Pioneer's new HDJ-CUE1BT headphones are aimed at budget DJs. They may be used in wired, passive mode for DJs or as Bluetooth headphones for $99 each. The sound characteristic is bass-forward, and the design can be modified for a little fee—the earpads and cabling come in a variety of colours. If you're seeking for a precise mix, you'll want to stay away from these headphones. However, whether or not you plan to DJ with them, the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT can be of interest if you're looking for a big-bass sound in the $100 area.

Pioneer DJ HDJ-CUE1BT Headphones


The headphones come in three colours: black, red, and white, with interchangeable earpads and wires. For an additional $30, you can get them in orange, yellow, green, blue, or violet, allowing you to make some unique colour combinations. The supra-aural (on-ear) cups are cushioned and lined with faux leather (as is the headband), and they're big enough to feel like over-ear pads. Although there is no tote bag or case provided, the hinged design allows the headphones to simply fold up for storage. Of course, the design allows for single channel monitoring while DJing by lifting and turning one earcup away from either ear and resting against your head.

On the left earcup's side panel is a multifunction button for power/pairing, track navigation, and call answer/end. A dedicated volume rocker-style button is located next to it. The provided micro USB charging cable, as well as the associated audio cable, which is semi-coiled and approximately 47 inches long, but can be extended to nearly 70 inches, attach to a connector on this earcup. There's no inline mic or control on the wire because it's for DJing. When you plug it in, the headphones go into passive mode automatically, and the connection features a twist-lock mechanism to prevent the cable from being ripped out by mistake. It's worth noting that a non-Bluetooth version of the headphones, the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1, costs $69.

What's missing in this picture? Well, not much for $100, especially when you consider that these are DJ headphones first and Bluetooth headphones second. You might argue that an EQ app or a second connection with an inbuilt mic/remote for wired, passive, non-DJing use would be beneficial additions, but the pricing doesn't offer much space for extras. A quarter-inch headphone jack adaptor is the one noticeable omission—the provided cable ends in 3.5mm, and there's no way to use it with pro gear that only has the bigger headphone connection. That appears to be an omission when it comes to DJ headphones. The good thing is that adapters are rather inexpensive.

Each enclosure has a 40mm driver with a frequency range of 5Hz to 30kHz and a 32-ohm impedance—though we'll add that given the price, that range seems rather generous (20Hz-20kHz is far more typical.) The headphones are Bluetooth 5.0 compliant and can play AAC and SBC codecs, but not AptX. The wireless battery life is estimated to be around 30 hours by Pioneer, although your mileage may vary depending on your volume settings.


In Bluetooth mode, the headphones give a decent blend of strong low-frequency response and bright, clear highs on tracks with significant sub-bass content, such as The Knife's "Silent Shout." The lows do not distort at extreme, foolish listening settings, and the bass remains rich and prominent in the mix at more reasonable volumes.

The music "Drover" by Bill Callahan, which has significantly less deep bass in the mix, gives us a clearer idea of the HDJ-overall CUE1BT's sound character. This track's drums feel practically thunderous, and there's clearly some significant bass boosting going on. Every DJ will have their own tastes when it comes to accuracy, but these headphones are unmistakably in the huge bass camp. The lows are thankfully counterbalanced by sharp, bright highs, which highlight the vocals and acoustic strums. The sound character is sculpted, bright, and bass-forward, yet it's well-balanced.

The kick drum loop on Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" has enough high-mid presence to keep its punchiness, while the bass response thickens up the drum loop's sustain as well. The sub-bass synth bursts that punctuate the beat are delivered with vigour—this is a robust, bass-forward mix that avoids over-boosting and sculpting the high-mids and highs. As a consequence, the voices on this track have a lot of clarity, however there's a bit extra sibilance in the mix at points.

The sound profile is difficult to discern from the Bluetooth audio output in passive mode with the wire connected: When using an iMac and comparing wired and wireless transmission of the identical music, the bass depth and higher-frequency response were nearly the same. Of course, the connected signal will deliver higher-fidelity music, but the idea is that the drivers are well-tuned and work well in both modes. The mic has a high level of intelligibility. We were able to comprehend every word we recorded using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8—there was some normal Bluetooth distortion around the edges of syllables, but the mic's signal is robust and also delivers some extra bass response.


The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT headphones, whether you plan to DJ or not, are a decent, reasonable alternative if you want dialed-up bass and sculpted highs. Those looking for a more realistic sound signature should spend more money—we recommend the (much more costly) Sennheiser HD8 DJ in the wireless/DJ-friendly headphone category. 

We've examined fewer DJ headphones in the $100 bracket, but we like the wired Sennheiser HD 280 Pro (for studio usage), the Jabra Elite 45h, and the Status Audio BT One (none of which are designed for DJs/studios). Pioneer's HDJ-CUE1BT headphones are a great set for budding DJs, DJs on a budget, or anybody who wants some increased bass depth and a wired cable for passive listening. They're definitely not for experienced DJs or those searching for an authentic sound signature.