Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: Pioneer HDJ-2000 Headphones

After careful comparison of headphones in the $200 range, I went with the Pioneer HDJ-2000 because I found a good deal on them. Most headphones in the $200 range are "durable plastic" with great sound quality and a few other perks (replaceable parts, etc.). The big attraction to these is the metal construction. Due to the noticeably rugged exterior of these, I would buy these again for $350. Every headphone has its flaws, including this one.

Since there aren't too many unbiased reviews on this headphone right now, I'll try to be as unbiased as possible with this review. I'll start with its design flaws first:

The mini-XLR cable has a very solid connection, perhaps a little too solid. Its connection to the headphone is quite difficult to remove. It's stuck on there pretty tight! I pushed the unlocking button in while tugging on it several times before it finally came undone. The plastic unlocking button on this mini-XLR plug doesn't seem like it could handle a whole lot of abuse. I don't plan to remove it again unless I need to replace the cable. The headphones can be folded while leaving the cord in, so there is no reason to unplug it regularly anyway. You're just going to wear it out.

The slider is made of plastic, which may not be a flaw at all. The slider feels just as solid as Ultrasone's plastic slider. The reason I listed it as a flaw is that some headphones have been reported to crack here, such as the Denon DN-HP1000. This one seems very unlikely to crack, since it is much more rugged than the Denon. Pioneer also said that their headband is reinforced with metal, so metal may be in the slider.

The earcups don't swivel 180 degrees, just 90 degrees. This is not necessarily a flaw, but it would be nice to have for more flexibility. I don't have any use for the extra 90 degrees of rotation, so it is not a big deal to me.

It does not offer anything competitive with Ultrasone's S-Logic technology. No surround sound, no hearing protection outside of standard isolation, and no protection from electromagnetic radiation. Even though the pioneer does not offer anything like this, their isolation is noticeably better than the Ultrasone DJ1 headphones.. so it makes up in the hearing protection area. So really you're just losing out on the EM radiation protection and the surround sound. I don't think headphones output high enough frequencies to worry about EM radiation though.

Honestly, nothing bothers me about the headphone; I just had to be a critic for the sake of an unbiased review. I love this headphone more than anything else on the market! A list of the pros:

The sound quality is amazing - the only competitor here is the Ultrasone DJ1 in my opinion. The bass and high frequencies stand out a little bit more than the mids, but not by much. The highs are not irritating at all - they sound quite pleasant, and the bass is punchy. The mids sound really good, but the Ultrasones mids are a little bit better. The bass is better in these than the Ultrasones, and the highs are about the same in each. The Xone 53 and Denon DN-HP1000 come nowhere close to this kind of sound in any aspect - they are just loud and fairly clear. The Pioneers are just as loud as the Xone 53 and Denon DN-HP1000, but the HDJ-2000s have much higher isolation.

The isolation on these is ideal to me. They are not like earpads for the firing range, aka Sennheiser HD 280s, but that is too much for me. You can have a conversation with the music playing without taking these off, but you can just as easily ignore sounds outside of the earcups. There is only a slight echo when tapping the headphones. When wearing these on both ears, I have to turn the volume DOWN to mix with music outside the speakers. The isolation is better than the Ultrasone DJ1s and a little better than the Xone 53s.

The headphones can go very loud also. I held them at an arms distance at max volume with my cell phone connected, and I could hear them as clearly as computer desktop speakers. You could certainly damage your hearing if you played these at full volume all the time. I keep them down as low as I can while still hearing the music. Since the isolation has a nice balance, you can always wear both earpads and listen to the music through them. This method works out very well, and I have to turn the volume down very low inside the headphones.. so it saves your hearing a lot!

The coiled cable is very solid and has a good amount of flex to it. It is not too springy, but it is springier than a telephone cable. The included bag is ok. The coiled cable and earcups are both replaceable. The cable is around $30 to replace, and the earcups are around $50 due to their more rugged synthetic leather design. The earcups feel much more like leather than any other headphone I've used. They are very soft and cool on the ear. If the room is warm, your ears will get quite warm still. The memory foam is amazingly comfortable! Imagine a light weight memory-foam pillow ring around your ear. The earcups gently rest around your earlobe. Very comfortable, and I've had no problems with anything but the earcup touching my ear (i.e. no metal or speaker hitting it).

When you flip the earcups, they gently lock into place, and they can easily be unlocked just by flipping them back. After the earcups swivel 90 degrees, they gently swivel back. It is not a whipping motion; it's very gentle. The wide, metal construction around the joints is extremely well built, lightweight, and comfortable. The headphones gently rest on your ears without much pressure. Honestly, I can barely tell they are there, aside from feeling those warm comfortable earpads. They simply fit like a comfortable pair of earmuffs.

The headband is very rugged, although it appears to be a plastic/rubber with metal reinforcement. I had my doubts about this part of the headphone at first, but it does its job very well. It is very flexible and sturdy at the same time. The padding under the headband is just enough. i don't really notice the headband being on my head at all.

I've worn these headphones for 2 hours with no discomfort whatsoever. When the room is fairly cool, my ears stay at a reasonable temperature. When the room is fairly warm, my ears start to get warm due to the enclosure. Overall, I haven't found a more comfortable pair of full-enclosure headphones.

The mono/stereo switch is a nice addition that keeps me from having to change my settings in DJ software. The mono obviously doesn't sound as high quality as the stereo, since everything is mashed into one channel, but it is the best sounding mono I've ever heard. It is definitely good enough for mixing. Both earcups output the same mono signal, so you can listen with either ear.

The flexibility of these headphones is very nice. You can easily wear them around your neck and quickly lift them to one ear to listen. They fold up very nicely, although it takes another couple seconds to do so. The earcups are big and fit in a small space when the headphones fold, so it takes a second to fold them right. Not a problem though.

The headphones look HUGE in pictures, but they are surprisingly small. The earcups are the only thing big on these headphones. The earcups are circular and are just big enough to cover your full ear. I'd say the Xone 53 earcups are a little bigger. The headband is fairly thin in comparison, about an inch wide.

Overall, I'd give them a 9.5 out of 10 because everything has room to improve. The other headphones I've tested would be a 9.0 (ultrasone), and the rest would be 8.0 and below. Haven't tried Sennheiser HD 25 1-II's because I don't like the build, sorry Senn fans. If you want a smaller headphone, consider the Sennheiser. If you want a full-coverage can that will last, go with the HDJ-2000.


  1. Thanks for that! I know i'm a bit late, but they're cheaper now, and I was looking for an honest review.
    Kudos to you!