BuddyPhones have been some of the best kids headphones for a long time, and for good reason. Because headphones designed with children in mind need to be more than just smaller in size, but also need to have restrictions set for the max volume. BuddyPhones kids headphones do both of these things very well and go beyond the basics for kids headphones to offer children a wide range of options.
This year the company is expanding its lineup with the BuddyPhones+ models with three new choices — Explore+, Play+, and Cosmos+. These headphones are optimized for different uses, but all are designed to give kids a safe listening experience. With more and more children spending time on computers for entertainment and education, these new headphones are here to help make those activities both fun and safe. So let's get into how well they accomplish those goals.
BuddyPhones+: Explore+, Play+, and Cosmo+
Bottom line: BuddyPhones' new line of kids headphones are an excellent addition to a great lineup. With new designs, build materials, and features the Play+ and Cosmos+ both offer Study Mode to enhance online learning. You'll also get a premium fit and feel on the Cosmos+ that pairs nicely with the useful active noise canceling feature.
- Very comfortable, durable materials
- Study Mode on the Play+ and Cosmos+ is a unique feature
- Active noise canceling on the Cosmos+ is really good
- Can connect headphones to share audio
- Adjustable max volume on the Play+ and Cosmos+
- Explore+ and Play+ earcups may be too small for older kids
- Cosmos+ earcups could be too large for younger kids
- Play+ and Cosmos+ can't share audio without Bluetooth due to included cable
BuddyPhones+: Price and availability
The BuddyPhones+ headphones were announced on April 27, 2021, with the Explore+ and Play+ available for sale the same day. Pricing for the Explore+ is $29.99, and the Play+ is $49.99, which was the launch price as well. The Cosmos+ launched on August 6, 2021, for $99.99. All of the headphones are available on the BuddyPhones website along with Amazon. These headphones are available in Cool Blue, Rose Pink, Sun Yellow, Grey Matter, Deep Blue, and Snow White.
BuddyPhones+: What's good
The Cosmos+ is the top-of-the-line option when it comes to the BuddyPhones+ offerings. These headphones will make any kid happy — even some adults, from the design to the feature set. But this isn't to say that the Explore+ and Play+ aren't great options too. All of these headphones were thoughtfully designed to ensure that they offer best-in-class experiences for kids.
To do this, the company behind BuddyPhones, ONANOFF, has taken everything that it has learned from its years of making kid's headphones and gave it a bump in nearly all areas. The materials used, the fun colors, and comfortable ear pads, all come together to make excellent headphones that my kids couldn't have been happier to help me test.
|Adjustable & Foldable||✔️||✔️||✔️|
|Active Noise Cancellation||❌||❌||✔️|
|Water and Dust resistance||❌||❌||❌|
|Connectivity||Wired 3.5mm||Wired 3.5mm
All of the BuddyPhones+ headphones support the World Health Organization's recommended 85dB of max volume, with the Play+ and Cosmos+ offering a 75dB and 94dB option. The lower decibel volume is great for very young children to further protect their hearing. At the same time, the higher 94dB max volume may be necessary for louder environments like moving cars or airplanes.
Another feature that all of these headphones offer is the ability to share audio between headphones. This comes in particularly handy when multiple kids want to watch the same video at the same time. For example, it worked great when my family went on a long road trip, and my boys were able to play a movie on my oldest son's Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet to enjoy together — when they could agree on a movie that is.
Sharing audio is simple because all BuddyPhones+ headphones have a 3.5mm headphone jack and can be linked using the included cable. While sharing with the Explore+ is easier because of the included cable's design, it is possible to share audio between all three of these headphones. More on the drawback later on.
One of the features that have been included with the BuddyPhones+ headphones is microphones with video calls and online learning in mind. Since school isn't quite in session yet for my kids, they had a lot of fun chatting from different rooms in the house. The Explore+ has a microphone built into the audio cable, like those usually found on corded earbuds. The Play+ and Cosmos+ offer microphones built into the headphones themselves, and the Cosmos+ also includes a beam mic to plug into the USB-C port for even better voice pickup.
In terms of design, Explore+ and Play+ share a lot of DNA. Each has padded fabric with a piece of hypoallergenic PU leather inside, where the headband portion rests on top of the head. The padding is nice a squishy, as are the faux leather earpads. Of all the BuddyPhones+ headphones, the Explore+ is the lightest of the bunch since the other two choices have batteries in them for wireless playback.
The Cosmos+ features an even more padded headband with a stitched hypoallergenic faux leather material on the headband's underside. As for the earcups, they are more padded and larger on the Cosmos+. While these headphones offer some articulation with the earcups, the Cosmos+ have the widest range of motion, with the Explore+ offering the least.
