Comfort for the long haul

When our engineers are developing a new headset, we have three main design imperatives: audio quality, microphone performance and comfort.

Gamers often wear headsets for longer periods than other headset or headphone wearers. It doesn’t matter how amazing your headset sounds to you, or your voice sounds to your team-mates, if after half an hour it feels like you’ve got a household appliance strapped to your head. We spend hours, weeks – months – optimizing headset fit and wearing comfort.

A quick assessment of a typical set of headphones might suggest making a headset would be a pretty simple design challenge – an adjustable slider for head size, a springy material for the frame that will help clamp them in place, a couple of foam rings and you’re about there? In fact, designing a gaming headset that will be comfortable for hours of play is a massive engineering and production challenge.

At EPOS, we carefully balance many different aspects of headset design to achieve ultimate comfort for gamers who like to play for long sessions. The shape of the ear pads and the type and softness of foam is important, but so too is the design of the connection between the ear cup and the frame. Clearly, the headband shape and general design has an impact on comfort, but so does the structure and feel of the headset materials. We must also balance overall weight and the pressure exerted from the headband to the ear cups and any other part of the headset touching the skull. Lastly, we must ensure that the fit is stable – we don’t expect the gamer to adjust and reposition the headset constantly because of poor fit or discomfort.

Balancing all the many aspects of comfort simultaneously is much harder than it seems, especially when you also factor in audio quality and microphone performance at the same time. We approach every headset as a fresh challenge. For example, the GSP 670 with its complex electronic requirements was necessarily heavier right from the early specification. This necessitated a different design approach – a more complex hinge structure with a user-adjustable clamping force.

The 300 series on the other hand are much lighter, even the GSP 370 wireless unit – this enabled a simpler earcup mount design and a fit that would be comfortable for a wide variety of head shapes without a need for clamping force adjustment.

It’s this flexible approach to design that makes EPOS so successful when we run our consumer tests for headset comfort.

We also pay attention to the smallest details. For example, if you take a look at the 300, 500 and 600 series headsets, you’ll see there’s a sculpted break in the headset foam at the top. As experts in the anatomy and shape of the skull, we know that the crown of the head is especially sensitive to pressure. It may seem intuitive therefore to ensure – of all places – there’s foam at that point to protect the most sensitive spot.

Paying close attention to all the possible pain points on a headset is an important aspect of every headset design, and we consider all aspects together to ensure both a stable fit and lasting comfort.

We also pay a great deal of attention to detail in the design of our ear cups. They need enough space to ensure that the ears – which act as a heat radiator for the head – do not become hot and sweaty. We also choose the fabrics carefully that we use next to the skin – some will feel cooler than others and help you forget the contact is there at all.

A balancing act is needed in certain other respects – some materials may be ideal for comfort, but not durability. We have to make sure earcups and headband surfaces are resistant to the chemicals commonly found in hair products and do not stain after prolonged contact with make-up.

We use memory foam – a technology developed originally for the space program and used in many applications where comfort is key – to help our earpads and headbands retain their shape for long periods of time. Memory foam has the advantage of being flexible enough to allow comfort for glasses wearers, for example, while maintaining a decent acoustic seal, essential to keep the bass response at appropriate levels.

The EPOS commitment to comfort comes from careful testing and iteration involving engineers and production experts at all stages of design. To ensure flexibility in our headset fit, we have studied many heads and ears over the years. In fact, as a constant reminder of what our business is all about, our office features an entire wall of ear molds

Illustration: Three typical pain points in the ear (*By removing pressure on the non-flexible areas, the GTW 270 earbuds ensure a stable, sealed and completely painless fit)

Our ground-breaking wireless gaming earbuds, the GTW 270 Hybrid, represented a particularly exciting opportunity to test our design skills in the area of comfort. From our owner Demant’s database of over 100,000 ear scans, we used AI to help us test numerous designs against the statistical data. We could then narrow these down further by applying our knowledge of the pain points inside the ear to design them such that the pressure on non-flexible parts of the ear was minimized while still maintaining an excellent acoustic seal. After much iteration and testing, we’re confident our earbuds can be worn by gamers for prolonged periods without discomfort.