You’ve more than likely experienced that fresh-out-of-the-box feeling of a new set of headphones. The unused ear pads are pristine and feel great. Fast-forward a couple of years, and while the metal and plastic parts are still going strong, the ear pads are a shadow of their former selves and most definitely ready for the garbage can.
Earpads are the least durable part of headphones. Often made from faux leather or something similar, the march of time is never too kind on them. Sweat will generally be absorbed, and dirt will build up, causing them to degrade to the point that they need replacement.
Fortunately, most headphone pads can be replaced quite easily. Here’s the lowdown on how to replace headphone pads effectively.
When Should You Replace Your Headphone Ear Pads?
Seeing signs of headphone ear pad damage doesn’t mean you need to buy a whole new set of headphones. To extend the life of a perfectly functional set of cans, all you have to do is replace them. But when is the right time to do that? Here are a few scenarios where it’s probably time for new pads.
The most common ear pad problem is the cracking of the material that covers the foam pads. You can tell this is starting to happen when the material texture starts to get a little rougher. Before long, cracks and tears will start to appear, exposing the foam underneath. At this point, the headphones will not be comfortable to wear.
The ear pad coverings may be completely fine, but the foam itself may have lost its original shape over time. This might mean they’re not as comfortable as they used to be or don’t provide the same seal around your ears as when new. The lack of a good seal can reduce sound quality, and there’s no better reason to replace headphone ear pads than that.
Some ear pad coverings are made from porous materials that soak up any sweat or moisture they’re exposed to. This can cause the fabric to rot over time, also affecting the underlying foam consistency. If things have got to this stage, it’s replacement time.
What to Be Aware of Before Replacing Ear Pads
Ideally, you can buy replacement pads from the manufacturer of your headphones. It should always be your aim to get pads that were designed for your particular model. If this isn’t possible, then be aware that using alternative pads will probably lead to a change in fit and overall quality.
If your replacement pads are markedly different in terms of shape, materials, and size, this is going to affect sound quality. For example, the drivers may end up being further from your ears, or they may leak more sound than the originals.
Comfort levels can also be drastically affected if the materials aren’t of high quality. Maybe the foam is too soft, or the covering isn’t very breathable. If you’re forced to use a third-party replacement, make sure you do your homework, including reading reviews if you can find them.
Buying the first ear pads, you set eyes on isn’t the smartest way of going about things. Headphones come in all shapes and sizes. So you’ll want to make sure that they are compatible with your headphones and a good fit can be achieved.
Many of the top manufacturers provide replacement pads these days. Companies like Bose and Sony have been providing this service for years. Buying direct from the manufacturer is the only way to guarantee the right fit. It’s also the only way to ensure the sound quality won’t be affected in any way.
Many companies sell their replacements on Amazon. But if you can’t find them there, check directly on their website or google the model number of the headphones, and you should be able to find the information you need.
Some manufacturers don’t bother with replacement pads. Maybe they’d rather you buy a new set of headphones. Maybe your headphones are so ancient; they discontinued the replacement pads.
Either way, if you’re forced to look elsewhere, Amazon is your best option for ear pad replacements. Before you rush online and buy, you’ll need to measure the width and height of your old pads to get an idea of the correct sizing.
It doesn’t have to mean you are getting inferior pads if buying from a third party. Maybe you didn’t like the materials in the originals; maybe they weren’t that comfortable or to begin with. This is your opportunity to select the material that’s right for you.
Perhaps your old earpads had a faux leather covering that didn’t handle sweat so well. Here’s your chance to go for a different material that does. There’s plenty to choose from, including genuine leather and velour. Do your research and find what will work best for you.
Right, now on to the technicalities.
How to Replace Headphone Pads
So once you’ve found a suitable replacement, the first thing you need to do is remove the old pads.
Some pads are far easier to remove than others, having been designed with replacement in mind. Others are glued on and will need a little more work to remove.
The ear pad tools you’ll need for this job are a blunt prying tool of some sort, a butter knife maybe, double-sided ear pad tape, a plastic playing card, and a toothbrush. Earpad tape will usually come included with your replacement pads.
Replacing Easily Removable Pads
The easiest way of checking how easy it is to remove is to pinch the material at the base of the headphones. If it pulls out of the plastic groove easily and the pad also separates with no resistance, it’s not glued.
Therefore, you can pretty much work your way around the headphone pulling the fabric out. Once the pad is off, use a toothbrush to get rid of any dirt and dust build-up where the pads and driver meet.
Take your new pad and gently stretch the hem of the material so it will extend further into the groove. Then, whilst firmly holding the pad in the correct position, start tucking the hem into the groove. A plastic playing card works quite well for this.
Once the whole hem is in the groove, you may need to readjust or fine-tune things a little to get rid of any wrinkling. But essentially, that’s the job done.
Replacing Glued-on Pads
This is a little more technical. These headphones glue the pad to the speaker rather than using a groove to tuck the fabric into. It’s usually pretty obvious as there’s no groove in sight. But the best way to tell is by pulling at the base of the pad. If the fabric is short and you meet resistance as you try to pry it further, then it’s been glued on.
Usually, the fabric itself hasn’t been glued, and you can tug this away using your fingers. Then take your prying tool and use it to gently separate the pad from the speaker. You shouldn’t meet too much resistance, especially if your headphones are quite old already.
Once they’re off…
Use the butter knife to remove any excess adhesive, followed by a gentle scouring with the toothbrush to remove what remains. You’ll want to make sure the surface is completely clean so that the ear pad tape will stick to the surface properly.
Then take the double-sided tape and fix it in the correct position on the new ear pads. If you’re lucky, your replacement pads will come with tape already in place.
After that, taking care to properly align the pad and the speaker, join the two together and apply moderate pressure to seal the deal. Lastly, if you need to, tuck the hem of the material into the seam, and hey presto, you’re finished.
Replacing Fixed Headphone Pads
Occasionally, some headphone pads are clamped into the headphone housing itself. This will require you to pry open the housing. It’s usually held in place via tabs which you’ll be able to locate using a flathead screwdriver.
Once you’ve located the tabs and popped them open, taking care not to damage any delicate wiring, you can remove the ear pad easily. Once removed, slide the new pad over and then align the housing tabs and click everything back into place, making sure the wires are in the correct position. Easy-peasy.
Decided that a new pair of Headphones may be a better option?
Then take a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Commuting, or the Best Headphones Under $100 on the market in 2023.
And don’t miss our in-depth AKG N60NC Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones Review, our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review, or our Sony WH-1000XM2 Review for more awesome audio you can buy.
Or, if you want more headphones advice and info, then check out our helpful guides on How to Fix a Loose Headphone Jack, How to Remove a Broken Headphone Jack, How to Fix Headphones When Only One Side Works, How to Disable a Headphone Jack for PC and Phones, and Why do I Hear Static in my Headphones.
How to Replace Headphone Pads – Final Thoughts
You have to wonder how many perfectly working headphones have been thrown in the trash just because the ear pads are worn out. Equally, how much money has been wasted by taking them to a professional to get the pads changed.
Now you’ve got the knowledge to do the job yourself and save a few bucks along the way. Another win-win for the consumer.
Until next time, happy listening.