When setting up your account with Distrokid, you will run into this question. For me personally, I had to go through helplines to figure it out; but I’m going to save you all the hassle.
On Distrokid a personal tax number is the number you use when employers at jobs ask for within your country. This number is called different things based on your country. It attaches your earnings to your taxable income in your country.
They’re different for every country, but here’s a short list:
United Kingdom: NINO (National Insurance Number)
United States: SSN (Social Security Number)
Canada: SIN (Social Insurance Number)
Germany: IdNr (Identifikationsnummer)
Australia: TFN (Tax File Number)
Please do due diligence, I’m not a tax professional in my own country, let alone an international tax master. Look into what designates you for your own countries of residence.
Distrokid is an insanely good music distribution service for artists of all levels to use. It has basically gotten to the point that I would not recommend another service and you can see why in the comparisons section below.
The service is extremely easy to use, has a far-reaching network, and has a very good price. The service has only improved since this tweet in 2018:
Who Does DistroKid Distribute To?
DistroKid distributes your music to every important service. As well as tons of other small ones. I’m not going to go over the massive list. This may seem like a non-answer. But if someone is using a service to listen to music 99.9% of the time DistroKid releases to it. In my opinion, DistroKid is comparable to its competitors in its distribution network of distribution networks.
I tried to find a service they didn’t release to.
For a moment I thought I found one with Xbox Music but it turns out that’s now Microsoft Groove, and that’s on the list.
DistroKid doesn’t burn CDs or etch Vinyl and get you into physical music stores though.
How Much Does DistroKid Cost?
DistroKid is inexpensive to artists and has a few different costs associated with the service. Currently, the service has yearly subscription plans and upsells add-ons or subscriptions for each musical release. If you stop paying your subscription, all of your music will be removed from all of the platforms, unless you pay for a Legacy Add-on which makes it a permanent addition.
There are 3 main tiers. Musician, Musician Plus, and Label.
The basic Musician plan only costs $20/yr and will get you distributed and earning income on your streams. This is a totally acceptable plan for small artists with small followings and manual promotion.
The $36/yr Musician Plus mid-tier lets you release under 2 bands, will add streaming performance stats, and allows you to set your release date. It offers a bunch of other niceties as well.
In my personal opinion Musician Plus is mandatory and I see the service as a $36/yr service. You need to use the Release Date feature to set a date with at least 10 days for major distribution platforms to analyze your song for recommendation engines. If used, your songs will be put in front of potential new fans, growing your fanbase.
The Label tier lets you manage a lot of acts, and ranges from $80-1200/yr.
There are some add-ons for uploads. Prices change depending on whether it’s an album or single. Current release add-ons are:
Youtube Money ($5-$15/yr + 20% Ad Revenue) – If someones using your song on Youtube they will detect and claim ad revenue.
Store Maximizer ($8/yr) – Whenever DistroKid adds a new platform, they will automatically add your song to it.
Shazam/Siri ($1/yr per track) – People can use these apps to find info on your song when it’s playing.
Legacy ($29-$49 one time) – If you cancel your DistroKid sub your music will stay up and you will still receive royalties.
How Long Does DistroKid Take?
DistroKid is very efficient at getting music onto the major distribution networks and I’ve never been burned by them. When it comes to getting your music out DistroKid is comparable to its other competitors. In my opinion, after using this service and competitors for multiple releases; I can’t see a noticeable difference. Distrokid isn’t unique in this regard nor advantageous.
This question is actually a bit complex. So I’ll break it down into how long to upload, how long to get your music submitted to the networks, and how long for the song itself to appear on the networks.
The actual upload process is not too tedious if you have all the information readily available. It will take about 15 minutes to fill out all the information and dot your i’s and cross your t’s. It will go very quickly if you know the W5s of your Music. If you’ve got your name, art, release dates, release extras, intended targeted distribution networks, who’s involved, and royalty splits.
Once you’ve got all the data entry in, the upload itself takes “your internet speed”. The longest it took me was 15 minutes on super-slow free coffee shop Wi-Fi from the back of a van in the parking lot. If you’re not a struggling Soundcloud rapper it will probably take way less time.
Once it’s in DistroKid’s hands it usually takes about 1-2 hours to be distributed to the distribution networks. Technically this is the scope of “How Long does DistroKid Take?”
But now we’ll get into the actual distribution platforms. Each one takes a different amount of time and has different schedules. The large platforms ingest (receive) your release very quickly, and can put them up for listeners equally fast. I’m going to make a random, non-specific, uneducated guess and say within 24 hours you’re likely on most platforms your fans would use.
If you’re a smart artist, and you use the future “Release Date” feature, the big names will take up to 10 days to analyze your song. This feature is only on the $36/yr plan. If you don’t wait 10 days you won’t be featured on a generated playlist for new listeners to discover you.
