You’ll be fairly familiar with seeing headphones reviewed here at Review Geek. We love our audio tech, so several team member were eager to see what the Kokoon headphones had to offer. Why? Because these are headphones designed to help you sleep. Plus they assist with maintaining mindfulness. And they’re pretty darn effective at what they do.
They cost $314.99, so they might seem to be on the expensive side, given that they’re not specifically designed for volleys of relentlessly jacking club beats. However, as someone who certainly can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep, I was game for trying these out. Here’s the scoop on these cathartic cans.
So, How Do They Work?
As mentioned, the Kokoon headphones are designed to assist with relaxation and sleep. They do this in a number of ways, monitoring your brain activity while playing back sound. Combined with the app, the headphones then record your brain activity, and the app will make recommendations based on the data it collects. The tech the Kokoons incorporate is actually pretty impressive, so let’s take a little look at how it is they actually work.
Inside each cup is three EEG brainwave sensors. These are small brass contacts that sit against your ear while you relax. Each nodule is housed in soft silicone, which means you literally can’t feel a thing touching your skin. The sensors monitor your brain activity and track your relaxation and sleep this way. Recognizing each brainwave pattern, the Kokoon headphones know when you’re drifting off to sleep, when you’re dreaming, and when you’re wide awake. Clever stuff!
The headphones also feature a motion sensor and a disturbance sensor. The point of each is to monitor whether your sleep is restful. Obviously spinning like a drill bit when you are supposed to be throwing out Zs is not conducive to a good night’s sleep. The motion sensor detects how much you toss and turn at night.
Likewise, if something wakes you up, the disturbance sensor will log the time and monitor the duration for which your sleep was disturbed. Obviously, the fewer disturbances you experience in one night, the higher the quality of your sleep. All of this activity (or lack thereof, if you’re having a good-quality sleep) is recorded in the Kokoon Relax app and is viewable as graphical data.
We’ll take a closer look at the app shortly, but this is an excellent feature and one that I have been fond of with other wearables such as my smartwatch. I find it beneficial to see how the quality of my sleep actually looks in graphical form, and it can help with identifying patterns of sleep disturbance and their causes.
Designed for a Perfect Night’s Sleep
If you are going to relax or indeed sleep in a pair of headphones, they need to be comfortable. Let’s face it, rolling over onto a pair of Airpod Pros or your Sennheiser Momentum 3 is going to wake you up. Fortunately, the Kokoon headphones are effortlessly easy to wear, combining comfort with a unique shape to make sleeping in them hella easy.
Rolling over onto either of your sides shouldn’t be a problem when you are asleep. If it is, you’ll end up rousing from your slumber, disrupting your sleep, and making you feel tired the next day. The Kokoon headphones are relatively flat when compared with a pair of standard over-ears. Kokoon has achieved this by placing a bunch of the guts up in the headband, meaning they can offer an ear cup with a much lower profile. This means that, as they roughly follow the curves of your head and chin, they are easier to wear while you sleep.
This does come with one caveat, though. Kokoon recommends that you use a soft pillow that remains supportive while offering enough give so that the headphones aren’t placing too much pressure on the side of your head. If you prefer a firmer pillow, like me, then the headphones will take a little more getting used to wearing in bed.
The cup cushions are soft silicone with a supple fabric cover. This makes the Kokoons easy to wear and prevents you from getting hot ears as you try to sleep. The fabric allows air in and out, so they are breathable, allowing air to circulate within the cup itself. This means your sleep won’t be disturbed by the sensation of overheating.
The headband is also covered in soft silicone to the underside, with the same fabric as the headphones covering the entire band. The headband itself is very flexible, pliable enough to ensure the Kokoons don’t feel restrictive but providing enough purchase so they don’t slide off your dome at night.
The center of each side of the headband features some minimal hardware controls. (We’ll touch on the controls later.) Beneath each gold and black control point is a split in the headband, which allows the cans to rotate 270-degrees around a connecting pin. The cups themselves can tilt to suit the angle of your head. This flexibility makes them very comfortable to wear, and at no point during testing did I find that they were obtrusive, save for the first few nights getting used to wearing headphones.
The box also contains a hardshell case (which is great because you can use these headphones for travel without the risk of damaging them). The case opens like a clamshell and is zipped around the center. There is also an internal pocket where you can keep the included 3.5mm audio cable to use the ‘phones in wired mode.
