Gemini’s flagship model in their DJX range offers excellent value, great features and a robust build quality at a remarkably competitive price.
The low-down: Gemini’s DJX-07 headphones fit neatly and certainly look quite serious. With the closed cups and 50 mm drivers they are quite bulky yet remarkably light. Useful accessories include a carry bag, additional cloth ear-pads and a standard gold mini plug connector with gold ¼” (6.3mm) adaptor. They can also be folded up for transport and the earcups can be rotated for placing on your shoulder or for single-cup usage. Sound quality is well balanced and adequately loud (without being obscene); bass response is decent.
Great set of accessories
Good build quality
Very competitive price
May prove a bit bulky for long usage
Expect to pay: R 795.00
A premium set of headphones from a premium brand delivers what is expected of Allen & Heath: pro looks, pro feel and high quality sound. The updated version now includes a detachable cord.
The low-down: These silver and black trim headphones are nice and chunky with a definite quality feel to them. The XD2-53’s name is derived from the 53 mm drivers which deliver supreme sound quality, although one does need to crank them a bit. Distortion free, phat bass, well balanced mids and clear highs makes for an impressive overall sound delivery. Isolation is good although they don’t block everything out and despite their size they’re pretty comfortable to wear, albeit a little bulky.
May be a bit big for really small heads
Expect to pay: R 2,595.00
Professional DJ headphones from a leading brand means quality, good looks in a hassle free package. Box includes headphones and headphone pouch.
The low-down: A very similar headphone to the XD2-53 by Allen & Heath, both in looks and functionality, the DN-HP1000 is a nice chunky set of headphones that can swivel a full 180°. Also with 53 mm drivers, sound quality is top drawer with a particularly rich bass delivery. Thanks to the 180° swivel the fit is comfortable and they feel really substantial on one’s head and are particularly nice for one ear usage. They fold up right to the headband for easy transport but do not have a screw in cable for easy replacement should this break.
Top notch sound, especially the bass
Handsome and pro looking
53 mm drivers
Cable not detachable
Expect to pay: R 2,495.00
An excellent value-for-money set of headphones that’ll surprise many who try them out. The package includes a headphone bag, screw fit adaptor as well as a right angle adaptor and an extra set of ear cups.
The low-down: Appearance wise they don’t look cheap at all, belying their price tag and build quality is on par with many phones twice their price. They also fold up perfectly for travel and are a comfortable, hassle-free fit. Sound isolation is not too great, but overall sound quality, whilst not really comparable to the more expensive headphones out there is certainly adequate. They lack just a little bass but this is only apparent in a proper A/B test. A set of phones that definitely punch way above their price tag.
Seem quite durable
Expect to pay: R 599.00
We look at a collection of studio headphones suitable for mixing and monitoring in your project studio, ranging from budget to professional. Unlike DJ headphones which can ‘colour’ the sound for better audio delivery in a DJ booth, studio headphones need to be as accurate and transparent as is achievable, although this is always a highly subjective topic. To achieve fair and accurate test results we used a Presonus HP4 – high output 4-channel Headphone Distribution Amplifier to test each pair. We also used the same reference tracks and a ‘test mixdown track’ which we tinkered with based on the sound we heard in the headphones. All headphones were considered primarily for use in a project studio environment.
The Prodipe Pro 580’s were (and surely must be) the cheapest set of headphones claiming to be aimed at studio use we could find. Build quality is really not bad although for the price there are understandably no extras in the box. Whilst the sound may appear to be uncoloured (almost bland) there is a definite lack of any discernible bass so mixing on these would not be recommended. However as the box says, for monitoring i.e. doing short bursts of work (I wouldn’t want to use these for long listening periods) they certainly offer enough to not completely deceive your ears and think you need to make any drastic changes to a mix.
Cheap as chips
Fine for basic monitoring situations
Don’t look cheap
Fit pretty well
No discernible bass
No detachable cable or extras
Expect to pay: R 295,00
Is it possible to get ‘professional monitoring headphones’ for R 795,00? Prodipe certainly claim as much on the box. The Pro 800’s are an attractive and pretty well built set of phones. In the box you get an extra set of cloth earcups (plastic vinyl ones are fitted) and a cloth headphone bag. Sound can best be described as fairly bland in the mid range with a slightly emphasised bass and decent treble. They are reasonably comfortable to wear and adjust neatly into foldup position. Mixing proved tricky, deceived mainly by the bass and lack of overall detail. As a backup to your nearfields, they could be used when you need silent monitoring but should not be your only means for mixing and monitoring.