When it comes to the other lesser-known networks DistroKid has some wait time because smaller distribution networks actually update their libraries at less frequent paces (2 weeks+) because they’re smaller organizations. This is affecting literally <1% of your fans though.
What Do You Need To Release Music Through DistroKid?
The information on what you need wasn’t readily available prior to signing up so I figured I’d share it with you.
As far as being an artist you don’t need much. DistroKid will help you build a Spotify profile, and set you up in all the major stores.
You will need media for your releases such as art, lyrics, and your MP3 or WAV files of course.
Prior to releasing music on DistroKid, you need to share some tax information with the company. If your band is already a business it requires business documentation. If you’re a solo artist it requires your personal information. It will ask for a tax identification number. This is generally whatever your country uses to identify you for income. For me, it was a Social Insurance Number.
Depending on where you live you will need to make tax claims based on the income generated by this United States company. Some countries have treaties and special rules for royalties. When you input your residence, DistroKid may provide drop-downs that show which laws are applicable to you.
USA may hold 30% of income for foreign artists, IDK if you can recover it or not.
I’m not a tax lawyer, this isn’t tax advice. I’m not going through the income tax and royalty laws of countries.
Is DistroKid Legit?
Distrokid is 100% legit and not a scam. It will distribute your music to these streaming services and will pay you 100% of the royalties it receives. It however does not guarantee that you will get any streams once you’re on these services.
DistroKid makes your music available, it won’t make you a star. You will need to do your own promotion. I also highly suggest opting for the $36/yr plan to set release dates for your releases.
How Much Does DistroKid Pay Per Stream?
DistroKid itself just forwards 100% of the royalties generated by your releases by the other streaming and distribution platforms. Service usually pay per stream or pass sales on to you after taking a cut.
Annoying Things About DistroKid
I have very few problems with DistroKid but this is an honest review. I’ll update the list as I interact with the service more but as of August 2020, this is comprehensive.
The first annoyance is specifically relevant to new artists. The problem is this interaction with new Spotify artists. If you intend to do multiple uploads of albums and tracks prior to the release of your track and the creation of your Spotify profile, you can’t bundle the multiple releases together to attach to the same artist. But you have to attach your upload to an account or create a new one. Unfortunately being a programmer I know this problem is a nightmare to solve and inherent in the system.
My recommended solution? Release everything you intend to release for the next few weeks as one Album, otherwise, you’re gonna have a bad time, or will have to wait until release to set up your Spotify before uploading any new music. I heavily use Spotify’s analysis timeframe, so the first time I ran into this I actually had to push the release date of tracks back multiple weeks.
My next problem is more of a pet peeve and is entirely unrelated to DistroKid itself (Sorry DistroKid sales team ;^D ). It has been touched on a few times in this DistroKid review, but this will literally change your life as an artist.
All the major distribution networks use machine learning to analyze your song and prepare it for recommendation engines prior to release. ELI5/TL;DR? The longer your release sits on a platform before being released to the public, the more likely that platform will be to share it with people who’re likely to love the songs.
If you want any chance at all of anyone finding your release through Spotify/YouTube Music without looking for it, it’s a 100% must. This is annoying because DistroKid does not properly explain the gravity of the Release Date feature. When you upload you get this in tiny fine print:
“Setting your release date to at least 1-week in the future increases your chances of getting added to playlists.”
No Cap. If you don’t set a release date of at least 10 days you will never be discovered on a generated playlist/radio/station. Period . . . . … .. Plus this is a feature only available in the $36/yr plan. This is totally fine, but so many people don’t even know about this and distroKid doesn’t spell it out enough. IMO the $36/yr plan is legit mandatory specifically for this feature.
Not specifically DistroKid at all, but now you’re learned.
Comparing DistroKid With Competitors
DistroKid Vs(or) Tunecore
If you’re deciding between DistroKid or Tunecore, stop. Tunecore is absolutely blown out of the water. The above tweet by the founder of Tunecore sums it up.
Tunecore charges a subscription for each release yearly. You will keep 100% of royalties on the songs just like DistroKid. Your releases will also stay in the distribution network as long as you pay the subscription for that specific track.
The more you release, the more expensive everything gets. Additionally, to break even on each release, you need to generate a lot of streams and sales. If this was the 90s and DistroKid didn’t exist, this would be a groundbreaking indie distribution network. It’s not the 90s and DistroKid exists.
DistroKid immediately costs less than Tunecore with 3 single releases.
DistroKid Vs CDBaby
CDBaby has a different service fee set up than DistroKid. Essentially you pay a “small” fee and your release will be distributed permanently. Once distributed CDBaby takes a percentage of your royalties instead of letting you have 100%.
