Unlike most headphones, audiophile headphones are designed to last a while. Knowing how long they are likely to last is important if you have a budget in mind or if you want a timeless piece of audio equipment, not just sound-wise but also design-wise. All headphones are made of components that vary in materials and design engineering – how these components are put together determines not how the headphones work and sound but also how long they will last.
This article will give you a general idea of how long audiophile headphones last, what influences the lifespan of the headphones, the parts of the headphones that wear out, and things that you can do to prolong their lifespan.
- Lifetime of audiophile headphones
- Factors that affect how long audiophile headphones last
- Headphone parts that wear out frequently
- How to buy a long-lasting audiophile headphone
- FAQ about the longevity of audiophile headphones
Lifetime of audiophile headphones
So, how long do headphones last? It depends. The age of a headphone depends on how it was worn, stored, used, and cleaned. How frequently you put them on and take them off also affects the lifespan of headphones. Hinges break more easily when headphones are frequently taken on and off.
In general, headphones can last from a few months to 10 years, with an average of 3-4 years. This is due to the factors that influence their lifespan. However, audiophile headphones are of better quality, which is why they last longer, from 5 years to over 15 years.
An easy way to estimate how long your audiophile headphones last is to check the warranty period. Most companies have carefully calculated the warranty period based on tests that reveal their breaking point in time. This information isn’t always reliable but can be used to estimate how long you have before your headphones start to wear out.
It’s hard to answer how long audiophile headphones last in a straightforward manner because various factors influence the lifespan of a headphone. But you can ensure your headphones benefit from maximum longevity by reading this article thoroughly.
Factors that affect how long audiophile headphones last
The headphone’s durability largely depends on the quality of the materials and components used in its construction and other factors, such as general wear and tear, sweat, and dust buildup. However, an aspect often overlooked is atmospheric humidity.
General wear and tear & mechanical damage
No matter how rugged the headphones are, they all experience some form of wear and tear from regular use. Some parts wear out faster than others, and the rate at which a particular part degrades will vary by headphone model and material quality.
Mechanical damage caused by deliberate physical damage (throwing or mishandling the headphones) and accidental damage (walking over or dropping the headphones) puts unnecessary pressure on the headphones, eventually shortening their life.
Sweat and dust buildup
Sweat and dust are the most concerning factors for audiophile in-ear headphones, as they can cause permanent damage to headphones by corroding and clogging important hardware. This results in reduced efficiency and eventually complete headphone failure.
Sweat is more damaging than dust since it can be corrosive, and most HiFi in-ear monitors are equipped with dust filters for protection. Dust can only block the airflow and affect the quality of the sound response. For these reasons, audiophile headphones must receive regular maintenance to preserve their original quality and extend their life.
Over-ear models don’t suffer as much from sweat because most of their components are away from the ears. However, they are more exposed to dust and can build up over the years. Dust is not harmful, but cleaning the inside of some planar headphones can be tedious, as there is a risk of breaking the planar magnetic drivers.
Humidity and moisture buildup
Like sweat, atmospheric humidity can damage the internal components of the headphones, but the most damage is to the headband cushion and ear pads. Sweat is not a problem if the headphones are cleaned frequently. However, in humid climates, the materials that provide comfort, such as the pads and headband cushion, can absorb moisture and become damp.
Headphone parts that wear out frequently
The part of an audiophile-grade headset most likely to break is the ear pads. When this happens, the headphones become less and less comfortable, and the cushioning in the headband follows suit. Next, the cable, the hinges that connect the ear cups to the frame, and the drivers are the next most likely parts of an audiophile headphone to break.
Headphone pads break down the fastest
Ear pads last an average of 2 years. Made of dense memory foam with leather, synthetic leather, or velour upholstery, they cost less to replace, but the foam can also loosen over time and become tighter and uncomfortable. Properly treated, high-quality genuine leather lasts longer than velour or synthetic upholstery. Still, even if not damaged on the surface, the earpads lose their functionality as the memory foam inside compresses.
There is no way around this deterioration, so buying an audiophile headphone with replaceable pads is always a wise choice. Most pads should be replaced every 2 years; however, depending on the care and humidity of the atmosphere, the foam inside the pads can last anywhere from 1 to 4 years. Water and humid conditions deteriorate the structure of the foam and should be avoided.
Headband (almost similar lifespan as earpads)
The most common materials used for headbands are leather and synthetic leather. Leather is organic and durable, but despite its good wear resistance, leather degrades over time when exposed to moisture; the amount of moisture in the air and the temperature of the environment determine the rate at which this happens.
If you live in a humid area like California or New Orleans, you are probably familiar with how leather can become sticky and slippery over time and sometimes even rot. Faux leather is more water-resistant than genuine leather, as it’s made of plastic but not totally waterproof. As such, headphone’s leatherette headbands survive longer than genuine leather headbands in humid environments.
