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Quick Guide: How to Replace Headphone Ear Pads in 6 Steps

Last updated: 1 year ago
11 min read

Have your headphones become uncomfortable and sound worse than before? Did your headphone ear pads start losing shape? Because they’re most certainly the reason for your terrible listening experience.

In this article, we will teach you:

  • How to replace headphone earpads
  • How often should you replace them
  • How different ear pad materials affect comfort and sound
Earpads replacements image
CONTENTS (show more)

    Earpads are an essential part of your headphones. No matter how great they sound, worn-out earpads can either worsen the sound or make your listening experience unbearable, so you will have to replace them eventually.

    But be careful; they might use different ways to attach themselves to the ear cups. Before you start with replacement, find out how earpads on your headphones are attached to them.

    The best way to learn that is to:

    • Check the manual for instructions
    • Manually observe the earpads to see if they seem glued or not
    • Search for a tutorial on the internet for your specific headphone model

    Tools for Replacing Ear Pads

    To make your earpad replacement as quick as possible, ensure you have all the necessary tools at your disposal.

    Tools you (might) need:

    Replacement earpads

    You will need a fresh pair of replacement pads before disassembling your headphones.

    Ensure you buy the earpads that fit your headphones. Otherwise, you might end up with a worse listening experience than before—more on how to find the correct earpads later.

    Different earpads
    Different kinds of headphone ear pads.

    Prying tools

    If earpads are glued onto your headphones, you may need prying tools to take them off.

    You can do it carefully with tools like pliers, picks, or a nail clipper’s handle that you can slide under the pad and lift it.

    Of course, you can use your bare hands and rip off the pads but be careful not to damage the headphones by pulling too aggressively.

    Cleaning and gluing accessories

    When buying replacement pads that glue on the ear cups, you usually get all the necessary cleaning (alcohol wipes) and gluing accessories (a double-sided tape shaped like an earpad).

    If not, you will have to buy them separately.

    • You can use alcohol wipes you haven’t used after the smartphone screen protector installation or use rubbing alcohol (70% or up) (not the one for disinfecting hands).
    Cleaning tools
    You can use alcohol-based solutions to clean up any adhesive residue.
    • Double-sided tapes are sold on Amazon or eBay. The shape has to match the ear cups. Otherwise, you must buy a whole sheet and cut the tape yourself.

    Hair dryer

    A dryer will help you warm up the loose leather lip that some earpads use to attach themselves to the ear cup.

    This is a better way of loosening the leather than stretching it.

    Tiny tool (like a screwdriver)

    If you’re unfortunate and have earpads locked into the ear cup’s frame, you must open it up. For that, you need an appropriate screwdriver or a small metal tool to open the locks.

    Unclip earcups
    Using a tiny screwdriver to unpin the locks.

    How To Replace Headphone Ear Pads

    Before you start your replacement, you must know how precisely your earpads attach to your headphones. They can be:

    • Attached (or dressed) with a lip
    • Snapped on using a plastic ring
    • Glued on using a double-sided tape
    • Locked into ear cup’s frame

    Let’s now see how to replace each of these ear pads.

    How to replace snapped-on headphone ear pads

    Ear pads that are snapped onto the ear cup are the easiest to replace.

    Apple AirPods Max, for instance, use simple magnets to snap the ear pads on.

    Headphone brands that usually use this technique are Sennheiser, Sony, and Edifier.

    1. To replace snap-on ear pads, you grab them with your hands and start pulling away.
    1. Pull them gradually, starting on one side until you hear a click, and then proceed around the entire pad.
    Take off old earpads
    1. Now that you have taken the old ear pad off, take the new one and align it with the frame.
    Attach new earpads
    1. Gently push down by pressing against the ear pad until you feel it sit or click into place.
    Push new earpads down

    Here’s a video tutorial on how to replace snap-on ear pads:

    Attaching snap-on headphone earpads

    Some might require extra work, like Sony WH-1000XM4, for example.

    1. To remove ear pads from Sony’s, you must use a sturdy prying tool, like the handle of a nail clipper. The harder, the better, as it won’t break that easily.
    1. Gently slide the tool from the outer side under the pads and try to lift the ear pad until you hear a click. Don’t rush to avoid damaging the plastic on the ear cups.
    1. Move around the ear pad and clip out half of the clips that hold the ear pad in place.
    1. Once you feel the ear pad is loose enough, use your hand to remove the ear pad entirely.
    1. Now, take the new ear pad and align the plastic parts between the ear pad and ear cup.
    1. Snap the new ear pads on by gently pressing them until you hear a click.