In my personal opinion, CDBaby penalizes you for gaining popularity for using their service when DistroKid doesn’t. If you’re just releasing 1 single to release a single, and you don’t intend for anyone to listen to it, CDBaby is better. But if being a musician with fans is an actual goal of yours DistroKid quickly outpaces. Again in as quickly as 2 single releases a year.
Purpose Of This Review Of DJ Speakers and Suggesting Set Ups
In this article I will give you my professional advice on what I think are the best DJ speakers and subwoofers. But this isn’t just a review roundup and buying guide…
It’s also an act of rebellion.
To give you a bit of context I’m a professional audio engineer of 10 years. Recently I’ve been checking out what kind of information comes up for people looking to purchase sound systems. Specifically articles outlining the best speakers for DJs and other live musicians for use in performances…
To say I’m not a fan of the articles that I found would be an understatement.
The articles look like they were written by someone who’s never touched a speaker in their life, never sourced sound equipment for a live event, and spent maybe 15 minutes googling terms. Some of the products they review don’t evenhave the specs the article says they do.
That’s why I’m writing this article, to cut through the disinformation, and to help you make an actual informed purchasing decision. You’re about to get a free consultation from an audio professional. You can find that information after my recommendations.
Quick Recommendations: The Best DJ Speaker and Subwoofer Set Ups
I want to save some people time. So before I get into how to understand specs and how they impact the performance; I want to quickly recommend some of the best DJ speaker and subwoofer set ups that I could come up with. My recommendations fully depend on intended usage.
I’m not going to overload my recommendations with random specifications. You can find those on the product pages or in their data sheets. These DJ set ups are sound for their usage. If you want to understand how to read the specs, and see how I make an informed decision, definitely check out my guide below.
Amplifiers will not be included in this guide. All the suggested speakers will be powered. This is to reduce the amount of complexity in a set up. It saves you time, and reduces the amount of things that can go wrong in a live show.
If you’re just looking for house parties or planning to do some impromptu and intimate performances this option is for you. To maximize a limited budget you’ll have to make do with an all in one solution. All you need is an outlet.
This speaker will sound absolutely amazing as long as you use this household DJ staple for its intended use, house parties. This is a single channel setup with no amplifier required.
You will be sacrificing low end and power, but it doesn’t matter much when you’re playing inside a house. This speaker has more than enough power for a non-commercial space. Plus the room size itself will bring out the low-end.
It’s got a basic mixer on the back end, and allows for standard 1/4 jack or XLR. It also has an output impacted by the mixer, so you can daisy-chain it to some other gear. Why you’d actually do that is another story.
A single B210D will sound significantly worse if you move it outside, or the venue is larger than a Starbucks. If you find yourself playing shows in venues like these, I highly suggest getting two of them. Unless you’re getting paid for your shows and want great reviews, in which case I suggest checking out the next section for larger events.
Weddings, Small Outdoor Parties and School Dances, Average Sized Venues
To maintain quality of sound in larger venues you will need to move to a multiple speaker set up. You’re going to want a minimum of 2 mid range speakers and a subwoofer if the focus of the event is the music.
Throw on some audio and take some time to walk the room before the show starts. A slight angle change can make a world of difference. Speaker stands for the mid-range are also suggested for proper sound propagation. Try to use equal cable lengths to prevent a time delay causing the audio signals to be out of sync.
For my low cost suggestions I’m recommending Yamaha DBRs in the mid range. These are a punchy inexpensive speaker and great to break into live shows with. They’re very light and easy to move around. They sound great, and will throw far. Two can fill an auditorium. These speakers are all you’ll need if you’re DJing a small wedding reception.
DBRs are extremely adaptable as well. These speakers can cover the full frequency spectrum. But they also have build in filters, allowing you to attenuate the low end and make room for a subwoofer. Their amplifier is smart, and will maximize wattage to fit the set up.
The VQ1800D will add greatly to the sound, and turn the show from background music to a live event. The subwoofer is well made and won’t break the bank. You might need a dolly and a helping hand to move it though.
It’s not hard to guess that QSC is my preferred premium loudspeaker brand for DJs. If you have even more budget go for the K12 12″ instead. QSC products run at peak performance and are excellent quality. The speakers are also extremely rugged and perfect for transporting to gigs. There’s even a rumor the company tests their loudspeaker durability by dropping them off the roof of their building.
This recommended setup will DOMINATE a gymnasium or club with sound waves if it needs to. There’s no breaks in the frequency response coverage, and all frequencies of the audio signal will come through crystal clear. You WILL need a trolley and assistants for this set up. Specifically for this bad boy:
QSC does offer a CP line at a lower price point, but they’re a downgrade from the Yamaha DBR mentioned above for coverage. Plus Yamaha’s warranty is better. But it’s rare to even need to use QSC’s warranty.