Cable (starts to break after 4-5 years)
Headphone cables are generic in construction, even in some high-end audiophile headphones. They are easily damaged and wear out after 4-5 years due to internal stresses caused by daily use, bending, oxidation, and loss of electrical conductivity at the pins. Fortunately, most audiophile headphones have removable cables or come with multiple cables.
Hinges are another weak component of audiophile headphones because they are subject to mechanical stress. Most hinges are made of plastic or metal plating on the surface and are often poorly designed, causing them to break more quickly. Hinges, unlike other headphone parts, are not replaceable. The only way to repair a broken hinge is by using a 3D replacement hinge or by returning the headphones to the manufacturer for repair or replacement.
The headphones’ audio drivers are the last part to wear out. However, because there are many types of drivers and not all are the same, the life span of different headphone models can vary greatly.
Planar headphones are built with what is called a planar magnetic driver, which has several advantages over dynamic drivers in terms of sound reproduction, especially in high-end headphones. Unfortunately, planar drivers are not as durable and can be damaged by physical stress.
Planar drivers break more easily than dynamic transducers because the former has a very thin and fragile high-tension diaphragm. Thus, planar headphones should be handled carefully if you want them to last.
How to buy a long-lasting audiophile headphone
All consumers know that the life of their headphones can be directly affected by the type of headphones they purchase and how they care for them. Here are a few pieces of advice to keep in mind when purchasing durable audiophile headphones:
Buy headphones with titanium dynamic drivers
Graphene, beryllium, and titanium drivers are the base materials of many audiophile headphones. Titanium drivers are the ideal choice for audiophile headphones because it is strong, durable, and light. Even though graphene drivers are stronger than titanium, they’re not as commonly used in audiophile headphones.
Companies offer between 3 and 5 years warranty on drivers, while other manufacturers like Koss and ZMF offer their customers a lifetime warranty on their drivers. Note that you only get the lifetime warranty on ZMF drivers if you buy them directly from them, and the warranty is not transferable.
Avoid headphones with plastic arches and poor hinges.
Avoid headphones with plastic arches and/or poor hinges. If a manufacturer uses any plastic parts in their headphones, they are likely to not be of the best quality. While plenty of sturdy studio headphones are built with plastic like Sony MDR 7506, not all of them ensure the highest reliability, especially in the audiophile headphones category.
In particular, headphones with plastic hinges are prone to failure much easier than a pair of cans with metallic ones. Headphones like HiFiMAN Sundara, HiFiMAN HE400se, Focal Clear, and Denon AH-D5200 have excellent hinges with quality materials and good installation.
Make sure all components are replaceable
Whether it’s cables, connectors, headband, ear cups, or even parts as simple as screws, make sure that all headphone components are replaceable. A simple Google search or “Headband Replacement for Headset Model“ or “Hinge Replacement for Headphone Model” should reveal if these components can be replaced and how to do so.
FAQ about the longevity of audiophile headphones
Are wooden headphones more durable than plastic ones?
Wooden headphones are subject to expansion and contraction due to changes in temperature and humidity, which can wear down the wood and slightly affect sound reproduction. LINK HERE
Wood is more elegant, but it can eventually become damaged and dented, so care, and special storage are required. Plastic headphones are not necessarily superior to wooden headphones, but in terms of strength, plastic is more durable and requires no maintenance.
Do headphones last longer than earbuds?
Headphones last longer than earbuds since they’re not so tightly and compactly built, and also not as sensitive to movement. Another reason why headphones last longer than earphones is that they are less likely to be exposed to moisture, dirt, and dust, as the internal components are further away from the ear, larger, and more rugged.
Audiophile earbuds typically have strong twisted cables, but like most headphones, the headphone jack is the most vulnerable part. The possibility of earbuds falling out of your ears is much greater than that of headphones, so they are more likely to get damaged. Moreover, physical shocks to the earbuds’ internal components are relatively more damaging than any such event with audiophile headphones.
What are the most durable audiophile headphones?
The most durable audiophile headphones are those in which every component is made of the highest quality materials. Wooden headphones aren’t necessarily more durable than plastic headphones, even when taken care of. Still, the hinges, headband sliders, and other stress-bearing components must be made of metal, stainless steel, or aluminum to ensure high durability.
When it comes to over-ear models, the most durable high-fidelity headphones are the following: V-Moda Crossfade M-100, Audio-Technica ATH-M70x, Beyerdynamic T5 3rd Gen and Hifiman HE400S. Headphones such as MEE Audio Pinnacle P1, Meze Audio ADVAR, and Shure SE215 are good examples of durable audiophile in-ear monitors that benefit from high-quality manufacturing.
Ultimately, audiophile headphones are rugged, well-built products that have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years or more, depending on whether you buy headphones as suggested in this article, how they often are used and how well they are cared for.
Materials specific to audiophile headphones make them costlier than their counterparts but also improve their life span, as they become more durable and reliable. Wood increases the headphone’s price considerably, but the durability not so much.
For people wanting durable headphones with neutral sound and good frequency response, you can also try out a pair of studio headphones. There are some differences between audiophile and studio headphones, but both types of headphones are proven reliable.