Review: Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT Headphones

Pioneer makes great audio gear. From turntables to DJ decks to headphones, they’ve been the definitive brand for knob twiddlers and scratchers for decades. But, like most modern consumer electronics brands, they’ve been dipping a few toes into the generalist audio market. Their latest foray is the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT, a set of Bluetooth headphones aimed at DJs and DJs-to-be that are priced at a surprisingly affordable $99.

The question, then, is whether or not the CUE1BTs match the rest of Pioneer’s product line. I’m here to report that they do.

Are the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT’s good headphones?

On the aggregate, you’ll be very pleased with the CUE1BTs. They are compact, comfortable, and offer solid audio reproduction. The headphones themselves pair to almost any device seamlessly and Pioneer includes a 1.2-meter cable so you can plug these into a DJ deck or, more likely, the in-seat video system on a plane.

While this headphone is ostensibly designed for DJs, the CUE1BTs are truly generalist headphones. They offer a range of features at a reasonable price and also appeal to those who prefer compact, on-ear designs and stylish color options. The HDJ-CUE1BT is crafted primarily from plastic, making it lighter and more portable than over-ear models. Weighing approximately 246g, it can be easily stashed in a backpack or folded up without much hassle. It also offers customization options, with cables and ear cups available in different colors for purchase separately. However, it’s important to note that the HDJ-CUE1BT doesn’t carry an IP rating, meaning it’s not designed to withstand rainstorms or intense workouts. Moreover, the on-ear design places pressure on your ears, which could result in discomfort during prolonged use, particularly for those who wear glasses.

One of the unique features of the HDJ-CUE1BT is the ability of its ear cups to rotate up to 90 degrees. This allows the user to listen to music in one ear while keeping the other ear attuned to the environment, a feature that could prove useful during DJ sessions. However, this adjustment can shift the weight distribution over your head and ears, potentially causing discomfort.

As noted before, the HDJ-CUE1BT offers a wired listening option with a coiled cord that can stretch up to 1.8m. The coiled design prevents tangling, making it easy to carry. The headphone also supports wired listening to bypass the limitations of Bluetooth codecs. Despite its compact design, the HDJ-CUE1BT doesn’t come with a carrying case, so you’ll need to provide your own or be comfortable with it rolling around in your backpack. The left and right ear cups are marked with small raised black letters, and the controls are located on the left cup. The HDJ-CUE1BT is equipped with a multi-function button and a volume rocker on the left ear cup, along with an LED indicator for visual feedback on connection, battery, and other status updates.

The multi-function button allows you to power on/off, connect to Bluetooth devices, play/pause, and skip tracks. The headphone also features a built-in microphone for hands-free use and contacting your phone’s voice assistant. However, the LED might require some time to understand, but once deciphered, it proves to be quite handy.

Pioneer discontinued its Pioneer Notification App in March 2020, recommending the third-party Zeeny app for controlling notifications. This app allows you to control the types of notifications that can play through your headphones and the frequency of reminders for the current time and other status updates.

Pioneer claims that the HDJ-CUE1BT can deliver up to 30 hours of playback time, a claim that was exceeded in testing, with the headphones lasting 47 hours, and 17 minutes. The headphones are charged via a micro USB port, a somewhat outdated choice for an otherwise modern pair of headphones.

How is the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT’s sound quality?

The HDJ-CUE1BT uses Bluetooth 5.0 and supports the AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, benefiting users in the Apple ecosystem with AAC. However, it doesn’t support aptX on Android to deal with latency issues. It also doesn’t support Bluetooth multipoint, but it does store a list of up to eight devices that it will try to automatically connect with when you first turn on the power.

In terms of noise isolation, the HDJ-CUE1BT relies on the pressure of the ear cups against your ears to block out noise, as it doesn’t feature noise-canceling technology. The effectiveness of this isolation varies depending on how tightly the ear cups press against your ears, creating a trade-off between isolation and comfort. The HDJ-CUE1BT boasts a sound profile designed for DJs, with a boosted low range that suits party music. However, it doesn’t offer an EQ or an app from Pioneer for adjusting your tunes. Instead, you can use a third-party option or the included cable for wired playback for the best possible sound quality and zero latency. The built-in microphone also allows you to use the HDJ-CUE1BT for phone calls, making it a practical choice for those who need to manage their appointments and everyday lives on the go. In conclusion, the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT is a solid choice for those who need a versatile pair of headphones that can transition from a DJ booth to a bus ride. While it doesn’t offer any standout features, it provides a reliable performance and a user-friendly design. However, the use of micro USB and the lack of a carrying case may be seen as drawbacks by some users.

Don’t be fooled: these aren’t noise-cancelling headphones. Instead, they fit tight against your ears for maximum noise reduction. That said, you probably don’t want to depend on these in high-noise situations unless you’re fine with a slightly more muted sound. That said, I definitely preferred these over similarly priced headphones, and the design – high-tech and angular – is quite striking.

The real draw here, then, is the price. If you’re looking for real DJ headphones and you don’t want to spend hundreds – or thousands – on something like Pioneers HRM7 studio monitors – then these are an acceptable alternative. Finding the right headphones is a personal choice and Pioneer makes some of the best. It’s well worth checking these out if you’re looking to spin the wheels of steel or, barring that, listen to EDM on Spotify.

John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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