Stadiums and Outdoor Music Festivals
My professional grade DJ speaker set up that I recommended above will cover an outdoor area of about 100 ft with QSC K12s. You can always add more speakers to increase range and coverage.
However, I can’t help you find a speaker set up if you want to go bigger for your outdoor music festival. You should be consulting audio engineers. Most of the equipment required is special order line arrays, and you’ll need to do some heavy math to figure out speaker placement, cable lengths, amplifiers, etc. Anything further than 100 ft needs exponentially more oomph and you’re edging into $XX,XXX sound system set ups.
How To Choose The Best DJ Speakers For Your Set Up
First A Rant – Reviews Are Misleading, How Understanding Saves You Money
I felt I had to write this article after reading a few review pages online. There was just a lot of fluff and it didn’t seem like the authors knew what they were talking about at all. I feel really bad for people making purchases thanks to their advice. Here’s a hypothetical of how lack of info can leave you dissatisfied with your purchase.
A lot of DJ speaker reviews I found had paragraphs like this in them:
Thanks to the array of switches which will facilitate the required settings for live events. Once you’re connecting everything, the Truesonic’s twin XLR/combo inputs produce easy work of your setup and each speaker’s independent level controls give you the pliability to dial everything in your approach in seconds.
Nothing about that differentiates this speaker from another. There’s no talk of the frequency response. Figuring out what kind of set up it works in. What it would clash with. Someone just rewrote the amazon page without knowing what they were saying.
Let me give you an example of how this can lead to poor purchasing decisions. The Alto TS310 is similar in price range to the Yamaha DBR 10″ Speaker. It beats the DBR 10 in Wattage. It outputs 1000W for the DBRs 700W. Whoa, 300 more Watts for the same price? Sign me up. But if you get two TS310s and set them up with a subwoofer, they will sound worse than a pair of DBRs. Your mid range will be weak, and your sound will be bass heavy. Worse yet, it’s intrinsic to the DJ’s speaker set up. It just can’t be fixed. Your set sucks and you’re a sad panda.
This is because the TS310 are 2 channel with a simple amplifier. The wattage is divided between the two channels. The specifications say 650W lf + 350W hf. That means the mid range is maxing out at a little over 350W and there’s an additional 650W woofer in the system.
Without a subwoofer, both TS310s and DBRs will have a fuller sound. TS310s can handle a gig on their own. This is where they have the advantage. DBRs are quieter and can’t quite fill a venue the same way that TS310s can. But with a pair of DBR you can add in a subwoofer and blow the TS310 pair out of the water.
All in all TS310s are excellent on their own as a pair without a subwoofer, and a great budget solution for small venues. Great information to know, but unfortunately the review I quoted above only mentioned the price benefits.
The Frequency Spectrum And How Speakers Fit Into It
After that example I’m sure you see the value in understanding the various specs and how speakers fit into your set up. You’re probably rearing to go so let’s get into it.
You’re probably aware that sounds have different frequencies. The size of a speaker’s driver assembly determines the speakers ability to create these frequencies. It’s physically impossible for one driver to transmit all frequencies equally efficiently. So depending on the size of the driver, the range of sound changes. A speaker can house multiple drivers to even out the frequency response ranges.
Using Frequency Response To Plan Speaker Purchases
Above you’ll see specs for two loudspeakers I touted as the best for DJing. The top is the QSC K12 and below that is the QSC Subwoofer. The important spec is called a speakers frequency response. This shows what a speaker can and can’t do.
Anything below -10dB will be almost impossible to hear on the speaker. If you were to have the K12 and a KS118 setup, you’d be able to hear any frequency from 35Hz to 20kHz (human hearing is 20-20k). There is also very little crossover in this arrangement.
Now lets look at the Alto TS310 and Behringer VQ1800D for an example that clashes. Neither of these speakers have a visualized graph. You usually won’t find an actual graph unless the company wants to show it off.
The TS310’s frequency response is 54 – 20 kHz (+/- 3 dB) and its lower range dies out at 48Hz.
Behringer VQ1800D covers 60-150hz (+/- 3 dB) and has a range of 40-200Hz before dropping below -10dB.
This means all of the audio that the VQ1800D is pumping out is also being pumped out by the TS310. Having this subwoofer adds nothing substantial to the range of sound. This doesn’t mean it’s adding nothing, just that it’s adding nothing new. The TS310 is throwing 650W into the low end and the VQ1800D is adding another 500W into it.
When your low end is running at 1150W and your Mid-highs are running at 350W you can see why this combo would sound like trash. The easiest way to fix the sound is to just take the unnecessary sub out. Don’t even waste your energy hauling it to shows.
