Getting headphones to fit just right is an important part of your purchasing and listening experience.
It’s simply not worth it to buy a pair that will hurt your head or make your ears ache. Here’s everything you need to know about how headphones are supposed to fit on your head.
How Exactly Should Headphones Fit On Your Head?
Headphones should fit snugly over your scalp and on, in, or around your ears without discomfort. Your headphones should still feel comfortable after you’ve been wearing them for over 20 minutes. Headphones should be able to remain still even if you are moving your head up, down, and around.
Should You Buy Headphones That Are A Bit Too Tight?
Ideally, you should buy headphones that are a perfect fit and are not too tight.
The good news is that it’s easier to loosen headphones that are too tight than it is to tighten headphones that are too loose. That being said, it’s advisable that you only buy headphones that are slightly too tight if the sole alternative is a pair that is too loose.
Otherwise, it’s best to find headphones that fit better. After all, headphones are an investment, especially if you’re paying a high price for them.
The most important factors to consider are comfort and fit. If your headphones are causing you pain or discomfort anywhere, then they are not the right pair for you.
Will Headphones Get Looser Over Time?
Headphones can be broken in, so if you do end up with headphones that are a little too tight, it’s not the end of the world.
Headphones that are too tight can be loosened simply through everyday use, much like breaking in a brand new pair of shoes.
This, however, depends on how tight they are, to begin with. If your headphones are much too tight at the start, they may only loosen up to a certain degree and still be uncomfortable.
Read our full article about headphones loosening over time.
Can You Stretch Headphones To Make Them Looser?
Yes. Using your headphones frequently can contribute to loosening them.
This, however, can take time, especially if you don’t use your headphones every day and are using them for short periods of time.
One solution that can help speed the process along is to stretch your headphones around a stack of books loosely the width of your head or wider and to keep them there when you’re not using them.
If you don’t have appropriate books available, seek out a suitable alternative, such as the arm of your living room sofa. The effect won’t happen immediately, but it will happen quicker than if you stretch them out only when you have them on your own head.
If your headphones have a metal headband, you can also, at your own risk, try manually bending the band until you achieve the desired result.
Remember, this is only suitable if your headphones have a metal headband – not a plastic one.
Can You Make Headphones Tighter Again?
That depends, and it is riskier than loosening headphones.
The easiest and most straightforward way to tighten headphones only works if your headband is made of metal. If this is the case, you may be able to bend the headphones to make the fit tighter.
You could bend them with your hands or, similarly to using books to loosen your headphones, you could take a stack of books smaller than your head, fit the headphones around them, and wrap the bundle with a cord or rubber band.
Keep in mind that this is only if your headband is metallic. Doing this to headphones with a plastic headband could severely damage them.
How Do You Know If Headphones Are Too Tight?
Tightness is determined by headphones’ “clamping force.”
A stronger clamping force will make your headphones tighter, and a weaker clamping force will result in looser headphones. Headphones are built with varying degrees of clamping force, and the desired amount depends entirely on the user.
- First, it’s important to realize that pain and discomfort may not be solely due to tightness.
- Second, the importance of clamping force, and whether or not it’s too strong or too weak, can depend on the kind of headphones you’re using.
A weak clamping force resulting in headphones that are too loose can result in the headband resting firmly on your scalp, which can be uncomfortable. In this case, the headphones aren’t tight enough.
A pair of headphones can also be painful to wear if the headband is covered in a cheap, thin fabric. If you feel pain at the top of your head, check the padding to see if that’s the culprit rather than the fit.
Check the Padding
Additionally, your over-ear headphones, which come with cups you put your ears into, might be poorly padded or have cups that are too shallow.
If that’s the case, you’ll likely feel great discomfort in your ears unrelated to clamping force.
If, however, you’re using on-ear headphones, which feature flat speakers that rest on your ears, then a high clamping force may make you uncomfortable. A high clamping force may not be as much of a problem if you’re using over-hear headphones with sufficiently-padded, deep cups.
If you wear glasses, a perfectly fine pair of headphones may press your temples into your skin, which is both uncomfortable and potentially damaging to your glasses.
In short, be aware of where any pain or discomfort is coming from.
If the headband doesn’t hurt, the cups don’t bother you, you don’t wear glasses, and you’re still uncomfortable, then it’s possible that the headphones’ clamping force is too strong for your needs.
At the end of the day, how headphones fit is subjective, and only you can determine whether or not headphones are too tight. It’s important to trust your instincts and your body.
Do Headphones Come In Different Sizes?
Yes and no. You can find full-size over-ear headphones and lightweight on-ear headphones, and you may find some headphones fit better than others, but you’re unlikely to find a store that offers headphones in different sizes like you would sneakers at a shoe store.
Generally speaking, while there are different kinds of headphones that are larger or smaller than others, most headphones fit everyone’s ears. How well they fit is the real question.
Weight & Bulk:
When it comes to size, weight and bulk are two important factors to consider in your buying journey.
An expensive pair of full-size headphones may be large with substantial padding, may take up too much space, and won’t be very portable due to their size and weight. Lightweight headphones, on the other hand, may not give you enough bass, but they’ll be more portable.
While headphones aren’t usually sold in traditional and straightforward small, medium, or large sizes like shoes, there are definitely headphones out there with weaker and higher clamping forces.
Clamping force is quantifiable, which means that it’s possible to test and measure how tightly headphones can fit around a human head.
Of course, when searching for a good pair of headphones, there are many factors to take in, including tightness:
- How isolated do you want your sound to be?
- How distracting will your music be to others around you?
- Will you be using your headphones for gaming or listening to music?
- If it’s the latter, how much bass do you need?
But if you’re just looking at tightness, for now, take a look at the following headphones if you’re seeking something with a looser fit:
- Sony MDR-1A
- Grado SR225e
- Turtle Beach Stealth 600
If you’re looking for headphones with a stronger clamping force, you may want to look at these options:
- Logitech G635 Gaming Headset
- NAD VISO HP50
- Corsair HS60
At the end of the day, you want your experience with headphones to sound good and to be comfortable.
Whether you “should” buy headphones that sit tightly or loosely depends on the wearer and what not only fits your head but also your needs.