One thing to clarify at the outset: If you’re shopping for an everyday pair of headphones for your mobile device or home stereo—the Pioneer HDJ-1500 is not what you’re looking for. That said, these $179 (list) headphones, designed for DJ use, are simple and well-made. At a fraction of the cost of, say, the Beats Pro by Dr. Dre , the HDJ-1500 delivers deep bass at maximum volume with zero distortion, and its flexible design is easy to swivel or flip away from either ear—essential for DJ-ing. Unfortunately, there are some issues in the fit department—when tightened to a secure point, the HDJ-1500 is not very comfortable, which is a major issue for a pair that needs to last throughout a long gig. It does deliver strong audio performance, but it sits in a crowded field of worthy options.
Pioneer opted for a simple, rather than flashy, look. The metallic-and-black design of the HDJ-1500 is not the most visually stunning design we’ve seen, but it’s not ugly, either. You can also purchase the HDJ-1500 in all black or white-and-metallic designs. In pictures, at least, the all-black model seems to have a more mysterious, unique quality to it.
But enough about looks—for a DJ, these headphones need to be easy to flip away from the ear, and that they are. Each ear cup can flip away from the ear a full 180 degrees—farther then you’ll likely ever need. The headband is very flexible as well, so you can swivel the cups forward or backward roughly 45 degrees, and it’s easy to perform a subtle combination of flipping an ear cup and swiveling forward.
The long, detachable audio cable locks into place at the bottom of the left ear cup, and its half-straight, half-stretch coil design terminates in a 3.5mm connection. This is not typical for a DJ set, but a screw-on (and thus, impossible to accidentally disconnect) ¼-inch adapter is included, as is a black nylon drawstring bag.
So, from a functional standpoint, the HDJ-1500 gets the basics right—though its mechanics are not as intricate, sturdy, or fancy as more expensive DJ models like the aforementioned Beats Pro. One thing that doesn’t work well here, however, is the overall comfort of fit. Simply put, when these cans are on securely, they don’t feel very good. The headband has one of the harshest undersides I’ve felt, and you can feel it pressing on the top of your skull.
Loosening it to make things more comfortable is problematic, as well—the fit on the ears, even when things are secure, is already loose. Take away tension from the headband, and the HDJ-1500 will easily fall off your head if you lean too far forward or backward. The fit is a borderline deal-breaker, and definitely the least endearing quality of the headphones.
Luckily, the HDJ-1500 makes up for its rough fit in audio performance. Since much of today’s DJ-ing involves playing music with deep bass content, a competent DJ headphone pair needs to play these frequencies cleanly, and often at high volumes to compete with the overall volume level of the room. The HDJ-150 shines on this front.
Songs with extremely deep bass, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout” and Thom Yorke’s “Cymbal Rush” often distort headphones and speakers at top volumes, but the HDJ-1500 not only delivers these tracks cleanly when maxed out, it also conveys their deepest frequencies with power—and without losing clarity. Often, deep-bass-focused headphones can sound muddy, as they focus on the lows and neglect mids and highs, but the HDJ-1500 doesn’t even sound like it’s focusing on deep-bass—it merely delivers sub-bass content, when it occurs, with gusto.
When there’s no deep bass to deliver—say, on a singer-songwriter style tune by Bill Callahan—the track doesn’t sound weirdly overloaded with extra low frequency content. This is important: The HDJ-1500 is a great tool that maintains a strong clarity throughout the entire frequency range, without neglecting the booming lows that are often associated with DJ and dance tracks, and without adding them when they’re not there.
In the DJ headphone realm, there are other options worth considering. The Technics RP-DH1250 offers far more comfort, and clean, powerful bass response, but slightly less brightness (and a significantly higher price tag). If the $180 price of the HDJ-1500 is bit out of your range, the Shure SRH550DJ is a solid entry-level pair, but our recent favorite is the Numark Electrowave. Its visual design isn’t for everyone, but it’s less expensive than the HDJ-1500, more comfortable, and offers powerful audio performance. If you’ve got a lot more to spend and want more style, accessories, and flourishes, the Beats Pro by Dr. Dre holds very little back. For the price, Pioneer’s HDJ-1500 delivers solid audio performance, but for less, you can find similar performance in a more comfortable fit.
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