In celebration of the 40 year anniversary of the Technics SL-1200 Turntable, one of the most popular and iconic DJ turntables ever put-out on the market, Technics (now owned by Panasonic) is “re-introducing” it’s Pro DJ line of headphones. Leading the charge are two shiny new silver offerings to add to the ever-growing list of high-end cans now flooding the consumer and pro-audio market: the RP-DH1250 and the RP-DJ1205. We’ll take a look at the big brother of the two, the over-the-ear RP-DH1250, and decipher whether we think this latest revamp has what it takes to bring the RP-DH1250 into the DJ booth, and perhaps attract some audiophiles along the way.
Whenever the word (or acronym, rather) DJ is brought up, it immediately conjures certain images, both visual and aural. Casual consumers and even audiophiles might expect headphones with a DJ connotation to bring to bear heavy-laden bass lines smashing into your cerebral cortex at the speed of House, and (maybe) a lack of mid and upper-frequency balance. On the other hand, those who are professional or amateur DJ’s might envision a powerful sounding set of cans incorporating both style and user versatility to forge their main link between the sonic creations at their finger-tips, and the high-powered beats they unleash upon listeners below. After checking-out the RP-DH1250, we think both groups may be pleasantly surprised with Technics’ latest offering.
Out of the Box
Technics takes a packaging queue from Apple, as so many others have, and ditched the blocky, impossible-to-open clamshell for a soft-to-the-touch black box perfectly fitted together in two pieces. Inside are a few accessories, including an iOS compatible interchangeable cable with the obligatory 3-button design and pinpoint mic, perfect for taking those important calls in-between sets at the club. One change-up from the Apple world here is that the cable comes out from the left side of the headset (as do most pro-style headphone cables) so the mic and button piece will be on the left instead of the right, as usual.
Also included is a second, DJ-familiar coiled cable with a 24K gold, screw-on ¼-inch TRS jack. The two cables are easily interchangeable and use a simple twist-locking system to keep them in place. Finally, a soft leatherette bag is included for storage.
Features and Design
These cans aren’t targeted at those looking for a low profile pair of headphones useful for vegging out on a plane or shutting out public transportation noise while enduring another rush-hour commute. Though they are far more than a one-trick-pony, the DH1250’s are designed first and foremost for DJ’s or fans of the art. These babies are a bit brash and shiny, and their noise-isolating abilities while playing at low volumes are, as Elvis Costello once put it, “Less than zero.” If you are looking for something to block out conversation or other noises around you in your daily routine, you may want to look at similarly-priced headphones available with either passive or active noise-cancellation such as the Monster Inspiration or the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9.
The RP-DH1250’s have large, circular over-the-ear earpieces that swivel for single-ear use in the DJ style, and fold-in for easy storage and traveling. They are accented with a clever silver-dotted band around the outside to replicate the familiar band around the base of the SL-1200, as well as other Technic turntables (including the SL-D202 owned by this reviewer), showcasing a nice bit of nostalgia for this anniversary offering. The earpieces have soft leatherette cushions that, while not as plush as some we have reviewed, are comfortable enough for extended wear. The heavy plastic arms of the earpieces adjust easily to most head sizes and hold their length well when expanded or contracted. There is a soft black leatherette band at the top, which, though not very thick, never got to bothering us.
The DH1250 have a good bit of weight to them, and tend to slip a little with fast head movement. In fact, we found they are apt to pop right off of our head when we executed a sweeping backward motion, which could pose a problem to some wearers.
Though we experienced no real discomfort after prolonged use, these phones are just really heavy. We found wearing them could be a bit like wearing a helmet, as every movement was a bit tedious and slow with them on. They are also listed as being water-resistant to counteract sweat produced while dancing with the headphones on. Water-resistance is great, but we have a hard time imagining much dancing going on under the weight of the RP-DH1250’s. It probably will be less noticeable for those who are stationary spinning records or sitting back and listening, but we found that while traveling or even just moving around the house, they can be a labor to wear.
