If you want to listen to music with headphones, you have several choices: over-ear, on-ear or in-ear. But the latest option is bone conduction headphones. Since they don’t cover your ears at all, you can easily hear what’s going on all around you. And they even work if you have certain types of hearing loss!
They don’t provide audiophile-quality sound, but that’s often not a significant issue. Their main application is for use while doing active sports, even outdoors in the rain. There’s even a model you can wear when you’re swimming!
Most models include a microphone, or a pair of noise-cancelling mics, plus a universal control button. The control enables you to receive phone calls while listening to music.
So, let’s take a closer look at how bone conduction headphones work and find the best models currently available…
- 1 What Are Bone Conduction Headphones?
- 2 The Advantages Of Bone Conduction Headphones
- 3 The Disadvantages Of Bone Conduction Headphones
- 4 Connectivity
- 5 Durability
- 6 But Are They Safe?
- 7 Best Bone Conduction Headphones In 2020 – Top 7 Rated Review
- 7.1 1 Vidonn F1 Bone Conduction Headphones Bluetooth 5.0 Titanium Open Ear Wireless Sports Headset Stereo Sweatproof with Mic
- 7.2 2 Bonein BN-702 Open Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, Bluetooth Sports Headsets for Running – Best Bone Conduction Headphones for Battery Life
- 7.3 3 Pyle Bluetooth Bone Conduction Headphones – Open Ear Stereo Sport Running Headset for Sports, Wireless Bluetooth Audio
- 7.4 4 AfterShokz Titanium Open Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, AS600SG, Grey – Best Sounding Bone Conduction Headphones
- 7.5 5 AfterShokz Air Open Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, Midnight Blue, AS650MB – Best Lightweight Bone Conduction Headphones
- 7.6 6 AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, Cosmic Black, AS800CB – Best High End Bone Conduction Headphones
- 7.7 7 AfterShokz Xtrainerz Open-Ear MP3 Bone Conduction Wireless Sport Headphones, Waterproof for Lap Swimming and Watersports, with Swim Cap – Best Bone Conduction Headphones for Swimmers
- 8 So, What’s The Pair Of Best Bone Conduction Headphones On The Market?
- 9 Best Bone Conduction Headphones Conclusion
What Are Bone Conduction Headphones?
Traditional headphones have transducers – miniature speakers – that are aimed at the ear canal. By contrast, bone conduction headphones transmit sound vibrations through the bone of the skull directly to the inner ear (called the “cochlea”), completely bypassing the outer and middle ear.
When the cochlea receives these vibrations and assuming it’s healthy, it transmits signals to the brain so you can “hear” them. This works even if your eardrum is damaged. In fact, Beethoven allegedly did something similar as he was going deaf, by biting on a rod attached to his piano in order to hear his music.
However, to be clear, if someone has hearing loss due to problems with the inner ear or auditory nerves, bone conduction headphones won’t help.
The Advantages Of Bone Conduction Headphones
Bone conduction headphones offer a significant advantage when you exercise. That’s because you can hear all the sounds around you, exactly as if you’re not wearing headphones at all. For example, if you’re running along the side of a busy street, you can be fully aware of any traffic or other possible dangers.
Wonderful for the hearing-impaired…
The other big advantage of bone conduction headphones is for people with hearing disabilities. Listeners who are deaf in one ear have reported hearing stereo sound for the first time ever. And because they rest near, but not over the ears, they generally won’t interfere with a typical in-the-ear (ITE) or invisible (IIC) hearing aid.
What about behind-the-ear (BTE), receiver-in-canal (RIC), or open-fit hearing aids?
With these hearing aid designs, bone conduction headphones might feel less comfortable, as there’s a chance they could make contact with the hearing aid. Therefore, finding a model that feels best could be a matter of trial and error.
The Disadvantages Of Bone Conduction Headphones
Probably the biggest downside is the sound. High-quality bone conduction headphones can sound pretty good, but they can’t compete with the best conventional headphone designs in terms of audio fidelity. Typically, the bass response can be somewhat weak without special compensation tricks.
Also, you might not want to hear all of the outside environmental noise while you’re listening. Because they don’t sit in the ear at all, bone conduction headphones offer no outside noise rejection whatsoever. Conversely, their open design means some sound will escape and be heard by others.
Finally, the fit of a particular model can be less than ideal for some individuals, and the sensation of vibrations on the side of your head can seem strange at first. Although with time, you’ll probably get used to this.
With one exception, all the models reviewed here use Bluetooth wireless technology to connect to your mobile device or music player. Later Bluetooth revisions offer certain advantages. For example, Bluetooth 5.0 is much quicker at pairing with your device than older versions. Generally, newer headphone models provide more recent Bluetooth implementations.
