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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.

On the other hand, the JBuddies' headband is hinged above each earpiece, letting you fold the headphones up for easier backpack packing. JLab also includes a microfiber carrying bag that doesn't offer much protection, but keeps the four-foot cable from cluttering your child's backpack. And like the MyPhone, the JBuddies offers some degree of personalization: The gray/blue model I tested came with four pairs of adhesive-backed "3-D" stickers to cover the outside of the earpieces. One pair displays the JLab logo; the other three sets feature cute images of monkeys dancing, skateboarding, or exercising.

JLab says the JBuddies includes volume-limiting circuitry, but that circuitry was the least effective of the volume-limiting models I tested. With an iPhone set to maximum volume, the JBuddies frequently produced volume levels of over 90dBA, and occasionally reached 100dBA--dangerous levels, especially for extended listening. And thanks in part to the stiff earpads, the JBuddies offers little isolation from external noise, which means kids will be more likely to want to crank the volume to hear clearly. (The plastic ring around the right-hand earpiece is actually a volume attenuator. It's a neat feature that works well, though there's no way to lock it to reduce the maximum volume level.)

Perhaps because the volume-limiting circuitry isn't as effective as with the other models, treble isn't quite as muffled on the JBuddies as with some other models, and midrange is fairly clear. But there's still a bit of a "listening in a big garage" effect. I preferred the warmer sound of Griffin's MyPhones to the JBuddies' echo-ey audio, but my kids thought the audio was fine. If it weren't for the excessive volume levels, I would have given the JBuddies a higher rating.

Kid comments: "The ear pads are pretty good, and I like the monkey stickers on the side -- they're pretty cool. But the top kind of hurts my head, and they squeeze my ears too much."

Lil Gadgets Untangled Pro

The only wireless-capable model I tested, the $50 Untangled Pro Children's Wireless Bluetooth Headphones is available in black, white, pink, or light blue. It uses a metal headband covered in pleasantly padded faux leather. The on-ear earpads are covered in the same comfortable material and offer a small amount of noise isolation. The company says the Untangled Pro is for kids as young as 4; unlike some of the other models here, it won't fit adults, though it should fit tweens and some young teens. The company includes a microfiber carrying bag that offers little protection, but does keep the headphone together with its accessories.

The Untangled Pro can connect using a traditional headphone cable; a 3.5-foot cable, which plugs into the left earpiece, is included. However, the unique feature here is that the headphone can also connect wirelessly via Bluetooth; it was easy to pair the Untangled Pro with my iPhone, and the headphone quickly reconnected when turned on using the power button on the left earpiece. A controller on the same earpiece feels flimsy, but it lets you skip forward or back (by sliding the controller forward or back, respectively) or toggle play/pause (by pressing the controller). The company says a single battery charge, using the included USB cable, offers 10 hours of playback, though you can use the Untangled Pro in wired mode even if the battery is dead.


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