DJ Speakers With Built In Filters Are More Flexible
Now the quick learners among us may have went and checked out the frequency response of the DBR10 to see how it compares to the TS310. They may have noticed it’s almost exactly the same. Why don’t they sound equally garbage? Well the DBR10 have a built in high pass filter (HPC) to remove the frequencies we want the subwoofer to take care of. The amplifier is also smart and directs wattage wherever it is needed. Upping the power of the high ends and fixing a sound profile.
How Do Monitor Speakers Fit Into A DJ Set Up?
Studio monitor speakers are a special speakers engineered to have a frequency response that is flat as possible. The highs, the lows, all of it will be given equal weight so that people using the speaker can accurately assess the audio track that they are listening to or producing. Here’s my recommendation guide for studio monitors.
Monitor speakers during a live performance are different. They’re essentially just regular speakers with a wide frequency response. They are set up for vocalists and other performers to listen to the song as it’s being produced. This allows the artists to perform correctly along with the song. A DBR10 or TS310 would perfectly fulfill this role.
For the most part monitor speakers have no place in a DJ set up. Headphones should be used instead to minimize propagation delay and allow for smooth mixes. I’ve made a similar recommendation guide outlining the best DJ headphones if you’re interested.
What About Watts
A speaker’s SPL or sound pressure level is determined by it’s power output watts. More watts, more volume, more expensive. Here’s a quick rundown for bass heavy DJing.
House Rooms Or Starbucks: <250W
Gyms, Churches, Small Clubs: ~750W
Big Venues: ~1500W
Outdoors: 750W+ (Depending on range required, grows exponentially)
I’m Dead Set On Passive DJ Speakers
None of my recommendations in this article are passive speakers. The people who want to buy these types of speakers are probably a little disappointed. They’re cheaper and lighter after all.
Well you need an amplifier, they’re usually rack mounted. So you will also need a rack. You’ll need to monitor audio signal line levels. You’ll need to ensure you don’t mismatch power restrictions and destroy your speakers. You need to pay attention to cable runs, coils, and attenuation. You need to understand more points of connection mean more potential points of failure.
There is nothing inherently better or worse than the quality of passive speakers. When you plan ahead and build your inventory and systems it’s fine. But passives definitely add a lot of headache to the set up and tear down of the show. They also require a lot more technical knowledge to spec.
There is a lot of useful information in this guide for specing your passive speakers.
Thanks For Reading!
If this article helped you in any way, please consider purchasing off amazon through my affiliate links. Whatever speaker you settle on I hope I was able to help you find the right one for your needs! Thanks for taking the time to read this article!
This article is meant to be a full buying guide to help you find the best DJ headphones for whatever your needs may be. Not only will it review and compare some top contenders on the market; but there’s also an informative guide that will outline everything you need to know. With this information you can make an informed decision to get the best headphones for your specific DJing needs. Whether you’re just an at home hobbyist or you’re looking for professional headphones to improve your next gig.
Finding a top pair of headphones as a DJ is like finding the right pair of shoes. They need to be comfortable, have high quality sound, have the correct connections for your set-up, and have the proper cable length. When you have the right pair it changes everything.
Even if you had the best dj speaker setup in the world pointing at your crowd, the most important pair of speakers at the gig are on your head.
For the Studio Mixer – Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
On a Budget – Sony MDR-7506
The Best DJ Headphones on the Market
Sennheiser HD25 – The Overall Best DJ Headphones
Ah yes, the Sennheiser HD25 headphones. A long standing king in the industry. I’ve chosen this pair of headphones as the best for multiple reasons. Price, quality, reliability, adaptability, customizing, maturity and reputation. Its an amazingly well rounded pair of headphones, perfect for general use.
They are a pair of over ear headphones, which usually means that their comfort and usability long term suffers. But this pair combats through being lightweight and having a splittable headband. You can use this to spread the pressure and it really helps. You get multiple pads with them to change things up. Unless you are doing a very long set over 2 hours you’ll probably be fine.
The sound quality is superb. Everything is well covered and pristine, whether it’s the mids, highs or lows. Again for an over-ear headphone these are just amazing. Whether you’re mixing or beat making these will go far. All in all they have great sound isolation.
They also work very well if you’re using a DAC or just plugging in a laptop/phone. They are a very adaptable pair and one of the reasons I marked them as my top pick in this article is because they can be used in every context.
The only issues I’ve had with them relate to portability. The product is very sturdy but doesn’t fold up. If you’re running short on space and very mobile, this might cause issues.
The Sennheiser HD25 are my all around best pick, you can’t go wrong with them. There’s a reason these beasts have been around since the 80s and touted as one of the best DJ headphones on the market.
