EletiofeBest Kids’ Headphones (2024): Volume-Limiting, Noise-Canceling, and More

Best Kids’ Headphones (2024): Volume-Limiting, Noise-Canceling, and More

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Rear view of child's head wearing headphones

Why Kid-Specific Headphones?

Or, Why Everyone Should Use Volume Limiting

Best Overall

Belkin Soundform Mini

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A Good First Pair

JLab Audio JBuddies Folding Headphones

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Upgrade Pick

Puro Sound Labs BT2200s Headphones

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As writers and testers in WIRED’s Gadget Lab, we spend all day immersed in personal technology of all kinds. It’s probably no surprise that if we work on a computer during the day and enjoy gaming in our downtime, our kids do, too. My colleague Adrienne So has a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old that attended school remotely and play video games; I (Simon Hill) have an 11- and a 14-year-old. Between us, we—er, well, our kids—have tested many of the kid headphones on the market.

These are our top picks, along with some advice—such as why you might want a pair of child-specific headphones. Don’t forget to check out our other parenting guides, such as the Best Kid Tablets and the Best Kid Podcasts. Looking for a pair for yourself? Check out our list of the Best Headphones.

Updated February 2024: We added headphones from Puro Sound Labs, Altec Lansing, iClever, and myFirst.

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  • Rear view of child's head wearing headphones

    Photograph: Rosley Majid/Getty Images

    Why Kid-Specific Headphones?

    Or, Why Everyone Should Use Volume Limiting

    Some of the criteria that we use for evaluating adult headphones simply don’t apply for small children (although it’s still worth taking a look). Sound quality matters a little less. We look for ease of use, different colors (Adrienne’s daughter won’t use anything that’s not pink), comfort, and durability.

    Most headphones that are explicitly for children have a feature called output limitation, which automatically reduces the volume to about 85 decibels. That is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s limit for workplace exposure and about what you’d hear in heavy traffic. However, that’s still really high!

    Even if your child’s headphones have volume output limitation, it’s a good idea to check on them every so often. To test whether the volume is too high I note whether my kid can hear me when I sit next to them and say, “Time to give your brother a turn.” If she can’t hear me, the volume needs to go down.

  • Photograph: Belkin

    Best Overall

    Belkin Soundform Mini

    These have an all-important option for Adrienne’s 8-year-old—they come in pink! They fit her really well, and I was shocked that the wired version costs only $25. You can spend a bit more for Bluetooth compatibility, although that’s just a bit more than I want to fiddle with for a 5-year-old. The build quality is sturdy, and the ear cups have padding.

    They also have 30 hours of battery life and are water-resistant. I can just barely squeeze my own head into these, and they sound pretty good, even if they are noticeably stiffer and less comfortable than some of our other picks. If you want a sturdy, affordable, durable pair at a price that’s not completely outrageous, this is probably your best bet.

    Ages: 2+. Volume limited to 85 decibels.

  • Photograph: JLab Audio

    A Good First Pair

    JLab Audio JBuddies Folding Headphones

    These were Adriennes’ kids’ first headphones, and unlike some of the other pairs here, they came with stickers. The ear cups are tiny—they’re designed to fit children ages 2 and up—but they fold for more convenient storage and portability. These are output-volume-limiting and made for wired use. Our pairs saw heavy use for about a year before they were destroyed.

    Ages: 2+. Volume limited to 85 decibels.

  • Photograph: Simon Hill

    Upgrade Pick

    Puro Sound Labs BT2200s Headphones

    By far the best-looking and best-sounding kids headphones I (Simon) have tested, the Puro Sound Labs BT2200s are also some of the most expensive. The metal cans come in a range of eye-catching colors with shiny chamfered edges. The physical buttons on the left are easy to use, and I particularly like the textured power button.

