Over-ear and on-ear headphones are supposed to be a one-size-fits-all product. But do headphones get better or worse over time? But they don’t always work as advertised. And now you’re thinking, did I get ripped off, or will the headphones loosen over time?
Here’s the short answer
What You Need to Know About Loosening Your Headphones
Most headphones will loosen over time. To hasten the process, users can stretch new headphones to achieve a good fit. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to several days.
Do Headphones Need to Be Broken In?
Often, headphones come out of the box a bit too stiff. So, just like a pair of shoes, you might need to break them in for a more comfortable fit.
Breaking in allows your headphones to adapt to the shape and size of your head. Here’s how to break in your new cans:
1. Stretch Your Headphones Over a Box or Pillow
We recommend using a box. But you can always use a pile of books, the arm of a chair, or anything else that tickles your fancy.
But remember one thing – whatever you use must be the right size and should be sturdy enough to hold the headphones in place.
- Step 1: Get a box that’s slightly wider than your head (about 1 inch).
- Step 2: Stretch the headphones over the box and let them sit for a few hours. Keep checking back after every hour until you get the right fit.
- Step 3: You might need to give them a day or two if you don’t notice any difference after several hours. Consider using a bigger box if there’s no change.
To avoid stretching out the headband too much, stretch out the headphones gradually.
2. Use Zip Ties to Stretch the Headband
Do your headphones have a narrow part on the headband just above the ear cups? If they do, it’s possible to use zip ties to stretch them out.
- Step 1: Secure each zip tie on either side on the narrow part of the headband.
- Step 2: Loop both zip ties around the headband until they meet at the top of the headband.
- Step 3: Tighten the zip ties to create tension on the headband. This motion will move the earbuds wider apart. Keep tightening until you get the right fit.
Leave the zip ties on until you get the desired result.
Can You Make Loose Headphones Tighter Again?
We’ve established that headphones loosen over time. So, is there a fix if they’ve become too loose?
Here’s how to go about it:
1. Use a Box and Elastic Band
Get a box that’s smaller than the current size of the headband. Now place the headphones over the box and use an elastic band to hold them in place. The earpads should be pressing inwards against the box now.
Let the headphones sit for a day or two. The tension created should have made the headphones tighter.
2. Use Larger Earpads
Larger earpads take up more space. Consequently, you’ll instantly get a tighter fit. And that’s not all; the pads also improve the level of comfort.
Check if your headphone manufacturer has replacement earpads available. It’s worth noting that not all headphones have replaceable earpads.
3. Swap Out the Headband
Not all headphones come with a replaceable headband. If you’re lucky enough to own a pair with this nifty feature, then you can tighten your loose headphones by getting a headband with thicker padding. The additional padding will increase the pressure exerted on your head and improve the fit.
4. Wear a Cap or Glasses
Wearing a cap or glasses is a quick way to increase the size of your head temporarily. Now your headphones will fit a bit tighter.
5. Use a Seatbelt Strap Pad
For about $5, you can get a seat belt pad and slip it over the headband. Doing this will reduce the amount of space between your head and the headband and tighten the headphones.
6. Use an Elastic Band
Looking for a quick and dirty way to increase the clamping force of your headphones? Get an elastic band and wrap it around your headphones after wearing them.
The band will hold the headphones tight against your head.
Should You Buy Headphones That Are a Bit Too Small and Tight?
Ideally, you want to buy headphones that fit comfortably straight out of the box. Unfortunately, most headphones need some breaking-in for the first few wears.
That said, you need to shift your focus away from buying perfectly fitting headphones to:
- Choosing a good quality pair of headphones.
- Wearing headphones the right way.
- Adjust the headphones to achieve the level of comfort you desire.
Focusing on these 3 issues will help you get the best fit possible.
How Exactly Should New Headphones Fit?
New headphones should fit snug and tight. Other than that, they should stay in place even with excessive movement.
Unfortunately, you can’t tell if headphones will fit unless you test them out for at least 30 minutes. You see, the human body can withstand pain and discomfort in short bursts. So you can only make an informed decision after prolonged testing.
But what are the factors that affect the fit of a new pair of headphones? Let’s find out:
· Clamping Force
Clamping force determines how snugly your headphones fit your ears and the sides of your head. Normally, you’ll feel like your head is caught in a vice-like grip when the clamping force is too high.
But if your headphones fall off with the slightest movement, then the clamping force is too low.
· Headband Padding
Headphone manufacturers have to strike a delicate balance between headband padding and clamping force.
You see, headphones with a low clamping force need more padding in the headband to achieve a good fit. The opposite is also true.
· Ear Cup Extension
Earcup extension allows you to adjust the length of the headband to get a snug fit. For this reason, you should go for a pair of headphones with extendable ear cups. This way, you can ensure the cups are always centered directly over your ears for a comfortable fit.
· Ear Cup Rotation
Ear cup rotation is all about adjusting the ear cups to get a fit that works for the shape of your head and ears. This feature comes in handy whenever the ear cushions push against your head unevenly.
Make sure your headphones allow you to make vertical and lateral ear cup adjustments.
· Ear Size and Shape
Cramming your ears into ear cups that are too small for your ears can turn a seemingly mundane activity into an instant nightmare. With this in mind, ear size and shape should be at the top of your list of considerations when shopping for headphones.
Ear cups come in three shapes: oval, circle, and D-shaped. D-shaped and oval ear cups are harder to align with the direction of your ears. As a result, they may feel abrasive against your ears.
Circular cups are usually the most comfortable since they give your ears the most room.
· Ear Cup Depth
Avoid shallow ear cups, especially if you have huge ears. The thing is, your ears will rub against the inner hardware of your headphones and cause discomfort.
Cushioning around the ear cups and headband significantly affects the overall fit of a pair of headphones. But it’s not an exact science.
On the one hand, thin cushions on the ear cups feel less plush and leave your ears exposed to the headphone hardware. On the other, thick cushions are more comfortable but can put undue pressure on your ears.
In short, you have to try on a pair of cans to know whether they’ll fit.
How Do I Know If My Headphones Will Loosen Up?
The pressure (clamping force) exerted on your head by a pair of headphones is all down to the stiffness of the frame (headband).
While other ergonomic features (mentioned above) do contribute to the force exerted on your head, we’ll focus on the clamping force for now.
What is the Headband Made of?
The frame or headband is typically made from exceptionally strong plastic (Nylon-12) molded over a spring strip. This spring strip (made of steel) has high impact strength and can withstand extreme bending and creep.
Now, this is important…
What Is Spring Creep?
Spring creep occurs when you exert a small force consistently on a spring for an extended period. As a result, the spring deforms very slowly and loses its elasticity over time.
Here’s the interesting part; engineers cannot eliminate creep completely try as they might.
Does This Mean My Headphones Will Loosen?
Since the headband of your headphones is made with a spring, it will deform (loosen) when you stretch it (apply an unyielding force) for some time.
It all boils down to this; all headphones loosen up over time. The only variable is the ease or difficulty of loosening up your specific model of headphones.