Sennheiser’s HD 25 headphone was not originally designed for DJs. Though today it’s considered an essential piece of equipment behind the decks—worn by the likes of Calvin Harris, Luciano, Richie Hawtin, Martin Solveig, and scores of other boldface names—they were first designed in 1988 for broadcast booths and recording engineers. In 1989, the German audio company started supplying the sound-isolating headphones on British Airways’ supersonic Concorde jets.
The headphones were exclusively available on Concorde flights until the jets were retired in 2003. During that time, they built a cult following that proliferated and popularised the HD 25 for consumers. When Sennheiser released a commercial version in 2004, it was adopted by the DJ community en masse: The swivel ear cup design lets you take one side of the headphones off your ear in order to listen to live sound in one and the audio in the other, and its excellent sound-isolating technology effectively blocks out loud environments—as when you might be trying to cue up the next track in a club. According to company data, Sennheiser has sold 2 million pairs since the release.
Despite a few minor tweaks, the headphones remain largely the same as when they were first introduced. Their ability to handle high sound pressure levels means tunes don’t sound distorted when played loud. And the effective seal blocks out external noise, revealing a natural, not-hyped sound that delivers plenty
of bass without sacrificing overall quality.
This month, Sennheiser is celebrating its 75th anniversary by unveiling a limited edition of its HD 25 headphones—paying homage to the company’s first breakthrough headphone, the HD 414. Anyone who orders the HD 25 in June will have a chance to receive a limited-edition version that bears the original headphones’ black-and-yellow coloring as opposed to the standard black look. $149
Audio Technica’s $150 ATH-M50x headphones also use passive sound isolation to deliver exceptional clarity. Swiveling earcups rotate 90 degrees and collapse in order to offer some space-saving portability. The cables are detachable as well for easy packing and storing.
The SRH750 headphones from Shure are prized for their bass-heavy sound. They have robust construction, a cord that can stretch beyond six feet, and reversible ear cups so you can hold one end to your ear if you don’t want to hang them around your neck.
Wiping away sweat and dirt is easy on Pioneer’s $249 HDJ-X10, thanks to a nano coating on the polyurethane ear cups. They’re a little heavy, at 11.5 oz, but the sound quality and design build are first-class.
The HD 25s represent the platonic ideal of a headphone that marries high-end sound with overall value. At less than 5 oz, they’re remarkably durable for such a lightweight piece of equipment. “They’re built like tanks,” says Kevin Waehner, commercial manager for professional audio at Sennheiser. The split headband also ensures a secure, comfortable fit, and each individual piece of the headphones is replaceable.