The sight of an audiophile without its headphones is pretty rare. Audiophiles tend to have many different headphones and audio hardware models because of their uncontrollable passion for all things audio. Myself included.
For this reason, we dedicate a reasonable amount of time to taking care of our cozy audiophile space, always making sure that our gear is clean, organized, and pretty. However, keeping everything tidy has its fair share of obstacles, especially when dealing with a common problem that affects headphones: headphone hair.
As with almost everything, you can avoid headphone hair by taking sanitary actions and preventive approaches. Cleaning and replacing the headphone’s pads are excellent when things get beyond repair. It’s undoubtedly best to prevent this type of situation from happening.
But first, to understand how this may affect your headphones, or if your gear is more apt to suffer from this issue, you need to know how the earcups’ material plays a role in this.
But what exactly is headphone hair?
Headphone hair happens whenever a substantial amount of the wearer’s hair naturally falls and holds itself in the headphone’s padding material or inner structure. As a result, many strings of hair can form around or inside the headphone’s earcups, resulting in an uncomfortable and unattractive amount of dirtiness.
The Earcups’ Material
When browsing through headphones, we always enjoy reviewing the products’ comfortability, including the pads’ cushion, size, and more. We rarely link these pieces of information to the headphone’s future worn condition.
A HiFi headphone is likely to include some memory foam on the inner part of its earcups, which is a porous material. Many hair strands might cave themselves on the almost infinite amount of pores on the pads’ foam.
On the other hand, many audiophile headphones contain leatherette or suede-like materials on the earcups’ structure, which are thicker and do not contain a porous surface.
It’s beneficial to discuss the padding material and its prospicience to hold hair strands.
This material makes itself useful on many HiFi headphones from all price ranges. This material provides comfort from affordable but high-quality models such as the Sennheiser HD 280 PRO to more costly alternatives like the Austrian Audio’s Hi-X65. Apart from being a soft and pleasant material, it also proves highly durable.
After extensive years of use, a common consequence in cheaper synthetic leather materials is to show some cracks or peeling strips. As a result, many of these areas showing ripped leather can serve as housings to thin hair strands, accumulating further hair strings.
When the pads’ synthetic leather reaches such detrimental conditions, the best approach is to replace the pads with new ones. The reason is that after the first signs of worn, the leather will likely degrade at a faster rate, resulting in constant cracks and peels.
You can browse the manufacturer’s replacement store for replacement parts or try some DIY approaches to replacing worn pads.
Suede and Velvet
Both suede and velvet are amongst the most comfortable materials headphones feature. These materials are highly soft and sophisticated, providing an incredible seal and support while relieving the headphone’s clamping force.
Similar to leatherette and synthetic leather, suede is worn out after some years of use. Leatherette degrades at a much faster rate, and suede rarely presents significant cracks or peels. The most common sign of velvet or suede degradation is soft colors on specific spots and fold marks.
In terms of durability, suede and velvet might belong at the top. Since they degrade at low levels, they tend to avoid headphone hair, making them optimal as preventive materials.
Between leatherette, synthetic leather, suede, and velvet, foam is the material that makes hair strands stick to the headphone more easily. The reason is that, even though foam is highly comfortable and may shape nicely to the ear, it contains many pores that a strand of hair can quickly sneak into.
The porous figure that the foam has enables it to shape accordingly to the ears, making it the most comfortable material for headphones’ pads. By avoiding foam for the sole purpose of preventing headphone hair, you’ll likely exchange comfort for sanitation.
What Material Is Best?
Let’s discuss what material is a better fit to avoid any accumulation of hair strands at the headphone’s earcups.
With the sole purpose of avoiding hair strands, the best material is either suede or velvet. The reason for that is because of the material’s durability and smooth surface.
For a better mid-term choice, meaning a material that has a more affordable price and will still conveniently avoid headphone hair, you’ll enjoy leatherette. Besides, synthetic leather can be highly comfortable and durable, even though not as durable as suede or velvet. One of the most inconvenient things you’ll find with leatherette is the material’s struggle to allow breathability.
The lack of breathability inside the headphone’s earcups can cause sweating and grease inside the cupping. In addition, the enclosure can create heat buildup, causing ear fatigue.
The worst material to avoid headphone hair is foam. Foam is the best material to provide comfort inside the headphone’s earcups. Even if the headphone’s ear pads have a suede-like or leatherette cushioning, there is a high chance that the earcup’s interior is foam.
Headphone hair also occurs if the typical foam inside the headphone’s ear cups is missing. Even though the inner memory foam has a considerable potential to hold hair strands, it serves as a barrier between the headphone’s internal components and any external particle.
There are different DIY approaches to solve the headphone hair issue concerning the headphone’s original inner memory foam.
Double memory foam
Implementing a second layer of removable memory foam is one approach that can slightly compromise the headphone’s performance towards the low-end spectrum but still serve as a shield regarding hair strands.
