Hands-on with the BuddyPhone Cosmos+ and Play+ (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

There has never been a time like the last 12 months, when headphones for children suddenly became key devices that boost work productivity. Thanks to the new worldscape sculpted by the pandemic, terms like 'Work From Home' (WFH) and 'Learn From Home' (LFH) have become a norm, and have come to overlap each other unlike ever before.

Sure, all parents know that by giving their children a device and some screentime is a cheat key to a moment of silence and focus, but gnawing at the back of their minds is also the worry of how the devices will impact the children's health.

That's where the Hong Kong based, Icelander founded company ONANOFF comes in. Developing headphones that are fun enough for children to happily use, while promising to protect their hearing. How do their new range of BuddyPhones play out in real life? Let's dive in to find out.

The Play+ includes four sets of color matched stickers for each headphone (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Fun, Customizable Design that Kids Like

One of the gripes I have with electronics for children is the cheesy designs that they usually come with. Sure most kids don't really mind, but I've always wished companies would put in that extra 10% of effort to design them properly.

This is the first area ONANOFF BuddyPhones addresses. Both the Play+ and the Cosmos+ are vibrant, obviously made for children: but not tacky. From its Icelandic heritage, there's a European smartness to the BuddyPhones, from the tone of color used, to the graphics on the cups of the headphone.

Vibrant stickers that are not 'tacky' in design (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

A very smart move on ONANOFF's end was the inclusion of stickers so that kids who receive the Play+ can choose what graphics they have on the side of their headphones. Each color variation has a set of 4 designs - all color coordinated with the headphones themselves. They've also included blank stickers that young users can use to make their own unique designs. There's no bribe more readily accepted by children than stickers, and kudos to ONANOFF for knowing this key to their hearts!

Made with plastic - but surprisingly durable and well made (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Light and Durable Construction

To be honest at first glance, I was a little worried about the build quality of the BuddyPhones Play+ seeing that they basically had all plastic constructions. But I realized that the choice of material made the headphones incredibly light to wear. Coming at 147 g (5.2 oz) it's almost half of Sony's WH-1000XM4 wireless headphone's 254 g (8.9 oz). The Cosmos+ is slightly heavier, but still considerably lighter than Sony's flagship travel headphones at 199 g (7 oz).

Meticulous stitching on the headband cushioning (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

After 5 weeks of testing them with real boys (ranging from 6-13 years old) the construction easily passed the durability test. The plastic used on the Play+ is more reliable than expected, and the overall design is made to last.

Stainless steel band and hinge in the Cosmos+ headband (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

The Cosmos+ has a stainless steel embedded headband, metal elbows, and stitched padding that seems teenproof. The graphics on the side of the cups are durable plastic and look like they can take a few extra bumps and bruises. The Cosmos+ also comes with a soft shell carrying case that will offer good protection during transportation, and can be thrown around in backpacks without worries.

Thick memory foam on the Cosmos+ that can be worn comfortably (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Comfortable to Wear

The light weight of the BuddyPhones are very helpful when it comes to wearing the headphones comfortably throughout long sessions of LFH throughout the day, but the weight only tells part of the story. I found the PU leather earpads on both the Cosmos+ and the Play+ to be plush and very comfortable to the touch, offering good cushioning. Both headphones feature fabric covered padding on top of the headband, ensuring comfort on all three contact points.

Even on the Play+, the earpads are plush and comfortable to wear (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Having said all that, the most accurate test is the real life tests, and having asked all the boys who used the headphones over the last month, I got an unanimous positive answer on how comfortable they were to use.

Volume capping can be toggled by with the up and down volume buttons together (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Volume Limitation

The main selling point of the BuddyPhones is the built-in volume limiter. Since hearing loss is one of the key bodily functions that can be damaged irreversibly, both the Play+ and the Cosmos+ can be capped at three different volumes that are safe for children: Toddler Mode at 75 dB, Kids Mode at 85 dB, then Travel Mode at 94 dB.

The modes can be toggled like a secret function by pressing both volume up and down at the same time on the Play+, and by holding both buttons down at the same time on the Cosmos+.

Both the BuddyPhones also have a Study Mode that can be activated instantly with a slide toggle, which basically takes out most of the bass frequencies, allowing the listener to hear speech of the teacher more clearly.

Both the Cosmos+ and Play+ can be used with or without wire (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Wired and Wireless Modes with Long Battery Life

Despite their light weight, both the Play+ and Cosmos+ have battery life that exceed 20 hours. This gives the kiddies enough time to use them for classes everyday for almost a week between recharges. The battery life would also suffice for long haul flights and road trips.

The audio and data cables included (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

If the batteries do run out, both headphones can be used with the included audio cables - with the volume caps cleverly still in place.

The audio jacks on the headphones can even be used for an extra function called BuddyLink, where if you connect two headphones together with the audio cable, they can hear the same content. This lets two children watch a video together, or attend an online class together.

The Cosmos+ in headset mode with the boom microphone attached (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

ANC and Detachable Boom Microphone on the Cosmos+

Being the flagship BuddyPhone, the biggest perks Cosmos+ has over the Play+ are the ANC and detachable boom microphone.

The Active Noise Cancellation is fairly effective, good enough to block out ambient noises, car or cabin noises, which helps the wearer increase their focus.

The USB-C boom microphone (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

The detachable boom microphone is an excellent addition since so much of the distant learning interaction is done through video conferencing. The boom reach to the mouth helps to vastly improve the speech legibility, and can be taken off at any time so that the Cosmos+ can be used as a pure headphone without a microphone being in the way.

Soft shell case that comes with the Cosmos+ (Photo: IBTimes / Jeff Li)

Final Verdict

There has probably never been a time when headphones for children are more relevant. The rise of Learning From Home due to the pandemic, and talks that say it could be here to stay, the BuddyPhones are in the position to take a large share in the children's headphone niche.

Going hands-on with the BuddyPhones, it's clear that these are rare headphones that have been designed in earnest from the ground up specifically for children. From the youthful aesthetics, build quality, ergonomics to the built-in hearing protection and the capable battery life: you won't find many children's headphones on the market that can rival the BuddyPhones.

For its children-centric design, build and functionality, we're awarding the ONANOFF BuddyPhones the IBTimes Best Product badge. These are our most recommended headphones for Learning From Home.

David is a tech enthusiast/writer who is often on the move, but since the lock-down is on a mission to explore gadgets to improve his 'home work'. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Home Productivity.