GREAT BASS ON A BUDGET
Pioneer HDJ-500 review
(NOTE: this is a review of the HDJ-500, not the HDJ-500K. The difference is that the K model has a smartphone compatible 1 m cable to receive calls).
Bass-head headphones are the most prominent models in the market today but unfortunately, as most of us know, a number of this bassy headphones while offering plenty of low end thump, the bass is simply bloated and not good. For a couple of months I've seen lots (and by lots I mean at least 90) of people wearing the cheapest headphone in Pioneer's current DJ headphone line, the HDJ-500; many of these might as well be fakes, but I still wondered about their popularity. After a few months I went headphone hunting (I'm sick, I know) and in a few audio and department stores that have Pioneer headphones on sale asked the employees about the HDJ-500 since they were gone; two of them told me they were best sellers and that they tend to sell-out shortly after receiving them...so to my surprise many of the HDJ-500s I've been looking around might actually be genuine. So two weeks ago I finally got a pair (in white as I didn't have any white headphones) and I'm glad headphones like this are popular. Keep reading to learn more.
The HDJ-500 don't look like the rest of the HDJ line, not only design-wise, but because the construction materials don't have the same quality feel of the 2000, 1500, or even 1000.
First off, their design is very stylish. They really look amazing and the style is bolder than that of the boring 1000 and 1500 and that the sober and elegant 2000. They have chrome or colored accents in both the headband and the cups. They might seem a bit too much but I think they look great in the white version. There are other versions with black bodies and red, yellow, and purple accents. Unfortunately they feel very very plasticky and flimsy which can be easily seen and heard when grabbed with one hand, even when they look more expensive than they really are.
The right ear cup can swivel to both sides and makes a substantially enough sound to know it locked in place. The HDJ-500 are, in my opinion, the most comfortable model of the HDJ line for one-ear monitoring. The right ear cup rests comfortably on either side of my head and the headphones still feel secure. They have plenty of padding on both the ear cups and the headband and although the removable ear cushions are somewhat hard out of the box they become quite soft after a few hours of listening. They are comfortable to wear for long periods of time and don't get too steamy even on warm weather and that's something great for closed on-ears. Although they are cushy, you won't be mistaking these for memory foam filled cushions. An issue I've encountered with the cushions and I think it applies only to the white model is the fact that they get stained very easily and are hard to clean. Another issue I've found is the squeaky noise the right ear cup makes when handled in certain angles; it really drives me crazy but at least it doesn't squeak when worn.
The HDJ-500 come with two cables, a 1 m straight one and a 3 m coiled cable with one side being a 2.5 mm plug (for the ear cup) and the other one being a 3.5 mm plug compatible with the screw-on 6.3 adaptor. They are texturized and thick enough and both have a locking design but the lock doesn't feel secure enough in my opinion. Both cables have a very thick 3.5 mm plug which bothers me a lot when using it with a portable; they could have used it in the coiled cable only.
There's a lot to say about portability and not because of its abundance but because of the lack of it. As you can see in the next image, they are quite big. The cups are almost the same size of the UE 6000's which is an over-ear full-size model. This can be explained because of the relatively big 40 mm drivers. The cup is pretty deep as well and there's a somewhat long gap between the ear and the driver created by the cushions. All of these characteristics might explain the comfort and sound, but they affect the size a lot. Then it comes the fact that they don't fold in any way; not even flat. The UE 6000 they are compared with in the picture do fold while being larger. The UE 4000 for example are another pair of cheap on-ears that don't fold flat, but that have a substantially smaller footprint than that of the HDJ-500 and come with a carrying pouch (the HDJ-500 don't).
At the very beginning of the review I mentioned I was glad these became so popular and it is not only because of their looks but because people are actually using basshead headphones with a decent overall sound. Let me explain: while these do have an accentuated bass response, the other frequencies don't suffer so much because of it and the bass is pretty good for the sub-100 pricetag. A thing to note is that their sound changes a lot with burn-in.
The highs are nothing to write home about; they are just a little bit accentuated over the mids. If something they can get a little sibilant with very high frequencies. Still they are very clear and are not grainy. You could say they are the norm if not a little bit better for closed on ears in the same price range. The sibilance decreases considerably after burn-in but they remain clear and sparkly.
The mids are not so good news out of the box. The HDJ-500 have a U shape frequency response with emphasis on the lows and it shows in the recessed mids. But don't phase these out yet! They are recessed, but crisp nevertheless, never consumed by the lows or highs, and frequency separation is great as well. Although they are crisp they are very very grainy, but fortunately this graininess tends to disappear with burn-in and now that they settled in they are just a little bit grainy, but can still be easily noticed.
The lows is where they shine. The bass is boosted, but it is surprisingly tight! They sound great with songs with a solid beat to them since the bass is full bodied and has great impact. Lots of headphones manage to "hit" you with their bass, but only a few can do it for this low of a price. There's something remarkable about the bass: it doesn't bleed into the mids.
The overall sound signature is that of a "fun" headphone with great bass more fit for electronic and certain rock sub genres than for ballads or vocals-heavy music. Still they would make a decent job if you happen to listen to other kinds of music because their only real fault is the grain in the mids. The soundstage is actually pretty wide for closed headphones and I think the huge gap between the ear and the driver is the main culprit, as well as the dept of the cup. Imaging is just ok; you won't feel like you're in an actual concert under no circumstance. The isolation is pretty good as the earcups themselves don't transfer sound through the plastic so it all depends on the cushions which are not memory foam filled and that results in some minor leakage. It isn't a problem during commuting but your 1D tracks will be heard by others on a quiet waiting room if you're too liberal with the volume. If you are in need for actual human interaction but still want to listen to your tunes, you could always swivel the right ear cup and they will stay on your head securely.
The HDJ line of headphones is remarkable for various things Pioneer did to get the right spots for each model's price range and target market, and I think this was a success. For $100 you get a pair that offers great and fun bass with minimal compromises to the other frequencies (for the price range) that looks stylish at that. I really don't think Pioneer was targeting actual DJs with these because of their build quality but based only on their sound, included accessories, and an ear cup that swivels I dare to say these could pass as a decent DJ headphone in a pinch. For the rest, I think they are a great second or third pair to go out to the streets listening to upbeat music while looking great and not worrying that much about your investment; at least that is how I'll be using them.