Beginner Info

    Why DJs Wear Headphones When Mixin?

    Why DJs Wear Headphones When Mixin?

    If you're new to the DJ scene, you probably have no idea why people wear headphones or constantly switch them on and off while performing a live performance.

    Are they actually accomplishing stuff, or is it just for show?

    Some individuals believe that wearing headphones is completely useless because the volume of the music coming from the speakers always outweighs the sound coming from the headphones.

    Not quite.

    DJs use headphones because they are trying to ignore the noise in the venue while looking for the next track to mix in, cueing that track — choosing where to start the new track from — and beatmatching the new track with the existing one — matching BPM with the music that is playing.

    In this essay, we'll cover all the justifications for DJs' use of headphones as well as their absolute necessity.

    Why DJs Wear Headphones: A Beginner's Guide

    1. DJs need to hear the next song before starting it. All audience members can hear the first track, which is played through the stage's speakers, while the second track, which will be further blended, needs to be heard through headphones.

    2. Headphones are necessary for DJs in order to match the beat of the track being played on stage. DJs change the tune playing in their headphones to match the club's BPM.

    The music, as you are aware, has a particular tempo. The playback speed of the composition, which in our case is BPM, is the tempo (or – beats per minute). You can locate this option on each player or controller and change the tempo of the subsequent track so that both songs play without interruption.

    3. The gain is being established. In the original, one track may be louder or quieter than another. When using headphones, you can compare the volume levels and adjust the output signal power using the Gain/Trim knob.

    The dance floor will "sag" if the following track is quieter after the previous track is removed, therefore when we combine compositions, both tracks must have the same power on the channel.

    The dance floor is "scared" in the opposite scenario, where we output the tune and it becomes noticeably louder.

    4. They match beats. On the dance floors, you can hear the effect that sounds like "horses" in colloquial language when the DJs play both tracks out of order. You can listen to both tracks through headphones and align the drawings to prevent this "effect."

    You can output and mix the second composition after choosing the desired track, aligning the gain, setting the tempo, and mixing the track.

    There are two other (less significant) reasons the DJs won't disclose them to you, and they occasionally do so:

    • They're grooving to the music when they put on headphones because it sounds better that way.
    • They're not responding to the person who is holding their phone out in front of them and asking for a music.

    On a more serious note, the DJ is worried about the song that will be played next in addition to how the audience will react to the music, which is why he watches their movements to determine whether to play a faster or slower tempo.

    Simply put, they are getting ready to blend the new music into the one the audience is now listening to. The audience is unable to hear the next song while the DJ is "cueing," yet he can hear both through headphones.

    Not every song must begin at the very beginning. Some songs might feature thrilling sound effects or other elements that the DJ might believe is appropriate to include in the mix so that he can trigger his track at that particular moment.

    A rapid transition between songs in the set is another skill in the DJing repertoire.

    Once the DJ switches the fader switch on his mixer all the way in one direction, the song playing on the loudspeakers will quickly change to the tune playing in the DJ's headphones, which can be accomplished using beatmatching and other ways.

    The Two Most Significant Factors in DJ Headphone Use


    The primary reason DJs wear headphones while mixing is unquestionably cueing. At events, DJs mix their tracks to create the perfect atmosphere for the crowd and to suit the setting.

    Songs with different tempos are played by them. DJ concurrently listens to the following music while playing the one being played, trying to choose the best moment to incorporate it into the present track.

    The DJ lowers the volume of the current track and increases it on the following one as soon as the two songs have a matching beat. The songs almost seamlessly cross fade into one another in this manner.

    Control for the Pioneer CDJ-900 Nexus's headphones and cues

    Control for the Pioneer CDJ-900 Nexus's headphones and cues

    A typical professional DJ mixer will feature cue buttons for each channel that light up when touched, as seen in the image above.

    Even if the channel line fader is completely down when it is turned on, it will still send the audio entering that channel to the headphones. The audience cannot hear the music, but the DJ can.

    CDJ-900 Nexus

    Second, a standard DJ mixer has certain knobs for headphones. As seen in the image above, the CDJ-900 Nexus contains a split cue control, a cue/master control, and a level knob. Let's analyze what these indicate:

    • Split/stereo in mono Split cue: When set to mono split, the mixer will send the cue signal in mono to the left earcup of the headphones and the master signal (the sound that was originally heard by the audience) to the right earcup. The DJ can then adjust the forthcoming song to match the track playing in the headphones in this fashion.
    • Cue/Master: This knob will restrict the amount of cue (the sound reaching into the channel(s) with the cue button started) compared to the master signal heard in the headphones when the split cue function is locked to stereo. Normally, this switch will be all the way to the left and set to CUE if a DJ utilizes an external monitor to mix.
    • The "level" knob on the headphones is used to control the sound volume.


    Mixing a cued tune with a song that is currently playing is known as beatmatching. In order to match a future track's tempo to that of the currently playing track and change them so that the BPM (beats per minute) is synced, it mainly involves pitch shifting or time stretching the upcoming track.

    To keep up with the speed of the playing track, the DJ must adjust the tempo of the incoming music.

    The DJ can hear the incoming music without the crowd hearing it by utilizing the cue functionality of the mixer as mentioned above.

    He uses the pitch fader to correct the audio's pitch, precisely cues it at the beginning, and then slowly opens the line fader or changes the crossfader to add the track to the mix.

    DJs' Headphone Style (6 Different Ways)

    You've probably seen DJs use headphones in a variety of ways—sometimes in extremely useful ways, other times in strange or ostentatious ways.

    This mostly relies on their style, needs, and mixing method.

    The benefits and drawbacks of each method of using headphones are listed below.

    DJs wear the headphones on their two ears in a manner that would be considered "natural" and not for mixing.

