Top Requirements for Professional Headphones
The three major requirements for headphones in the rough and tumble world of professional use are: (1) the headphones must sound detailed and have a fairly 'flat' accurate response; (2) they should be closed-back so the listener is isolated from ambient environmental noises and/or to prevent headphone 'leakage' during close-mic recording work; (3) they need to be very durable to survive hard working environments.
Headphones for Working DJ's
The Sennheiser HD 205 is a great 'starter' DJ can with a swiveling earpiece to move one earpad off your ear to monitor room sound, and has deep bass and decent tone; a very good entry-level DJ headphone. Another affordable move for DJs and budding pro empressarios is the AKG K81DJ with punchy, full bass, secure 'on-ear' fit, and good ambient noise isolation ability. Though the earpieces don't swivel away, the Sony MDR-V6 are solid pro or DJ headphones with comfortable articulation of the earpieces and are accurate, durable, and will fold for storage or transport. The Sennheiser HD 25-1-II is a well-detailed, well-engineered DJ-ready headphone with a terrific 'split' headband and swiveling earcup design. While it remains a closed-back headphone, its mid-sized earpiece dimensions might not seal the ear quite as well as larger 'full-size' models. However, the HD25-1 makes up for it with excellent sound quality, and the fact that the band splits forward/back to form a VERY secure fit around your head means you can dance behind the decks like a demon without worrying about the cans flying off your head.
If you don't mind a 'standard' headphone and just sliding one earpiece back to hear the live room sound, most of the headphones in the next section below can also work well for DJ use.
Headphones for Studio / Recording Use
A hook shot into a milk crate from halfway across the room is the level of tender loving care studio headphones are likely to get. We advise better treatment, but the following sealed cans should survive well in heavy-duty use. At the 'under-$99' tier, we like the Fostex T50RP, the Superlux HD668B and, most especially, the superior Shure SRH440 for a neutral and good-sounding set of closed headphones. Some excellent choices in intermediate prices ($100-$200) are the venerable Sennheiser HD 280Pro, while the Shure SRH840 and folding Audio Technica ATH-M50 both offer improved audio quality. The AKG K271 MKII is an exceptionally detailed, clean-sounding can and perfect for post-production and mastering as you'll hear every pop and tinkle well down in the mix. For producers and unforgivingly demanding audio pros, the pricey Ultrasone Signature Pro is an exquisitely balanced, extremely competent reference can with superb control, dead-accurate timbral transparency and true bass extension; time familiarity with this headphone will permit a tremendously insightful sense of what's really lurking inside your audio mixes.
On-Stage / Performance In-Ear Headphones for Monitoring
In-ear headphone monitoring provides excellent clarity of sound for performers, reduces feedback problems from stage wedges, and strongly isolates the artist or producer/recordist from ambient noise. Many top artists use audiologist-customized molded in-ear headphones, but it is not necessarily a requirement for good-sounding in-ears. The 'universal-fit' Etymotic HF5 are very detailed at the price, and seat deeply into the ear for excellent isolation and a totally secure fit. The top-of-the-line Etymotic ER-4S have been the choice of audio engineers for well over a decade now. The easy-fitting 3-driver [tweeter/ woofer] Shure SE535 is one of the best universal-fit in-ear headphones available with bass so good you'll want to use them for your own personal listening. Westone 4-R's are also excellent sound quality and extremely popular for musicians looking for the best in sound quality without going all the way to a custom-mold model. If drummers don't like wearing in-ears, once again the Sennheiser HD 25-1-II is dynamic and accurate, and its split headband that loops around the front & back of the head will remain securely in place through the most violently head-banging solos.
Working With Computers
At almost every level of music and film production from amateur to professional, computers are everywhere. Unfortunately, computers are rather noisy inside and tend to have fairly poor digital to analog converters. HeadRoom does not manufacture external soundcards for digitizing incoming audio, but our line of USB headphone amps for post-production mix-down and mastering work are superb. For entry level users may want to consider an affordable Fiio Amp, such as the E17 Alpen, which offers very good sound quality, rechargeable batteries and 24/96k DAC technology in a compact unit. This can be an excellent choice for laptops and portable applications. In stationary locations, our Micro DAC and Micro Amp 'mini stack' and Desktop Amp / DAC unit are very cost-efficient choices; look at the Ultra version of the HeadRoom Desktop Amp/DAC for high-end performance. Studio kingpins will need to investigate the Grace m903 headphone amp/DAC or the superlative German-made SPL headphone amps dedicated expressly for pro and amateur recording applications.