DJ headphones are a slightly different beast to hi-fi or monitoring cans. The circumstances in which they’re designed to be used are different: fidelity and looks are lower down the scale of importance but comfort, volume, flexibility and sound isolation are higher up. AKG makes a range of excellent headphones and the K181 DJ UE model is designed for DJs. They are sensibly priced too, so will appeal to DJs of all levels.
The headphones are very lightweight and have an all-plastic construction. They fold up for easy transportation and have a clever 3D action on each cup meaning it can be turned easily through 180 degrees outward when you don’t want both cups on your ears at the same time. The cable is coiled so that when you’re standing near your decks there isn’t much to dangle and get in your way, but if you need to move a little further away you can do so without fear of pulling any connections out. It has a detachable mini XLR connection for quick replacement though unlike on some headphones this fits only to one side rather than giving you the choice of either.
The headphones are adjustable of course and despite the slightly odd angle at which the cups first appear to sit, are comfortable to wear. They’re on-ear models so the padding sits on top of but not around the ear. The hole in the centre is smaller than usual because it needs to concentrate more sound into your ear and block out more ambient noise than headphones usually would due to the nature of DJ’ing.
There’s a bass boost control which on non-DJ headphones might seem gimmicky but here, where you’re likely to be fighting against the power of a PA system, it can actually be really useful for squeezing a bit more bottom end out of the signal to help you hear what’s going on. There’s actually a separate bass boost switch on both cups so you’ll need to remember to turn them both on. If you do happen to be listening with one ear, a handy mono/stereo switch can send a mono version into a single cup which will certainly be a bonus for some users.
The headphones are capable of really solid volume levels and have a sensitivity of 112 dB SPL/V and a bandwidth of 5 to 30000 Hz. Fidelity is actually very good and the frequency spectrum is pretty accurate even when listening at higher volumes. With bass boost on you don’t get a silly amount of low end, and the overall balance remains good. The K181 DJ UE’s certainly punch above their weight and are an excellent and affordable monitoring solution for DJs with some helpful DJ-specific design considerations factored in.
Pros: Lightweight design. Bass boost and mono for loud environments. Cups can be rotated. Flexible cable. Good soundstage. Nice and loud.
Cons: Mini XLR only attaches to the left side.