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September 22, 2022  |  Electronics

Everything you need to know about bone conduction headphones

Bone conduction headphones sound too good to be true, but these earbud-free devices work well and have a variety of uses. 

Because they leave your ear canal uncovered, you can still hear your surroundings clearly. While most bone conduction headphones have similar designs, they vary in features like built-in controls and microphones. Some are waterproof and can withstand rain, sweat or even a shower. 

In this article: AfterShokz OpenMove Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, Shokz OpenRun Pro Bone Conduction Headphones and Philips Open-Ear Bone Conduction Headphones

What is the purpose of bone conduction headphones?

Unlike traditional headphones and earbuds, bone conduction headphones allow you to hear sounds from your environment, whether it’s people talking nearby, traffic or heavy machinery. They send vibrations through your bones directly to your cochlea, which surprisingly doesn’t feel very different from listening to music with regular headphones.

If you work in an environment where you talk with people often, you can easily carry on conversations while your music plays in the background. Many construction workers use bone conduction headphones on the job so they can listen to something without losing awareness of their environment. One of the most popular uses for bone conduction headphones is exercise — runners and cyclists can clearly hear approaching traffic, making them a safer alternative to earbuds.

Bone conduction headphones don’t rest on or in your ear or in your ear canal, and they tend to be comfortable to wear for long stretches. In addition, most bone conduction headphones are wireless and feature a metal or plastic frame that wraps behind your head. 

If audio quality is important to you, you may find bone conduction headphones underwhelming. While you can enjoy music, TV shows and other media, don’t expect sound quality approaching that of over-ear headphones or high-end earbuds.

Durability

The longest-lasting bone conduction headphones usually have flexible metal frames that can bend and stretch without strain. While most bone conduction headphones are designed with exercise in mind, few are fully waterproof and safe for water sports. Don’t take the manufacturer at their word — look for a rating of IP67 or higher for water and dust resistance.

Audio quality

With traditional headphones, you can generally gauge audio quality by looking at the diameter of the driver — the bigger, the better. Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent for bone conduction headphones. Many brands like to boast about their superior quality, but you may have to rely on customer reviews to get an idea of the actual sound quality. 

Battery life

This is the feature that differs most between budget and high-end bone conduction headphones. While you can expect around six hours with budget headphones, more expensive headphones support up to 10 hours of continuous use.

Additional features

Built-in controls save you the annoyance of fishing your phone out of your pocket in the middle of a workout — especially useful when you’re on a bike. If you plan to take phone calls with your headphones, look for built-in microphones so you don’t have to hold your phone close to your face to talk.

FAQ

Q. Can other people hear bone conduction headphones when you're wearing them?
A.
Since there’s no traditional speaker, the actual sound produced is extremely minimal. In a quiet environment, it’s possible others could hear faint sounds, but in most situations, no one but the listener will hear a thing. This means you can turn the volume as high as you like without worrying about disturbing others.

Q. Can you use bone conduction headphones for phone calls?
A.
Yes. While they don’t all have built-in microphones, as long as the headphones can connect to your phone, they can be used for phone calls. Just remember to keep your phone relatively close to your mouth when you're speaking. 

Best bone conduction headphones

AfterShokz OpenMove Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones

These midrange headphones are durable, flexible and comfortable to wear for extended periods. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

AfterShokz Aeropex Bone Conduction Headphones

An IP67 waterproof rating allows you to work out in any weather without fear of damage. At only 26 grams, these lightweight headphones work well for rigorous exercise. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Shokz OpenRun Pro Bone Conduction Headphones

The impressive 10-hour battery life means you can go days without charging with regular use. Though they’re more expensive than most pairs, these headphones are highly durable with their lightweight titanium frame.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

iKanzi Bone Conduction Headphones

These budget headphones offer the same waterproofing as more expensive brands and have a reliable battery life. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

9 Digital Bone Conduction Headphones

The audio quality of these headphones is on par with more expensive models, and the slim design fits comfortably even under a bicycle helmet.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Philips A6606 Open-Ear Bone Conduction Headphones

With controls for skipping tracks and picking up calls as well as the two built-in microphones, these headphones have a handful of useful features. They also come with a storage pouch.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Peter McPherson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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