As well as the case, you also receive a Kokoon-branded eyemask. Obviously, this is to block out light and further improve your sleep. However, I really hate this kind of eye mask. For some reason, they make the breath that comes out of my nose a lot warmer, which makes me feel like I’m suffocating a bit.
Controlling the Headphones
The headphones lack a great deal of customization in terms of sound. They don’t even have volume buttons. Presumably, this is so that you don’t suddenly wake up with a start because you accidentally turned the volume right up with your cheek. This, in turn, means they are very simple to control. With that in mind, they are perfect for sleeping as you won’t operate the controls by mistake.
Above the left cup, we have the power button (which has multiple functions—more on those shortly), a small LED indicator light, and the jack for the included 3.5mm headphone cable should you wish to use the headphones in wired mode. (They also work wirelessly.) Above the right cup, we have the “action” button and the micro-USB port for charging the Kokoons. (However, I’d much rather see USB-C here, personally.) Aside from this, the rest of the headphones are control free.
As mentioned, the power button has a number of functions. Obviously, one of these is powering the headphones on and off, which requires a one-second press for both. The headphones come with ANC and this, too, is controlled by the power button. While Active Noise Control (ANC) turns on automatically when you power the headphones on, a double-click of the power button toggles ANC between on and off.
The action button, too, has multiple functions. It is used for pairing the headphones with your source device (in my case, an Android smartphone), achieved by pressing and holding the action button down to enter pairing mode. You can also use the action button to play/pause (or answer/end calls if you have the audio cable installed) with one click, skip the track forward with two clicks, and skip back a track with three clicks.
And, that’s it! Given that the Kokoon headphones are made primarily for relaxation as opposed to general music listening, it makes sense not to clutter the cans with various controls. Had these been dedicated music headphones, my opinion would almost certainly have been different. In this case, though, I can see why they need to be light on the on-board controls.
All other controls are native to the sound source to which your headphones are connected. Volume is synced with your phone audio volume, for example, so they won’t go any louder than what your handset allows. The Kokoon Relax app, which is available via the Google Play and Apple App stores, doesn’t have any controls aside from playing, pausing, or skipping the audio you select from the Relax library.
A Fairly Lightweight App
Given that Kokoon is pretty new on the scene, I’m not going to quibble too much about the app. Yes, it is a little on the limited side at the moment. But, improvements to the feature set and app UI are fairly regular. New content is being added, too, so it is good to see that Kokoon is dedicated to improving their product continuously.
The most recent addition is the inclusion of a sleep tracker within the app. This will show you the quality of your sleep. As previously touched upon, the headphones will monitor your brain activity, as well as using disturbance and motion sensors to check whether you’re actually restful. The app will record all of this data, alongside when you eventually nodded off.
I mainly used the Kokoon app for mindfulness meditation as I use other sounds for sleep and relaxation. The app has a nice library of mindfulness “lessons,” with these lessons grouped together in “courses” of around six guided meditations. These are essentially a narrated meditation, with the narrator also the “guide” throughout the process.
It also features soundscapes, which are exactly what you might think. You can select from several soundscapes, including rainfall, beach waves, and even a purring cat! These are all very much the kinds of things you would expect to see on a relaxation app. A library of relaxing music is also available to listen to if that is your favored source of relaxation.
In addition, you can choose from a selection of colored noise to choose as well. You will likely have heard of “white noise” (if not, you can find more info here), but you can also pick a different type of noise such as “pink noise” and “brown noise.” These vary in the volume applied to certain frequencies, so they differ to suit your tastes. Essentially they all do the same thing; they’re designed to drown out background noise and help you sleep undisturbed.
Personally, I like to use sound signals known as “binaural beats” and “isochronic tones” to help me get to sleep. These are played at a specific frequency to kinda cajole your brain into producing, for example, delta waves, which are associated with lucid dreaming. This is just an example, but it is my preferred method of inducing sleep.
I have reached out to Kokoon and its representative told me that the intention is there to add these features in during future updates. I commend Kokoon on listening and responding to the concerns and requests of its customer base, and I’m excited to see this addition to the application.
It is worth mentioning, then, that I used two other apps from different developers, in conjunction with the official Kokoon app. These were Atmosphere: Relaxing Sounds (Google/iOS) and Atmosphere: Binaural Therapy Meditation (Google/not currently available on iOS). The first has a comprehensive range of different binaural beats and isochronic tones, all labeled with the anticipated effect that each wavelength should have on the brain. The second has a more limited range of sounds, but the ability to create “sessions” to play throughout your entire night’s sleep.
