Despite the high price tag, the Kokoon Relax are worth checking out if you’re plagued by sleepless nights
- Extremely comfortable design
- Good range of tools within the app
- ANC and good passive noise cancellation
- Very pricey
- Mediocre battery life
- Bluetooth 4
There are few things more important in life than sleep. How much we need varies from person to person, but one thing’s certain: not getting enough can lead to numerous physical and psychological issues. Many people struggle to get a good night’s kip and their daily lives suffer because of it.
That’s where the Kokoon Relax come in. These sleep headphones seek to create a relaxing audio experience tailored to the individual – we all drift off differently after all – to help you reach the Land of Nod. They do so by combining an ultra-comfortable design, active noise cancellation, a companion app featuring an extensive library of relaxing content and electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to track your sleep.
It all sounds great on paper but, in practice, how effective are the Kokoon Relax at achieving their stated aim? Read on to find out.
Kokoon Relax review: What you need to know
The Kokoon Relax began life as a Kickstarter project way back in 2015, receiving just short of $2m in pledges from over 8,000 backers. They finally went on general sale in August 2019, with the second edition becoming available to buy earlier this year.
At their core, the Kokoon Relax are wireless headphones that operate over Bluetooth 4. Most new headphones run Bluetooth 5 meaning the Kokoon Relax are lagging behind when it comes to wireless range, speed of data transfer and power consumption.
However, what they lack in the Bluetooth department they make up for with innovative sleep-focussed features and an accompanying app that offers numerous resources to help you drift off.
Sensors on the inside of the earcups purport to monitor brain activity while you sleep and feed data to the app, which then customises what it does based on what it thinks is proving most effective in aiding you sleep.
Kokoon Relax review: Price and competition
The Kokoon Relax retail on Kokoon’s website for £315 and can also be found on Amazon, where we’ve seen them as low as £299. If you’re in the market for two pairs, Kokoon offers a Couple’s Package for £580, saving you 20%.
That’s far from cheap but the price isn’t surprising given the fact Kokoon has very little competition in the over-ear sleep headphones market. In fact, they’re the only headphones of their type I’ve come across, although there are plenty of other products designed to get you a better night’s kip, including Kokoon’s very own NightBuds.
The Kokoon NightBuds seek to offer an in-ear solution to sleepless nights and the company says they’re the world’s thinnest Bluetooth earbuds. They too were launched via Kickstarter and raised over £650,000, with delivery of the buds expected in the second quarter of 2021.
If you can’t wait that long, esteemed audio manufacturer Bose has the SleepBuds II, which work alongside the Bose Sleep app and will set you back £230. There are also the SleepPhones v6 Wireless Headband Headphones, which feature small speakers in a soft fabric headband and offer a less technical solution to sleep problems at a fraction of the price.
The Moonbow Bedphones are on-ear headphones that deliver wireless audio via soft foam earpieces that lie flat on your ears, enabling you to lie on them comfortably. And if you’re just after a way to cut out external sound while snoozing, it’s worth taking a look at the QuietOn earplugs. They don’t play audio but help create a quieter sleeping environment via the use of active noise cancellation.
Kokoon Relax review: Design and comfort
The first thing you’ll notice about the Kokoon Relax are their oversized earcups. They’re designed to sit as flat on your head as possible so as to minimise any discomfort for those who sleep with the side of their head against the pillow. Inside the earcups are flexible silicone linings that mould around your ears, while the outer casing of the cups is made of a breathable fabric to prevent overheating during use.
When worn out of bed, they are extremely comfortable. In fact, they’re up there with the most comfortable over-ear headphones I’ve worn. At 350g, they aren’t too heavy and the fabric-covered headband sits unassumingly on top of your head.
While in bed they’re equally comfortable, as long as you’re on your back. The company explicitly states that you should use a deep, plush pillow and for good reason: if you’re using a flatter pillow and sleep on your side, the pressure the cups exert against your head makes dropping off difficult.
At least to begin with, anyway. After a few failed attempts, where I found myself tossing and turning before eventually removing the Kokoon Relax, I got used to how they felt and managed a decent night’s sleep wearing them. And despite that sleep taking place in the middle of a heatwave, I didn’t wake up with boiling hot ears or dripping with sweat; the breathable earcups are evidently effective.
Kokoon Relax review: Kokoon Relax app
The headphones themselves are only half of the Kokoon Relax package: the accompanying app, which is available on both iOS and Android, is integral to how the headphones work.
