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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.

Each earpiece folds into the headband slightly, though not enough to significantly reduce the size of the headphone for travel. The all-plastic design feels a bit flimsy, but I subjected the headband to a good amount of reasonable twisting and bending, and it handled that limited abuse just fine.

Oddly, instead of incorporating volume-limiting circuitry into the headphone itself, Kidz Gear provides it via a 7-inch adapter cable that you connect in between your volume source and the KidzControl's headphone cable. (The KidzControl's built-in cable also feature an inline, rotary-dial volume controller.) With the adapter in place, the headphones were indeed restricted to safe levels, with volume only occasionally reaching 85dBA with iPhone volume at the max. Without the adapter, sound levels regularly passed 90dBA, sometimes reaching as high as 100dBA.

For a headphone aimed at children, I find the use of a separate adapter to be puzzling. If your child loses the adapter--or purposely removes it to get louder volume levels--you've lost the ear safety provided by the volume-limited circuitry.

The KidzControl produces audio that's roughly on a par with the Sony model, above, just with different limitations: The KidzControl sounds more muffled, with less treble detail and more midrange emphasis, similar to that of the JBuddies, below. Bass response is meager, and midrange sounds a bit hollow and echoey. Interestingly, I didn't hear much difference in sound quality between the volume-limiting and non-limiting configurations--just a bit more muffling in the treble with the adapter in place.

Kidz Gear also offers a couple useful accessories: a $6 headphone splitter that lets two kids listen to the same source, and a $6, lightly padded carrying bag.

Kid comments: The least comfortable of the bunch. "The earpads are soft, but the headphones are hard to put on because the earpieces flip around a lot. And the top hurts my head because it's really hard -- it felt like something was digging into the top of my head." Doesn't block any sound.

Griffin Technology Crayola MyPhones

Thanks to big earpieces, available in blue or dark-pink, Griffin's $25 Crayola MyPhones is one of the larger models I tested--on the youngest of kids, the faux-leather earpads may even surround the ears, rather than sit on them. The pea-green headband is made of hard plastic with no padding, but the headphones are light enough overall (about five ounces) that neither of my kids complained about comfort, even after a couple hours watching a movie.

Each earpiece is connected to the headband by thin, metal rails--the only metal on the headphone--and tilts up and down a few degrees for a better fit. Though the overall appearance is decidedly kid focused, and the headphone fits children as young as two or three years old, the earpieces extend enough that many adults will be able to wear the headphones, as well. (Your kids will likely outgrow the MyPhones' design before outgrowing the headphones themselves.) The headphone cable is four feet long.


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