The headphone market has expanded consistently since the earliest home stereos. With the advent of portable music technology, pocket radios, cassette players, CDs, mp3s and eventually smart phones, the headphone user-base has expanded massively. For most of this history, the standard users were adults, and the products were designed with that in mind. The present-day proliferation headphones has opened the market to the untapped children’s demographic. More and more kids are using headphones to listen to music, watch movies or television and to play games on mobile devices.
Headphones for children must differ from standard adult headphones in a number of ways. First and foremost, children’s heads and ears are smaller than adults’. For over and-on ear headphones this means the band and cup have to be smaller to ensure a secure fit. For in-ear headphones, this means they have to be considerably smaller to fit into the children’s ear canals. Secondly, children have much more sensitive ears than adults. Safe listening levels for adults may be dangerous for a child’s developing ears. For this reason, children’s headphones must be limited in their volume output. Also, children are notoriously rough with their possessions, so a durable (or at least inexpensive)- pair of headphones is a must. Lastly, a very different style of headphone is appealing to children than adults. They much prefer flashy colors and designs, and they generally like things that look like toys.
With these criteria in mind here’s a couple of headphone recommendations…
Sony MDR-222KD Children’s Stereo Headphones
These Sony headphones are some of the least expensive you can find on the market. This pair is reminiscent of the sorts that came with old-school pocket cd players. Unlike the walkman pairs, their headband is much smallar than the standard, and is sized for children around age 8. The foam ear-pads are sufficiently comfortable, though the headband’s hard plastic is somewhat less than ideal. Fortunately, the band is adjustable and a little adjusting can fix any discomfort. The volume adjustment is apparent and helpful, this pair will definitely help save some kids’ hearing. As far as audio quality is concerned, these are at par for the price you pay; they sound about as good as their walkman-era ancestors. That being said, kids tend not to be nearly as picky as adult audiophiles, and the sound quality of the 222’s will definitely suit them well. All in all this is a good starter pair for a child, and with the option for pink cups I expect many children will wear them proudly and not want to take them off.
Etymotic ETY-Kids 5
Etymotic is an “engineering-driven research, development and manufacturing company” based in Illinois. They have been in the audio business since 1983 and are primarily interested in hearing loss prevention and care for those with hearing loss. It makes sense, therefore, that they developed this extra-safe pair of earphones for children. Etymotic’s unique background means the ETY-Kids 5 could very well be the most effectively sound-limited pair of earphones on the market. These headphones come in several different bright colors, which will appeal to children. These also come with several ear tip options that are easily interchangeable, for children with differently sized ears or different comfort preferences. As far as sound is concerned, these out-perform competitor’s children’s headphones, as most alternatives pay little attention to sound quality for their kids’ offerings. On these earphones, the sound comes through very clearly, particularly the highs. The mids are smooth and just right. The lows are a tad quiet but very clear. With it’s impressive price, effective loudness limiting and great design, these earphones are perfect for any kid who doesn’t mind in-ear. As an added bonus, these earphones come with a children’s book and CD for the kids to use the headphones on.