Headphone Comfort and Pad Size— The best headphones to buy if you don’t want them to touch your ears.
I’ve become one of “those people.”
If you’re friends with audiophiles, or if you’ve read headphone reviews online, or if you’ve got a friend who is way into headphones like me…you’ll know the sort of person I’m talking about:
I’m now one of those people that doesn’t want headphones to touch my ears. At all.
Thanks to my recent ear infection adventures, I decided that people who don’t want pads touching their ears might really be onto something.
Of course, this was always a factor I would mention in my reviews, but it never used to be a dealbreaker for me. I didn’t mind so much if a pad hugged my ear skin a little.
Now that I’m trying to do a better job of not letting moisture and heat build up in there though, it was time to cull my collection and keep only those with enough room for my ears to float freely.
ZeosPantera has developed a good test called the three knuckle rule. He figures the width of three of his knuckles is about the height and depth of his ear, so if that part of his hand doesn’t fit nicely, it probably won’t be comfy on his ear.
Here’s a list of the headphones I’ve kept that have a lot of room inside for your ears, and a few other honorable mentions.
My Current Collection
The DT770 has the largest closed cup that has ever still properly sealed on my head. The pads are plush yet still isolating. The cup depth is exceptional, and the foam inside is hyper soft just like the velour covering on the pads.
Beyerdynamic is one of the few studio headphone companies that seems to actually think about proper long-wearing comfort. They’re one of the only companies that does circular pads correctly. The weight and clamp are just enough that I still know I’m wearing these, but I’m incredibly happy about how they treat my ears.
If you’re looking for something lighter and less clampy from Beyerdynamic, the 880 is supposed to be a great choice, as long as you don’t mind an open back. The 880s also have even softer pads.
I really wanted to keep my HyperX Clouds, as far as DT770-inspired designs go. But alas. Even though their cups have ample comfort in the padding and decent room for an ear… the depth was just shallow enough that I decided to go with the H7 instead. Exasperated sigh.
It doesn’t look like the H7 would be deeper, but it is. Just enough to make a slight comfort difference. It also has a larger hole for your ear, and a square shape that I think will work better for more ear shapes overall. The padding is also a little less noticeable on the head.
I might have to revisit my headphone showdown of these two classic models.
I think this is the most comfortable headset HyperX has ever made.
It has the largest ear cup openings. It has plenty of their trademark memory foam. The cup depth is quite large and the drivers are angled away from your ears. The headband has the most adjustment room.
Sure, it’s not great for outdoor/mobile use due to the permanently attached mic, but if you’re looking for a comfy dedicated gaming headset…this is probably the best option. What makes it better than the Arctis or the H7 above?
The Stinger is only $50.
Other Honorable Mentions I No Longer Personally Own
Since I’m basically self-funding this epic headphone adventure, I have to let things go from time to time. Here are some top-tier comfy headphones that won’t touch your ears, that I no longer have in my collection.
Look at this business.
That’s a massive ear cup opening, right there. The WS1100is has a sound that’s a bit similar to the DT770 above. It’s less isolating that the Beyerdynamic heaphones though. Still, if you’re in this purely for not having things touch your ears, add the WS1100is to your shortlist.
The 35 would also fit here as they have the same ear cup depth and similar pads, but I think the 25 is a bit more comfy do to its lighter weight.
They put comfort right in the name, it’d be pretty bad if they didn’t deliver. But fortunately they do.
If you don’t need the wireless features of the 35 or the MDR-1000X, strongly consider the QC25 solely for its amazing fit.
I think this is Sony’s most comfy headphone, and I wish they had used this same design for some of their other big pairs like the 1000X. The 1000X is not uncomfortable necessarily, but it has pads that will hug and touch your ears.
The 1A has pads that Zeos once described as feeling like a bathtub full of leather jackets. And he’s totally right. These won’t irritate your ears at all. And they’ll disappear on your head in pillowy softness.
The pads on these are shallower than any of the other models mentioned here. But I think this still makes the list because they’re so soft and light. Even if these do touch your ear a tiny bit, you still won’t be upset because of how delicate they feel.
Sennheiser achieves ear comfort very traditionally. They use a big oval shaped pad made out of soft materials. This same design graces many of their headphones across many price ranges.
Hey, if it works, why mess with it?
If you’re going to get a Sennheiser model, I recommend something from the 500 family. They’re all a good balance of price and performance.
And they won’t touch your ears.