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Best bone conduction headphones
It might seem like wireless earbuds are the only innovation to come to headphones in the last few years, but that isn’t the case. There is another type that is much less talked about: bone conduction headphones. While they’re not for everyone, they fill a niche and may be precisely what some people seek. If that someone is you, then you’ve come to the right place. These are the best bone conduction headphones you can get.
- This best list was updated on October 5, 2023, to adjust formatting to our current style.
- Are you looking for a great pair of running headphones? Check out our guide for more options.
Bone conduction headphones are great for outdoor athletes because they don’t impede your ears at all. This design makes you completely aware of your surroundings so you can exercise safely, making bone conduction great for city residents.
We also recommend bone conduction headphones to those with specific hearing impairments because they bypass the outer ear. This means you can wear hearing aids while using a bone conduction headset.
Best bone conduction headphones for most: Shokz OpenRun
If you’ve been browsing your local electronics store, you’ve likely seen some headphones from Shokz. The company has been pumping out multiple versions of bone conduction headphones for years, and the Shokz OpenRun is the best option for most listeners. These have a similar design to some of the previous models. You’ll know what to expect if you’ve ever used a pair of Shokz (Aftershokz) headphones.
The plastic construction makes for flexible headphones that should hold up to some heavy usage, especially since they have an IP67 rating against dust and water damage. You’ll also get about eight hours of constant playback, which isn’t too bad considering most people will probably be using this for exercise. These charge via a magnetic charging cradle, so no rogue ports exist.
If you want the best bone conduction headphones around, get the OpenRun.
The OpenRun microphone sounds about as good as other embedded mics. Your voice won’t sound true to life, but it will get you through a quick call every now and then. Listen below and let us know your thoughts!
Shokz OpenRun microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does this microphone sound to you?
Best for battery life: Shokz OpenRun Pro
Most bone conduction headphones last 6 to 8 hours, but the Shokz OpenRun Pro lasts 10 hours. This battery life is two hours longer than the standard OpenRun. Also, these headphones have the most efficient fast charging out of the bunch: 5 minutes of charging yields 90 minutes of playtime. When you need to charge the headset, set aside one hour; other headsets take at least 90 minutes to complete a full charge. There is, however, one downside: that pesky proprietary charging two-pin connection.
Battery life aside, the OpenRun Pro has the best bone conduction technology of the pack with 9th generation tech, compared to the standard OpenRun’s 8th gen tech. Interestingly, the OpenRun Pro isn’t the most durable option as it merits an IP55 rating, while others from the Shokz portfolio have IP67 ratings. The build and design look rather sleek, and you get your pick of blue or black. Other Shokz headsets have a wider variety of color options.
If you value battery life, the OpenRun Pro will keep up with you.
Best for value: Shokz OpenMove
It might seem like Shokz has a chokehold on the entire bone conduction market, and that’s because it does. Audio is already a niche category — albeit a growing one, and bone conduction headphones are an even smaller sliver. The Shokz OpenMove has an IP55 dust- and water-resistant build with a reflective strip along the headband for visibility.
These bone conduction headphones sport Bluetooth 5.0. A USB-C charging port sits on the headband, much better than other Shokz/AfterShokz headsets with a proprietary two-pin connection. The Shokz OpenMove sports a lightweight design that makes it feel as if there’s nothing on your head. However, after a few hours, the ear hooks may prove uncomfortable. Still, for under $80, the Shokz OpenMove is a great way to dip your toes into the world of bone conduction headphones without breaking the bank.
The Shokz OpenMove microphone quality is about the same as the OpenRun, which is to say it’s fine but not remarkable. Take a listen to the sample below and cast your vote!
Shokz OpenMove microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Best for durability: AfterShokz Aeropex
Are you a climber, a cyclist, a runner, or all three? Well, then, the AfterShokz Aeropex are the headphones for you. These IP67-rated headphones can do anything and do it well. These are basically the Shokz OpenRun but with Bluetooth 5.0 instead of the newer Bluetooth 5.1 on the OpenRun. Also, the Aeropex doesn’t have fast charging, which you do get with the Open Run.
You get the same control layout here as other Shokz and AfterShokz products and multipoint connectivity. You can enable multipoint connectivity directly from the headset’s controls and deactivate it accordingly. We like the Aeropex for its rugged, slim design, and you get plenty of accessories here (two charging cables, a magnetic carry pouch, earplugs, and the Aeropex headset).
The Aeropex microphone sounds identical to the OpenRun microphone.
AfterShokz Aeropex microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Best for budget: YouthWhisper Bone Conduction Headphones
YouthWhisper isn’t a household name, but the YouthWhisper Bone Conduction Headphones are impressive headphones that offer much of what the Shokz top models include at a more affordable price. This shares a similarly sleek design and an IP54 rating to protect against sweat and light rain. On top of that, this supports Bluetooth 5.0 and micro-USB charging.
You’ll also get 8 hours of battery life here, which is on par with other, pricier headsets. If you’re not looking to spend too much money on a pair of bone conduction headphones but still want to try, these are worth checking out.