V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Master – The Most Comfortable
Comfort and customization is the name of the game with this pair of headphones. The Crossfade M100 Master is my favorite pair in this list due to the sheer adaptability of the design. Do you need to mix multiple sources? There’s a cable for that. Want to use this set for gaming and need a mic, there’s an excellent mic mod for that.
With thick ear pads and a design that spreads to prevent causing pressure points, the comfort of this pair of headphones can not be overstated. You can easily wear these for a 4 hour set or mixing session. If comfort is your top concern these are one of the best DJ headphones to choose.
The customization of the color of your headphones allows for a bit of self expression, allowing you to build a style for a show as well. This isn’t something thought about often. But giving yourself a look is definitely a plus for these headphones.
For live shows and transportation. These headphones are extremely durable and can bend and contort without any risk. They are also extremely portable with proprietary mechanisms that allow for ease of storage. When folded they stay folded unless you purposely open them up. The product comes with it’s own carrying case as well that will allow for storage of cables. Speaking of cables, they are aramid weave (the fabric used in bullet proof vests) meaning it’s extremely hard to fray or damage the cables without actively trying to.
There are some niche benefits as well. You can daisy-chain headphones for shared mixing, and they have an upgrade program where you can send in your old headphones and buy a newer model for 20% off.
Audio Technica ATH-M50x Professional – The Gig Go To
Don’t let the bandwagon hype fool you, these headphones are definitely worth the respect. They gained notoriety online as a favorite of influencers. This doesn’t take them out of the running for DJing. These headphones are inexpensive and have a lot of features that make them outstanding for live gigs. Portable, durable, great sound and a little flashy are the best words to describe the Audio Technica ATH-M50x Professionals.
These headphones are lightweight, using plastics over metal for the frame, but it does seem to be durable enough. They can fold up into a portable profile allowing for ease of transport. They’re quite comfortable for long use.
Finally they come with a lot of stuff in the bag, specifically different types of cables with a cable locking mechanism meaning no unnecessary disconnects are going to be happening. The cables that come with the headphones let you chose between a coiled or straight cable depending on your needs in the moment.
All in all a great entry into headphones you can use in DJ gigs. They don’t require an amplifier, their sound is overall consistent as they were built to be monitor headphones, they’re portable and lightweight, and versatile and they’re great value.
An Audio Engineer’s Headphone Buying Guide
Picking the right pair of headphones is underrated. On the surface it looks like you can just pick up any pair and move on. But after working in recording studios, radio stations and live show settings a new picture quickly emerges. The wrong gear choice can have massive negative consequences to your music sessions. You want to get the best DJ headphones for your situation, not a pair that limits you in your creativity. This guide will go through all the things that can go wrong, and how to prevent them by picking the perfect pair of headphones through being informed.
What’s the situation
The best isn’t always the best. Depending on your situation you may need a different pair of headphones. So you need to take into account all the scenarios you plan to use the headphones in. Is it just a pair for your static in home studio? Are you playing 5 gigs a month and constantly tossing these into a waterproof hard case? Do you bring your own set-up or are you connecting to in-house gear? Are you going to be wearing them for a couple minutes or a couple hours?
Thinking about all your requirements is the first step in making a great choice. I’ll be outlining the main considerations you should be making and how paying attention (or not) has impacted artists I’ve worked with in the past. This guide will go through the most important factors when deciding on a pair to explanations of the more technical specifications.
Comfort and Fit
I’ve worked with many audio professionals over the years and comfort makes or breaks the headphones. You’re at your most creative when you’re comfortable. If you’re constantly having to readjust a loose pair of headphones, or you have to take breaks because they begin to hurt, your headphones are holding you back. So here’s a quick rundown of things to pay attention to.
Different pairs clamp harder than other pairs. The clamping force is difficult to assess, unless you have a demo pair available you won’t be able to tell from pictures on the box or online. Online reviews are the best way to see what people think of them. Get the general consensus and compare yourself to the average. If you do have access to trying them on, you want to look for a comfortable even pressure. You should barely notice it when you first put it on, because as time goes on fatigue will worsen. A long recording session will magnify everything.
The cups of the headphone should extend past your ears, if they’re too small they will push your ears against your head. This will cause discomfort very quickly. When the headphone cushions fully cover your ears it creates a seal that will improve sound quality as well. Ensure the cup size is big enough for you.
Cushion shape and depth is another aspect. Circular is the best, and causes the least problems. Try to pay attention to how deep the cushions are as well, if they’re too shallow they may cause rubbing. The larger the cushion the more comfortable they are is a general rule.
For the most part you will run into two types of connectors when talking about headphones when it comes to DJing. The 3.55mm jack which is the size you plug into phones and laptops. And the 1/4″ jacks which is for higher end audio equipment. Understanding which jack you’ll need will be important for picking the best DJ headphones.
