Most of the kids’ headphones we review look like, well, headphones made for kids, with child-friendly colors and patterns. If that’s not your child’s style, consider the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 headphones, which have a much more mature look…along with a hefty $99.99 price. They offer strong bass depth, solid volume limiting, wired and wireless playback, and the opportunity to look like a grown-up. For the best overall value and performance, we still recommend the $50 JBL JR300BT. But if your kid wants adult headphones rather than ones emblazoned with unicorns, and you’re concerned about limiting the volume, the BT2200 could be the right choice for your family.
Available in blue, gray, pink, purple, or white, the BT2200 headphones are designed for kids who probably need to be tricked into wearing “kids’ headphones.” That’s to say: There’s nothing about the design, other than the smaller dimensions, that resembles a product made for children. The earcups look like on-ears, but they’ll be circumaural (over-ear) on young children. The earpads and headband are the most cushioned we’ve tested in this category, and the earpads passively reduce ambient noise in the room. The cups fold down flat into the included zip-up protective case.
There’s a built-in mic and on-ear controls on the left earcup for volume, Bluetooth pairing, and power. There are no track navigation buttons, which is usually a negative, but some parents will likely appreciate limited control access for their kids. Often, we see track navigation combined on the same buttons as volume adjustment, and this often leads to accidentally skipping tracks—by kids and adults alike.
The headphones can also be used in wired mode, and a cable is included. The cable lacks an inline remote, which is usually a disadvantage, but not necessarily when it comes to kids’ headphones. Otherwise, the cable looks very stylish and cool—it’s a flat, linguini-style black cable—and it also limits the volume to 85dB, ensuring that whether your child is listening wirelessly or via cable, the audio never gets louder than it’s supposed to.
The built-in mic offers poor intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded, but it sounded faint and fuzzy, as if it was being transmitted from a faraway planet. Mics on Bluetooth headphones are rarely excellent, but this one is particularly weak, and not suited for a lot of phone communication.
Puro Sound Labs rates the BT2200’s battery life at roughly 18 hours, but your results will vary with your kid’s chosen volume levels. The limited volume helps in this regard, but this is one of the better estimates we’ve seen in this category.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the headphones deliver some impressive low-end, so if your kid likes music that has deep bass, the BT2200 will deliver. The best part is, since the volume tops out at 85dB, they never distort as they deliver a full-sounding low-frequency response.
On the flip side, the DSP (digital signal processing) can be overwhelming, limiting the volume in such a way that it sounds like it’s dipping, often. This is basically how things work in the kids’ headphones realm, however—if you’re going to limit volume, the DSP route will prevent distortion but the dynamics will be squashed, while the DSP-free route can often sound less full, and be prone to distortion. Thus, kid-friendly headphones are inherently built on some sort of sonic compromise, which is only really an issue if your child is a budding audiophile or purist.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the BT2200’s general sound signature. The drums on this track receive some added bass depth, giving them a rounded, heavy sound. This track has some solid dynamic range, and the higher register percussive hits end up triggering the DSP and making the sound dip notably. The DSP does ensure that the headphones can seem louder, but unfortunately, even Callahan’s baritone vocals can trigger it.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives a decent amount of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punchiness. The sub-bass synth hits also pack some serious depth—nothing that’s over the top, but the headphones do sound quite full. The vocals on this track can sound a little sibilant at times, and when there are heavy sounds in the mix, we hear the DSP trigger some dips again.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get a little added lower register presence. The spotlight still belongs primarily to the higher register brass, strings, and vocals. Again, at top volumes, we hear the DSP kick in, even on this track. It’s not always graceful, but it does its job.
The Puro Sound Labs BT2200 are the antithesis of typical kids’ headphones. If your child wants to look like an adult wearing grown-up headphones, these really do look like a pair for adults. The bass response is solid, and unlike most options we’ve tested, you also get a protective case for travel. So despite the DSP, this is a fine option, particularly if you’re into the look. When it comes to audio quality, however, JBL’s JR300BT headphones deliver higher-quality sound for half the price, making them our Editors’ Choice. If your child wants an in-ear option, meanwhile, check out the Etymotic ETY Kids 5.