    The procedure is identical for the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the newest Sony WH-1000XM5.

    Sony WH1000XM5 | How To Change Your Earpads

    How to replace attached or dressed headphone ear pads

    Attached or “dressed” headphone ear pads are the second easiest to replace. The pads grab the ear cups by tucking the loose leather in the gap in the cup.

    There are 2 ways to replace such ear pads. Let’s start with the simplest one.

    1. Remove the ear pad by grabbing it on one side and pulling the tucked leather out.

    If you’re lucky, you’ll see a little cut out on the plastic ring that the ear pad is attached to. That vastly simplifies replacement.

    Earcup cutout
    1. Take the new ear pad and tuck some of the loose leather in that cutout.
    Attach earpad into the cutout
    1. By rotating the ear pad, you’re tucking in more and more of that loose leather behind the plastic ring.
    Twist the earpads
    1. When you go a full circle, slightly rotate the pad left and right to ensure all the leather is tucked into the plastic ring.

    Here’s a video tutorial:

    Attaching headphone earpads with a CUTOUT

    A different method involves replacing the ear pad without a cutout.

    1. Tuck as much loose leather in the gap as possible.
    1. By stretching the earpad, try tucking in the remaining loose leather.
    Pull leather lip up
    1. If it gets too tight, slightly stretch the leather. To make the leather lip stretchier, you can warm it up with a hair dryer.
    Warming up leather
    1. Rotate the ear pad to ensure the loose leather sits in the gap.

    Here’s a video tutorial:

    AKG K371 Replacement Ear Pads | How to Change Your Ear Pads | Dekoni Audio

    If the leather is too stiff, you can use a hair dryer on max heat to warm it and make it more pliable. Don’t use a heat gun, as it melts the pads.

    You can also pre-stretch the leather to make it looser and easier to attach, but if you overdo it, it might not grip the ear cup too well.

    How to replace glued headphone ear pads

    This method is a bit more cumbersome, but nothing to be afraid of. To replace the headphone pads, you can do it carefully or by brute force.

    If you want to be careful:

    1. Slide a thin yet solid prying tool, like a stiff guitar pick or a credit card you no longer use, under the earpad.
    1. Try to lift the earpad and separate it from the frame.
    1. When you’re about halfway through, grab the loose part with your hands and slowly pull the entire earpad off.
    1. Remove any glue residue by wetting a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol. Don’t use vinegar or acetone, as they leave a stench behind.

    Being gentle is primarily advised with plastic headphones. Pulling too hard on your earpads might partially tear them off, or you might crack your headphones.

    On the other hand, you can always try to peel the headphone cushions off first to see how firmly they’re glued.

    Now to replace the earpads. Make sure to leave the other earpad on or to take some pictures from various angles so you know how to reattach the new earpads correctly.

    1. Take the new earpads and apply double-sided tape. Even better if it’s pre-applied.
    1. Take your time to match up the alignment based on the original earpads slowly. That’s especially important for angled earpads. Don’t worry; you can make small corrections.
    1. When you feel confident about alignment, press against the earpads for about 10 seconds so that the tape firmly grabs the ear cup.

    Here’s a video tutorial:

    Audeze LCD Series | How to Change Your Ear Pads | Dekoni Audio

    Here’s a video tutorial for Beats headphones, which use a much stronger glue:

    How To REPLACE Headphone Ear Pads

    How to replace locked headphone ear pads

    The most frustrating ear pad removal is when earpads are locked into the frame, so you have to open it up.

    Screws or plastic locks can hold down the frame. They’re usually tiny, so you’ll need a small screwdriver to help unlock the plastic pins.

    Once you start removing locked earpads, you may tear them, so you can’t reuse them.

    1. Take off the earpads to expose the screws or clips.
    1. Unscrew the screws or push the screwdriver/tool to unlock the plastic pins. Be careful not to poke into the driver. Also, push in the direction away from your fingers, as you might slip and hurt them with your tool.
    1. Once you unlock the pins, carefully lift the driver and remove any part of the previous ear pads.
    1. Carefully dress the driver with a new pad. Make sure not to damage the driver or tear the new pads.
    1. Align all the driver cables and plastic pins and press the newly dressed drivers back into the cups.

    Here’s a video tutorial:

    Koss KPH30i | How to Change Your Ear Pads | Dekoni Audio

    How Often Should You Replace Headphone Ear Pads?

    The frequency of how often you should replace headphone ear pads depends on how much you wear your headphones.

    • A frequent user might want to replace the ear pads every 2 years.
    • An occasional user can wait 3-4 years before replacing the ear pads.