Before you can get started, you’re asked a few questions about your sleeping habits and instructed to listen to five introductory sessions of between 10 and 15 minutes in length. These sessions highlight the key techniques that the various tools within the app use and the calming voice of the narrator sets the tone for the whole experience.
Once you’re let loose within the app you’ll find a wide range of audio files designed to help you sleep or relax during what Kokoon calls “The Buffer Zone”: the time you take to chill out before bedding down for the night. These include breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques used in CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia), soundscapes, music and coloured noise.
While listening to a file, the sensors inside the earcups measure the electrical activity in your brain and record it within the “My History” section of the app. As more information is collected, the app learns what works in getting you off to sleep and begins to suggest what it deems the most suitable sleeping aids. You don’t have to be listening to a file within the app for the sleep tracking to take place, though. As long as you have the Kokoon app open and running, audio played through Spotify, YouTube and iTunes will also appear in your listening history.
For sessions shorter than 2h30m you’ll only see how long you were awake and asleep for, but longer sessions provide more detailed sleep tracking, showing what percentage of your slumber was light, deep or in rapid eye movement (REM). The data collected during sessions where I actually slept was informative – see below for an example of a particularly good night’s sleep – but data from some shorter listening sessions seemed somewhat misleading. The app would often show that I had been asleep for periods of time when I was very much awake.
The headphones have a neat feature that works to ensure a smoother snooze while being worn. Once you’ve drifted off, audio volume is decreased and replaced by white noise. The first time I woke and heard this I was a little disconcerted, but once I’d registered what it was I fell back asleep pretty sharpish. And if you happen to take off the headphones during the night, they’ll automatically pause after five minutes and then turn off after another 10 minutes. These features can be tweaked or turned off entirely within the app, which is a nice touch.
Kokoon Relax review: Battery life, controls and connections
Battery life on the Kokoon Relax clocks in at around 13 hours, which is less than two good nights’ sleep. That means that if you’re using them every night, you’re going to need to do a lot of charging via the microUSB cable included in the box. It’s not a dealbreaker – we’re all used to charging our phones every day by now – but a few extra hours would have been welcome.
Although the Kokoon Relax are designed to be used wirelessly, they do have a 3.5mm AUX-in socket located on the headband above the left earcup and come with a 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable, complete with an in-line mic. Just below the 3.5mm jack is the power button, which is also used to control ANC, while on the other side of the headband is the charging port and a multi-function button used to pause/play audio and skip tracks.
Everything is easily accessed while the headphones are being worn but there’s no voice prompt telling you if ANC is on: you instead have to check the colour of a small LED on the headband.
Kokoon Relax review: Sound quality and noise cancellation
Given the Kokoon Relax are designed primarily for sending you to sleep, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that audio quality isn’t stellar. The sound created by the 40mm dynamic drivers is passable when using the headphones outside of the bedroom but don’t expect them to sound anywhere near as good as other over-ear headphones in their price bracket.
The soundstage is very narrow and bass is lacking in richness, although mids and treble are handled well enough. I did find myself using them to listen to music quite a bit, though, owing to how comfortable they are.
Both passive and active noise cancellation do a decent job at reducing external sound. The whirring from my desk fan was cut down significantly and I was able to listen to audio at less than half volume without environmental noise affecting my enjoyment. It’s worth noting that having ANC turned on affects the audio profile but fortunately for the better: things sound fuller and better balanced when it’s active, while without it the treble feels slightly over-emphasised.
Kokoon Relax review: Verdict
Sleep is an extremely personal thing, which makes recommending the Kokoon Relax tricky. Did I feel that they improved my sleep overall? Not really. Even once I’d got used to sleeping in them, my preference was to sleep without them.
Did the variety of tools within the app help me relax and create a more bed-ready mindset? Undoubtedly, but there are a whole host of other apps providing a similar service without a pair of accompanying headphones and such a big price tag.
What the Kokoon Relax do have going for them is their ability to track and analyse your sleep and adapt accordingly. When it works as intended, it provides an informative insight into your sleep pattern and creates an ever-evolving roadmap to better sleep.
As someone who only occasionally suffers from poor sleep I don’t think that’s worth the asking price. If I was suffering from insomnia my first port of call would be the wide range of free meditation and relaxation apps that can be used with any old pair of headphones. But if you’ve exhausted all other options and are willing to splash the cash, you may find the Kokoon Relax work for you. And with a 30-day return policy, you can always send them back if they don’t.