REVIEWED: Pioneer DJ HDJ-CX
Sound and comfort are such personal things. That’s what arguably makes headphones such hard products to review. That said, when Federico from Pioneer DJ dropped a pair of their new HDJ-CX headphones at my door and said, “see what you think of these,” I thought I’d give it my best shot.
The box was insanely light, suggesting a lighter weight product compared to my current preferred headphones choice, the Pioneer DJ HDJ-1500s, and inside you find the very cool looking HDJ-CX (they actually remind me of a product that’s been out for years: the HD25, which hundreds of DJs use). With these new headphones, Pioneer DJ aimed to reduce weight to an absolute bare minimum, and at just 136g without cables (also re-designed to save weight) I doubt you’ll know you are wearing them. But more about that in a bit.
In the box were two cables, a 1.6m straight and a 1.2m coiled (which extends to 3m). Great for me, as I prefer a coiled cable because it doesn’t get in the way and keeps the booth tidy. Then there was the plug adapter holder, which holds the included 6.3mm jack adapter. As we all know, adapters are very easy to lose and Pioneer DJ has combated this with a nifty solution that easily clips onto your cable. To my pleasant surprise, you also get a pair of replacement ear pads in the box.
Now, about that weight – or lack of. You may think this reduction in weight could make the headphones feel a bit flimsy. To test this, I put them through their paces. I pulled, prodded, dropped and dragged the HDJ-CX through just about every test I could think of. In fact, it seems Pioneer DJ were one step ahead of me, as they’d already subjected them to a stringent US military-standard MIL-STD-810H shock test to prove their durability and resilience against physical impact. So, expect these headphones to last you a good while, especially considering the replacement ear pads.
The HDJ-CX are ergonomically designed to minimise stress to your head, neck and shoulders, and the weight distribution of the headband and the earcups, as well as the thickness of the headband cushion, have been carefully adjusted for optimal balance. Pioneer DJ has reduced the diameter of the wire inside the included cables and, on the coiled cable, has shifted the position of the spiral closer to the plug that connects to your mixer, so it’s more balanced with the straight section.
The headphones also feature PEEK-PU-PEEK composite film diaphragms – a triple-layered design with polyurethane (PU) resin sandwiched between polyether ether ketone (PEEK) resin – that provide tight sound with a frequency response of 5 Hz to 30 kHz. This means you can clearly hear the kicks, snare drums and hi-hats for precise monitoring and mixing in any environment.
The φ35 mm driver units realise the input power to reach 2,000 mW and the bass reflex chambers in the housings improve low-frequency response even further, while the sound insulators create a higher level of audio insulation, so you’ll hear the full bass along with every nuance in the music.
Based on their technical spec and ergonomic design, Pioneer DJ tells us the HDJ-CX are specifically designed for comfort and tuned to deliver outstanding sound quality for DJs who mix and monitor music. On paper it all sounds perfect – but what are they really like to use?
The headphones are on-ear cup, which means you’ll still hear the outside world (I mean, you wouldn’t want noise cancelling headphones for a gig anyway, would you?). The metal headband for me was a little tight, pushing the bottom of the ear cups into my face (and yes, before you say it, I know I have a big head). This meant that when I wore them in the studio for an hour solid, they weren’t as comfortable as I imagined. That said, Pioneer is not aiming the HDJ-CX at this market, so maybe that’s a tad unfair. The sound quality, however, was super impressive – deep bass response and more than loud enough to cope with noisy DJ environments as well as for monitoring purposes.
I also tested the headphones at a gig. The joints allow for either cup to be placed at 90 degrees, so you can go with that one cup on and one cup off look when mixing live. This is a cool feature offered by very few alternative brands. When cueing a track and checking a mix before I sent it live, the uncomfortable feeling of long-term use that I’d experienced in the studio simply wasn’t there. And this is where Pioneer DJ has pitched this product – I could clearly hear everything I needed to and, with them being so light, they were a pleasure to use.
All in all, there were many aspects of the HDJ-CX that I enjoyed. The detachable cable is great, as I’m used to this already with my 1500s, and the replacement cups also make for good value. I found the sound quality of the HDJ-CX very deep at the bottom end, whilst the mids and highs were clear. In addition, the flexibility, lightweight design and robust build are very well-suited to mobile DJs.
In March, the HDJ-CX also joined me on a trip to the Pro Mobile Conference, where I dropped them onto the djkit.com stand in the networking hub so that DJs could try them out. Feedback was almost unanimously positive, so I think it’s safe to say Pioneer DJ has hit the nail on the head with this one.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 113, Pages 88-89.