If you know a child under the age of 10, chances are they think they want a pair of Beats headphones. That said, most of us fall into the camp that believes spending $200 pair of headphones isn’t the best investment to make, regardless of if they’re the best kids headphones.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on April 6, 2020 to address independent investigations into volume limiter efficacy.
What you should know about kids headphones
Just like you, we want to keep your kids’ ears safe; each pair of headphones here features volume-limiting ear protection that caps volume at 85dB, 35dB below the human pain threshold. It’s cautioned that humans of all ages remain below the 85dB limit to preserve hearing, but this is particularly important for children who are still developing. If you want to know more, we discuss how your kids hear differently than you, and need different things in their headphones than you might. As far as wireless options are concerned, they’re fine.
Unfortunately, it’s possible to push many of the available kids headphones past their advertised 85dB volume limit. In general, Bluetooth headsets will be more likely to limit volume effectively, but this can be defeated either by user settings, or by using a non-wireless source.
Though kids may be irked by the 85-decibel limit, it benefits their developing ears in the long run.
Now that safety has been addressed, it’s worth noting that isn’t a wide array of options afforded to the headphones for kids market. Like the general consumer market, there are headphones for niche purposes, as you’ll see with the durable Puro Sound Labs JuniorJams, and headphones for the typical listener, like our best all-around pick: the JLab Buddies.
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The best kids headphones are the JLab JBuddies
These are for ages two and up, making the JLab JBuddies more accessible to kids than the Lego Road Repair Truck kit. Although the headphones cost twice as much as the Lego set, they don’t pose as a potential agony-inducing floor hazard. In fact, these—as are all of the listed headphones for kids—are outfitted with a volume limiter, which prevents the headphones from exceeding an 85dB output.
Kids of all ages will enjoy the eight different pairs of 3-D character stickers that can be mixed and matched. We know that you’re busy chauffeuring your kid from soccer to piano practice and the JBuddies make transport easy with the ability to fold up, halving their size to 5.5 x 4 inches. If some water or juice happens to spill onto the JBuddies during an abrupt stop, don’t worry. These are decked out with spill-resistant materials to protect any kid-prone vulnerabilities.
Aside from all of that, these are comfortable at just 6.4oz and expand or retract as your child’s noggin does. If anything happens to the JBuddies, just give JLab a call and the customer service team will help you so long as it’s within their jurisdiction of the one-year warranty. Between the volume limiter and the pinch-free hinges, JLab has your kids protected.
If your child is a budding music aficionado, invest in the Sony MDR-222KD
Maybe your kid is too sophisticated for 3-D character stickers or at least feels that he’s too old for stickers. In that case, check out the Sony MDR-222KD headphones for kids. These look like run-of-the-mill adult headphones but are still fitted for smaller craniums (8+). These are the lightest headphones on the list at an insanely light 1.76oz. Removable foam ear cushions are reminiscent of retro Walkman headphones, providing a comfortable fit.
Internally, the MDR-222KD headphones for kids are rocking 13.5mm drivers with neodymium magnets to provide a clear listening experience. Highs won’t be fatiguing but they’ll be reproduced more clearly than the previously discussed JBuddies. What’s more, these feature a volume-limiting resistor cable which, unlike the KidJamz, can’t be toggled on or off. Assisting in the volume limiter is a high impedance requirement that is cause for low volume outputs.
Despite the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Kids price tag, they’re a great-sounding investment for older kids.
Don’t want your kid tripping over wires? Pick up the Buddyphones Wave
When buying kids headphones, you want to know your kid’s ears will be protected. With the Buddyphones Wave, you can limit the loudness output by holding both volume buttons simultaneously. This alternates between a 75dB, 85dB, and 94dB limit, the latter of which we don’t recommend using as it could potentially damage your child’s hearing.
There are other kids headphones features here, too, like the pinch-free hinges and hypo-allergenic earpads. What’s more, these kids headphones are decked out with durability features, namely IP67 dust- and water-resistance, making them virtually impervious to child-induced destruction. If something does happen to cause the headphones to fail, Buddyphones has you covered with its two-year warranty.
Strapped for cash? Go with the MEE Audio KidJamz KJ25
For the price of a few gallons of gas, MEE Audio presents the KidJamz KJ25. As far as value is concerned, these are some of the best headphones for kids. According to MEE Audio these are ideal for kids ages 4-12; they also come in three color varieties: black, pink, and blue. Like all others listed, they include a built-in 85dB volume limiter to protect your youngins’ ears. If your children absolutely insist on hearing above the 85dB threshold—though we don’t recommend it—the volume limiter can be disabled with a switch on the ear cup.
MEE Audio KidJamz KJ25
At just 3.8oz, these won’t place too much pressure or weight on listeners’ ears. Plus they can be bent any-which-way and be no worse for the wear. This flexibility pairs well with the tangle-resistant cable that prevents kids from trapping themselves in a tangled mess. If the KidJamz happens to malfunction, MEE Audio supplies a one-year warranty that has the headphones for kids covered.
Look cool with the Puro Sound Labs BT2200
These feature an aluminum and protein leather build and weigh in at just six ounces. Plus, the BT2200 comes in four colorways, so any kid is likely to listen happily. Puro Sound Labs also includes a convenient carrying case to further protect the headphones while your kid is on the go. These are some of the best headphones for kids and provide up to 18 hours of playback time with 200 hours of standby. No matter how long the road trip, the headphones will keep your kids preoccupied, hopefully lessening the number of times that you hear, “Are we there yet?”
It should be pointed out that these are the only headphones on this list that have been independently confirmed to be able to keep the volume limited to 85dB in any connection. Most other headsets can be defeated either by choice, or using an analog source.
Puro Sound Labs BT 2200
These headphones are Bluetooth-enabled, which not only means that there are fewer potential tripping hazards within your child’s reach and allow for a 30-meter wireless connectivity range, but also that the internal components can handle the volume limiting more effectively than wired headsets. Unfortunately, the limit is set to two headphones, but any more than that would likely come to a wiry mess. According to the product description, these attenuate 82 percent of external noise, which means your kid is less likely to increase the volume to the 85dB cap. For just under $70, these headphones are on the pricier side, but they also provide excellent sound quality and a mature yet kid-friendly design.
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Why you should trust us
Each of our writers is dedicated to SoundGuys as a full-time job, allowing them to easily idientify the genuinely worthwhile products from the gimmicks. Individually, Adam, Chris, and Lily each have multiple years of experience when it comes to keeping up with the audio industry, and they each understand that audio is both an objective and subjective experience.
We want you and your kids, nieces, nephews, and so on to be happy with your purchase and to be able to listen safely with any of the listed best kids headphones—nothing more, nothing less. None of our writers may steer you toward one brand of kids headphones over the other. If you’re curious, feel free to click over to our ethics policy.
How we picked the best kids headphones
Although we’ve directly reviewed a vast array of products here at Sound Guys, we haven’t gotten around to all of them. After all, we’re only human and are inherently subjective. To counteract our unavoidable bias, we do quite a bit of research by perusing online forums, reading other reviews (PCMag, CNET, etc), conducting Twitter polls and more. Regarding headphones for kids, we know that safety comes first and foremost which is why we made sure that every option features volume-limiting ear protection at 85dB.
In short, this list is the running conclusions of thousands of hours of use from a growing list of contributors over many years. This is a living document, and it’s updated every time a new model knocks an existing one off their pedestal.