There aren’t many children in the audiophile headphone community. It seems that children simply don’t care about the finer points of high-end audio reproduction.
That’s a good thing in this case, because sound reproduction is the thing the two pairs of on-ear Kidz Gear headphones we received for review – the snappily named CH68KGXX wired and the BT68KGXX wireless – do least well.
However, I can’t stress enough how little this matters. Yes, in terms of the qualities that audiophiles look for in high end grown-up headphones, like balance, separation, and soundstage, these Kidz Gear headphones don’t fare particularly well against similarly priced competition.
But they sound absolutely fine. Dialogue and music across the range is perfectly audible through them, the stereo sound is effective, the bass is assertive, and your kid simply doesn’t care about anything else (or very much of the preceding for that matter).
What your kids care about is how stylish, audible, reliable, sturdy, and comfortable they are. In these respects, our Kidz Gear headphones fare much better. Let’s start with the looks.
Design and build
The wireless and wired models we tested had the same basic form factor: a light, basic, fairly cheap-feeling split-design headband and a pair of semi-spherical on-ear cups that swivel in their hinged holders.
On the outside of each ear cup on the wired version there’s a clear plastic disc with the Kidz Gear logo on it, while on the wireless version there are music playback and call controls on the right cup, along with a slightly protruding section to accommodate the optional headphone jack and the cable for the mic.
The cheap overall impression sadly extends to the rubber cover for the micro USB charging port on the wireless version, which doesn’t fit very well and tends to come loose.
It’s a slightly unusual form factor for a pair of kids’ headphones. Most go for fairly simply designs, with basic (often well-cushioned) headbands and fixed cups, perhaps on the assumption that intricate moving parts tend not to do well in the company of children.
But Kidz Gear has taken a different tack than most, producing headphones that could be mistaken in silhouette for a pair of AKGs. In that sense they’re a bit of a mixed bag in terms of design, with a refreshingly grown-up form factor undermined slightly by garish colours and a cheap look.
Comfort and safety
The advantage of the swivelling ear cups and adjustable headband on these Kidz Gear headphones is that they clamp onto your child’s head firmly and make a good seal over the ears.
Meanwhile the plastic of the headband has a good balance of flex and rigidity, ensuring that the headphones don’t clamp too tightly or become painful over extended periods (at least, they didn’t have this effect on my two daughters, aged 4 and 6). All in all, these junior cans are robust and comfy.
Headphones made for children tend to have volume limiters, to protect their little eardrums. The wired version of our Kidz Gear headphones have such a limiter, but in the form of an extra (and fairly easy to lose) cable extension.
There’s also a volume control slider on the cable, which is stiff enough to ensure that it won’t be accidentally jogged to deafening levels.
However, the wireless version has no volume limiter. There are volume controls on the ear cup, which you can forbid your child from adjusting, and otherwise you can ensure that the volume of the input device isn’t too high and generally trust your child not to subject herself to aural harm, but if safety is your number one concern then you might want to give the wireless model a miss, when your child is very young at least.
There’s no doubt that these Kidz Gear headphones aren’t quite as safe as other children’s headphones I’ve bought in terms of volume control, but I don’t think that’s a particularly bad thing.
The fact is, the place your children are most likely to use headphones is in a moving vehicle, whether that’s your car, a train, a plane, or whatever. Unfortunately, this means that children’s headphones are frequently too quiet to actually compete with the white noise of motorised transport – particularly when coupled with the headphone volume-limiters in devices like the Tesco Hudl.
For that reason, there’s a definite and, for me anyway, longed-for advantage to Kidz Gear’s slightly more relaxed approach to volume limitation. Whether that outweighs the risk of your unsupervised child exposing herself to uncomfortably loud sound for theoretically unsafe periods is a matter of personal choice.
Features and functionality
Naturally, there’s a lot more to say about the wireless Kidz Gear headphones than the wired ones in this department. The wired ones have the aforementioned volume limiting cable extension and the inline volume control, both of which work fine, and that’s all there is to say about those.
The right ear cup of the the wireless model has… an on/off switch, a 3.5mm jack port for wired listening and another one for the included mic to plug into (presumably for Skype calls with Grandma rather than late night Battlefield 1 sessions), volume controls, next/previous track buttons, and a play/pause button that doubles as a phone controller. The left cup, meanwhile, has a micro USB input for charging.
Bluetooth pairing is straightforward and works pretty seamlessly. To pair with a device you simply hold down on the play/pause button until a red light starts flashing and the headphones play a beeping sound, signifying that they’ve entered pairing mode.
The stated battery life is 10 hours, which isn’t spectacular by wireless headphone standards but perfectly acceptable for around £25. It should get you through most long haul flights on a single charge, and when the juice runs out you can use them as a wired set with the provided 3.5mm cable.
These Kidz Gear headphones don’t look particularly elegant, thanks to their crayon colours and cheap-looking moulded plastic composition, and nervous parents may balk at their comparatively relaxed approach to volume limitation, but if you can look past these issues you’ll discover an extremely comfortable, robust, and functional set of cans for the money.
Many of the issues that blight so many children’s headphones, such as insufficient clamping, poor one-size-fits-all form factor, and insufficient volume, are absent here, making them a far more practical choice than most.
Whether you should go for the wired or wireless variety is a matter of preference, and perhaps the age of your child. If volume limitation really matters to you, and you don’t really want yet another electronic device to keep charged, then you should go for the wired ones.
The wireless version would probably suit an older child who has the wherewithal to work the ear cup controls, remind you to keep the things charged, and adjust the volume to sensible levels under her own steam.
Practical and well priced
If you can look past the faults you’ll be getting a practical and comfortable set of headphones at a very reasonable price