Can You DJ with Bluetooth Headphones? How to Connect?


can you dj with bluetooth headphones

In this article, I will explain how can you DJ with wireless headphones, what are the disadvantages, and how to connect them to a DJ controller.

These questions have been largely discussed in the past, and using Bluetooth headphones has somehow always been looked upon even though technology progressed.

The problem was always latency (the time it takes for the signal to hit your ears/the crowd after you do something on your DJ controller), as DJing and latency did not complement each other at all.

In the past, the only functioning system we’ve ever seen has been radio (as in the similar technology used for those little FM transmitters you can use to “broadcast” your phone to the car stereo).

But, it’s 2022, and technology finally progressed just enough to make DJs go cableless.

In short, yes – you can DJ with wireless headphones. Along with low-latency Bluetooth headphones, the only add-on you must own is a Bluetooth transmitter with aptX low latency (as Bluetooth connection adds ~150 ms latency), no audio delay, and an audio cable that connects to your DJ controller. 

I’ve recently tested Rekordbox DJ software on my DDJ-400 and DDJ-800 with two pairs of Bluetooth headphones – my colleague’s Avantree Audition Pro and my V-MODA Crossfade 2 along with Avantree Audikast Plus Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter with aptX low latency, and all I can say is „wow!“

It surprised me that the sound was amazing, crisp, and clear. Truth be told, beatmatching was slightly off, but it is still undoubtedly workable in a pinch.

How Does Latency Relate to DJing and Wireless Headphones?

Latency is related to loss, because your decoder – in this case, your wireless headphones – needs time to decode the audio. The larger the file, the longer it will take to decode. That leads to a small amount of delay.

Now, in many cases, latency is irrelevant. If you’re only listening to music, you won’t care that a track starts 90 milliseconds after you press “play.” But when you’re mixing two tracks, it can become pretty irritating.

If your latency is higher than about 50 milliseconds, you’ll notice that one song is lagging.

For DJing purposes, low-latency Bluetooth headphones and a transmitter are essential.

AptX Low Latency has been designed for a maximum of 40 milliseconds of latency. It’s a short enough delay that it’s not apparent.

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Some would argue that 40 ms is still too much to beat-match. And for professional DJs, I actually believe it is. And maybe that’s why DJ manufacturers do not bother to add Bluetooth transmitters into their mixers.

But while the pro DJs play in front of the masses and everything needs to be perfect, a beginner DJ while learning, can work with this type of headphones.

Problems with DJing with Bluetooth Headphones

First, it is good to note that wireless headphones have batteries. Therefore, you may run out of battery while DJing. From my perspective, that’s the first non-negligible feature. You won’t like passing for a fool in front of people, do you?

But that’s not the main concern with wireless headphones. The main concern is latency and its importance on beatmatching.

Let’s say you are mixing two tracks at 125 BPM, a standard BPM in tech-house music. You have the first tune playing through the speakers and a second through your headphones.

125 BPM means 125 beats per minute. Therefore, in 60 seconds or 60,000 ms, you have 125 beats. That indicates you have a beat every 480 ms (=60000/125).

When we beat match two tracks through to the regular headphones, it should go something like this:

djing with wireless headphones

Here, the two tunes are entirely in sync. The beats come as one; the transition is smooth and pleasant to the ears. With standard wired headphones, that is what we hear in both the headphones and the speakers.

Now let’s say we monitor track B into wireless headphones while track A plays through the speakers. We beat-match the tunes, and it feels absolutely in sync like the above. At least, it appears with the headphones.

Then we shift the fader of track B up, and what we hear in the speakers is utter confusion. It’s entirely out of sync! Indeed it is because the Bluetooth added a 140 ms delay to track B in our headphones. But this delay does not exist in the controller, only in our headphones!

What we hear in the speakers is like this:

djing with wireless headphones

Indeed, in our wireless headphones, track B was in sync with the speakers’ track A. But our headphones added a 140 ms delay. That means that on the controller, track B was, in fact, in advance by 140 ms!

My diagram above is at scale. You can see how 140 ms is enormous! The crowd will surely hear the double kicks and will protest. Eventually, that can break the fun, crush the mood, and ruin your reputation with promoters.

