Relatively compact, wireless, and inexpensive, Belkin’s Soundform Inspire offer a few surprising features to make them stand out ahead of back to school season.
There’s no shortage of headphones in the world, but some are clearly made for different people. Most headphones are made for adults, and they can be used for kids, but then there are also kids headphones, and these are different.
Often designed with more colours and smaller ear pads, kids headphones typically arrive with one major difference: volume limiting.
Adults can be trusted to control their sound within reason to limit the potential of hearing loss (maybe), but kids will just crank the volume knob or press that volume up button until it suits them. There’s more of a risk here, so headphone makers are known to include a limiter, maxing out the volume in kid-focused headphones.
It’s an area Belkin has been playing in for some time, releasing wireless options made with volume limiting for kids in mind, and in the Soundform Inspire, the company may have found a solid balance between it all.
All reviews at Pickr are subject to experienced testing methodologies. Find out why you can trust us and change the way you choose.
Design and features
Another of the many pairs of headphones that make their way to the Pickr Reviews Desk, the Soundform Inspire won’t surprise with aesthetics, because they look like headphones. There’s an obvious headphone design with plush pads for the ears, which for kids will be close to around-the-ear, but less so for larger ears of adults.
There’s a boom mic on the left side with a mute button found on the left side, and three other buttons on the right, two for volume and the remaining one for power, Bluetooth setup, and pausing and playing of sound. It’s about standard.
Also standard with kids headphones is support for a sound limiter, with 85 decibels the maximum sound level on the Soundform Inspire, in line with other Belkin kids headphones.
The idea with this limitation is consistent across headphones for kids, and basically prevents them from playing their sound too loud and damaging fragile growing ears. This is all pretty standard, too.
What’s less standard are the ports, which offers a USB-C port for charging and digital wired sound, a 3.5mm headphone jack for analogue wired sound, and a second 3.5mm headset jack on the other side for sharing your audio.
Audio sharing is a feature we’ve seen from Belkin in the past, partly because it has accessories for audio sharing. This is much the same, but in a pair of headphones, and allows you to plug another pair of headphones into the sharing port to let two pairs of headphones listen to the same source, whether it’s over a wired connection or over a wireless one.
Putting that to the test, we streamed music wirelessly to one pair of Belkin Soundform Inspire headphones and then plugged in a second pair using that special port, and voila: it worked. Two pairs on one soundtrack.
We had two Soundform Inspire review units, so we decided to try something a touch unorthodox, plugging in a third pair of headphones, this time the Bose QuietComfort Ultra.
It could have been any pair, truth be told, but we just went with the pair within arm’s reach. Again, voila, it worked: three pairs of headphones set up in a daisy chain of sound.
If you have more than one child, or your kids are at school and need to share, this feature will make a lot of sense.
There’s no app, though, so you’ll have to make do with buttons, of which there are a few. There’s the main pause and play button, plus the obvious volume up and down, and then an extra mute button for the boom mic which also switches on a small light.
This light could be bigger and took some noticing on our part — it’s on the mic itself, and won’t be seen upon first glance — but it is there.
Outside of controls, the fit and feel is comfortable enough, though definitely made for little ears. Adults won’t likely find the Soundform Inspire all too comfy — they’re not made for you — but little ears should see these as near circumaural, also known as around-the-ear, ever so slightly.
Testing with the Pickr Sound Test, as we usually do, we found a slightly shallow sound, but that was otherwise expected. Bass was somewhat there with the occasional deep hit, but the attention the lows wasn’t hefty at all.
Rather, Belkin has kept things kid-friendly, with a very pop-centric highs first delivery that isn’t what we’d call “balanced”, but still perfectly fine for many listeners, particularly the younger and less discerning crowd.
There are renditions of sound in many headphones, even for kids headphones — JBL’s Jr range is a perfect example of that — but these sounded slightly better than we expected. Your kids would probably like them, we suspect.
You won’t find noise cancellation in these headphones, though, but you also might not care.
These aren’t made for silencing the world, but rather doing your work and maybe a bit of light gaming, too, supporting conversation over the microphone, which you can also tuck away. The lack of hefty bass means more experienced gamers won’t probably dig the lack of impact, but casual gamers will be fine.
Belkin offers up to 35 hours of use with the Soundform Inspire, which translates roughly into a week of battery life, provided your kids use the headphones for a few hours each day. They could actually wear them for about 7 hours per day and not need to charge them until the weekend.
Overall, that’s not a bad effort for a pair of compact and inexpensive headphones, and there are a few extras thrown in.
Take the 3.5mm cable, which allows you to keep using the headphones without power, or even the Type C cable, which is used for charging or just plugging the headphones straight into a computer.
Plug the Soundform Inspire straight into a Type C port on a computer, and you’ll find it turns into a wired pair of headphones, too, leaning on the power of your computer and not the headphones.
They’re just a couple of ways to keep the headphones going.
Price is one area you’ll have little to fight about, particularly because Belkin has hit the back-to-school nail on the head with this pair.
In Australia, the Belkin Soundform Inspire wireless headphones are priced at $69.95, making them easily affordable, and supportive of practically any phone, tablet, or computer thanks to the combination of connection types.
You won’t squabble over the price at all because they’re well under $100.
What needs work?
While the sound could be improved slightly, particularly given the strength JBL offers in kids headphones, there’s little to complain about for kids. A little bright and booming, we suspect kids won’t be as discerning as adults, and some of the extra features more than make up for the audio.
What will be missed, however, is a form of noise cancellation, which at this price point is getting seriously close to kids headphones that support the technology. These headphones could have been for more than just home and school, and would have made sense with even some basic ANC.
They also might be a little too loud, as we found a step or two before the 85dB maximum was quite loud to our ears.
The good news is your kids shouldn’t be able to blow out their eardrums with the limiter in place, but the bad news is they can still get quite loud, so you might want to monitor the volume levels or place a limiter on the operating system in settings. You can do that, you know.
Finally, we’d love it if Belkin would include some stickers in the box. It’s minor and your kids will already have some, but since these are headphones for kids, it would have been clever marketing for Belkin to whip up some snazzy and fun stickers to include. We bet Belkin’s marketing department would have loved it, and will promptly steal this idea from our review in the next iteration.
Soundform Inspire vs the competition
In terms of competition, Belkin doesn’t have a lot to push up against, with most of the options coming from either its own Soundform kids headphones, or those from JBL, Laser, and Moki. You might find a few other
Out of these, JBL is the serious competitor to consider, and its noise cancelling JBL Jr 460 headphones would be the ones to consider, providing basic noise cancellation support for $10 more, but missing the boom mic, which some people may want.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Truth be told, Belkin’s Soundform Inspire were nowhere near as bad as expected. In the past, this reviewer hasn’t found Belkin earphones to be amazing, and typically headphones for kids don’t have the best reputation.
Yet he came away from the Soundform Inspire surprised. While they were predictably bright, something of a norm for kids headphones, they also sound quite good. And they’re also loud, which means kids shouldn’t have to need to hit the 85dB maximum.
For the sub-$70 price, the Soundform Inspire deliver, and if you have more than one child, they manage to kill two birds with one stone, too. While there’s no noise cancellation on offer, the Soundform Inspire package is a better deal than we expected. The value is just that solid, and they could make for a decent little road trip or used at home.