Because these headphones are likely to get tossed around and put into backpacks, they need to be durable. They have survived my kids putting them through all sorts of trials, from trying to share one set of headphones to dropping them on the floor; these headphones are still going strong. The Cosmos+ comes with a really nice zippered hard-sided case to keep them in tip-top shape. All of these headphones are also collapsible and come with a small travel bag for storage.
My kids loved being able to mix and match the included stickers with the Explore+ and Play+ headphones. Each color comes with themed stickers to decorate the outside of the earcups, so your child can customize their new headphones. The Cosmos+ doesn't come with stickers, and the outside of the earcups have "In Mold Design" to show off a really detailed and vibrant art. The "mad scientist," as my kids liked to call it on the side of Grey Matter Cosmos+ headphones, looks great.
All three of the BuddyPhones+ headphones have great build quality and are very comfortable to wear — I may take the Cosmos+ for myself.
The new Study Mode on the Play+ and Cosmos+ is activated with a simple slider switch. This mode is designed to isolate voices from other sounds passing through the audio that is being listened to. The idea is to allow kids to focus on what is being said while watching lessons better. Again, since my kids haven't started classes yet, we tested it with some YouTube videos, and both my kids and I did notice a difference. It is unclear how effective it would be in practice, but there was a noticeable difference in the vocals when Study Mode is enabled.
An extra feature that is only on the Cosmos+ is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). This feature is usually found on the best noise-canceling headphones, not focused on kids. When connected via Bluetooth, you can press a button on the left earcup to enable the feature, and while the earpads offer great passive noise cancellation — the ANC really takes blocking outside noises up a notch.
I tested how well the ANC was while sitting at my desk with a fan blowing and my window AC unit going, and while the active noise cancelation didn't completely obscure those sounds, it made a big difference. Likewise, when listening to music, the ambient sounds coming from around me were largely unnoticeable. Sure, the Cosmos+ aren't going to have better ANC than the $350 Sony WH-1000XM4s, but these are pretty darn good — and only $100.
Audio quality with the Explore+ and Play+ is OK. For most little ones using them to watch a movie on their favorite Android kids tablet, playing a game, or doing some online learning, it's perfectly fine. Although, Play+ does have a little better overall sound than the Explore+. The Cosmos+, on the other hand, has surprisingly good sound quality considering these are volume-limiting headphones for children. There is a decent range between the highs and lows. Combine that with ANC, and I think plenty of grown-ups would be happy with these headphones.
Battery life on the Play+ and Cosmos+ is pretty solid as well. You'll get up to 20hrs on the Play+ and 24hrs on the Cosmos+ with ANC. The number for the Cosmos+ didn't quite reach 24hrs between charges when using them exclusively with active noise canceling enabled, but it was still 20-plus hours. When it's time to recharge, both of these headphones use USB-C to power up.
BuddyPhones+: What's not good
As a collection, the BuddyPhones+ check all of the boxes for what a parent or child would want from kids' headphones. Even when looking at each device on its own, there's very little to dislike.
In terms of comfort, the Explore+ and Play+ may not work for older kids as the earcups are a bit on the small side. They are an on-ear design, but even still, these may not have large enough earcups. On the flip side, the Cosmos+ is an over-ear design that could be too big for smaller children's ears. My 8 year old can use all three options just fine, but the Cosmos+ are almost too big for my 5 year old.
As for operation, the Explore+ is a simple plug-and-play since it isn't a Bluetooth device, so it's relatively easy. The Play+ and Cosmos+ can operate the same way, but the controls can be tricky when using them wirelessly — primarily how to change the max volume level.
To do this, you have to press and hold the volume up and down buttons simultaneously. It's a quick press of the two on the Play+ and a hold for a couple of seconds on the Cosmos+. While this is likely to lessen the chance that a young child accidentally increases the max volume beyond what the parent wants, there's no visual indicator on the Cosmos+ when changing levels. So, unless you're wearing the headphones along with pressing and holding the volume buttons, you won't know what level it's set to.
My only other real issue is the audio sharing. The cable with the Explore+ has dual 3.5mm plugs, but one end also has a port to plug in another cable. This makes sharing audio super simple and can be done without battery power in the headphones. The Play+ and Explore+ only come with a dual 3.5mm cable.
This means to use the Buddy Link audio sharing, one of the headphones has to be paired wirelessly to the audio source then connect another headphone via the cable to the 3.55mm port on the paired headset.
