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Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT: Hands-on with $99 DJ-style headphones

Pioneer's HDJ-CUE1BT offer impressive bass response and a number of upgrade options in a $99 pair of headphones.

The HDJ-CUE1 headphone range.

When the original Beats headphones arrived way back in 2008, they created an instant market for DJ-style headphones and celebrity endorsements alike. While Pioneer's HDJ-CUE1 range doesn't have a celebrity tie-in and it doesn't look like a regurgitated Swarovski crystal, it is attractively priced. But is it a "DJ headphone" as Pioneer claims?

The HDJ-CUE1 is a range of on-ear headphones, and Pioneer says the models use the same drivers as the HDJ-X5 over-ear model and "accentuate important low bass and kick drum frequencies for mixing." The range offers a muted, pro look with a foldable design that lets the user turn both earcups a full 90 degrees. Just like the DJs do, but then again you can bet Tiësto isn't using $70 on-ear headphones on stage.


The HDJ-CUE1BT with the optional $30 add-on pack

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Prices start at $69 per pair for the wired HDJ-CUE1 in dark silver finish, while the Bluetooth version HDJ-CUE1BT is available for $99 per pair (in a choice of matte black, matte white or matte red). The headphones can be supplemented by a $30 accessory pack that includes replacement earpads and a coiled cable in a choice of orange, yellow, green, blue or violet.  

Pioneer says the play time on the Bluetooth model is approximately 30 hours on a two-hour charge. The locking cable on this more expensive version disables the Bluetooth, the microphone and volume buttons.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET


The headphones are plastic and not very adjustable fit-wise. Yet even with my larger noggin I didn't find them uncomfortable.

I listened to a set of the HDJ-CUE1BT in both wired and wireless mode and found them to be as bass-forward as I'd expect from DJ headphones. They were best suited to the '80s dance floor beats of Tame Impala's Borderline or the slam of Gorillaz' Feel Good Inc. The song I found them most impressive with was The Beta Band's Life -- at 2:20 the song ends with a super-deep synth bass, but unlike with some headphones and speakers I've heard, each each note was played at an equal volume and without distortion.

The HDJ-CUE1BT offered enough presence to make vocals pop, even if there wasn't much that much treble coming through. When plugged in the sound became flatter; the bass prominence was still there, but the midrange sparkle was gone.

Pioneer knows that "serious" DJs aren't going to be using these on the dance floor, but if you want an attractive set of budget headphones that can do deep bass well, then these are worth investigating.

Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT specifications

  • Type: Closed, Dynamic 
  • Frequency response: 5Hz to 30,000Hz 
  • Impedance: 32 ohms 
  • Sensitivity 104 dB 
  • Driver: 40 mm 
  • Weight: 215 g (without cable) 
  • Warranty: 1 year 
  • Accessories: 1.2 meter coiled cable