Are you planning to switch from bud earphones to over-ear headphones? While they may have better sound quality, over-ear headphones do have their share of problems that you should be aware of.
If you’re planning on buying over-ear headphones, here are some problems you may encounter.
1. Over-ear Headphones Can be Uncomfortable to Use
One of the biggest problems of over-ear headphones is the comfort level.
While over-ear headphones have an edge when it comes to audio quality, they can also be uncomfortable to use. They’re bulky because of the larger drivers they use, versus what you see with on-ear and in-ear headphones.
One thing to remember is that head shapes are unique. What may be comfortable for one, may not be for another.
Over-ear headphones can be uncomfortable because of different reasons.
The headphones are too tight
You may experience some pain when your headphones are too tight, as if the headphones were clamping onto your head.
When using tight headphones for a prolonged time, you may experience compression headaches. You can fix tight headphones by stretching them a bit so that they won’t clamp your head.
- Look for any sturdy object that’s a bit wider than your head. This could be a stack of books or a box.
- Stretch your headphones gently by pulling the right and left ear cups away and put the headphones on your chosen object.
- Let your headphones sit there for 24 – 48 hours. You’ll need more time if the headband is thicker.
- If the headphones still feel tight, repeat the process. You may also want to try a wider object to clamp on.
Remember not to overdo the stretching, as the headband might be too loose for your head or become weak. Your headphones still need a little clamping force to prevent them from falling off your head!
Headphones are hurting ears
One of the things that makes head shapes unique is the ears. Headphones sit differently depending on ears and head shape. And while there may be reviews online about comfort, remember that these were written based on the perspective of the reviewer, and mileage will vary per person.
For the most part, headphones are designed based on the average ear size and head size. And while they’re supposed to be one-size-fits-all, it’s not a given that headphones will always have a comfortable fit, particularly for adults.
Now, the best solution would be to try the pair out and buy a pair of headphones that fit you comfortably. But that can’t be the case all the time, so here are some tips for increasing the comfort level of your headphones:
- You should look into earpads that are softer than the ones that came with your headphones. There are many third-party manufacturers of earpads that will fit your headphones.
- Try looking into what parts may be adjusted on the headphones to get a good fit. You can look into rotating the earcups in small increments, if available.
- And lastly, try adjusting how you wear your headphones. Not all headphones were designed to be worn the same way. Some may need a little tilt to get that comfortable fit that alleviates pain on the ears. You might just need to find that sweet spot.
Headphones cause discomfort or pain on the top of the head
Did you know that your headphones should have the right amount of clamping force?
Too much force will hurt, but too little will also make your head hurt, since the headphone band would be resting firmly on top of your head.
Another cause of pain on top of your head would be the lack of headphone padding. Some headphones have little to no padding at all, which can be uncomfortable.
The best solution for this would be to upgrade or add padding to the headband of your headphones. There are a lot of makers of headband paddings that offer different kinds of padding that fit many of the headphones in the market.
Ears feel too warm with over-ear headphones
Some headphones tend to make your ears warm, which is caused by poor ventilation.
Often, the fabric used on the earcups is not breathable. In some cases, the clamping force also affects breathability.
Now, many would debate on which material is best for earcups. If you’re having trouble deciding which is best, you can try velour, which is breathable and durable.
2. Over-ear Headphone Cable Keeps on Breaking
Many of the best-sounding over-ear headphones only have a wired connection; particularly studio-quality headphones, as they rely on a wired connection for a near-zero latency and consistent sound quality.
But the wires are also the weakest link of many headphones.
And while you can replace headphone cables for some models, others don’t have removable cables, such as the Sony MDR 7506.
If you keep on breaking cables, here were things to consider the following:
- Don’t store the cables in your pocket, especially if you wear tight clothing. Pressure gets applied when you move, which can lead to breakage.
- The same can be said for storing in your bag. Have a dedicated case for your headphones and earphones—it’s worth it.
- Don’t dangle the cables, as these also put pressure on the wires inside, especially when bent at an angle.
- Make sure the cable doesn’t get tangled, as untangling may also put pressure on the wires.
- When unplugging, pull on the plug, and not the cable.
- Do not leave headphones plugged in continuously.
There’s also a proper way of winding your cables when you store them.
- Get your cable and create an overhand loop.
- Flip and make an underhand loop.
- Repeat these steps in the same order until you reach the end of the cable.
- Once you reach the end, secure with hook and loop cable fasteners.
The nice thing about this technique is that when you unfasten the cable, it will unfurl in a neat and untangled manner. Many professionals swear by this technique, as it keeps cables tangle-free. You can also use this for other cables, such as charging cables of your phone or laptops.
3. The Ear Cups of My Headphones are Flaking
Flaking is a common issue for headphones that use faux leather for earpads and headbands, which is the majority of the over-ear headphones on the market today.
