Review: Kokoon EEG headphones target the sleepless – just don't roll over
If you prefer falling asleep to some kind of audio accompaniment, you have probably had the jarring experience of waking up in the middle of the night with an earbud jamming into your ear, or some over-ear headphones crushing up against your skull. London-based startup Kokoon has tried to solve the problem by designing what are probably the most comfortable headphones you will ever wear.
The Kokoon headphones are primarily designed to help you get to sleep. They pair with a smartphone app packed with audio programs, sleep exercises, and music created to help you relax. New Atlas spent a few weeks road-testing these unique headphones.
First impressions are strong – these are undeniably luxurious headphones. Nothing feels cheap here, and despite a heavy weight of 12.3 oz (350 g) they are stunningly comfortable to wear. The ear-cups are super soft and result in very little pressure on your ears. Waking up the next day after wearing them all night did not leave my ears with that pressured feeling you get after wearing headphones for hours.
Of course, less pressure cupping your ears will inevitably mean the Kokoon headphone’s noise cancelling technology is only moderately effective. The company calls its active noise cancelling (ANC) system “disturbance protection” and anyone used to impressive ANC from devices such as the Bose Quiet Comfort and Sony 1000X lines may find Kokoon’s noise filtering a little weak. Although they're not as effective as other headphones on the market, for most occasions they should be effective enough.
These things also deliver very decent sound quality. Perhaps the best words here would be smooth and balanced, which is what you would expect from headphones optimally designed for sleep. The high and low ends are not as rich as some other headphones, but they don't need to be.
Battery life is solid, easily holding out for a single night of heavy use, and should reportedly last at least 11 or 12 hours. Either way, you will probably need to plug them in to charge every morning if you are using them for most of the night, just in case.
So, if you are simply looking for a set of comfortable luxury Bluetooth headphones to wear in bed, or even out in the real world, then the Kokoon cans will certainly do the job. But these headphones aim to do a little more than just that – they're designed to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
To this end, a handful of EEG sensors are built into the ear cups. These sensors, along with motion sensors, claim to track when you fall asleep and also communicate with the accompanying app to track your sleep patterns, offering a sleep report in the morning detailing your movements from REM to deep sleep and back throughout the night.
In practice this EEG sleep tracking system is a little glitchy. Some nights it recorded my sleep perfectly, other nights it didn’t really track anything at all. And of course, the big make or break factor for many will be how the headphones demand you sleep on your back. If your pillow is soft enough you may get away with an awkward bit of side lying while still semi-comfortably wearing the headphones, but generally, if you are not primarily a back sleeper then these headphones will not really work that well for you.
The main function of the Kokoon smartphone app, alongside recording your sleep patterns, is to deliver a number of sleep enhancing activities and exercises. Your mileage will certainly vary regarding this aspect of the device. The sleep aids, soundscapes, variations of white noise, and guided relaxations are all decent if you are into that kind of thing, but they are not especially unique and similar things can be found in many other places.
However, the ability for the headphones to sense when you fall asleep is useful. One of the best features of the app is a setting allowing audio playing to fade out and blend into white noise as the EEG sensors detect you falling asleep. It’s a nifty idea, dynamically blending hardware and software outcomes. These kinds of capabilities suggest the company could roll some interesting app updates out in the future, potentially turning the headphones into a responsive device that plays specific soundtracks during different phases of sleep.
In the end, Kokoon has designed and manufactured a good pair of headphones. At US$349 they do unfortunately sit at the high end of the market so it is difficult to offer a blanket recommendation. At this price-point, you better be very interested in all the extraneous bells and whistles that come with the app. You also better sleep on your back, otherwise these will frustrate you very quickly.
Having said that, the Kokoon headphones are easily one of the most deeply comfortable Bluetooth headphones on the market, with big soft ear cups and incredibly balanced sound. So if that is what you are looking for, and you could use some help drifting off, then these headphones may be for you.
Product page: Kokoon