Kokoon’s first steps into the world of sleep headphones came in the form of the over-ear headphones, which we praised at the time for being comfortable to wear, but the form factor meant they weren’t actually all that great for sleeping with.
Kokoon went back to the drawing board and came back with the Kokoon Nightbuds, a much smaller, lightweight pair of in-ear buds that could be comfortably worn when sleeping – even on your side.
Combine that with sleep tracking and the unique ability to play whatever you like, and Kokoon’s Nightbuds look to be among the most capable sleep buds on the market. The question is, are they worth the premium price tag Kokoon is asking for? Well…
Design & build
Compact, slimline design
Thin earbuds are comfortable to sleep on
Carry case doesn’t charge the Nightbuds
The Kokoon Nightbuds sport a form factor not too dissimilar to neckbuds used for exercise.
The two buds are connected to a control unit via a springy wire, which sits behind your head in use. The concertina-esque design of the cable means it snugly wraps around your head, with no dangling cables ready to get tangled in the night.
Though the idea of the control unit sitting at the back of your head may be off-putting for back sleepers, it’s practically unnoticeable when worn. It’s slightly curved to fit the nape of your neck, covered in soft-touch silicone and measuring in at just 67 x 29mm, it’s slimline.
That’s particularly impressive when you consider it houses the battery, Bluetooth receiver and other components within. It’s also where you can control playback, volume and power with dedicated buttons, making it easier to make volume adjustments during the night without being dazzled by the bright light of your phone screen.
That theme continues with the buds themselves, which are impressively thin compared to most standard wireless earbuds with the aim of making them more comfortable for side sleepers – and the Nightbuds pass with flying colours.
As someone that spends most of the night on their side, and has used various wireless earbuds for sleep, including Bose Sleepbuds II, all three generations of AirPods, AirPods Pro and more, I can confidently say that the Kokoon Nightbuds are by far the most comfortable to wear when sleeping.
I am a bit of a restless sleeper, so I was initially concerned that the Nightbuds wouldn’t stay in my ears – but I’ve been proven wrong time and time again in my 5 months of testing. The ends of the cable wrap around the ears for extra support, and when combined with the right pair of ear-tips, they stay snugly in my ears all night.
In fact, the tips are so secure that I have to be careful how I take the buds out in the morning, as the silicone tips can stay in place in my ears even after the buds are removed. There are various sets in the box, ranging from XS to L, so you’ll likely find a combination that fits.
The only downside is the charging; while the Kokoon Nightbuds come with a case, it doesn’t charge the buds when not in use. Instead, you’ll have to use the USB-C port on the buds and the included (surprisingly short) USB-C cable, and considering the battery only lasts a couple of days per charge, it’s something you’ll find yourself doing fairly often.
That, or you’ll go to bed and realise the buds you’re about to put on are completely dead – something I’ve done on more than one occasion!
Smarts & audio
Kokoon app has plenty of soothing sounds and tracks
Can play audio from any source, including podcasts and music
Middling audio quality, but good enough to drift off to sleep
An integral part of the Kokoon experience is the Kokoon app for iOS and Android. Like most apps, you’ll need to make an account, but once that’s out of the way the app should automatically pair with your buds and update the firmware if necessary. It’s a simple process, and re-pairing with another device is just as easy.
The Kokoon app offers an impressive suite of ambient soundscapes and storyscapes designed to help you fall asleep. These are fairly broad, ranging from rain sounds to cityscapes to the sound of ocean waves crashing on a beach, and there’s also pink, white or brown noise for those that prefer that kind of thing.
Whatever sound you decide on, you can either let it play continuously through the night or set it to fade out once the buds detect that you’ve fallen asleep.
Where the Kokoon Nightbuds really stand out from practically every other pair of sleep-focused buds on the market is how the audio is delivered. Rather than relying on local storage, audio is streamed via Bluetooth like a standard pair of wireless buds.