    My daughter says the over-ear pads are very comfortable (there are interchangeable on-ear pads). She paired these headphones with her phone (they support Bluetooth 5.1). They come with a 3.5 mm audio cable if you prefer to plug in or the battery runs down. We got the advertised 20 hours of battery life from a full charge, and they recharge via USB-C. There is also a built-in mic that works well for calls. While they don’t have ANC, they are quite effective at blocking out environmental noise. These headphones come with a handy zip-up case. Puro Labs also offers replacement earcups ($19) for these headphones to extend their life. There’s also an active noise-canceling version if they need the headphones for school.

    Ages: 2+. Volume limited to 85 decibels.

  • Photograph: Amazon

    An Ultra-Cheap Wired Pair

    Powmee M1 Kids Headphones

    When Adrienne’s now 7-year-old started remote learning, her public elementary school distributed Chromebooks and these wired headphones, which plug into a 3.5-mm headphone jack. The build quality is impressive, considering that they’re such an affordable pair. Both the band and the ear cups have plenty of comfortable padding, and they still work after several years of being chucked into a bin at the end of every remote class. They’re adjustable and come in several colors.

    However, my daughter started to say that they didn’t sound very good. My head does not fit into these headphones, so it was difficult to check her assessment, but that’s when we moved on to another pair.

    Ages: 3+. Not volume limited.

  • Photograph: Simon Hill

    Affordable Noise Cancellation

    Altec Lansing Kid Safe 2-in-2 ANC Headphones

    Both my kids found these headphones comfortable. My wife is a teacher and took them into school, and her class loved the look of these headphones. One student who tried them said, “It’s like my ears are being cuddled.” They are roomy enough for older kids and maybe even teens. Altec Lansing offers a wide range of color combos (we opted for the classy black and purple).

    I tried these myself, and the sound quality is surprisingly good. You can use them wirelessly with Bluetooth for up to 15 hours, but there’s also a detachable 3.5 mm audio cable you can plug in. It’s unusual to get active noise canceling at this price, and it works reasonably well to block background noise. The headphones feel durable and score an IPX4 rating, so you don’t need to worry about splashes and can wipe them clean with a cloth. The cans rotate and fold up neatly for stowing.

    Ages: 7+. Volume limited to 85 decibels.

  • Photograph: BuddyPhones

    Best for Travel

    BuddyPhones Cosmos+

    The Cosmos+ are a pair of full-size cans with active noise cancellation, Bluetooth, and volume limitation. The 3.5-mm audio port allows for plugging in, and we love that you can also use it to link two pairs of BuddyPhones and share audio (handy if your kids are sharing a tablet to watch a movie). The Cosmos+ are brightly colored, with cartoons of pirates and unicorns on the side, and fold into matching protective cases. The sound quality is fine, with at least some bass. Battery life is solid. We got around 20 hours between charges, and there’s a USB-C port for recharging. There’s also a detachable boom mic and study mode that enhances voices.

    The BuddyPhones Cosmos+ have three volume limitation modes, capping it at 75, 85, or 94 decibels. Unfortunately, the latter, designed for noisy flights and other travel scenarios, is too high, so we don’t recommend using it. That said, it’s fiddly to change, so it’s unlikely your kids will do it accidentally. While you can adjust the size a little, these might be too big for very young or small kids.  

    Ages 3+. Volume limited to 75, 85, or 94 decibels.

  • Photograph: Simon Hill

    Best Earbuds

    myFirst CareBuds

    Some kids may prefer earbuds to headphones, particularly if they see Mum and Dad using AirPods or something similar. The myFirst Carebuds look like Apple’s earbuds, but they come in two-tone blue or white and pink, and you get several ear tip sizes in the box for a comfy fit. They are easy to pair via Bluetooth 5.3, and they are volume limited. The sound quality is just okay, and there’s often some static noise, but my daughter loved the design, and they are much easier to take out with you than a set of headphones. They are IPX4 rated, so rain and small splashes are nothing to worry about.

    The manufacturer says they have ENC (Environmental Noise Cancellation), but we had no trouble hearing everything around us. This may be due to a safety feature called Smart Transparency Mode, which triggers when you move around. We got close to the suggested six hours of battery life, and the charging case offers an extra 25 hours and recharges in under two hours via USB-C. The touch controls work fairly well, but younger kids may accidentally pause what they are listening to.

