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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.

The outer surface of each earpiece is quite plain, but that's because each package includes roughly 30 stickers: four round ones that each cover the entire outer surface of an earpiece, a sheet of 22 or 24 smaller ones (depending on the model color) that can be applied to the earpieces and headband, and three blanks (two round for covering the earpieces, and one long, thin one for the headband). Kids can decorate the blank stickers using three included Crayola fine-tip markers. Alas, the stickers and packaging are stuck in traditional gender roles: The blue model, which shows a boy on its packaging, includes stickers with flames, lightning bolts, skateboards, surfboards, guitars, and monsters; the pink model shows a girl on the packaging and includes stickers with hearts, flowers, and butterflies. The blue model includes red, blue, and green markers; the pink model includes pink, purple, and yellow. For such a 21st-century product, the design and packaging feels decidedly mid--20th-century.

That said, I can tell you that, before even trying them on, the MyPhones were the headphones my kids were most excited about, thanks to the decorative opportunities. (One of my two girls prefers blue over pink, so each was happy.)

Griffin claims the volume-limiting circuitry restricts volume levels to approximately 85dBA. Using the Ear3, I verified that when connected to my source iPhone at maximum volume, the audio output occasionally reached the "borderline safe" level of 85dBA, but the majority of the time, audio was actually in the 75dBA to 84dBA range, making the MyPhones the quietest headphone here. Sound isolation, however, is minimal, despite the large, soft earpads, which means that in loud environments, your kids may have trouble hearing headphone audio.

The MyPhones is one of the better-sounding headphones in this group, with good (if a bit too prominent) bass, midrange that doesn't sound too hollow or echoey, and okay treble response. Audio is unquestionably worse than with a decent set of non-volume-limited headphones, but this was one of the two headphones of the bunch (along with the Nabi, below) where I didn't feel like my kids were giving up decent audio quality for the sake of ear safety. For their part, my kids, who haven't yet been cursed with a desire for stellar sound, thought the MyPhones sounded great.

(Griffin Technology also sells the $20 KaZoo MyPhones, which appear to be identical except that each sports an animal theme--frog or penguin--rather than a DIY-design theme.)

Kid comments: The second-most comfortable. "I like the ear pads. They're very cushiony and comfy. Two things I don't like is that the headband is kind of hard, so it kind of hurts my head, and they don't go all the way around my ears, so they don't block out a lot of noise."


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