Aftermarket headphone earpads

2021-06-19 06:42:54 UTC

I have a pair of Sony MDR-ZX770BN headphones that I’ve had for the better part of five years. They’re discontinued, replaced by another model, which I already bought one of to succeed this pair when its service life ends.

I had thought that day was nigh, as the earpads on these headphones had started to fall apart:

The stock earpads have each developed a hole along the bottom curve, exposing the foam inside. Each hole is vainly patched over with poorly-sticking electrical tape.

As shown in the picture, I tried patching the holes with electrical tape. This basically didn’t work; the tape simply doesn’t stick to the pads’ exterior material.

So I went researching alternative methods of patching the holes—and in so doing, discovered that you can buy new earpads for some headphones, and replace the old earpads with the new ones. This is fantastic; it means that instead of replacing perfectly-working $150 headphones, I get to replace the one deteriorating part with a $20 replacement.

There are two vendors for these that I’ve found: Brainwavz Audio, which makes a wide variety of products including earpads, and Wicked Cushions, which is specifically focused on earpads (and has some repair/DIY info on their website as well, which is cool).

Neither one has products specifically for my headphones—but it turns out that the Sony MDR-7506 uses the same size/shape earpads, so Brainwavz lists my headphones as a compatible model on their 7506 earpads. Wicked Cushions also has earpads for the MDR-7506, as well as “upgraded gaming earpads” for my HyperX Cloud Mix headphones.

(Why do I have two pairs of headphones? Partly because I’ve had the Sony ones longer, but also, I bought the HyperX Cloud Mix this year for videoconferencing, which its boom mic makes it much better at. I still use the Sony headphones for music listening.)

It turns out the “upgraded gaming earpads” also fit my Sony headphones, even though they’re not listed as compatible with them.

Here are the earpads’ thicknesses:

  • Sony MDR-770BN stock: Approximately 16–18 mm (this is tricky to measure because both earpads had ruptured near the bottom curve, which allows the foam to expand in that area and makes the unopposed thickness uneven; the unopposed thickness around the rupture is 21 mm)
  • Sony WH-CH700N stock: 17 mm (these are the successor model to the MDR-770BN, and I’ve confirmed that the earpads are interchangeable between them)
  • Brainwavz MDR-7506: 20–21 mm
  • Wicked Cushions MDR-7506: 21 mm
  • Wicked Cushions “upgraded gaming earpads”: 24 mm

Photo of one stock earpad from the Sony MDR-770BN headphones in front of a height scale in mm.Photo of one stock earpad from Sony WH-CH700N headphones in front of the height scale.Photo of one Brainwavz MDR-7506 earpad in front of the height scale.Photo of one Wicked Cushions MDR-7506 earpad in front of the height scale.Photo of one Wicked Cushions “upgraded gaming earpad” in front of the height scale.

L–R: MDR-770BN stock, WH-CH700N stock, Brainwavz 7506, Wicked 7506, Wicked “upgraded”. Click each to embiggen.

The difference between the Brainwavz and Wicked Cushions replacements may seem slight, but I actually find the Wicked ones more comfortable for extended wearing. They’re firmer as well as ever-so-slightly thicker.

The “upgraded gaming earpads”, however, between their greater thickness and their rectangular rather than round cross-section, are more comfortable than any of the rest. I’m quite sure I could comfortably wear these all day. Any compatible replacement would extend the life of my headphones, but the “upgraded gaming earpads” truly are an upgrade.

Installation, on my headphones, is easy; the old earpads can be simply slipped off the rim they sit on (if you’ve ever changed a bike tire, it’s kinda similar), and the new earpads pulled on. I found it easiest to put the earpads on at a right angle to their normal orientation, with the top or bottom edge of the headphone rim going into a broad side of the earpads, and rotate the earpads into the correct position as I pull them onto the rim.

Wicked’s website notes that some headphones have the earpads glued or otherwise anchored on. Luckily, my Sony headphones are not in that category.

Wicked also included a little instruction sheet in their package, which was a nice plus.

Wicked Cushions Upgraded Gaming Earpads installation instructions. 1: Gently pull the [old] ear pad out. 2: Notice the gap, this is where you will need to insert the cushion lip [on the new pad]. 3: Gently insert the ear pad lip to the top of the ear cup. 4: Move around the ear cup and insert the lip. 5: Tip: Insert your finger inside the cushion to have a better grip of pulling the lip, it is very flexible and it will not rip.
Click to embiggen.

Based on these findings, I can recommend Wicked Cushions’s replacements, both the straight-across replacement and (if compatible with your headphones) the “upgraded gaming earpads”.

Since originally writing this post, I did switch back to the Wicked MDR-7506 earpads. They’re still plenty comfortable, and I might as well use ’em since I bought ’em.

“After” photo of my MDR-770BN headphones with the Wicked Cushions MDR-7506 replacement earpads installed.

What got this post out of my drafts and onto the web is that Wicked Cushions is having a sale this weekend, June 18–20, for 30% off of their products with the coupon code “WCPrime”. So if you want to order some replacement earpads for your headphones, now is an excellent time to do that.

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