    When to replace headphone ear pads?

    The most obvious sign to replace headphones cushions is when they start visually falling apart, changing shape, or becoming uncomfortable.

    Earpad degradation

    By earpad degradation, we mean:

    • Pieces of (faux) leather peeling off
    • Big tears at the stitching or in the middle of the earpad
    • Cracks forming in multiple areas

    Reshaped, uncomfortable earpads

    After a while, the foam inside your earpads loses its springiness and condenses.

    Earpads old new comparison
    New velour earpads (on the left) vs. old ones (on the right) with reshaped and compressed memory foam.

    The result of earpads drastically changing shape is:

    • Worse comfort
    • Ear pain
    • Worse sound quality
    • Worse passive noise isolation

    Dirty, smelly, rotting earpads

    If you sweat a lot when wearing headphones, earpads soak up some of the sweat after every use.

    The result is smelly earpads; in a worst-case scenario, they might get infested with mold and start rotting.

    That’s why it’s essential to keep your earpads and headphones clean.

    How to Get the Right Headphone Earpad Replacements

    To get the right headphone earpad replacements:

    1. You must know the exact name of your headphone model. You don’t want to order random earpads just because they look cool.
    1. Once you know the model name, search your headphones name + “earpads replacement” in your browser.
    1. Prioritize official earpad replacements. There are some trustworthy third-party brands, too, like Dekoni.

    When buying off-brand earpads, ensure they’re made from similar materials and use the same attachment technique.

    If you want to experiment, you can search web forums for advice and information on how different earpads affect the performance of your headphones.

    Calculate the size of the replacement earpads

    If you can’t find replacement ear pads for your headphones, you first determine the shape of the headphone earpads you need.

    For rounded earpads, simply measure a diameter from one outer edge to the other, and convert that into millimeters. Buy earpads of that size.

    On the other hand, you must calculate the dimensions of your original oval earpads before you buy a third-party solution.

    Measuring earpads
    If you search for new oval earpads, you will have to calculate their diameter and pick new earpads accordingly.

    Here’s the calculation formula:

    (Length + Width) ÷ 2 = Size of your earpads

    You can measure the length and width in inches, but you must convert the result into millimeters since that’s how earpads label their size.

    For example:

    • Length is 4.1 inches, and width is 3.1 inches.
    • (4.1 + 3.1) ÷ 2 = X
    • 7.2 ÷ 2 = X
    • X = 3.6 inches = 91.4 mm

    Since you can’t buy a headphone ear pad with a diameter of 91.4mm, you have to pick a slightly larger ear pad. In our case, the one that has a diameter of 100mm.

    Let this table help you determine what size of earpads to pick:

    If your measurement
    result is between:
    Pick earpads
    of this size:
    39mm – 48mm50mm
    35mm – 52mm55mm
    53mm – 59mm60mm
    61mm – 68mm70mm
    70mm – 79mm80mm
    80mm – 88mm90mm
    84mm – 98mm100mm
    93mm – 104mm105mm
    105mm – 113mm115mm
    Source: Scan Sound

    Note that you will have to stretch the rounded earpads to put on your oval earcups. Some might hang loose, but they should stay on, nonetheless. It isn’t ideal, but that’s the best solution.

    Can you use earpads that don’t fit your headphones?

    We advise you against using earpads that don’t match the earcups. Using such earpads alters your listening experience:

    • Change the sound
    • Earpads might fall off
    • If you glue the pads on the cups so that they can stay on, you can ruin your headphones

    Note: Earbuds with the wrong size eartips are the same. They fall out. Here’s how to keep them in.

    The difference between headphone ear pad materials

    Various earpad materials can emphasize different sound and comfort characteristics. This is how each material (or combination of materials) influences your listening experience.

    Here’s a quick comparison between different ear pad materials:

    Ear pad materialComfortBreathabilityMaintenanceDurability
    Faux leatherGoodPoorEasy to cleanGood
    Genuine leatherGoodPoorEasy to cleanGreat
    VelourGreatGoodHarder to cleanGood
    FabricGreatGoodHarder to cleanGood

    Faux leather

    You can find a faux leather (or protein leather or pleather) in most headphones.

    Treblab Z7 Pro squishy earpads
    Unless you’re buying truly expensive headphones, your leather earpads are likely to be faux.

    The cheapest pleather earpads can be stiff and plasticky. But in general, they’re soft and comfortable to wear. Here are its features:

    • Amplifies bass response
    • Improves passive noise isolation
    • Easy to clean
    • Will start cracking and flaking after a few years of use
    • Minimal breathability, making your ears sweaty

    Real leather

    Genuine leather offers similar characteristics to faux one lasts longer with proper care.