Bone conduction headphones are generally quite durable since they’re usually designed for active use, such as during workouts, or when running. Furthermore, every model carries an IP rating.
What’s an IP rating?
The Ingress Protection (IP) Code is a manufacturer rating system that defines how well a product stands up to contamination from solid or liquid particles.
The first digit represents its tolerance to solids, with 0 offering no protection and 6 being dustproof. The second digit indicates its resistance to liquids, ranging from 0 (no protection) to 9 (extremely waterproof). An “X” in place of a digit means it wasn’t tested, so no data is available.
But Are They Safe?
As far as possible hearing damage is concerned; bone conduction headphones are at least as safe as traditional headphones designs. Because sound bypasses the eardrums and goes directly to the inner ear, there’s no possibility of damaging your eardrums with high sound levels.
Now that’s covered, let’s move on to our list of favorite headphone models currently on the market…
Best Bone Conduction Headphones In 2020 – Top 7 Rated Review
1 Vidonn F1 Bone Conduction Headphones Bluetooth 5.0 Titanium Open Ear Wireless Sports Headset Stereo Sweatproof with Mic
Vidonn is a Chinese company that makes a variety of sports-related devices. Their F1 wireless bone conduction headphones are one of the least expensive models available that also work well.
F1 headphones look sleek and stylish, with a beautiful wavy design. They’re dark grey, almost black. Made from a titanium alloy, they’re very flexible and appear solidly made. You can wear them when you’re running, cycling or skiing.
Come rain, come shine…
They come with an IP-55 rating, which means they’re highly resistant to dust and water, particularly sweat. But you won’t want to wear them in heavy rain (or the shower).
The F1’s feel comfortable on the head, fitting snugly and weighing a moderate 1.34 ounces (38 grams). They come with Bluetooth 5.0, so they pair with your device quickly. A built-in mic lets you take calls.
The 180 mAH battery will power the F1 for up to 6 hours, with 240 hours (10 days) standby time.
How do they sound?
The sound quality is okay but not outstanding, even compared to other bone conduction models. Vidonn doesn’t publish a frequency response specification, but the bass seems a little anemic. Phone calls are clear, mainly due to Vidonn’s CVC noise reduction filter to enhance the clarity of your conversation. Sound leakage is minimal.
- Stylish but durable.
- Comfortable feel.
- Bluetooth 5.0.
- Very attractive price.
- Audio quality is just okay.
- No carrying pouch.
2 Bonein BN-702 Open Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, Bluetooth Sports Headsets for Running – Best Bone Conduction Headphones for Battery Life
Bonein is a Chinese company that makes several bone conduction headphone models aimed at those with hearing disabilities. Their BN-702 “sports” model is designed to work well with hearing aids. They’re comfortable enough for prolonged use as a video headset but are also practical for runners.
BN-702 headphones have a unique physical design that allows the earpieces to be rotated, and they can be folded up for easy storage in the included zippered case. Their shape makes it easy to put on and remove eyeglasses. Rated IP-55, they’re dust and water-resistant.
A larger battery equals longer charges…
BN-702 headphones have the largest battery of any model we reviewed. AT 220 mAh, you get 12 hours of continuous use and a remarkable 180 days of standby time. Unfortunately, this also makes the BN-702 the heaviest model we looked at, though not by much, at 1.59 ounces (45 grams).
They include a single noise-cancelling microphone. On the earpiece are volume buttons and a multi-function button to control your media player or receive calls.
Choice of colors…
BN-702 is available in either black or blue. There’s also a BN-702T model designed for TV watching by those with hearing problems. It includes a separate 2.4 GHz Bluetooth transmitter adaptor that connects to the audio output of your television.
Bonein offers a 1-year warranty and lifetime technical support for this model. This could become important, as some users have reported that the headset can break at the point where they fold.
- Long-life battery.
- Folds up into a carrying case.
- Easy to remove eyeglasses.
- Heavier than most models.
- Folding design can be fragile.
3 Pyle Bluetooth Bone Conduction Headphones – Open Ear Stereo Sport Running Headset for Sports, Wireless Bluetooth Audio
Pyle Audio has been around since the 1960s, originally producing high-quality bass speakers and car audio equipment. Today, their product line includes a variety of wireless headphones, including their PSWBT550 bone conduction model.
They have a comfortable wraparound design that holds them firmly in place, making them ideal for sports enthusiasts. Side panel touch button controls are simple to operate while wearing the headphones. Weighing 1.44 ounces (41 grams), they’re slightly heavier than most other models.