You can get adaptors to ensure that your headphones work with the equipment you’re using. This is completely fine, but it does have a very small drawback of extra cost. Also each time you add a new piece of equipment to the system you reduce sound quality very slightly. Depending on the headphones, you may need to buy a 3rd party adaptor.
Cable Length, material and Style
Regardless of what you’re doing, you don’t want to feel restricted. If your headphone’s cable is too short you’re going to feel like you’re on a leash. This is a question of mobility and how far away from your controller or audio interface you want to be.
If you’re playing a live gig I would aim for a minimum of 2m (6ft) but would definitely suggest 3m (10ft). Any longer and you risk excess cables getting tangled up. Nothing is worse than snagging an oversized cable and pulling your controller off the table. Longer cables also degrade sound signals. Anything too long will lose volume and fidelity.
If you’re just working in a mixing studio or desk setting 1-2m (3-6ft) is perfect. You get the clearest sound while being able to lean back from your work. Anything longer than 2m(6ft) will start to get tangled at the floor, and caught in your chair.
Some of the best DJ headphones actually have different cables that allow you to swap between short and long cables. These are most useful if you’re a hobbyist and swapping between live gigs and home sessions. Or want a sick pair of headphones to listen to your music. But I wouldn’t suggest a professional use these types as the more connections, the more the signal degrades. Plus nothing stops a show like accidentally yanking the cord out of the headphone and having to search the ground and reconnect it.
Now for the style of cord. There’s two types of styles, coiled or straight. Straight is pretty straight-forward. So I’ll talk about the pros and cons of a coiled cord.
A coiled cord length is it’s resting length. This means that it will allow for you to go beyond that length while only really having to deal with the resting length regularly. So a 10ft cord could stretch to 18ft if needed. It behaves like a spring and will want to return to it’s resting length. This is both useful and problematic.
It’s good because if you need 18ft of length for whatever reason you have it. But you only have to deal with 10ft of resting cable. Meaning less tangles and mess. Coiled tend to not get tangled during a live show, but can be a mess when coming out of a travel case.
It’s problematic because there’s a tension on the line, the further you stretch it, the more it will pull on the thing at the end of the line. You or the gear. It will drag equipment of the table if you stretch too much, even if you could have gone further. From a physics perspective it’s also a longer cable with high capacitance. Meaning signal will degrade more and treble will decrease compared to a straight cable of equal length. Depending on your style this may or may not be an issue.
I would aim for a 2m(6ft) coiled if you are interested in the benefits. Unless you really want a stage presence and need that extra length.
Now for the material of the cables. This is going to be short. Copper, silver and gold are all almost equal in terms of electrical transference. A gold cable just looks fancy to potential buyers, but electrically a copper cable is better. You use less energy and the signal arrives faster than on a gold cable. Now when I say “arrives faster” we’re talking percentages of light speed. This is imperceptible to humans. The short of it is copper is technically better but more importantly cheaper, which is actually relevant.
Lastly wireless or wired. Wired. With wireless you have lag, lag that’s high enough to impact a live show or studio mixing. Do not go wireless, save that for the gym.
Frequency response is just a fancy term for what range of sound can these speakers correctly replicate. Humans can only hear 20 Hz-20 kHz. Some speakers claim 18 Hz-22 kHz to look fancy to buyers, that’s unnecessary. The piano scale is 27.5 Hz to 4186 Hz. Well within the range of every traditional speaker.
Harmonics start coming into play at doubles of the sound adding a richness and fullness. For example a 2500Hz note has harmonics at 5kHz, 10kHz, and 20kHz. Aim for 20Hz-20kHz speakers to fully comprehend the sound you’re outputting to your listeners. If the first number is 18 just be aware it’s equal to a 20.
Headphone impedance is important to be aware of. It is a specification that states how much stress the speakers will put on the device powering the audio through them. The higher the ohm rating, the more power the outputting device needs to output. When a speaker’s impedance is too high for the outputting device, the sound will be very quiet. If it’s too low, there will be clipping and audio degradation.
If you are using a tablet, laptop or phone to mix, a lower impedance is better. Aim for around 25-33 ohms. If you are using a DJ controller or an external powered audio interface then speakers near the 50 ohms range are much better.
The sensitivity of a pair of headphones is a value related to the impedance. Sensitivity tells how loud the headphones will play at a certain power. If two pairs of headphones have the same impedance, the one with the higher sensitivity will output louder music. 86dB is considered the quiet end, where anything at or above 110dB is louder.
