JBL has long excelled in the headphone and speaker markets, so it’s no surprise that the company’s take on kids’ headphones, the $49.95 JR300BT, are also winners. The world of kid-friendly headphones is far from perfect, but JBL’s offer some of the best sound we’ve heard in testing without exceeding volume limits. Below 85dB, the wireless JR300BT headphones still output rich bass depth paired with crisp, clear highs. It’s a sculpted but balanced sound signature that’s full and powerful despite the volume limiter. Add to that a comfortable fit, and the JR300BT snag our Editors’ Choice award for kids’ headphones.
Available in aqua/orange/purple, blue/orange, or pink, the supra-aural (on-ear) JR300BT headphones have a playful, cool design no matter which model you select. The earpads and headband are well-cushioned for a comfortable fit. The earcups are large enough that on smaller kids, they might fit more like over-ears, but for most kids, they’ll fit like on-ears. A detented headband allows for accurate ear-to-ear adjustments, ensuring a secure, balanced fit.
The right earcup’s outer panel houses a power button and a Bluetooth pairing button. Perhaps in the name of simplicity, JBL loaded up the power button with all of the extra functions—tapping it various times or holding it in place controls playback and call management, so beware of the distinct possibility that in attempting to answer or end a call or play or pause music, a child might accidentally power down the headphones. There are no track navigation controls and, oddly, no volume controls—that must be controlled on the connected phone (or other audio device). The right earcup also houses a micro USB port for the included orange charging cable.
Behind cloth grilles labeled L and R inside the earpads, JBL employs a 32mm driver in each ear. The headphones top out at 85dB to preserve hearing—a figure that is a tad more reliable in the Bluetooth realm than it is in the wired realm, where the headphone output will be more dependent on the paired device’s internal amplifier. Thus, while it may seem like an oversight that JBL doesn’t include an audio cable option for wired listening, it’s actually in the name of ensuring the 85dB volume limit is accurate. (JBL also offers the wired JBL JR300, which we did not test.)
As for volume, keep in mind you can usually set limits in the settings menu of your child’s audio device (and even have it passcode protected). The built-in limitation here is an extra measure to ensure there aren’t peaks that sneak past the 85dB limit, since you presumably aren’t going to measure and monitor the levels.
The built-in mic offers weak intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded, but the mic sounds far away and the audio fuzzy. This, however, is par for the course with Bluetooth headphone mics—even those for adult headphones.
In addition to the aforementioned charging cable, the headphones comes with two pages of colorful stickers so kids can personalize the design. There are multiple full alphabets and number sets, as well as some emoji-like designs.
JBL estimates battery life to be roughly 12 hours, but even with the limited volume, listening levels will still impact overall playback time.
The headphones do an excellent job of limiting the volume—they don’t get loud, but they deliver a solid sense of bass depth at their maximum 85dB output. Unfortunately, the bass depth suffers a bit at top volumes on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” which distorted when played at maximum volumes. At more modest levels, the bass sounds full and the distortion disappears, but it seems unlikely most kids will choose to listen at these lower levels. However, if your child isn’t listening to a lot of tracks with seriously deep bass, this may not be an issue.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the JR300BT’s general sound signature. At top volumes, the bass here sounds excellent—the drums are full and strong without overpowering the mix, and Callahan’s baritone vocals are rich in the low-mids. This is all balanced out by a solid high-mid/high-frequency presence, which allows the guitar strums and the higher register percussive hits to retain a bright presence.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough in the high-mids to retain its punchy presence, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with a strong sense of depth. The bass sounds solid here, and unlike The Knife track, this one doesn’t distort at top volumes. The vocal performances are delivered cleanly and crisply, without much added sibilance. We hear a bit more of the high-frequency vinyl crackle and hiss than we might normally, which means there’s some sculpting going on, and not just in the lows.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get some added bass presence, pushing the lower register instrumentation forward in the mix, but the higher register brass, strings, and vocals still retain their crisp, prominent presence.
Aside from some distortion on one song at maximum volume, JBL’s JR300BT headphones deliver a very good listening experience. The volume limiter works, the fit is secure and exceptionally comfortable over long listening sessions (even for some adult heads), and the design is fun and playful. We also like the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 headphones, but they’re more expensive. For far less, the wireless JLab JBuddies Studio Bluetooth and the wired Mee Audio KidJamz are solid budget choices. But none of these models sound quite as good as the JR300BT, which makes them our Editors’ Choice.