Good value for money
Flawed but workable sound
Don’t look cheap
Extras in the box
No detachable cable
Expect to pay: R 795,00
The AKG K240’s have been around for quite a few years and then some. Actually about 40, our research shows. These mid-priced cans can be found hanging in many studios. The retro style may appear a little too oldskool for some but looking past this is essential as they are very functional and are very comfortable to wear, fitting snugly over one’s ears. Sonically the K240’s are a sure bet. Mixing on them produced excellent results, possibly the closest overall sound to what we think one would expect from nearfield monitors.
Tried and tested studio headphones
Lightweight and comfortable
Nearfield monitor type sound in a set of headphones
Great for long listening sessions
They do look a little dated
Expect to pay: R 2,495.00
The AKG 271 MK11 are closed phones with a reasonable degree of isolation from outside noise and well suited to monitoring. A nice inclusion is the detachable mini-XLR jack and 3 metre cable. Also in the box is an extra set of earpads. They work remarkably well with an almost self-adjusting , free running side mechanism on the sprung wire frame. The inner frame is padded vinyl and the padded circular cushioned earpads fit snugly. Sonically these appeared very well balanced with a nice present bass without being artificially emphasised. The high end seems a little pronounced and this was affirmed when doing a test mixdown although this is no different to what one would get from different studio monitor variants. A very comfortable headphone with a nicely balanced sound, we could see ourselves listening to these for several hours at a time. A novel feature is a switch in the headband that mutes the audio when you remove them.
Very suitable for monitoring and mixing
Excellent fit with self adjusting frame
Great added features (extra earcups, long detachable cable)
‘Auto mute’ switch on headband
Replaceable, detachable cable
Expect to pay: R 2,995.00
The SRH440s are a big seller for Shure in South Africa (and probably worldwide) and it’s not surprising since they deliver a well balanced sound image. Understandably less substantial in overall build quality than the higher spec models in the range, what you do get is a clean and detailed sound quite suitable for home studio production. Isolation is okay, but since they are not fully closed back one can expect a certain amount of bleed. Tested with a host of genres and with our test mixdown, results were pleasing and although not uber loud and a little light on the head, they proved easy to wear and a comfortable listening experience. The coiled cable is the only irritation as it is quite weighty tending to pull on the headphones on one’s head if you move about too much. Great value for money with a trustworthy sound delivery.
Clean, balanced sound
Excellent entry price
Great for home producers
Replaceable, detachable cable
Weighty cable gets in the way
Exposed cables on headband (could pull loose)
Expect to pay: R 1,350.00
The SRH840s are very comfortable and offer great isolation from external noise. As a closed-back headphone they sit nicely on one’s head and are weighty without being intrusive. The sound appeared to be quite bright in the higher mids with a somewhat subtle bass, although it must be said, the bass is very evident, which became apparent with a test mix-down which had favourable results. Once we got used to them, they proved very suitable for mixing and production work with our only concern being sound fatigue after prolonged usage due to their brightness. Overall a very good set of headphones with a detailed sonic delivery.
Neat, folding collapsible design
Very competitive price
Suitable for mixing
A little ‘shouty’ in the upper mids
Bright sound could be fatiguing after lengthy sessions
Expect to pay: R 2,250.00
For an extra R 600 your can get the SRH940 headphones instead of the SRH840. Is it worth the extra spend? We think so. Whereas the SRH840 was a little brighter than preferred, the SRH940 seems to have similar characteristics but somehow less fatiguing. The mid-range between 1 and 3 KHz is still quite punchy and works well on sounds like electric guitars but without the bite that troubled us a little on the 840s. Our test mixdown lacked just a little bass definition, possibly due to the prominent mids and the headphones actually proved better for guitar-based music than electronic, a bit ironic since we loved the SRH440s for the electronic stuff. They are well padded for long listening sessions with good levels of isolation.
Detachable earpads and cable with extras in box
Usable for long sessions without fatigue
Not ideal for electronic music
Expect to pay: R 2,850.00