The BuddyPhones Wave from Onanoff
Available in colors motifs that also feature characters (blue for
In Bluetooth mode, the headphones are controlled by a three-button panel, also located on the side of the right earcup. A central button controls playback, answering or ending calls, and when held for three seconds, powers the headphones down (a quick tap will power them up). There
To change volume modes, you press both the volume up and down buttons simultaneously to cycle through the color-coded modes. The LEDs turn light green for Toddler mode (maxing out at 75dB), dark green is Kids mode (85 dB, the maximum level allowed by JLab’s JBuddies Studio, for comparison), and blue is Travel mode (94dB). And when the colors sequence through purple, yellow, and pink, the headphones are in Study mode, which is 94dB but is intended for listening to vocals in educational videos, or for use with language apps—there’s an emphasis in this mode on crisp, clear audio that enhances vocal intelligibility.
The audio cable features an inline remote control and microphone. The remote has a single button, which allows for play/pause and call control. The 3.5mm connection is unique—it offers a secondary jack so that another pair of headphones can be plugged into it for two people to listen to the same sound source at the same time.
The headphones have an IP67 rating, which means they can withstand being submerged in up to a meter in water for roughly 30 minutes, and can definitely handle rain, splashes, and being rinsed off. They’re also protected against dust, so you definitely won’t have any issues with sand on the beach.
The built-in mic offers so-so intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded, but the audio was fuzzy and sounded far away—fairly typical for Bluetooth headphone mics, but not ideal if you’re hoping to have lots of clear phone communication with your child.
24-hour battery life is an estimate, not a given. It will depend largely on what listening mode is used. Generally speaking, the less volume, the longer the battery life.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the BuddyPhones Wave deliver a fairly thin-sounding bass response. Listening in Kids mode, there is occasional distortion on this track at top volumes. That’s not ideal, obviously, and in Travel mode, the distortion is worse. It seems that Onanoff isn’t employing much DSP (digital signal processing), which preserves dynamics, but can challenge drivers on tracks like this. Regardless, few headphone pairs we test (for adults) in this price range distort, so this is not a positive.
On the flip side of the equation, the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 headphones don’t distort, but they use so much DSP to prevent distortion and limit the volume level that audio sounds like it’s constantly dipping. In other words, when the goal of the product is to limit volume, you’re looking at a trade-off of some sort—it’s only likely to be an issue if your child is already an audiophile and sonic purist.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the overall sonic capabilities. The drums on this track sound pretty thin no matter what mode you listen in—these are not bass-forward headphones. Perhaps that’s what you’re hoping for as a parent, but it would be hard to characterize the audio performance here as sounding full. There is very little deep bass response, but through the mids and highs, there’s
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives plenty of high-mid presence, keeping its attack punchy. The sub-bass synth hits are more implied than delivered, but the track itself gets some decent overall low-mid presence—the lows are there, just not heavily boosted. The position and pressure of the earpads really matters—if they are not firmly pressing against the ear, the bass presence is drastically diminished, and it sounds like a vocals-only, treble-heavy affair.
The same can be said for orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary. The lower register instrumentation gets a fairly rich representation through the BuddyPhones Wave, but the spotlight belongs to the higher register brass, strings, and vocals—and if the earpads lack sufficient pressure, the track will sound thin and brittle.
If your child listens to a lot of bass-heavy music, the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 offer far more bass depth, but the sacrifice is DSP volume dips. Here, the trade-off caused by far less DSP is occasional distortion on tracks with seriously deep bass in the mix. So the BuddyPhones Wave sound decent, but not great. That may not matter as much to you as the volume