The Best Kids Headphones
If you have a kid in your life who needs a pair of headphones, the Puro BT2200 is the best option to protect growing ears. After putting in around 80 hours of research—including speaking to experts at the WHO, CDC, and NIDCD, seriously considering more than 50 models of kids headphones, and testing and measuring the top 37 contenders for 63 hours across several days—we’re confident that the Puro BT2200 is the best choice. The Puro headphones not only met our volume-limiting test standards but also were the only pair liked by both the toddlers and the big kids who helped us test. They support Bluetooth (which can provide more effective volume limiting than traditional headphone tech), but they also work corded (so you can use them with lots of devices), and they sound good enough for adults to use, too.
Despite claims that kids headphones limit volume to 85 decibels (the level the World Health Organization considers “safer”), up to one-third of the kids headphones we tested exceeded that level when measured with pink noise, allowing higher volumes—sometimes much higher. When we went further with our testing, we found that even more of these headphones—nearly half—could be pushed past the recommended 85 dB when measured with actual music. Additionally, many of the headphones we tested had design flaws that could allow a child to bypass their volume-reduction features easily. You can read about all of our testing methods in detail below. In fact, based on our findings, The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter) conducted its own investigation into kids headphones, regulations, and safety.
Upon finishing our analysis, we found several headphone models that we felt confident recommending—though even with those, protecting a child’s ears isn’t as simple as just handing over a pair. We believe that volume-limiting headphones are merely tools that can assist parents or caregivers in protecting a child’s hearing—they are not solutions in themselves. But our picks, used properly, should help to provide an added level of protection for your kids’ ears, and peace of mind for you.
The Puro BT2200 is our pick because not only do these headphones remain within safe listening levels when used properly, but they were also the top pick of all our kid panelists, which means your little ones will be more likely to use them. The Bluetooth wireless connection—done correctly here—means that the Puro pair will play at the correct levels, whatever source the child uses it with. The wireless design is also handy for avoiding tangles, a favorite feature of our big-kid panelists. The size and weight fit kids from 2½ to 11 years comfortably, so you can buy these headphones once and they’ll grow with your child, and they are sturdy enough that they should last a long time, too. In fact, we long-term tested these headphones with several kids, including on cross-country flights, and all of our test pairs are still doing just fine. While a lot of other kids headphones are made of breakable cheap plastic, the BT2200 has a well-constructed aluminum frame. Plus, the headphones come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year warranty.
The Puro set connects easily over Bluetooth and has a simple on/off switch and volume controls. And with at least 18 hours of battery life, it offers a lot of listening time between charges. If it does run out of power, or if you just need a cord for use with a particular device, one is provided. As long as you plug the cord in correctly, the BT2200 will keep your child’s music at safer levels. (We recommend supervision when the child uses this pair corded.)
Puro also makes a version of these headphones with active noise cancelling: The PuroQuiet headphones fit just as well, are just as sturdy, and measure acceptably within safe limits. The noise cancelling is actually effective, especially for airplane noise. (You can see more in the chart below.) However, we concluded that the original $200 asking price was more than most families would be willing to spend for kids headphones. If you travel a ton and don’t mind paying more, the PuroQuiet headphones are the only active noise-cancelling headphones for kids that we are aware of, and we are comfortable recommending them for those who can afford to spend the extra cash.