Now, what causes flaking? Unfortunately, flaking is just a result of regular wearing. As you use your over-ear headphones, they will eventually show signs of wear and tear.
Factors that accelerate this condition include a humid environment and sweat that comes in contact with your headphones. While these are unavoidable, you can do something about it so that the earphones don’t wear out quickly!
- First, wipe your headphones before and after use. This is to remove any sweat and moisture that may accumulate with use.
- Second, make sure you have adequate storage for your headphones. You need to have storage for your headphones to reduce exposure to any damage.
- Consider putting silica gel desiccant in your headphones’ storage to absorb any moisture that may accumulate.
4. My Over-ear Headphones Sound Muffled or Distorted
Muffling is a common issue with any headphones. The volume will sound weak, and some frequencies can’t be heard properly.
If your sound quality degrades suddenly, it’s likely a battery issue. When wireless over-ear headphones don’t have enough power, the sound quality gets compromised.
But if that’s not the issue, there are many other reasons why muffling could happen with your headphones. Let’s take a look at them and their solutions.
Damaged headphone wires
Headphones wires are one of the weakest points of headphones, and they are just as crucial as the speakers since this is where sound passes.
As pointed out, you need to properly care for your headphones. But if your cable is already damaged, here are some things to try:
- If there are any exposed wires, you should seal them. You can use Sugru, a moldable glue, that is used for covering silicone rubber. Sugru is also durable, which makes it a good choice for sealing any exposed wires. It’s relatively a fast solution to use, as you only need 30 minutes to mold and set it, and a day to let it cure.
- If you’re using Sugru to repair damaged wires, make sure that wires from other conductors don’t touch each other. Only connect wires that are on the same path.
- Another option for damaged wires would be to get a replacement, which works best for headphones with detachable cables.
Overpowered and blown speakers
Headphones have a voice coil, which can only work up to a certain volume level.
If you like cranking the volume to hear things clearly, the voice coil will wear out eventually. Eventually, the speaker will blow. That is one reason why many headphones offer active noise cancellation so that you don’t have to crank the volume levels up too high.
While you can replace broken speakers, there’s still that chance that you won’t be a 1:1 replacement for your headphones available. Your headphones will likely become useless and a replacement pair would be a more practical option.
If you want to be sure of the damage, you can have it tested by a repairman.
Poor connection between the headphones and audio source
Muffling can happen when the connection between your headphones and the audio source isn’t good.
It could be that the plug and jack are not making good contact, which results in bad or inconsistent sound quality.
If you think the issue lies with the connection, you need to clean the jack.
- The best solution for this would be using a contact cleaner, such as DeoxIT, which you just spray into the jack.
If buying a contact cleaner is impractical, you can use an interdental toothbrush and 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.
- Moisten the brush with alcohol then gently insert the brush inside the jack and move it around to reach all spots.
- Let the jack dry for an hour at least.
- If your headphones have a detachable cable, clean the jack on the headphones too.
In the case of Bluetooth connections, a muffled or distorted sound is often the result of mismatched codecs.
- Codecs read and translate your audio signal to your headphones. There are different codecs used, and some devices have a limited codec selection.
- If your headphones and audio device do not have the same codec, your device will use a lower quality codec, which can degrade the audio signal.
- For example, Apple devices use the AAC codec. If the headphones you use do not support AAC, it will use another codec, but with lower sound quality.
Unfortunately, there’s no fix for mismatched codecs. That’s why you should look at what codecs your devices use and choose headphones that support these.
You can also try resetting your Bluetooth headphones, but it’s not 100 percent sure to fix the issue.
General Pros and Cons of Over-ear Headphones
Over-ear headphones tend to have better sound quality.
Over-ear headphones have an edge when it comes to sound quality. The speakers are larger, and there are better drivers built into them.
And because the drivers are larger, over-ear headphones have a wider frequency range, which is why these are the headphones music professionals who work in music production or sound design use.
Over-ear headphones have better noise canceling
Unless your over-ear headphones are open-back headphones, over-ear headphones provide for better noise cancellation.
Many of the consumer-grade over-ear headphones offer active noise cancellation. By using built-in microphones, active-noise canceling samples the sound profile of the environment and plays it back out of phase to reduce noise.
While over-ear headphones aren’t exactly the best headphones to travel with, over-ears, especially those with noise-canceling are good for long-haul flights, as you can tune out the world and rest.
Over-ear headphones can be wired or wireless.
One of the advantages of over-ear headphones is that you get an option for a wired or wireless connection.
While some in-ears offer wired or wireless options, over-ear headphones give you better quality. This design has become a staple for many over-ear headphones on the market.
You probably won’t see this option among Grado’s headphones for studios, but that’s because their headphones were designed for professional use, which requires a wired connection.
Disadvantages of Over-ear headphones:
- They can be bulky to use for long periods.
- The best over-ear headphones cost more than in-ears.
- The overall comfort of over-ear headphones can be hit-or-miss.