When performing, DJs use their headphones to prepare the next track that they want to play in their DJ set. DJs listen to the song that they’re planning to play next in their headphones and make sure that it lines up with the beat of the current song. This is the way that DJs make smooth transitions between two songs.
A DJ controller has at least 2 channels, 1 through which the current song is playing and a second channel to listen to a song that they’re about to play next. DJs can let either channel come through their headphones with the press of a button.
Preparing for a smooth transition requires a DJ to count along with the beats and start the next track at the right time. Good timing and knowing how to count music are some of the foundational skills that a DJ uses on stage. When the tracks are lined up, they slowly adjust EQs (frequencies) or volume to make the second song come more dominant through the speakers.
Smooth transitions are important to a DJ because their job is to keep spirits high on the dancefloor. When a transition to another song doesn’t go flawless the vibe on the dancefloor might be negatively influenced. So to achieve this goal DJs need their headphones.
What DJs Hear in Their Headphones
DJs hear the music that is playing out of one or more channels of their DJ controller. One channel is always playing through the speakers and the DJ can choose if he wants to hear that in his headphones too. The next thing a DJ hears in his headphones is the next song that he is about to play.
A DJ controller has 2 or more decks. A DJ loads up songs on deck 1 and deck 2. Both decks have a cue button that, when active, sends the music to the headphones. So a DJ can choose what he hears, deck 1, deck 2, or both decks.
DJs use what is called “hot cues” to jump to certain parts of a track. This way they can quickly have a listen to the song and think about where they would like to start this song when they add them to the mix.
Why DJ Take Their Headphones On and Off
DJs take their headphones on and off because they only use their headphones when they’re preparing for a transition to another song. When they’re not preparing to start another track anytime soon, they preferably just have all ears to what comes out of the speakers and enjoy the music along with the crowd.
DJ headphones are often more flexible and durable than regular headphones, because they get used so much and moved around a lot.
There are DJs however, that don’t take their headphones on and of and just keep them on an entire night. It’s a personal preference, not a requirement to be able to DJ properly.
Why DJs Wear Headphones On One Ear
DJs wear headphones on one ear because they want to hear the music that is coming out of the speakers alongside the music that is coming through their headphones. Not all DJs do this but when they do, it’s mostly to line up the next song with the current song.
They could choose to hear both channels through their headphones but, some DJs like to mix with their headphones on one ear. Personally, I don’t like to DJ with my headphones on one ear, because I hear both channels better when I hear them through my headphones on both ears.
If you’re ever wondering if DJs’ ears get damaged from DJing, then I can tell you that, DJing is definitely a high risk of damaging your ears but wise DJs use earplugs to protect their ears.
Why DJs Use Wired Headphones
Wired headphones are better for DJing because wireless headphones have a slight delay in the sound that is coming through. Wired headphones are just way faster in transmitting the sound to your headphones.
As a DJ you can’t perform your job well when the sound is coming through with a delay. Even the slightest delay would mess up a DJs mix.
An added risk of wireless headphones is the signal strength and battery length of the headphones. Wireless headphones come with too much risk compared to wired headphones. Wired headphones are much more trustworthy and will most likely not fail on you during a DJ set.
Is it Possible to DJ Without Headphones
In a live DJ gig, when a DJ performs on stage, it will be pretty difficult to DJ without headphones. It is possible but the mixes won’t sound as smooth as they would with the use of headphones.
When a DJ is DJing at home, it is totally possible though. A lot of DJs like to DJ without headphones with both channels coming through the speakers. It doesn’t matter if a transition goes wrong because the DJ is the only one that hears it.
DJs use headphones when they’re preparing the next track to come in. They line up the beats of both songs and adjust the volume or the EQs to make one song become more dominant than the other.
Headphones are pretty much a necessity for DJs who are performing live on stage because it’s a tool to create smooth transitions between songs. With smooth transitions, the energy on the dancefloor will stay high and will keep the people dancing.