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Despite claims that kids headphones limit volume to 85 decibels (the level the World Health Organization considers “safer”), up to one-third of the kids headphones we tested exceeded that level when measured with pink noise, allowing higher volumes—sometimes much higher. When we went further with our testing, we found that even more of these headphones—nearly half—could be pushed past the recommended 85 dB when measured with actual music. Additionally, many of the headphones we tested had design flaws that could allow a child to bypass their volume-reduction features easily. You can read about all of our testing methods in detail below. In fact, based on our findings, The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter) conducted its own investigation into kids headphones, regulations, and safety.
Upon finishing our analysis, we found several headphone models that we felt confident recommending—though even with those, protecting a child’s ears isn’t as simple as just handing over a pair. We believe that volume-limiting headphones are merely tools that can assist parents or caregivers in protecting a child’s hearing—they are not solutions in themselves. But our picks, used properly, should help to provide an added level of protection for your kids’ ears, and peace of mind for you.
Great, safe sound that grows with kids
All of our kid panelists loved the fit, sound, and Bluetooth capabilities. Parents will love that our testing found the BT2200’s volume limiting to be in safer ranges.
The Puro BT2200 is our pick because not only do these headphones remain within safe listening levels when used properly, but they were also the top pick of all our kid panelists, which means your little ones will be more likely to use them. The Bluetooth wireless connection—done correctly here—means that the Puro pair will play at the correct levels, whatever source the child uses it with. The wireless design is also handy for avoiding tangles, a favorite feature of our big-kid panelists. The size and weight fit kids from 2½ to 11 years comfortably, so you can buy these headphones once and they’ll grow with your child, and they are sturdy enough that they should last a long time, too. In fact, we long-term tested these headphones with several kids, including on cross-country flights, and all of our test pairs are still doing just fine. While a lot of other kids headphones are made of breakable cheap plastic, the BT2200 has a well-constructed aluminum frame. Plus, the headphones come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year warranty.
The Puro set connects easily over Bluetooth and has a simple on/off switch and volume controls. And with at least 18 hours of battery life, it offers a lot of listening time between charges. If it does run out of power, or if you just need a cord for use with a particular device, one is provided. As long as you plug the cord in correctly, the BT2200 will keep your child’s music at safer levels. (We recommend supervision when the child uses this pair corded.)
Puro also makes a version of these headphones with active noise cancelling, called the PuroQuiet, which we also like.
Onanoff BuddyPhones Explore
A corded pick for toddlers
Ages 2 through 4 will love the Onanoff pair’s fun colors and lightweight, comfy fit. But they’ll grow out of the small size, the sound quality isn’t as great as that of our pick, and passive volume limiting isn’t as safe as Bluetooth.
If you need a cord but still want to get your toddler a safer pair of headphones, the Onanoff BuddyPhones Explore is a great budget option. The smaller size and bright colors were a hit with our tiniest testers, and the build quality makes this set sturdy enough to take a reasonable beating and survive. The cord is detachable, minimizing a toddler’s risk of getting snagged (or snagging something else), the headphones fold up and come with a carrying bag for portability, and the included fun decals let kids personalize. However, in our tests the sound quality was nowhere near as good as that of our pick, and the small size means older kids won’t find the BuddyPhones Explore as comfortable as they grow. Plus, the volume reduction of wired headphones isn’t as predictable—if you use a device with a powerful amp, they can play louder than advertised.
JLab JBuddies Studio Wireless (2020)
A good choice for older kids
Big kids in our tests liked the soft padding, simple design and optional fabric-wrapped cable, with in-line remote/mic. But this pair doesn’t sound as good as our top pick, doesn’t have replaceable earpads, and doesn’t feel as sturdily built.
Bigger kids (4 years and up) have different requirements than little ones. So if you’re seeking a less expensive wireless option for an older child, the JLab JBuddies Studio Wireless 2020 is a great choice. In our tests, its soft padding and more “grown-up” colors were a hit with the 11-year-olds. The optional fabric-wrapped cable, with a single-button remote and mic, went over well, too—as did the ability to connect two pairs together with an included cord so two kiddos can share the same device. The volume limiter is located in the headphones themselves, so there is no chance of kids plugging in the cable incorrectly and accidentally defeating the volume-limiting function (and motivated kids won’t be able to thwart the limiting by substituting another cable, either). The controls are large and easy to use, and the 24-hour battery life should get most kids through several days worth of listening. JLab also makes a corded-only version of the Studio that costs $10 less, but our older panelists preferred the option to go wireless, especially as many phones no longer have headphone jacks. A two-year warranty will cover any manufacturing defects. However, this set isn’t as good as our top pick in sound quality, and doesn’t have the ability to replace the earpads.
Source: The NY Times
Keyword: The Best Kids Headphones