You may see a +- symbol with a smaller dB next to it. This merely shows the range in the mass production. 110db +-3dB means an individual headphone could be anywhere from 107-113dB. Ranges tell a bit about the volume but I use them as a measurement of the company’s manufacturing procedures. The more precise the gear is, the higher the quality. Most high end headphones do not have a range or if they do, it is very small.
This specification tells how large the driver is for the speaker. The larger the driver the more precise and clear the sound will be. Bigger is better in this case. A quick trade secret is excellent sound comes when the driver mm is close to the impedance ohms.
This is an equipment guide for beginners looking to get into beat making and trying to figure out how to get started. With technology where it’s at today its very simple and takes very little investment. With some key pieces of gear you can easily become a music producer making your own beats. The great thing is you can start making beats right away, regardless of how much investment you’re willing to put into your hobby.
everything in this picture is unnecessary
Rundown of Beat Making Equipment
The DAW or Digital Audio Workstation: A computer software program where you build your musical compositions
Practice: Learning how to properly make beats with your equipment is one of the most important parts.
Computer or Laptop: You’re on one right now, just make sure it meets minimum software requirements for your DAW
MIDI Keyboard: With a MIDI keyboard your able to record note patterns for your DAW
DAW Digital Audio Workstation Software
The DAW is your main hub. All your beat making will be done in this software. Sequencing, mixing, recording and mastering your composition; it’s all done with this program. There are a lot of free DAWs available to get your feet wet, so I’m going to suggest a free version and a paid version.
MU Lab is probably my best suggested Free DAW. The software allows you to record, mix and play around with multiple tracks. It also has a lot of secrets hidden inside its menus for functionality. MU has MIDI and audio recording which is by far the most important feature needed for producing music. You’d be surprised how many programs don’t have this basic feature. You’ll also find it has a good assortment of effects and filters. You won’t feel too restrained with this program, especially as a beginner. If I had to give up my paid DAW I’d have to go with MU Lab which you can download here.
FL Studio Producer Edition
If I had to go with a paid program I would hands down suggest my ultimate favorite FL Studio Producer Edition. There’s a reason it’s the most used DAW software in the music production industry. It has the most features, most support, most third party add-on effects and sound engineers create samples solely for the program allowing for easy integration and finding the perfect sounds. On top of that I found one of the most comprehensive courses ever to bring you from beginner to master in music production with FL Studio (next section).
Now FL Studio can be found if you know where to look. I want to say, if something brings you so much value and enjoyment, you should definitely support it as a thank you as soon as you can. FL Studio Producer Edition can be purchased here.
Be careful there’s a cheaper “Fruity Edition” of the software that does not allow you to record it is not worth the money, go with MU Lab for free instead.
Practicing, Experimenting and Consistently Growing
Everything that’s worth having takes effort to get and becoming a skilled music producer is no different. I know practice isn’t technically equipment but it’s one of the most important aspects of becoming a good composer. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an amazing piece of music in your head but not enough technical skill to make it reality.
There’s nothing worse than feeling so lost and never finding your way to your dream. The DAW will be daunting when you first get started. It comes with so many sub menus and things that could be done. It can make you feel insanely overwhelmed.
I know I felt that way.
I wished I had a full on road map of what to focus on when, a guide to what the most important things in production were and how to design an build a song from the ground up. What I wanted more than anything was to learn how to go from absolute zero to making my sound, my piece.
Then I found an amazing online course that solved all these issues. With 750 hours of tutorial videos organized to show you where to go next and an on demand community where you could ask questions if you get confused. This course will get you on par with most mainstream producers, and it’s just up to you to refine your sound to be your sound.
That’s why I say practice is mandatory, without guidance and practice you’ll never get where you want to be. Investing in a great course will allow you to quickly reach your goals and become the producer you want to become. Click this link to check out this amazing course.
Now technically you can start producing music without one. But it’s basically going to be you dragging and dropping notes one by one in a program. I can’t think of anything more disconnected from music. With a MIDI keyboard you’re able to record patterns in real time, play chords out with proper timing, and easily record song patterns.
You don’t need a massive MIDI keyboard either. If you’re extremely enthusiastic and want to invest a lot into your set up you can get a full keyboard. But most of the time all you really need is a 25key 2 octave keyboard. The most popular one on the market and most widely used is definitely the Akai MPK Mini MKII.
The Akai MPK Mini MKII is small, lightweight, and will fit on any desk. For size it’s about the same size as a computer keyboard. On top of that it allows for full MIDI mapping to not only keys, but velocity launch pads. These are insane for drumming beats as the harder you tap the louder it will be in the DAW pattern. It has some assignable knobs to adjust effects as well. However, I just use the mouse and change them in FL Studio myself so I don’t use them that much. The best thing is it’s pretty cheap for how far it will take you. You can check out the keyboard here.