Easy to pair…
The PSWBT550 headphones operate with Bluetooth 4.1. Pairing is straightforward, and they have a range of about 35 feet. The built-in 200 mAh battery reaches a full charge in four hours and provides six hours of operation, with ten days of standby.
PSWBT550 has an IP-X6 rating, which means they’re not tested for dust particles but are highly water-resistant, making them ideal for outside fitness activities, even in light rain.
The sound is acceptable, with a frequency response of 100Hz – 15kHz at sound levels up to 100 dB. But there are other models with a wider frequency range.
You’ll save money!
These headphones originally carried a premium price tag. Fortunately, they’re now available at a substantial discount from the original suggested retail price. This often happens with headphones as new technology is introduced in later versions, so if you fancy a bargain, grab one of these.
They include a 1-year warranty.
- Very comfortable.
- Highly water-resistant.
- Current price offers excellent value.
- Frequency response is just acceptable.
- No carrying case included.
4 AfterShokz Titanium Open Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, AS600SG, Grey – Best Sounding Bone Conduction Headphones
AfterShokz is a major player in the bone conduction headphone market, with a full line of outstanding products for the active lifestyle. Their Trekz Titanium (AS600) headphones are their least expensive, and probably the most popular model, and are ideal for general use.
As the name suggests, these headphones feature a titanium frame with an OpenFit design that’s extremely flexible and durable, resting comfortably yet snugly in place. It also means they’re lightweight, just 1.27 ounces (36 grams). However, wearing glasses with them can be a bit inconvenient, because you need to put them on underneath.
Match your style…
Trekz Titanium is available in black, slate gray, green, pink, red, canyon red, and ocean blue to match your personal fashion style. AfterShokz also makes a Titanium Mini (AS600M) with a frame that’s about 1 inch smaller. The package includes a drawstring carrying case, two USB charging cables, and a set of earplugs.
Trekz TItanium uses Bluetooth 4.1 for quick and reliable pairing to your PC or Mac, or any Android or iOS mobile device. And they’re highly resistant to dust and water, with an IP-55 rating. The 180 mAh battery charges in two hours to provide six hours of use and ten days of standby time.
Control through your device…
Dual noise-cancelling microphones make it possible to make or receive phone calls. However, there are no function buttons, so you’ll have to manage calls on your mobile device.
AfterShokz offers a full-year warranty, plus a 45-day return policy.
So how is the sound?
This is where Trekz Titanium really shines. They offer a full-range frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz at up to 100 dB, employing PremiumPitch+ technology to equalize the response for a stronger bass and high end.
- Excellent design.
- Full-range audio.
- Mini option available.
- Excellent warranty and return policy.
- No phone call function buttons.
- Putting on and removing glasses can be awkward.
5 AfterShokz Air Open Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, Midnight Blue, AS650MB – Best Lightweight Bone Conduction Headphones
AfterShokz Air headphones, model AS650, are quite similar to their Trekz TItanium, with a few important differences that might justify the higher price.
Most important is a lighter and more ergonomic design. Aftershokz managed to reduce the weight by 20 percent, down to 1.06 ounces (30 grams). Combined with an improved around-the-ear frame, it means that they should stay in place better.
Also, Air uses a newer 4.2 version of Bluetooth. This newer revision offers faster data transmission and better security. There’s also an improved antenna design for more reliable connectivity.
Air also offers a feature known as “Back-a-track”, that allows you to play the previous track on your media device.
Otherwise, Air provides the same functionality as Trekz Titanium, including 6-hour battery life, sweatproof IP-55 rating, dual noise-cancelling mics, and excellent full-range sound. They’re available in midnight blue, forest green, slate gray, and canyon red.
- Lighter weight and better fit.
- Newer Bluetooth revision.
- “Back-a-track” function.
- Excellent Aftershokz audio.
- Higher price.
6 AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, Cosmic Black, AS800CB – Best High End Bone Conduction Headphones
Aeropex represents AfterShokz’s top of-the-line bone conduction headphone model, with a premium price to match. But you get a handful of important new features and enhancements that more than justify their higher cost.
Most noticeably, Aeropex has a sleek new wraparound design that’s the lightest in weight – just 0.92 ounces (26 grams) – of any model we’ve reviewed here. The headband is made of titanium, with rubbery ear hooks to ensure a very comfortable and snug fit, through even the most strenuous physical workout. They’re so light that you might forget you’re wearing them!