    Ages: 3+. Volume limited to 85 decibels.

  • Photograph: Amazon

    Cheap Cat Ears

    iClever Cat Ear Kids Headphones (IC-HS25)

    Despite the light up cat ears, my daughter (now 11) felt these on-ear headphones were a bit too young for her, but my wife tried them with the 7- and 8-year-olds in one of her classes at school, and they were a big hit. They are very affordable and have a permanently attached 3.5-mm cable with no controls (this can be a positive for younger kids who may accidentally press buttons). Sadly, the sound quality is limited, and music sounds flat, but they are fine for audio books and videos.

    We also tested the iClever Kids Bluetooth Headphones (BTH-18) ($30). They are comfier, add Bluetooth as an option, and can be volume limited to 74, 85, or 94 decibels. You get a cable with them, and the cans light up, though the lights reduce the battery life of up to 43 hours. There are several models in iClever’s confusing lineup, so check the feature list before you buy to avoid disappointment. Both sets of headphones fold neatly into a compact shape.

    Ages: 3+. Volume limited to 85 decibels.

  • Photograph: Edifier

    A First Gaming Headset

    Edifier G2 II

    A good gaming headset is essential, but it can be tricky to find a reasonably affordable option for your kids. I would be lying if I said that my 9-year-old daughter’s obsession with cats had nothing to do with this pick, but Edifier’s G2 II headset also supports 7.1 surround sound and has a detachable noise-canceling microphone. She finds this headset comfortable for long gaming sessions, loves the light-up RGB cans, and chats away to her friends while playing on her Chromebook or my desktop PC.

    The cat ears come separately and must be stuck onto the headband, and one fell off and had to be reapplied. These headphones are not specifically for kids, so you have to drill them about safe volume levels as they are not limited to 85 decibels. They also have a USB-A plug, so can’t be used with an Xbox or PS5. Sadly, it looks as though only the black set without ears is currently available.

    ★ Alternative: We have a Razer Kraken Kitty gaming headset ($100) with a 3.5-mm jack that my daughter uses for playing on the Xbox. It’s a durable and comfy headset, though it’s a bit big and chunky for small heads.

    Ages: 5+. Neither pair is volume-limited.

  • Photograph: Razer

    Another Gaming Option

    Razer BlackShark V2 X

    While my eldest is not “in love” with this gaming headset, it has been a faithful PC gaming companion for a year now, and it is still going strong. It’s lightweight and comfortable, doesn’t get too warm, and has a volume knob and Mute Mic button on the left can. There’s also 7.1 surround sound that boosts immersion, plus decent noise cancellation, and this headset works with anything you can plug a 3.5-mm jack into, with a splitter to plug in the mic separately for PC.

    You have to install Razer’s software to get the surround sound working, though that’s less annoying if you have other Razer peripherals. We had some concerns about longevity, as this headset feels potentially fragile, but it has survived some rough handling. While you can undoubtedly do better, you will have to spend a lot more, and this has proven to be a solid buy for the entry-level asking price.

    Ages: 5+. Not volume limited.

  • Photograph: StoryPhones

    Headphones We Didn’t Like

    Dishonorable Mentions

    These headphones did not pass muster, for either us or our kids.

    StoryPhones for $100: While the idea of headphones that play stories based on “StoryShields” you attach is clever, enabling kids to switch stories easily, the StoryPhones are too expensive for the build and sound quality, extra stories are pricey, and the shields are easily lost.

Simon Hill has been writing about tech for more than a decade. He is a regular contributor to WIRED, but you can also find his work at Business Insider, Reviewed, TechRadar, Android Authority, USA Today, Digital Trends, and many other places. Before writing, he worked in games development. He lives… Read more

Adrienne So is a senior associate reviews editor for WIRED, where she reviews consumer technology. She graduated from the University of Virginia with bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish, and she previously worked as a freelance writer for Cool Hunting, Paste, Slate, and other publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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