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Small heads, safe ears: The best headphones for kids

Dan Frakes | Aug. 25, 2014
These days, kids need headphones, too. We looked at a slew of cans designed to fit your child's head while protecting their hearing.

Kid comments: The most comfortable of the bunch. "I really like them because they block out sound, I like how they go all the way around my ears, and they're really comfortable. The only thing that I don't like about them is that they're kind of heavy." Says weight makes them slip a tiny bit when leaning forward. Still: "Can I keep them?"

The bottom line

None of these kid-focused models offers outstanding sound quality, but I suspect that few people shopping for headphones for young kids would count "great sound" among their primary buying criteria. Most parents likely want a reasonable price, something that can take a decent amount of abuse without breaking, and--I hope--some degree of protection for their child's hearing. If the tradeoff is mediocre sound quality, so be it.

If you're simply looking for the headphones that will survive the most abuse, MarBlue's HeadFoams is the clear winner. In fact, it may be the most durable headphone I've ever used. However, it fits only younger kids, and its sound quality is the worst of the models I tested.

For the best all-around value, Griffin Technology's MyPhones is my pick. It's inexpensive, it fits a wide range of head sizes, your kids will like decorating it, and sound quality is adequate for classroom use. Its plastic-and-thin-metal design doesn't feel exceptionally sturdy, but it should be able to handle a school year's worth of use, and it has the lowest maximum volume of the models here, making it the safest option.

If your child will be listening in noisy environments, Fuhi's Nabi is my recommendation, thanks to excellent noise isolation. You just need to be diligent about keeping the source volume a bit below the maximum, as the Nabi's volume-limiting feature isn't quite as effective as it should be. The Nabi is also a solid family headphone: It offers enough sound isolation for kids to use it in the car or on some planes; sound quality is closer to that of "real" headphones; and the flexible fit means both kids and adults can use it. For travel, you'd have to jump up to a (much more expensive) set of quality noise-canceling headphones to best the Nabi.

Finally, Lil Gadgets' Untangled Pro wouldn't be one of my top picks for classroom use, but if you're willing to set a maximum volume level on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, it's a nice wireless option for kids.

 

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