Can I use IEMs as DJ Headphones? | Ultimate Ears Stories from the Field

I really want to pursue being a DJ even though I’m just starting out. I’m seriously researching headphones. I’m seeing a lot of options and my friends all have different opinions. What do you think about using IEMs for DJ headphones?


DJ NU SKOOL Ultimate Ears UE


If you are mulling over becoming a DJ or already are a DJ, you probably have an idea of how important your headphones are to your success on the “1’s and 2’s.”


Headphones are the indispensable tool of every serious DJ. Sure, your playback device (Turntables / CD / Controllers) and needles are important, but your headphones are the thing you need to carry to every gig.


By having confidence in your headphones and knowing what they are capable of, you can do a better job. Monitoring in every club situation is different and that can affect how you do your job. If you can’t hear you can’t mix effectively and if you can’t mix effectively you will not please the crowd. If you can’t please the crowd your career as a DJ will be a short one.


We’ve talked about stage musicians and IEMs vs. Wedges before (and we will again). Now let’s talk about DJs. Depending on the size of the place you are playing, there will be different monitoring setups ranging from none (you just have the room speakers to listen to) to having a full blown stereo wedge setup. No matter how you slice it, IEMs present a better setup.


When you’re sure that your headphones produce accurate and detailed sound, you can free your creativity and really enjoy the music, and your mixes.


IEMs provide a level of detail usually not associated with DJ headphones. Most “DJ” headphones are designed to be LOUD not detailed. And even the best ones focus on durability, not sonic clarity.


And let’s face it sometimes you are really only using one side of the monitors in the first place (at a crushing volume) and listening to the main PA in the room.


Look, I’m not saying you can’t be an outstanding DJ using over the ears. As a matter of fact, you can be an amazing DJ using a belt drive turntable (like Nu Sounds or Kool Herc did) or even one turntable with no mixer like DJ Wheelie Bag. But technology advances and you should think about keeping up if you are so inclined. Your ears, for one, will thank you.


I made the transition from over-the-ear headphones to IEMs, I even went wireless (specifically UE 11 PROs and in full disclosure UE let me also try the Stereo Single which I use for smaller gigs). I never looked back. The first thing I noticed is that I could turn everything down. This was KEY for me; after years of listening to loud bar/club speakers, my ears really needed the break.


But I was surprised how hearing all the detail was a game changer. No longer was I stuck trying to match only kick drums, I was now beat matching to the hi-hats. It was a whole new day. Also, at the end of the night, my ear fatigue was much lower.


Now, believe me, I get it. Young artists coming up in the DJ world think IEMs are too expensive. But you can’t put a price on hearing protection. Just ask any DJ who has felt the long term effects of club speakers.


You may not have the budget for a pair of UE 11 PROs, but drop us or your UE Dealer a line and get a live demo. You might find the UE 5 PROs are just what you need.


If you create music at home or in the studio, you will also have a pair of IEMs that you can use to take your project to the next level, because you will be able to really hear what’s going on in your mix.


You can still DJ with a pair of earbuds that came with your phone for free and you might do a great job, but if you’re serious you should think about your hearing and your performance and how your headphones relate to that.


Spend your resources wisely so you can achieve your music goals faster. Think of the long term. And never hesitate to drop us a line here at UE with any questions at all. 


Take your performance to the next level. Let us help design a personal solution just for you.

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