    - Benefits: This enables the best acoustic insulation possible. When the sound is less distracting, they can locate and plan their following tracks.

    Without using the monitoring speakers, they can also more easily set the tempo and mix using just their headphones.

    - Drawbacks: Between each pre-listen, they must take off their headphones and put them somewhere (next to the turntables, around your neck, etc.).

    If they wish to check and/or reset the tempo frequently, for instance, every three seconds if they're mixing on vinyl, this takes some time each time and can be difficult.

    This arrangement entirely cuts them off from the surroundings, so they are the last to know if something significant occurs (skipping records, a glitch in the mixing software affecting the Master output, a drop in volume on the front panel, etc.).

    DJs arrange their headphones in a "normal" position with their ear cups offset, but their earpieces are actually positioned behind the ears.

    - Advantage. They don't have to move their headphones every time they pre-listen, which is an advantage. DJs save time and comfort because it only requires a small motion to listen with one ear.

    - Drawbacks: While the headband is in its regular position, this method works well, especially if they have headphones with articulated ear cups (vertically).

    In a "traditional" manner, around the neck. The ear cups of the DJ headset are tucked under the chin and are worn around the neck.

    - Benefits: By simply releasing the pressure between their ear and shoulder, DJs are able to swiftly switch back to using both ears to listen to the monitor speakers.

    - Drawbacks: Holding the headset in place requires rotating the neck and using the shoulder. Otherwise, they must give up one hand to maintain it on the earpiece in order to listen, which limits their available range of motion.

    Pre-listening with both earpieces is not possible with this method. It could be uncomfortable to wear it around the neck depending on the type of headphones and the size of the ear cups.

    The headphones are worn around the neck but "upside-down," with the earpieces behind the neck in a non-traditional position.

    - Benefits are the same as if it were worn in a "traditional" manner around the neck.

    - Drawbacks: There is a chance that the headphones will fall, particularly if DJs lean forward when mixing.

    Personally, I don't think this method is really interesting. It could come down to "style" in order to set yourself apart from other DJs.

    Placing the hoop on the forehead horizontally.

    Because of the pressure from the arch, the headphones are held horizontally on the top of the head.

    - Benefits: I could find none.

    - Drawbacks: Although I haven't tried it, this technique doesn't seem to be very comfortable to use.

    In addition, unless the DJ is wearing a cap, the arch can hit their nose while mixing.

    A variation of this technique involves wearing the earpieces with the headband always horizontal but behind the top of the skull.

    One wears a single-ear headset similar to a phone.

    This particular style of DJ headset is particularly rare because it just has one earpiece and lacks a headband in favor of a form of "stem" (or sleeve). Consider the Numark Redphone, as an illustration.

    - Benefits: DJs may quickly and easily set it up close to the turntables in between pre-listenings.

    - Drawbacks: They must always hold it between their neck and shoulder (or in one hand). If not, it will collapse.

    This kind of headset does not support isolated pre-listening with two earpieces like conventional headsets do.

    Does DJing Require Headphones?

    DJing requires the usage of headphones without a doubt. Mixing without headphones involves taking a leap into the unknown when it comes to making loops and combining tracks in diverse sections, not just intros and outros. This is particularly true for beginners because they must first learn how to properly match beats and mix music.

    Headphones are a terrific asset and can be extremely useful, so this.

    Utilize them, check your beat matching, cue up tracks if you're not sure whether they fit together, and listen to them first.

    Please, under never circumstances set out to DJ without headphones. Without headphones, you can practice at home since only you will be able to hear your blunders.

    In fact, I met a DJ instructor who would begin his introductory beatmatching lessons sans headphones. He claimed that the idea was simpler to grasp and that he could hear what was happening and offer guidance. This might be the case, but without a mentor, it means nothing.

    A few months back, I had to perform a 1.5-hour set without headphones since my dependable Sennheiser HD-25 gave out on me after years of continuous use. One of the most distressing things ever happened.

    I was forced to play the songs I knew off by heart and was unable to engage in any enjoyable or stimulating activities. Additionally, since it was a beach party and I had no monitor, mixing was a complete disaster. It's challenging to perform well without headphones when you have to adjust your game plan, blend tunes, and alter emotions when responding to the crowd and executing your job well.

    DJing Without Headphones: How Do They Mix?

    It might work for some DJs who are familiar enough with their music to know which tracks go together and when to bring them up to the same BPM. They also need to be aware of where their cues are located.

    To mix without headphones, a DJ must: (1) utilize DJ software; (2) choose the songs that will go together before beginning the set; (3) ensure that all tracks precisely sync with one another; (4) set the cue points in the songs; and (5) determine when to launch a track by looking at the waveforms.

    I think that leads to terrible outcomes because it's always enjoyable to hear the following song to make sure you have the one you want and to hear how well it blends at the chosen moment.

    There are two further (unpopular) options:

    1) In certain programs, like as Ableton Live, the entire set is already programmed (all the tracks are pre-selected and in order), therefore all the "DJ" needs to do to play the next track is hit play;

    2) Everything is a fake, and he isn't mixing anything (which is more common than you might think), just performing a set that has already been recorded;

    Some DJs don't even DJ when they aren't using headphones. It's not difficult to fake a DJ mix with the level of technology we have in the twenty-first century. Simply prerecord a complete set and play it back is all that is required. Then, after doing a lot of jumping and turning a few knobs, you appear to be a top DJ. Pretty simple, yes?

    People who have never DJed before could be tricked by this, but most DJs will see right through it. Any time a DJ makes a big shift on the decks but the mix stays the same, it's obvious.

    The only situation in which a DJ would have to utilize headphones is:

    Whether he is using turntables or CDJs to mix the music.

    Because, no matter how amazing of a DJ you are, you cannot beat match without headphones. He would then have to beat match using only his ears.

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