Overall, we found the RP-DH1250’s surprisingly well balanced and pleasant to listen to on multiple formats with many different types of music. We listened to them on an iPhone 3GS, MOTU 896HD A/D Converter, and through a Technics SL-D202 Direct Drive Turntable connected to a basic Sony consumer stereo system. As with many pieces of gear we’ve encountered, the RP-DH1250 headphones aren’t quite linear (dealing with all frequencies of the sound spectrum equally), but as Pro DJ headphones, they probably weren’t designed to be. Our bet is that Technics had a calculated sound design in place. So, here’s a breakdown of what you will get with the RP-DH1250, as well as what you won’t get.
We kept coming back to one word over and over again during our evaluation of the RP-DH1250: depth. The RP-DH1250’s do depth, and they do it very well. This came to bear most while listening to more complex productions such as tracks from Depeche Mode’s “Violator”, or David Bowie’s song “Ashes To Ashes”. The different instruments and synth effects seemed to ride-in from afar and move back out again with beauty and clarity
As we said earlier, folks tend to assume that DJ headphones focus heavily on bass. The RP-DH1250’s do have a bit of low end focus, but we felt it was handled really well. We noticed the RP-DH1250’s managed a dazzling reproduction of any sort of fuzz-bass or similar saw tooth crunchy-ness which can be found in many electronic tracks and electro-pop or rock. The handling of these bold sounds was almost primal as heard through these cans, making it a lot of fun to crank up these electronic splendors of the low-end and let ‘em rip. We feel lovers of electronic music — as well as many other genres — will have a lot of fun rediscovering these sounds.
One of the RP-DH1250’s less appealing aspects was a seeming lack of punch in the mid-range. Often, when you give extra emphasis to one area such as that bursting low-end crunch, you do so by losing a little power in another end of the spectrum. While vocals remained clear and well placed in the mix all-around, other parts of the 3-4kHz spectrum just seemed a bit weak. One memorable example of this was the guitar solo in Muse’s latest single release, “Madness.” After our initial listening, we were excited to see how the RP-DH1250’s handled this simple, yet powerful electric guitar tone. Yet, when it came up in the track, it just didn’t pop like we were used to. We couldn’t seem to turn up the volume loud enough to get it to sing over the top of that beautiful low-end like we wanted.
One of our favorite parts of the listening experience with the RP-DH1250’s was their clarity while handling percussion instruments. Shakers, rim-shots, and tambourines all sounded so close they almost felt live – Ringo might as well have been playing his shaker right next to our right ear on The Beatles’ track “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” for instance. On the other hand, we also felt like there was a lack of presence at around 10kHz, especially evident in the cymbals. They lacked a high-end brilliance we were listening for. Though this same treatment of the treble seemed to give a glossy feel to the aforementioned instruments that we liked, so, to be fair, our complaint is a little two-faced.
Continuing with clarity as a theme, we found these ‘phones to be very revealing while listening to everything from early rock recordings to newer, highly-digitized tracks. In fact, they uncovered flaws in some tracks to a point that might be displeasing to some — take some of the early Kinks recordings, for example — but we can’t really insult a piece of equipment for showing what really happened.
The RP-DH1250’s are a high-end set of DJ-oriented headphones, which create a sonic landscape that eclipses that of many of its competitors. Though some might be reluctant to shell out the $270 asking price, heavy users, professionals, and of course, the DJ and dance-club set will find them a formidable option.
The character of the RP-DH1250 may not be for everyone (and we do feel they have a signature sound), but they manage to balance their low-end crunch with a wide spectrum of frequency response and attention to detail and depth in the stereo field they present. They don’t offer even moderate noise cancelling at low volume, which detracts some from their overall score, as does their bulky design and glitzy shine. However, those looking for a great-sounding set of cans — be it for use in the home or the DJ booth – should consider checking out Technics’ latest offering.
- Nice depth and clarity
- Great treatment of low-end
- Pleasant and revealing sound
- Good accessories and strong build design
- Cool retro styling
- Heavy and bulky
- Little noise-isolation
- Lack of punch in mid-range