I go through a lot of headphones each year. More than the average mortal really should. In the last 24 months, I estimate, I’ve broken around US$500 worth of headphones. It’s not pretty!
The problem is two-fold: firstly, I use my headphones a lot, so I want them to be comfortable and very, very good at isolating outside noise. If I can’t hear background noise, I can keep the volume down and protect my hearing long-term. Secondly, I tend to wear them to sleep, listening to podcasts or audiobooks instead of reading in a communal dorm room. They also act as earplugs to drown out snorers and other unfamiliar noise.
I was listening to a podcast just before Christmas and heard mention of a product called SleepPhones. SleepPhones, the speaker enthused, were designed to go to sleep with. I checked out the website and, sure enough, they looked perfect. I had to try a set.
I’ve had them for a month now and I’m quite impressed. They came with minimal packaging, which is good for the environment and, as a full-time traveller, all packaging and manuals quickly get binned anyway. I was sent two colours of polar-fleece headbands, black and blue, with a standard 3.5mm cable protruding from the back. The cable was longer than normal to help keep some slack when turning in the night.
It’s summer here in New Zealand and I was a little concerned about how hot my head was going to feel during the humid nights. While it seldom gets above 25 degrees Celcius, humidity can make it feel hotter than Perth at 40. While I had some nights where it was uncomfortable, most of the time I’ve been waking up in the morning feeling fine. In fact, it helps by acting an impromptu sweat band.And talking of sweatbands, wearing SleepPhones makes you look like an athlete from the ’80s or early ’90s. This is kind of ridiculous, but it’s true: if you’ve ever wanted to live out your Michael Jordan or Larry Bird fantasies while listening to music, you’re in! The only thing that might spoil the effect is the cute sheep logo on the front.
Lastly, the most important thing: sound quality. Unlike in-ear headphones, which I prefer, SleepPhones do not block outside noise, nor do they pump sound directly into your ear. This means the volume has to be a little higher than I would like and, at times, Linda’s complained she can hear what I’m listening to. When you lie down on your side, the speaker is pressed close to your ear and the apparent volume increases.
The sound quality is quite good: it definitely has enough definition for my listening habits, and an audiophile friend thought it was excellent considering the material padding between the ear and the speaker. It’s not going to rival Bose, Sennheisser or Logitech’s new Ultimate Ears (which I’d love to get my hands on!) but it’s more than good enough for casual users. And, let’s face it, you’re falling asleep when you use them anyway.
I’m in love with my new SleepPhones but I’m not sure, with the current exchange rate against the New Zealand dollar, if I would have shelled out US$54. If I was earning in US dollars, it would be a no-brainer. I’m looking forward to wearing them on my next long flight: they’ll sit comfortably on my ears for the whole flight and I can just pull the band over my eyes as a sleeping mask.
Now I just need to buy a new set of in-ear headphones with a mic, and I’ll be all set.
This review was first published on February 3, 2010. At the end of April 2010, we started an affiliate agreement with Sleepphones. If you buy through the links on this page, like this one, we get a commission on the sale. And yes, that’s good.