That means you don’t need to pre-load sounds onto the Nightbuds as with the Amazfit ZenBuds and Bose Sleepbuds II, and it also means you’re free to listen to just about anything you’d like to fall asleep to, be it music, podcasts or the gentle sounds of the Kokoon app.
In fact, the Kokoon app allows you to play both your own music and soundscapes at the same time, allowing for some interesting combinations.
The inability to stream audio in real-time has long been a complaint of sleep buds at all price points, and it’s great to see Kokoon finally break free of the trend. If like me, you’ve got a specific sound you like to fall asleep to (the sound of running a bath, in my case), it’s a game-changing feature that puts the Nightbuds head and shoulders above all competitors.
With a design as streamlined as the Nightbuds, it should come as no surprise that they can’t quite compete with top-end wireless earbuds in terms of audio quality, but that’s not what they’re designed for.
Though you may notice a slightly flat performance when listening to music, it’s not nearly as noticeable when listening to the pitter-patter of rain on a car roof or the crackle of a campfire.
The only real issue is the lack of passive noise reduction, as I’m still able to hear environmental sounds even with the buds at fairly high volume, and that may not be ideal for those that get easily disturbed during the night.
Basic sleep tracking capabilities
Hit-and-miss data syncing
No way to export data to other apps
There is sleep tracking on offer from the Nightbuds, but it’s not quite as in-depth as you’ll get from the likes of the Withings Sleep Analyzer.
The app will serve up basic information like the overall time spent in bed, how long it took you to fall asleep, a generic sleep score and a breakdown of the various stages of sleep in pie-chart form, but there isn’t any way to delve deeper into the data like most alternatives, nor can you export it to apps like Apple Health.
Tapping on each section of the pie chart gives you a definition of each sleep stage, but it doesn’t tell you how long you spent in that particular stage, nor will it give you any indication of whether that’s a suitable amount of time for a good night’s sleep.
There is an Insights page that gives you a broader overview of your sleep for the past two weeks, with generic tips about going to sleep earlier to get a good night’s sleep, but none of it feels particularly useful.
In fact, the bigger issue during testing was the inconsistency of tracking, very rarely properly syncing with the app. Despite using the headset every night for sleep, I’ll only get one or two days of data to appear in the app per week – and that’s not enough to generate the insights into your sleep pattern.
Kokoon says it’s aware of the problem and says it’s only affecting a small number of users, but given it’s an issue I’ve seen across multiple samples of the Nightbuds, I’m not too convinced. A fix is on the way, but that has been the case for almost 5 months now, so prepare yourself for a potentially long wait for it to roll out.
The Kokoon Nightbuds were released in late 2021 following a successful Kickstarter campaign, and can be bought directly from Kokoon at a discounted £161/$174 at the time of writing, down from its £229.99/$249.99 RRP. It’s also available at retailers like Amazon in the UK and US, though not at a discounted price.
That’s in line with premium options like the Bose Sleepbuds II, but considering the competition can’t play sound from outside a dedicated app, I think Kokoon’s option justifies the price more than most.
The Kokoon Nightbuds are the most comprehensive sleep-focused earbuds on the market in 2022, even if the sleep tracking could do with some TLC – something I’m sure Kokoon is working on behind closed doors.
The compact, slimline design means they’re comfortable to wear even if you’re a side-sleeper, with eartips so secure they sometimes stay in your ear once you pull the buds out. You’ll likely slip them on and completely forget about them, as I have on most nights.
What makes the Kokoon Nightbuds really stand out is its connectivity; rather than offering a preset selection of sounds via its app that have to be synced with the buds ahead of bedtime, you can listen to whatever you like via Bluetooth connectivity, be it the relaxing sounds of the app, your favourite podcast or the late-night shipping weather forecasts.
If you’re someone that has to listen to background noise as they sleep, the Kokoon Nightbuds are among the best you’ll find in 2022.