Raindrops keep falling on my head…
Aeropex has an IP rating of 67, so they’re highly dust-resistant and essentially waterproof. You can wear these in the rain and not worry about failure. They even include a moisture detector.
Another major enhancement is Bluetooth 5.0, which makes for faster and multipoint pairing, plus several features that translate to better audio. Aeropex also includes the “back-a-track” feature to go backwards in your song list.
Making and taking phone calls is effortless, with dual noise-cancelling microphones plus a set of command controls mounted on the earpieces. The mics are a little more sensitive than on other Aftershokz models, -38 dB versus -40 dB.
And Aeropex’s new lithium polymer battery design gives you a full 8k hours of use on a single charge, while not adding weight.
Yes, but the sound?
Aeropex has made some improvements here as well, with PremiumPitch 2.0+ technology that provides more volume (up to 105 dB) and more powerful bass. This includes adjusting the transducer angle to reduce vibration. It really doesn’t get any better than this with any bone conduction headphone.
When you buy Aeropex, you get the headphones, two magnetic charging cables, earplugs, and a premium silicone carrying case.
Quality comes at a price…
Understandably all these improvements come at a cost, but if you want the very best and are willing to pay for it, these are the ones for you.
- Super lightweight.
- Bluetooth 5.0.
- Longer battery life.
- Better sound.
- Higher price.
- A little awkward with glasses.
7 AfterShokz Xtrainerz Open-Ear MP3 Bone Conduction Wireless Sport Headphones, Waterproof for Lap Swimming and Watersports, with Swim Cap – Best Bone Conduction Headphones for Swimmers
With Xtrainerz, Aftershokz has come up with bone conduction headphones that are a little different.
Okay, they’re a LOT different…
Why? Because you can use them underwater! Yes, Xtrainerz are designed for swimmers. They have a remarkable IP-68 rating and can be immersed in water up to 6 feet (two meters) for as long as two hours. So, you can finally listen to your favorite music while swimming laps.
The physical design is essentially identical to the Aeropex model, with a combination titanium headband and flexible plastic earpiece supports. And they use the same long-life battery to provide eight hours of continuous use. They weigh slightly more, about 1.06 ounces (30 grams).
As underwater headphones, there are several major design differences. Significantly, these are not Bluetooth headphones, which should be obvious if you think about it. Instead, Xtrainerz has an onboard player with 4 GB of memory for a capacity of 1,200 songs. The player can recognize MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLAC files.
Also missing is the microphone. Sorry, you can’t make phone calls underwater.
On land or in the water…
Xtrainerz includes a Mode button to change the audio equalization for normal (dry) or underwater use. Maximum volume is reduced slightly to 96 dB, though they still provide full-range 20Hz – 20 kHz sound.
A set of four control buttons are used in various combinations to select different functions. A built-in voice, called AudreySays, guides the user in switching functions.
In order to remain waterproof, AfterShokz had to forego the usual USB connection. Instead, Xtrainerz must be charged (and song data uploaded) using its own proprietary “induction charging cradle.” Should this fail, you’ll have to purchase a new one from Aftershokz.
AfterShokz backs them up with their usual 2-year warranty. The package includes swimming earplugs, the charging cradle, and a silicone carrying case. A bundle is available that also includes a free swim cap.
- They work underwater!
- Built-in multi-format music player.
- Full-range sound.
- Proprietary charging cradle.
- No underwater phone calls, but that’s understandable.
- No Bluetooth connectivity.
So, What’s The Pair Of Best Bone Conduction Headphones On The Market?
If you want the very best bone conduction headphones and don’t mind paying a premium price, then the…Aftershokz Aeropex
…are the way to go. Super lightweight, they offer a comfortable fit, better sound, longer battery life, and a superior IP rating.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more basic that won’t crimp your budget, get your self the…Vidonn F1 Bone Conduction Headphones
These are an excellent choice for jogging, walking, or cycling. And if you’re hearing-impaired, they offer you a chance to hear stereo music at a low cost.
Finally, if you suffer hearing loss and you need headphones for watching television or answering the phone, we recommend the…Bonein BN-702T
…which include a separate Bluetooth transmitter.
Best Bone Conduction Headphones Conclusion
Bone conduction headphones serve two markets: People who need to hear their environment clearly while running or doing other activities (or who want to hear music in the water), and those with hearing impairments. Depending on your situation, your needs and expectations may differ.
If you have normal hearing, you have to balance the great convenience of bone conduction phones against the sound quality that can’t quite match a good pair of in-ear or over-ear phones. On the other hand, if you suffer damage to your eardrums (but have an otherwise intact inner ear), bone conduction headphones are really your only option for listening to music.