The point here is if Kokoon implements these kinds of features within its own app, it will (in my eyes at least) have a damn near perfect app for sleep, meditation, relaxation, and mindfulness. The whole gamut, if you will. It works well in its current state, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like to see a great app to complement some great sleep headphones. I’m confident that, following their feedback, this is something Kokoon can deliver on.
A Great Way to Drift Off?
I feel like I need to start this section with a caveat. That being that we all sleep and relax differently, so nobody’s experience will be the same as anyone else’s. Therefore, tech like the Kokoons, which are designed to help you sleep, will have very subjective reviews across the board. As $300 is quite the investment for a pair of sleep headphones, I urge you to really think about whether it will be beneficial or not for you.
In this sense, I suggest that you try some of the recordings on the app. Try a range of others, too, and see if they work for you. If you at least test them out laid prostrate on your bed, just using any headphones, you’ll know if the sound therapy concept works for you. Then you can invest in a dedicated product like the Kokoons, knowing they will work.
So, with that out of the way, do they actually make any difference? Personally, for me, yes, they do. I used them primarily for meditation and, I have to say, they worked very well. Both the passive and active noise cancellation work a treat and, combined, there is very little outside noise penetrating through whatever I’m trying to listen to at the time.
Sound-wise, they’re of excellent quality in terms of what they are designed for. I did test them as regular music headphones, too, but I found that I wasn’t able to adjust the volume to the point where it was loud enough for me to make a proper judgment. I also want to avoid turning this into a review of straight-up audio headphones, which aren’t necessarily designed with sleeping in mind.
That said, the quality of the headphones in conjunction with the apps I used is great. Vocals are well-defined, meaning the mids are well-balanced. The treble is nicely rounded and in no way makes the top end sound tinny. Likewise, lower end sounds have breadth and depth, without overpowering the rest of the sonic elements.
All-in-all, if you are using them as a sleep/relaxation aid, the Kokoons perform very well. Sound quality is still important. You don’t want to be three-quarters of the way through meditation only for the treble to distort and jar you out of the “zone” as it were. In this sense, I noticed nothing that would distract me from my goal, so I would say the sound is ideal.
I did try to use the headphones for inducing sleep. Obviously, it worked as I was asleep within 10 minutes of my head touching the pillow. But, there was only one instance when I didn’t pull them off my head soon after falling asleep. This means I only have one set of sleep results, as the Kokoon app requires a session of 2.5 hours to record sleep activity in detail. It would be nice if they removed this minimum time limit in my opinion, but then I get that you can’t really measure the quality of what is effectively a nap (at under 2.5 hours).
The battery lasts well. No published stats are available in terms of how long Kokoon says the battery will last. However, I got 10 hours out of them in a constant run test, so this is more than enough for a night’s sleep. You’ll just have to remember to pop them back on charge during the day. The headphone LED will alert you by blinking red if the cans need charging. To conserve battery, the headphones will switch off when you remove them. If they detect you have fallen asleep, they will turn the music/meditation lesson off and play low volume white noise to keep you undisturbed.
Bluetooth works well, too, especially seeing as how the latest upgrade to Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC) has been actioned. However, it is unlikely you’ll be far away from your phone if you are meditating, in bed trying to get to sleep, or just relaxing. The phones use Bluetooth 4.0 for its low-power requirements, and I had no problem wandering around my house with the sound source left on my desk. That gives them an indoor range of about 9m or so. Outdoors, I tested them in a straight line test, and my estimate is that they can cover around the same sort of distance, so 9m or approximately 30 feet.
Should I Buy a Pair of Kokoon Headphones?
I would say yes; if you are looking to improve your sleep, achieve better relaxation, or to meditate and practice mindfulness, then these are great headphones. They helped me nod off faster, and they provided me with audio to focus on during meditation, allowing me to clear my mind quicker and easier.
The headphones are comfortable, and they don’t impede my falling asleep. While I found the app a little lightweight, I am assured that Kokoon is working hard behind the scenes to bring more great content to the platform. Plus, in the meantime, you can supplement the official app with others, should you wish.
If you intend to buy a pair and focusing is your aim, then the best music for concentrating will bolster the range of sounds your Kokoons can deliver to you. If you would like to try out a couple of other sleep-tech gizmos, then you should check out the best white noise devices to help you sleep for inspiration.