Armin van Buuren - Baoli, Miami Beach

There's a nascent feeling among certain electronic dance music connoisseurs that DJs were better when they were anonymous.

Since the rise of the brutal grinds of dubstep and the polished populism of electro-house, DJs are in the public eye more than ever. They adorn mainstream magazine covers, walk red carpets, win Grammys. (Your grandmother even owns a Deadmau5 record. It's behind the Bobby Darin.)

In part thanks to the antics of a noted few, there is a fear that this belated acceptance by the mainstream has gone to some of their heads, mouse shaped or not, and diluted the overall quality of the music.

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On Thursday, Dutch trance icon Armin van Buuren was celebrating the release of his new headphone collaboration with his compatriot, technology monolith Philips, at South Beach's Baoli.

Is this another example of EDM running rampantly into the arms of all things commercial? Well, yes, probably. But the thing is, the headphones seem damn good. And van Buuren is not only perennially on a purple patch musically, but he is a bloody nice bloke to boot.

Talking to him, it's clear that the creation of the A5-Pro headphones have been a labor of love. "I'm very happy, as I as I was able to tour with these headphones for about four months," van Buuren says, enthusiastically. "I was wearing the prototype!"

The spinning Dutchman, who has consistently hit the top ranks of DJ Mag's Top 100 DJ Fan Poll for over a decade, is not simply putting his name to a product. He has helped build the headphones, from conception to production, with Philips Creative Tim Homewood. It was a process both readily admit was sometimes grueling, but ultimately rewarding.

"This is important, because, through my headphones, I control everything," van Buuren continues, "They need to be a good piece of equipment because you're using it the whole night of your DJ set. Philips believed in my idea for the A5-Pro and I believed in the idea Philips had."

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At the moment, Armin van Buuren is in the midst of a world tour that sees the DJ play mammoth sets of around six hours in length. The DJ will be commanding crowds at various venues across four continents over the next three months. And where Armin goes, so do the headphones.

"This is not a pre-prepared mix," he insists. "This is me, with six singers, four dancers, acrobats, a full band, and a crew of 15. These headphones are designed to be used in front of these large audiences, so I can hear the next track I'm going to put in, and take the crowd on this journey with me."

The DJ willing to talk about his career.

"There have been many career highlights," Armin says, reflecting on his 20-year career. "'This Is What It Feels Like' going top ten in Canada, Austria, the UK, and the Netherlands last year. The Grammy nominations were nice, playing for the newly crowned king in Amsterdam was an honor. My radio show A State of Trance."

After his chat with Crossfade, the beaming van Buuren played a set for the assembled crowd at Baoli. And of course, he was wearing his new A5-Pro headphones.

The small crowd of a 100 or so was practically hanging over the DJ's decks, the space shrinking with every bassline bounding from the speaker. There was no hiding for the performer or the audience.

Like WWE wrestling, there's always been a suspicion of knowing chicanery in the role of the DJ, particularly as the like of Calvin Harris and Deadmau5 let slip that they are merely pressing play on a pre-mixed set. But not so with Armin van Buuren.

We got close and we could see that this is the real deal, as the energy and the uplifting touch emanating from his decks created communal and occasionally transcendental moments shared by the few lucky enough to be there.

With van Buuren, there's no egotistical maniac, jumping up and down to his own rhythms, but a shiny, smiling sonic ringleader, coaxing his crowd into places that they didn't know they wanted to go until they got there.

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