As you shop for that perfect pair of headphones, you've probably found a few that sound great but make your head feel like its in a vice. Here are a few tips for making uncomfortable headphones fit a little nicer.
Title image remixed from Ivan Ponomarev (Shutterstock).
I'm currently testing out a bunch of different headphones, and I've found that a lot of them clamp down pretty hard on the sides of my head, not to mention hurt the top of my head with a lack of cushioning. After searching around the forums at Head-Fi, I've found a few DIY tricks that can take a pair of headphones that sound good into a pair that sound and feel good. Here are a few of my favourites.
Stretch Them Out Over Their Box
Lots of headphones -- especially over-the-ear headphones -- are going to feel pretty tight on your head. Like a baseball glove or new pair of shoes, you can break them in just by using them, but if they're a bit more on the painful side (some have made me involuntarily clench my jaw they're so tight), you can stretch them overnight on their box, a set of books, or even your speakers. Try to pick something that's about the same size as your head or a tad bit wider. You don't want to stretch them out too much, of course.
Add More Cushioning To The Headband
The biggest problem I've seen with most headphones is that the headband isn't well cushioned, and puts a lot of pressure on the top of my head after extended listening. If your headphones don't have very good cushioning, the best trick you can pull is to find a headphone with better cushioning, order the cushioning as a separate part from the company, and velcro it onto your headphones. You'll get the sound and look you like, but with a bit more comfort on the top of your head.
Of course, if you don't want to deal with ordering a separate part, or are having trouble finding a part that will fit on your set of cans, you can always go the quick-and-dirty route and just glue some memory foam to the top of your headband. You can buy it in whatever size you want from your local fabric store, and fit it to your particular headband.
Replace Hard Pleather Ear Pads With Softer Ones
This mod is a bit riskier, as it's not only harder to find extra ear pads that fit perfectly, but it can also drastically change the sound of your headphones. However, if you find that the pleather ear pads are just not cutting it -- making your ears hot, feeling gross when you peel them off your head after hours of listening, etc. -- you can often find some velour or leather pads from other headphones that will fit your own. Do some research on your headphones and see what successful mods people have done on them -- again, Head-Fi is a great place to start looking. You may be able to find ear pads from another brand that fit perfectly (or near perfectly), making them a lot softer on your head. Make sure you also research possible changes this mod can make to the sound, though, as there's nothing worse than fixing one problem only to have another crop up.
As I'm still testing out headphones, I haven't used any of these tricks myself yet, but there are a lot of folks that swear by these methods. As always, your mileage may vary with any given headphone and you may have to tweak the tricks to fit whatever pair of headphones you have (you may need to order different parts that fit your set of cans). If you're finding that your headphones aren't as comfortable with long term listening as you thought, though, these could be good first steps to rectifying that problem.
Have any other tried and tested methods for making headphones more comfortable? Share them with us in the comments.