Cool, Funky Headphones for Teens

Buying Headphones for Teens

Headphones were large when I was young, then they got smaller, and now they’re meant to be seen again. They come in all kinds of funky colors and cool patterns, and will bring music to your teenager’s ears in the coolest way possible.

It can be hard to know what to get as a gift for a teen in your life. Many teens love music, but giving a teen music can often backfire unless you are well acquainted with your teen’s preferences. An iTunes or Amazon gift card can be a good way to let teens choose their own gift, but if you want to give something a little more personal, a good quality, stylish pair of headphones will be appreciated by almost any teen. Luckily for you, I’ve consolidated reviews and information from across the Internet to help you figure out the best possible set of headphones for your teen.

Some of these headphones are for old-fashioned music listening, others for gaming. Either way, they look great. The coolest brands of headphones for teens these days are Beats and Skullcandy headphones. But don’t let branding limit you! You can get stylish, good quality headphones from other brands as well.

What to Think About When Buying Headphones

  1. Style: Will your teen prefer earbuds, on-ear headphones, or over-ear headphones
  2. Functionality: Do you want the headphones to be noise cancelling? What’s the sound quality like?
  3. Purpose: Are they for gaming or music? Do they have a microphone?
  4. Aesthetics: Color, design, and brand name can all be important to a teen.
  5. Price: All the above considerations will affect the price. Headphones range from $10 cheap earbuds, which still come in a wide variety of colors and styles, to limited edition designer headphones costing thousands of dollars. Decide on a budget that’s right for you, and you’ll find something you like within that budget. I guarantee it.

Note: Make sure to educate teenagers on safe use of headphones, because they can lead to hearing loss if used improperly.


1. Headphones Style: Earbuds, On Ear, or Over Ear?

Aside from the question of noise cancellation, you also have to look at how the headphones are built. There are really three options: earbuds, on-ear, and over-ear headphones. Check with your teen to see which type of headphones they prefer. If they don’t know, have them try the options out in the store or with friends.

  • In-Ear: Earbuds – These are the types of earbuds you get when buying a smartphone or iPod: small, and unobtrusive. With these, it’s important to be aware of how they fit. If your teen has small ears, the buds might be too big to fit comfortably and have a tendency to fall out.
  • On-Ear Headphones – On ear headphones rest on the ears. Personally, I find this annoying, but some people love it. These headphones are usually designed with plenty of padding and adjustment options to fit comfortably.
  • Over-Ear Headphones – The headphones are so large they surround the ear and rest on the side of the head. Personally, I prefer this type.

“People aren’t hearing all the music. Artists and producers work hard in the studio perfecting their sound. But people can’t really hear it with normal headphones. Most headphones can’t handle the bass, the detail, the dynamics. Bottom line, the music doesn’t move you. With Beats, people are going to hear what the artists hear, and listen to the music the way they should: the way I do.
— Dr. Dre

beats-solo-2.0Beats Solo 2.0 On-Ear Headphones

Several parents at Amazon say these headphones were a big hit with their teens because of both design and noise cancelling abilities, and if you’re looking for the cool factor for your teen, you can’t get much better than these. Beats is better known for style than sound quality, and these headphones are no exception, but the audio quality has nevertheless improved significantly and the noise cancelling even more so.

Style: CNET and TechCrunch both agree that the Beats Solo 2 headphones lead the pack in terms of design. This model is both sleeker and sturdier than its predecessor, Beats Solo. The uniform color scheme and smooth lines make these one of the most stylish options on the list. They’re foldable and come with a matching soft case for travel, which is both cool looking and convenient. The only design flaw I’ve discovered in my research is that the wire comes across as cheap compared to the rest of the headphone. Functionally, though, it’s sturdy and includes a pretty good mic.

Comfort: These headphones are quite light for their padded, on-ear style. TechCrunch says they’re a little snug, so if your teen has a huge head, you might not want to go for these. When they aren’t too snug, however, they’ve been reviewed as some of the most comfortable headphones out there: the lightness, padded cup shape, and snug fit mean they can be worn for hours without discomfort.

Performance: Beats are known for design and comfort more than performance, but the Solo 2.0 feature a vastly improved sound quality when compared to the previous model. The bass has been tamped down a little, so it’s better balanced with the midrange and treble, but is still clear and prominent even at low volume. The noise-cancelling has also improved drastically, and these headphones are second only to Bose as the leading noise-cancelling headphones on the market.

  • Style: 5/5
  • Comfort: 4/5
  • Sound: 4/5
  • Noise Cancelling: 5/5
  • Overall: 4/5.

Get these for a teen who wants good sound quality and great style.

2. Noise-Cancelling or Ordinary Headphones?

Noise-cancelling headphones:

I love noise-cancelling headphones. They make the background noise go away so I can really hear the music. I live by a busy road and turn the headphones on when I want to meditate. The quiet is great. I find myself relaxing from the simple quiet: headphones on, music OFF.