    • Amplifies bass response
    • Improves passive noise isolation
    • Easy to clean
    • Will become stiff and start cracking if not maintained properly
    • Minimal breathability, making your ears sweaty


    The second most common ear pad material is velour, a soft fabric that feels like a piece of clothing.

    Velour ear pads
    An example of velour earpads.

    Its characteristic are:

    • Improved comfort
    • Increased breathability
    • Less bass-bloated sound
    • Attracts dust and dirt
    • Harder to clean


    In most cases, workout headphones and gaming headsets use fabric earpads. Apple AirPods Max earpads are fabric.

    Apple AirPods Max proximity sensor
    You mostly see fabric earpads in sports headphones since they’re easy to wash.
    • Improved comfort
    • Increased breathability
    • Less bass-bloated sound
    • Slightly easier to clean than velour
    • Gets easily covered in dust and dirt
    • Can pull your hair

    You can read more about different types of ear pads here.

    Is cooling gel in ear pads worth it?

    Cooling gel is only worth it for shorter listening sessions.

    Like a gel you use to cool off injuries, the cooling gel inside earpads warms up slower than the earpads. Meaning that you feel chilly for longer than if you use regular leather earpads.

    • However, the effect wears off after about 30 minutes when the gel heats to your body temperature.

    Since the gel layer isn’t breathable, you could actually start sweating more than without the gel.

    How Do New Earpads Change Headphones?

    While earpads can be an oversight for some, they play an essential role in your headphone’s performance.

    Their shape, angle, thickness, and materials are all carefully chosen to achieve the desired sound.

    That’s why old earpads no longer deliver the optimal listening experience.

    Passive noise isolation

    Plush headphone ear pads adapt to your head’s shape. By adapting to your head, they close the gaps where the sound could leak in or out.

    With time, earpads lose their plushness and ability to fully close the gaps, which leads to worse passive noise isolation.

    Apple AirPods Max on the streets
    Passive isolation prevents you from being distracted by every single sound around you.

    Sound leakage

    As mentioned, deformed ear pads no longer seal as they should, leaving you with more air gaps for the sound to leak out.

    In general, the increase in sound leakage isn’t as noticeable as in, for example, noise isolation.

    Sound quality

    Frequency waves are highly susceptible to earpad changes.

    • Poor seal (or noise isolation) affects bass response, especially the sub-bass extension and quantity.
    • Collapsed earpads can affect soundstage perception or width.
    • Different materials interact differently with higher frequencies, mellowing or boosting them.


    The change in comfort is by far the biggest.

    • Denser earpads press harder against the skull, causing wearing fatigue.
    • As the foam shrinks, your ears start touching the inside of the earcup (the driver), which squishes the ears and becomes painful.

    Since all of these changes happen gradually, you might get used to some of them (like worse noise isolation and changed sound).

    However, the difference will be massive once you replace ear pads with new ones. So don’t hesitate to do so if you see and feel your earpads wearing off.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Are all headphone pads removable?

    Technically, all headphone pads are removable. However, some aren’t meant for you to remove, so the manufacturer glue or screw them onto the ear cup and make them much harder to replace if you can actually buy a suitable replacement.

    Why do headphone pads peel?

    Headphone pads peel because the material (like faux leather) starts to lose its stretchiness, hardens up, and becomes brittle. That happens due to age, excessive wear, soaked-up body juices that dried off, etc.

    How often should you replace headphone pads?

    A frequent user should replace earpads every 2 or 3 years, whereas an occasional user can wait for around 4 years. Obverse the changes and perform replacement when earpads show visible wear and tear.

    How do you fix peeling headphones?

    You fix peeling headphones earpads by replacing them entirely since that would be the cheapest solution. In contrast, if the plastic is peeling off your headphones, try to find spare parts or buy new headphones.

    How do I add more cushions to my headphones?

    You can add more cushions to your headphones by adding foam to the headband or replacing current earpads with thicker ones. Don’t add foam pieces to the pads, as that will only worsen the sound.


    Now you know how headphone ear pads affect your listening experience and how to replace them when they no longer provide optimal performance.

    If you want to postpone the ear pad replacement, you should carefully maintain them and keep them clean.

    Before you do any replacements, always remember to check how the pads are attached to your headphones and to work patiently. Working hastily only leads to mistakes or even damage to your headphones.

    And if you’re looking for new ones, here are:

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