When looking for a gaming headset it’s easy to dismiss anything below £100 before you really start looking closely at your options. So at a touch under £90 the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1 could well pass under your radar, and as a set of headphones without a microphone it might not even be what you’re looking for, but if all you want is a way to crank up the audio in your games so you don’t wake up the neighbours or your kids asleep in the next room a decent head of “normal” headphones shouldn’t be off the menu. Especially when, in the case of the CUE1, it’s going to add a lot of bite to your gaming.
As with a lot of Pioneer kit, these headphones are aimed mainly at the DJ market, and as such you’ll find a few things that you wouldn’t normally see in your average gaming headset. The cable which connects the headphones to your controller has a springy coiled section which keeps the cable at a sensible length for your gaming, while at the same time meaning you can stretch yourself out without worrying about the cable popping out of the controller or yanking the headphones off the top of your head accidentally. This cable is, incidentally, completely removable if you want to use the Bluetooth functionality built in, but as with most things Bluetoothy there’s going to be a slight delay in the sound coming from your TV. For music it’s a wonderful option (and pretty much essential if you’re listening through your phone) but it’s not ideal for gaming. Nothing that this particular bit of kit does wrong, it’s just the nature of the Bluetooth beast.
The other benefit that comes from these being DJ-oriented is how loud they go. The volume of the CUE1s is seriously impressive, and if I’m honest the chances are you won’t need the full volume range if you’re playing quietly at home. But, for those times when a game is a bit too quiet for your liking, or if you really like some clout behind your game audio, these have definitely got you covered.
But for specific gaming needs, they’re very decent as well. Playing Modern Warfare 2 gives you a wonderful sense of spatial awareness, with enemy footsteps crystal clear giving you the jump on that player just about to try and jump you round a corner. The deep bass offered by these (another DJ-related benefit) gives gunfire and explosions some wonderful grunt to them, and switching to a totally different game like Horizon Zero Dawn or Gran Turismo 7 shows off the versatility of these headphones and the clarity of those sounds well away from the bass. It’s a very clean sound provided by the CUE1s and will definitely enhance whatever you’re playing. The quality of genuinely as good as some gaming headsets I’ve reviewed that cost double what these would set you back, and whether that’s the lack of microphone requirement or just how well Pioneer have made these without breaking your bank doesn’t really seem important. The fact is they sound wonderful when hooked up to games.
And, just as importantly, they’re comfy too. I’ve generally shied away from headphone that sit on your ears as opposed to entirely encompassing them, but the cups on these are so soft that my expected discomfort never materialised, and I was able to wear them for two or three hours without feeling like they were hugging too tightly or giving me those dreaded sweaty ears that you can get from some larger over-the-ear headphone cups. They’re adjustable enough to make things work for even the biggest head too, and with really solid build quality you won’t feel like you’re on the verge of breaking them if you’ve got a larger than average melon on your shoulders.
Which leaves us with a very easy recommendation. If you’re looking for a way to keep the noise away from others (my wife was adamant she couldn’t hear my gaming from across the lounge, despite my ears taking a pounding) but don’t need the microphone to communicate, you’ll find a lot to like about the HDJ-CUE1BT headphones. Having the Bluetooth for your music is a great little extra, but the best part of this is just how good they sound across pretty much any application you can throw at them. They’re now sat alongside my PS5 as my go-to headphones, and until something pretty special comes along that’s how it’ll stay.