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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.

My feelings are mixed when it comes to Bluetooth in a headphone for kids. On the one hand, not having a cable to tangle or trip over is fantastic for young kids, and you're also removing the part of the headphone--the cable--most likely to get damaged by rough handling. On the other hand, you have to keep the headphone charged; kids may not know how to troubleshoot when a Bluetooth-connection issue occurs; and in a classroom, kids aren't necessarily using the same iPad or computer each time, so Bluetooth may not even be a connection option. (Since the Untangled Pro also works with a cable, you could have your child use the headphone in wired mode in the classroom, and wireless mode at home.)

The bigger issue, in the context of this review, is that the Untangled Pro offers no volume-limiting features. When paired with an iPhone at full volume, the headphones consistently produced audio above 100dBA, a level at which the CDC recommends hearing protection for exposure of 15 minutes or longer.

Perhaps because of this lack of volume-limiting circuity, the Untangled Pro offers pretty good sound quality given its price and wireless features. Bass response is decent without being overbearing, and midrange frequencies are fairly balanced. Treble detail is a bit recessed, resulting in a bit of a "hollow" effect, but for kids headphones, the Untangled Pro sounds pretty good--it was one of the two best-sounding here, along with the Fuhu Nabi. As with the JBuddies, above, with good volume limiting, I would have given the Untangled Pro a higher rating.

(One other comment: Though most of the headband is nicely padded, that padding doesn't extend to the parts of the headband where the earpieces are mounted. On each side, this section is bare metal, and that metal is sharp in some places--I actually cut my finger when removing the Untangled Pro from the packaging.)

Kid comments: "The headband and earpads are super cushiony, but they don't block any sound." The third-grader really liked the soft padding, but didn't like how the small earpads felt on her ears and how much noise the earpads let in.

Fuhu Nabi Headphones

Fuhu's $100 Nabi Headphones (widely available for $50 to $60) is clearly inspired by style-focused headphones such as Beats by Dre and Soul by Ludacris. The headphone is huge, it's finished in glossy black and red, and it has lots of attractive, faux-leather padding. Even the two flat, red cables--each five feet long, one with an inline volume-attenuating slider, one without--are Beats inspired; and the Nabi ships in substantial, Beats-like packaging. The large earpieces feature cushy, over-ear earpads, and a large, rubber logo on each earpiece adds some fun. (The logos are removable; you can replace them with any of the company's Kinabis.)


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