For a teen, noise cancellation has the advantage that they are less likely to be distracted by their neighbors when doing homework, and they’re also less likely to turn up the music so loud that they’ll damage their ears. Did you know hearing problems due to loud music over headphones is a real issue with today’s teens? Unfortunately it’s not something that can be fixed.

So prevent it.

* Ordinary headphones:

You’re probably familiar with them; they’ve been around for ages. The only way they stop outside noise is by their padding or by drowning it out. Ordinary headphones will be cheaper than noise cancelling ones, and if you think your teen is unlikely to use headphones in busy or loud environments, or if your teen is likely to lose or break their headphones, you might want to save on the cash.

bose-noise-cancelling-headphonesBest Noise Cancelling Headphones

I live by a busy road. Every once in a while it gets too much and I want to leave. However, moving house is a lot of work, and one day I had a brainwave: I could just get myself some noise cancelling headphones.

Your teen is probably addicted to music. If you want to make sure their ears last a long time, noise cancelling headphones make sense: less temptation to turn up the volume when their are outside distractions. 

Anyhow, I went to a local music store, tried out both of the Bose noise cancelling headphones available and went with the over-ear version. There is also an ‘on-ear’ version. The difference is, as the words suggest, that the over-ear phones go over the ears. That is: they don’t press against the ear but go around them. The on-ear phones were annoying after a while.

Do they work? Yes, it seems like a miracle: they create silence very well. The result is also that if you use them to listen to an MP3, you can turn down the volume because the sound no longer has to cancel out outside noise.

Fortunately what’s cancelled out is mainly predictable, constant noise. So if someone shouts at you or an alarm goes off, you will still hear it – though more softly.

These headphones come with two cables: one for ordinary MP3 playing gadgets, like android smartphones, the other for your iPad, iPod or iPhone. The iphone cable is ready to allow you to switch between calls and music with the press of a button. A similar set is available separately for android phones. I did not test this feature.

Music lovers will love how it sounds on these headphones. Bose lives up to its name with a beautiful tone and a wide range of frequencies so you get the full musical experience.

Bose has long been the best in the business when it comes to noise cancelling, and with the Bose QuietComfort 25 they’ve improved their noise reduction technology even further, while also improving comfort and sound quality. I’d recommend these headphones to anyone, teen or not, who wants the best quality headphones around: at $299 you more than get what you pay for. These headphones are not particularly teen specific: if your teen wants something trendy they might not be your best bet. If your teen is serious about music and spends a lot of time in loud environments, though, these top-notch noise cancelling headphones are a great bet.

Style: The QuietComfort 25 offer a simple, sleek design that may appeal more to the older teen demographic. Brand and style-wise, they might be the most boring pair of headphones on this list, but what they lack in flash they make up for in quality and convenience. The faux-leather material on the band and ear cups is soft and luxurious feeling, and the headphones fold up into a sturdy carrying case for safe travel. Don’t feel limited by the over-ear style either. Bose also sells an earbud version: the QuietComfort 20.

Comfort: Geoffrey Morrison writes in his Forbes review that the fit is “spot on excellent,” with “only light pressure around the ears, with soft ear-cups and a padded band for those of us sporting nothing up top.” CNET agrees, giving the QuietComfort 25 top marks in comfort. These over-ear headphones are lighter than most of the competition, and the shape of the headband has been redesigned to sit closer to the head, improving the fit and making the headphones both sleeker and more comfortable.

Performance: This is where the Bose headphones really shine. This model’s predecessor, the QuietComfort 15, already dominated the market in noise reduction technology. In the QC 25, the noise reduction is better than ever. The battery life is longer, lasting for over 35 hours of use, and when the battery runs out, the headphones still play sound without noise reduction. The sound range is less heavy on the bass than most of the other headphones on this list, which may appeal less to teens, but has improved otherwise. According to Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch, the sound is “sophisticated in terms of the sound they deliver, offering better mids and highs” than before.


  • Style: 4/5
  • Comfort: 5/5
  • Sound: 4/5
  • Noise Cancelling: 5/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

Get these headphones for a true audiophile teen who wants excellent noise cancellation.

3. Purpose: Gaming or Music?

Most headphones are made for music listening, which is good because they’re made to hear a wide variety of tones and sounds, and if you are using them to listen to podcasts or watch movies, the sound quality will still be more than enough. When it comes to gaming, however, there are often more requirements than just sound quality. Gamers who play games online with other players and use their headsets to talk with their friends or raiding parties will want headphones with a really good microphone that’s either wireless or has a wire long enough to plug into the console.

HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headphones

PC Gamer rates the HyperX Cloud from Kingston as #1 on their list of best gaming headsets, and for good reason. It’s got great sound quality with a game-specific focus on the highest and lowest registers, a good quality mic for talking with other online gamers during play, and noise cancelling that keeps your teen fully immersed in the world of the game. The HyperX Cloud II has everything its predecessor did, but with an added surround-sound feature that adds directionality to in-game sound.

Style: These are classic-looking gaming headphones; they come in black with detailing in either a metallic red or “gun metal” (which is just a metallic gray). They are not the most exciting or fabulous looking headphones, so don’t get them for a teen who cares more about style than function. Teens who are into first-person shooters or other war-like games will not feel embarrassed by these headphones: they are simple, streamlined, and designed to look badass. The microphone is detachable, making the headset more versatile and just as useful as a set of good quality regular headphones.

Comfort: According to reviews at GameZone and PC Gamer, the original HyperX Cloud headset was comfortable enough to wear for hours on end. The Cloud II hasn’t changed that original style, which comes with a memory-foam headband and ear cups covered in interchangeable cloth and faux-leather. Kotaku calls these headphones “comfortable as hell” for “hours upon hours of comfortable wear.” Seeing as many teenagers like to play games for precisely that long, I’d consider that a resounding endorsement.

Performance: These headphones offer a crisp sound quality that is, according to PC Mag, “impressively loud, with a very sculpted sound that emphasized both high end and low end to really bring out the sounds of gunfire and explosions.” The mic is a big improvement on the older model and, like the sound, perfect for gaming: with the attached remote/sound card, it cancels outside noise and echoes for clear, crisp conversation. The headphones themselves are also noise cancelling, and the Cloud II also comes with 7.1 surround sound, meaning you should experience some in-game sound directionality.

  • Style: 3/5
  • Comfort: 5/5
  • Sound: 5/5
  • Noise Cancelling: 4/5
  • Overall: 4/5

Get these for a gamer teen who wants comfortable headphones with a great mic and sound.

4. Aesthetics

Teens are just coming into their identities, and appearance is a hug part of how they express themselves and their independence. Of course, you could always get a teen a pair of plain black or white headphones, and you should absolutely do that if you think that’s what they want. But pay attention to your teen’s style and interests: if she’s a girly girl, get her something elegant with rhinestones or patterns; if she’s a goth, get her a black pair with neon skulls. And remember, if you don’t know what your teen likes, just ask.

Skullcandy Hesh 2

If your teen wants headphones that are flashy and fun, Skullcandy is definitely the choice for you. Skullcandy headphones look great, are cheap, and have a great sound for the price. The Skullhandy Hesh 2.0 headphones are over-ear headphones with incredible bass, so if your teen likes to listen to dance/EDM or dubstep with organ-shaking bass lines, these are a fantastic buy. Your teen will be in her own world with these. Plus, for $60 ($70 with mic), these are as stylish as headphones four times their price and have nearly as good sound.

Style: Because they come in so many different options, it’s almost impossible to rate the style of these particular headphones other than lauding the huge variety of choices available. The Hesh 2.0, like all Skullcandy headphones, come in an endless number of colors and designs. They are over-ear headphones, with the typical perfectly round Skullcandy ear cups which offer plenty of canvas space for the soccer team logos, rasta colors, skulls, kittens, and other available designs. Keep in mind that some designs may only be available directly through the website.

Comfort: These are over-ear padded headphones connected by a simple, padded headband. PCMag and NDTV Gadgets both found the comfort slightly lacking, but disagreed on the reasons, with PCMag stating that, while the headphones and band are light enough to wear for hours, the round shape of the ear cups feels awkward. NDTV’s reviewer, on the other hand, found the ear cups to be very comfortable but the headset as a whole too heavy for long term comfort. Further research among user reviews leads me to believe that, unless you have very large ears (that don’t fit comfortably in the ear cups) these headphones are a bit heavy but otherwise very comfortable.

Performance: These headphones do not have active noise cancelling, though the padded ear cups do block out a small amount of ambient noise. Their sound is crisper and more balanced than the previous Hesh model. Though still heavy on the bass, the quality of the trebles and mids are good enough not to be overwhelmed, and singing and other higher notes remain bright and easy to hear. The bass is powerful and punchy, which is a huge hit with teen reviewers on Amazon. The focus on sound highs and lows actually make this a great pair of headphones for gaming, too, though the accompanying mic tends to pic up ambient noise.


  • Style: 5/5
  • Comfort: 3/5
  • Sound: 4/5
  • Noise Cancelling: 1/5
  • Overall: 3/5

Get this for a teen who rocks a flashy style, likes techno and other bass-heavy music, or wants headphones that can be used for both gaming and music.

See also my list of top headphones for older people

Posted on Categories Gadgets for teens, Technology recommendations