If you browse eBay for a cheap memory foam alternative, you’ll be able to find many different options that fit your headphone’s earcups. In addition, by using a boxcutter, you can adjust any foam’s shape and width, so it fits nicely and effectively.
By inserting the new memory foam layer over the ear cups’ original inner foam, you will be granted an extra barrier against external particles. Any hair strand that gets loose inside the cups will lock themselves on this new foam layer, making the process of removing hair strands more functional and quick by just taking the coating off.
Many aspects of the headphone’s aesthetic interact with the equipment’s capacity to enable headphone hair, such as the earcups’ depth.
An important tech spec to know whenever you’re browsing through new headphones is the depth of the model’s earcups. For instance, headphones such as the Audeze LCD-2 have deep ear cups that provide an ideal space for the ears to sit. However, models such as the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro don’t have such ample space, being somewhat claustrophobic to the ear.
The kind of impact that low-depth earcups cause directly interacts with headphone hair. The shorter the cups’ space, the closer the ear and hair will be to the inner foam. Therefore, hair strands can quickly touch and grasp the memory foam since they’re at a reasonable reach.
A deeper earcup provides a more spacious environment for the ears, meaning that neither the ears nor hair will be within close reach from the cups’ memory foam. As a result, hair strands won’t be able to grasp the foam. Still, even if hair falls inside the earcups, it will sit on the space’s floor, probably around the pads, which you can easily remove by cleaning.
Speaking of cleaning, by taking it upon your hands to regularly make sure your headphones remain dust-free and pristine, you’ll find that less hygienic reasons concerning the ear cups will emerge.
Keep The Headphones Clean
Keeping your headphones clean is a routine task that all audiophiles should religiously do. Besides, one should know different techniques, methods, and cleaning products to effectively maintain headphones in mint condition.
Still, the most crucial checklist to be aware of concerning headphone cleanliness is:
- Clean it after every use
- Clean the environment
- Store it in the box
- Use the right cleaning tools
Let’s explore all topics above more meticulously and discuss them in more detail.
Clean It After Every Use
It is vital to know when to clean the headphone and how to make them dust and hair-free after every use.
If you practice using headphones daily for long periods, you’ll need to clean them at the end of the day. The day-to-day cleaning process can be a straightforward superficial dust removal using normal soft tissue.
If you do not clean your headphones every day, you’ll need to at least do a thorough cleaning once a week. A careful cleaning process typically consists of opening a few replaceable parts to clean more precisely and firmly.
You can either clean once a week or daily, but it’s recommended to clean the headphone daily to avoid any future inconvenience.
It’s always best to make sure the earcups padding material doesn’t get greasy after extensive hours of use, which can happen every day. For this reason, a daily cleaning process is more effective to keep the headphone in a better condition overall.
Clean The Environment
One of the most significant factors that make headphones dirtier and more prompt to present headphone hair is the condition of the environment where they’re kept.
An unkempt and unclean space will allow more particles such as hair and dust to fill the air and surfaces of the area. So, assume you’re using the headphones and take a bathroom break. Then, when putting the headphone over the table or a stand, many particles from the environment will quickly stick to the headphone’s chassis.
To ensure that the headphone stays cleaner independently of where they’ll rest in the room, always keep the environment relatively clean.
A less tiring approach that proves to be pretty effective is to run a thorough cleaning in the room at least once a week. Make sure you’re getting rid of all those balls of fur and hair (especially if you have pets) from the corners and under the pieces of furniture around.
Focus on making your audiophile room the cleanest possible, not only in a hygienic way. For instance, having a table with more wireless items and less random stuff laying around will make your setup relatively clean and pleasant for the sight. You’ll have enough space for yourself, for the audiophile equipment, and fewer dust-concentration points around your headphones.
Store It In The Box
As part of caring for your headphone to keep them at their best durability, storing them in their packaging works wonders.
Models such as the Utopia headphones by Focal include a sophisticated case to keep the model cushioned and safe. Many can benefit from the case’s barrier against any external particles, including dust and hair.
Assume you finish your listening session for the day and leave your audiophile setup kind of above the table without really covering it with something. Chances are, dust particles and hair strings will find their way through the room to fall on any uncovered surface, including your headphones.
If you place the headphones either in their packaging or inside a drawer somewhere in your audiophile room, they won’t meet any external particles heads-on. As a result, leaving the headphone suitably stored overnight will keep them in the same condition as when you placed them there.
Use The Right Cleaning Tools
To adequately clean a headphone, there are many approaches one can take depending on the problem. However, it’s vital to know that any dirtiness problem that appears on headphones will lead to further issues concerning the model’s overall condition.
By only taking care of the headphone hair problem, different cleaning issues may continue emerging and indirectly cause the headphone problem to reappear more constantly. If after solving the headphone’s hair issues, you keep assigning the other topics such as the earpads’ grease, worn condition, and more, you’ll avoid different obstacles that lead to further difficulties