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Let’s imagine you play a track at 124 BPM with a song at 125 BPM to put things in perspective. You know how a difference of only 1 BPM can be awful if not beat-matched, right?

Well, after 1 bar playing, the offset between the two tunes is only 16 ms. The Bluetooth latency of 140 ms is 8.8 times more than that! That is very big in relation, and you understand what a failure it can be.

Even without beatmatching, this latency will be very irritating to you in your headphones. By monitoring the speakers (the master), you will hear the track twice, like an annoying echo. That is a significant discomfort that will get on your nerves!

How to Connect Wireless Headphones to DJ Controller?

Connecting wireless headphones to a DJ controller is simple, and it will work with nine out of ten controllers, but before that, you need to be sure you have suitable Bluetooth headphones and a transmitter.

  1. Make sure you have Bluetooth headphones with low latency

Noticeable audio lag? Please check whether your device supports aptX Low Latency. Popular headphones, such as Bose QC35 or Beats Solo3, don’t support it, and you may experience an audio delay.

  1. Buy a Bluetooth transmitter with aptX low latency

I am a DJ and was always tripping over my headphone cable. I was skeptical that this would work, but as I’ve said, I am amazed!

I’ve had this already mentioned Avantree Audikast Plus Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter (Amazon link) for over two years but never bothered to try it for mixing.

I initially used it to send stereo sound from an Android tablet I used as a DJ audio player to a mixing board. When the music was mixed, I sent it out through one of these on broadcast mode to Bluetooth-enabled speakers. I’ve also used this while paired with a phone that plays music in my car.

  1. Activate pairing mode and pair the transmitter and headphones

Only one button, so pretty dummy-proof.

  1. Connect the Bluetooth transmitter to your DJ Controller

Annoying static noise? Please do not connect its 3.5mm aux jack and USB charging port to the same audio source, as it may easily cause “ground loop noise.” Please use a separate USB charger instead.

  1. Check the settings in your DJ software (in most cases not needed)
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Best Wireless DJ Headphones

You have probably noticed that some wireless headphones tagged “DJ” exist. Even among acclaimed DJ brands. Thus, you can find the Pioneer HDJ-X5BT (DJ Brand) or the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless (famous among DJs though not a DJ Brand).

V-MODA has been made famous by DJs thanks to its customizable plate. But at first, the aim of V-MODA was never focused on DJ. It was to offer audiophiles fabulous headphones in terms of sound quality and style. Something many audiophile headphones lack.

I can vouch for V-MODA Crossfade 2

I switched to just pursuing DJ’ing as a hobby and not as much gigging, so I traded my HD-25s for the V-Moda. The sound is fantastic. The battery life is insane, but there is an earphone jack to help if it dies.

They don’t have a flat response, though, and slightly color the sound for more bass, but it’s not overwhelming.

As a DJ for ten years, I can say this cuts the mustard (Beats by Dre is for posers). They are lightweight yet sturdy, and I can quickly put one cup behind my ear with the headphones staying on. Very impressed.

If you are a beginner DJ or a DJ on a budget, this will save you a ton of money and still give you pro quality.

Regarding the Pioneer HDJ-X5BT headphones…

I never had them, but I know a few people that did. The product is branded for DJs, as the product page shows. However, the HDJ-X5BT uses the aptX low latency codec, which is quite rare nowadays.

The AptX low latency codec has a latency of 40 ms, which is relatively lower than regular wireless headphones. There’s also a 1.2 m coiled cable included.

Pioneer says you can DJ with the wireless function on. At least that’s not recommended. You can also use the wireless function at home for listening to music or on public transport.

Here you have to understand that this is a marketing gimmick. Yes, it is wireless, yes, it is a DJ headphone, but it is not really a wireless DJ headphone. It just proposes to do both, but not necessarily at the same time!

Installing the aptX low latency codec here is an excellent and superior innovation, just remember that you need a transmitter that supports this codec. Otherwise, the headphones will work with much more latency.

Tray Fiddy

Tray has come to terms with the fact he will probably never be a famous DJ.... but that hasn't stopped him from mixing and researching audio equipment. Tray has over 12 years of experience DJing at home and events.

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