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    Table of Contents
  1. Top
  2. Test Results
  3. When it matters
  4. Best Headphones
  5. Our Tests
  6. Additional Info
  7. Conclusion
  8. Q&A
Updated

Comfort of Headphones

What it is: Adjustability and degrees of freedom, pressure, stiffness and weight.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used for long durations.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Comfort describes how physically pleasant the headphones will be while on or in the ears. This means that no pain or stress is caused by the headphones when in use.

For most listeners, comfort is subjective but ergonomic design and softness in the cushions of the padded headband, ear cups or earbuds are usually good indications of comfort. However, the weight of the headphones, the tension of the headband and the firmness of the frame all factor into comfortability, especially over long listening sessions.

To test comfort, we measure the weight and subjectively evaluate comfortability in the padding and tension of the headphones over long listening sessions.

Test results

When it matters

Comfort will affect your listening experience. An uncomfortable pair of headphones will prevent you from being fully immersed in your audio and may even cause soreness and pain. This lack of comfort is mostly felt during long listening sessions and is crucial for the listener who often listens to audio over long periods of time without taking the headphones off.

Most Comfortable Headphones

Best for Comfort (Closed)

Usage Ratings - Version 1.1
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Test Benches:

  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
7.6Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.5Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.8Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.2Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
8.0Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The Bose QuietComfort 35 are one of the most comfortable closed back headphones we've tested so far. They're not too tight on the head and the materials used for the ear cup padding is soft and molds well around your ears. They're a little heavier than the QuietComfort 25 and the Soundlink Around-Ear II due to the wireless technology and rechargeable battery, but it doesn't lessen their comfort level by much.

See our review

Best for Comfort (Open)

Usage Ratings - Version 1.1
Show Help

Test Benches:

  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
6.1Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.8Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
5.0Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
5.5Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
5.6Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The Sennheiser HD 598 are very comfortable headphones. The padding on large ear cups is soft and coated with a suede-like fabric that feels nice on the skin. They easily fit around most ears, they're not too heavy and they don't put a lot of pressure on the head. The ear cups may be a bit large for some, but that's the only downside to an otherwise, incredibly comfortable listening experience.

See our review

Our tests

Our comfort test subjectively evaluates how pleasant and pain-free the headphones are while in use. We score the weight, padding and the tension exerted on the head by the headphones.

Weight

Bose QuietComfort 25 DesignLight
0.47 lbs.

Lightweight headphones score higher, as less pressure is applied to the top of the head. Headphones below 0.55lbs. are considered light and above 0.75lbs. is considered heavy.

Padding

Sony MDR-NC8 DesignPoor padding

Padding that is soft enough to not add pressure on, in or around the ears scores higher. We assign more points if the padding is coated with smooth materials that do not irritate the skin or tear easily, like faux-leather.

Clamping Force

Harman/Kardon NC DesignGood tension and pressure distribution
Creative Aurvana Gold DesignPoor tension and too much pressure exerted

The clamping force exerted on the head by the stiffness of the frame is given a significant amount of weight because of how uncomfortable and painful high tension can become over long listening sessions.

Additional information

Comfort by type

Beats Executive DesignOver-Ear
Most comfortable
Phillips Fidelio NC1 DesignOn-Ear
Comfortable

Although comfort is subjective, well-padded, lightweight over-ear headphones usually offer the most comfort, followed by an equally padded on-ear design.

Bose QuietComfort 20 DesignEarbuds
Comfortable depending on fit
AKG K391-NC DesignIn-Ear
Least comfortable depending on fit

Earbud designs are usually not as comfortable as over/on-ear headphones, but they apply less pressure to the ear canals than in-ear headphones.

Conclusion

Our comfort test evaluates how pleasant the headphones are while on the head. It becomes even more important over long listening sessions, as uncomfortable headphones may cause soreness and pain. If you often use your headphones for long periods of time without taking them off, comfort is crucial, as it will allow you continue to be fully immersed in your audio. We score comfort subjectively by measuring the headphones' weight and evaluating the padding and tension exerted on the head. Comfort is subjective but a high scoring headphone in this category would be a pleasure to have on the head or in the ears for hours.

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