the Electrowave ships with a screw-on ¼-inch adapter. A black, unlabeled drawstring carrying pouch is also included.
A pair of DJ headphones had better be able to produce deep bass frequencies powerfully and distortion-free. The Electrowave does this, but also excels in another, equally important area—it reproduces mid-high and high frequencies clearly and crisply, allowing the all-important attack of drum hits to sit comfortably in the forefront of the mix.
The Electrowave has no problem reproducing the challenging deep bass of the electronic drum beat in the Knife’s “Silent Shout” distortion-free, even at top volume. But its reproduction of the mids and highs brings out the drum hit’s intense attack as well, giving definition to the thunder.
The sculpted mids and highs also help vocals stand out, whether on a stripped-down singer-songwriter-type track from Bill Callahan or on more layered rock mixes, like Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again.” On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the high-mids almost outshine the presence of the sub-bass, pushing the attack of the kick drum loop to the forefront while the sub-bass synth hits get less boost than they would from, say, the Beats Pro by Dr. Dre .
Compared with the pricier Technics RP-DH1250, the Electrowave seems similar, if perhaps slightly less boosted, in the sub-bass frequencies, and perhaps a bit brighter—the Technics pair seems a bit more focused on midrange content than the higher frequencies. Sonically, I’d give the Electrowave the slight edge here, but both pairs are quite comfortable, and it’s really a matter of taste (and price). In terms of comfort, both pairs have a marked edge over the Pioneer HDJ-1500, but I’d say that the HDJ-1500 and the Electrowave battle more or less to a draw in terms of audio performance—both are powerful, with deep bass and clear, articulate highs.
Beyond this price range, the Beats Pro is a snazzy option with lots of bells and whistles, as well as solid performance, and in the less expensive realm, the Shure SRH550DJ is a perfectly capable entry-level DJ pair. Given that the Electrowave is more comfortable and affordable than the Pioneer pair, and can hang with the Technics pair sonically (despite being far less expensive), it gets the slight edge—and our Editors’ Choice—in this crowded field of new DJ headphones.
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