Shure SRH550DJ (Black)
The $100 SRH550DJs are Shure's entry-level headphones for the budget-minded DJ, but their futuristic, sealed-back design also makes them a worthwhile noise-cancelling option for desk jockeys. Their acoustic image takes them a step closer to the club than I'm used to hearing from the company's natural-sounding earbuds, but DJs expecting durable headphones with clear definition and brain-rattling bass won't be disappointed by the Shure SRH550DJ Professional Quality DJ Headphones.
The SRH550DJ are tough competition for the Sony MDR-V700DJ Studio Monitor Series DJ Headphones that have earned the recommendation of discerning DJs for over a decade, but Shure offers modern visual appeal over Sony, which hasn't updated the MDR-V700DJ design since its introduction.
As with most DJ cans, the SRH550DJ headphones' earcups fully engulf your ears in material, in this case fake leather and soft cotton, to keep your music from leaking to the outside world. It's a useful trait for headphones meant to thrive in a loud club environment, but the cushions barely cling to the hard shell covering the 50mm driver.
Luckily, Shure also includes a pleather carrying pouch that keeps the headphones and earpads intact. You can also buy replacement cushions from Shure when they eventually wear out, but I prefer the modular snap-padding on the Aiaiai TMA-1 headphones, which just feels more secure against the hardware.
The folding cups rotate on a 180-degree axis so DJs can beat-match using one side to listen to music while the other ear pays attention to the speaker, and the lateral adjustments also help the cups conform more tightly to your head. DJs will also appreciate the 6.5-foot wire that extends out of both cups in a Y shape and terminates in a straight plug that won't get in the way of a busy mixer. Shure also includes a quarter-inch threaded adapter.
The headphones weigh slightly more than half a pound with the cord included, but the plastic lining on the headband that keeps them light also makes them susceptible to creaking. The weakest part on headphones is the joint connecting the band to the earcups, so the SRH550DJ headphones' fragility makes me question their long-term durability, especially considering the rough way that travelling DJs treat their gear. However, the SRH550DJs get Shure's generous two-year warranty, which protects against structural damage.
The 50mm drivers behind each earcup deliver robust sound quality that holds its own against high listening volumes and sudden signal dips. Since these are entry-level headphones, you're not going to hear the balanced midrange shine you would with cans designed for natural audio mixing, but the overall tonal balance is appropriate for club DJs that listen at loud volumes.
DJs are also largely concerned with the soundstage of headphones, or how accurately they present the location of the instruments in relation to the microphones recording the music. The Shure SRH550DJs do a fine job of separating each instrument instead of mashing them all between your ears, and vocals are impressively precise as well.
I want to make it clear, however, that the high frequencies definitely take a backseat to the bass depth for these headphones, which is probably an effort by Shure to ensure their appeal for DJs. You might not mind, or may actually prefer the extra bass if you're just using these for your computer rig, but listeners who want a distinct sparkle from treble tones should look elsewhere--these are headphones for groovier genres.
The Shure SRH550DJ Professional Quality DJ Headphones' folding earcups, extra-long wire, and deep bass push are a boon for DJs who prefer tough cans that emphasize the lower end of the sound spectrum. Their lightweight design sacrifices a bit of durability over the long term, but Shure's two-year warranty and a sub-$100 price tag even the score and solidify my recommendation of these earphones for DJs and everyday listeners of rock, rap, and electronic music.