BuddyPhones+: Explore+ vs. Play+ vs. Cosmo+
These headphones offer something for kids of all ages and audio needs. For kids in the eight and up range, or kids that can get overstimulated and benefit from active noise canceling, the Cosmos+ are as good as it gets. The headphones are very comfortable, offer great sound quality, excellent ANC, and the Study Mode can help focus while watching online learning videos. The adjustable max volume settings can also help the Cosmos+ work in more situations too.
If your child doesn't need the ANC, is a little younger, or you want to save a few bucks, the Play+ is a great alternative. You get all of the same technical features found on the Cosmos+ except for the ANC. The sound quality isn't as good as the Cosmos+, mainly due to the Play+ using an on-ear design rather than over-ear. But these will fit smaller users a bit better because of this.
The Explore+ may be the base model of the BuddyPhones+ lineup, but they are still a great pair of entry-level headphones. There's no adjustable max volume, Study Mode, or wireless playback, but the 85dB volume limit is a safe middle ground for kids. The Explore+ is also very durable and offers a good fit for younger users. These also come with an audio cable with a built-in 3.5mm for easy audio sharing. In contrast, the Play+ and Cosmos+ require one device to be paired via Bluetooth to share audio.
When looking at competing options in the kids' headphone space — there are lots. However, one of the brands that offer a similar range of products is Puro. The PuroBasic is a comparable option to the Explore+ in both features and price. It has the same 85dB maximum volume, a 3.5mm wired connection with a built-in microphone, padded headband, and earcups. However, it cannot share audio, only comes in four colors, and doesn't include stickers for customization.
The Puro JuniorJams are the choice when comparing the Play+ headphones. These headphones offer up to 22hrs of wireless playback but can also be connected via 3.5mm cable and a maximum volume of 85dB. Unlike the PuroBasic, the JuniorJams can connect up to two other headphones to share the audio, whereas the Play+ can connect up to four. The JuniorJams are more expensive than the Play+ headphones and don't offer variable max volume or Study Mode — they also come in more color choices.
When comparing the Cosmos+, the closest in features and price are the PuroQuiet headphones. For $120, the PuroQuiet headphones deliver ANC and a peak volume of 85dB. Similar to the JuniorJams, the PuroQuiet can shart audio with up to two other headphones — the Cosmos+ can share with up to four. However, the PuroQuiet does boast up to 35 hours of non-ANC playback and 23 with ANC active. The Cosmos+ also offers variable max volume, more color options, and Study Mode — for less.
BuddyPhones+: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You want a range of excellent options in headphones for kids.
- You want lots of color choices and customization choices in the headphones.
- You want variable maximum volume settings.
- You want a mode that filters out sounds to allow focus on the voices.
You shouldn't buy this if ...
- You want wired audio sharing out of the box.
- You need visible indication as to the max volume level.
The BuddyPhones+ headphones are a complete line of kid's audio products. The features in the Explore+ may not wow anyone, but still, a lot of color and customization options and audio sharing are great to see at this price. The Play+ brings wireless connectivity, variable max volume options, and the helpful Study Mode. Combining those features and adding in top-notch design and active noise canceling, the Cosmos+ is the pinnacle of kid's headphones.
However, missing out on the ability to connect headphones together without Bluetooth right out of the box is a letdown for the Play+ and Cosmos+. The other downer is not knowing the max volume level setting when making changes without putting the Cosmos+ on. But, outside of these two small nit-picky things, these are three of the best kids' headphones around.
My kids have been using a very basic set of kids' headphones for a couple of years now. But, unfortunately, while those did the job of offering comfortable, safe audio experiences, those headphones lacked the next level of features. Though not all that next level, but even being able to collapse the headphones for storage wasn't something my kids had gotten to experience.
They loved the colors option and stickers that came with the Explore+ and Play+. Where the missing features really started to present themselves were in the Play+ and Cosmos+ headphones. Not needing to plug in their headphones to listen was almost like magic for my kids. The Study Mode could really prove to be a great feature for online learning situations as school is getting back in session.
For the top-end, the Cosmos+ offers an excellent experience in both the technical features and the comfort. The build of these headphones, along with the "In Mold Design" on the earcups, is great. I was surprised at how good the sound quality was, and even more so at the level of ANC, these kids' headphones offered. All in all, if you are in the market for some kids' headphones, the line of BuddyPhones+ is definitely worth a look.
For parents looking for a no-frills pair of kids' headphones, the Explore+ fits the bill perfectly. With a maximum volume capped at 85dB, rest assure that your little one's hearing is safe. The headphones will be safe, too, with a durable design. Thanks to the audio sharing feature, your child can also share the fun with up to four friends.
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