The best bone conduction headphones: Notable mentions
- AfterShokz Air ($99 at Aftershokz): These are also sweatproof with an IP55 water-resistant build, but they’re a little heavier than some of the others at 30 grams. You get Bluetooth 4.2 and a six-hour battery life, though it’s worth mentioning that these charge via micro-USB.
- DYCROL Bone Conduction Headphones: Unlike other options, this DYCROL headset has 8GB of onboard storage. With this, you can take these swimming since they don’t need to connect via Bluetooth to play music.
- Mojawa Mojo2: These bone headphones have an IP67 rating, and Bluetooth 5.2 contributes to the extended 8-hour battery life. An earhook-like design helps keep the Mojo2 in place while you work out.
- Philips Go A6606: Don’t let the uninspiring name fool you. This headset stands out from the crowd with its LED safety light that you can control through the mobile app. They have an IP67 rating that matches the Shokz OpenRun and lasts 9 hours.
- Philips Go A7607: More premium than the A6606 model, these headphones come with multipoint and extremely bright safety strip. If you run or cycle at night, these are the best headphones.
- Pyle Bone Conduction Headphones: This is the only set of bone conduction headphones listed that features some controls on the exterior of the wraparound band. This control layout may be easier to operate for those with limited dexterity.
Hold up, something’s missing:
This best list’s frequency response charts are absent from this review because our Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture cannot accurately measure the frequency response of bone conduction headphones. The isolation chart is absent because, well, the headphones don’t do anything to block out sound and they’re not supposed to.
Open-ear earbuds to consider
Open-ear earbuds don’t use bone conduction technology. Instead, open-ear earbuds leave your ears unsealed so you can hear your environment. Here are some of our favorites.
- Bose Sports Open Earbuds (on the product’s website): These wireless buds come with a protective (non-charging) carrying case. The fit lets each bud rest on top of the ear and descend from it, projecting sound down your ear canal from specifically angled speaker drivers.
- JVC Nearphones: These earbuds have a 17-hour battery life and a secure, hooked design. The buds only have an IPX2 water-resistant rating, though.
- Shokz OpenFit ($179 at Amazon): These true wireless earbuds are Shokz’s first non-bone conduction headphones. The OpenFit has hooks and an IP54 rating, making them suitable for exercise.
What you should know about bone conduction headphones
Before throwing your hard-earned cash at something, being informed about what you’re buying is always good. So, let’s review some basic things about bone conduction headphones.
How does bone conduction work?
Maybe you haven’t stopped to think about it recently, but the fact that we can perceive slight changes in air pressure as sound is a pretty impressive feat. Physics and biology meet every day right inside your head. Most people are probably familiar with sound waves just being a change in the density of air molecules. Once those variations reach your ears, they’re reflected into your ear canal thanks to your external ear (pinna). They travel until they reach your eardrum, which vibrates in response to the air pressure. Those vibrations pass through your middle ear, including the famous malleus, incus, and stapes bones. (Fun fact: those bones evolved from jawbones).
Those three bones amplify and direct the sound into the cochlea of your inner ear to keep the wave going. We can stop here for this article because those three middle ear bones make conduction possible. The headphones on this list bypass the eardrum and send vibrations straight through the malleus, incus, and stapes bones. From there, the sound waves can carry on as usual.
Bone conduction headphones don’t have giant ear cups that you wear over your ears because they don’t need to send sound through your ears. Instead, these rest slightly before your ears, sending vibrations through the bone. This allows the middle ear bones to register the vibrations without blocking your ears, leaving them open to hear what’s happening around you.
Absolutely. Just because these headphones bypass the eardrum doesn’t mean they can’t cause hearing loss. The most common hearing loss type is sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). This loss of sensitivity to hearing higher frequencies occurs because of damage to tiny hairs inside your ears called stereocilia. These are located in the inner ear and along nerve pathways and can still be worn out by constant use or loud sounds, just as if you were wearing regular headphones.
If you suffer from moderate to severe hearing loss, you may benefit from hearing aids.
Do bone conduction headphones sound any good?
Bone conduction headphones don’t sound as good as a pair of the best headphones on the market will, but they do sound good for something that doesn’t provide any isolation. Typically, sub-bass and bass are virtually inaudible with bone conduction headphones, making them a good option for spoken-word content. These headphones are suitable for exercise because they keep you aware of your environment while tuned into your music — not because they boost bass (they don’t). For runners or cyclists who need to be mindful of their surroundings while out and about, bone conduction headphones are a helpful way to still enjoy music or podcasts without ever losing situational awareness.
What are the pros and cons of bone conduction headphones?
Like anything else in life, there are pros and cons to bone conduction headphones.
Bone conduction headphones are great for people with damage to their eardrums because sound bypasses the eardrum. That said, it’s worth mentioning that if you’re having trouble hearing, please visit an audiologist for a check-up, as they may be able to help you way more than some guy on the internet.
Again, if you’re a runner or cyclist, bone conduction headphones are a good way to stay motivated during a workout while remaining aware of your surroundings. Plus, you don’t have to worry about experiencing an unpleasant suction-like sensation with bone conduction headphones as they don’t touch or seal to the ear canal. This way, you avoid the chance of inner ear pain and infection altogether.
As stated earlier in this article, sound quality is not good here. A big part of enjoying the intricacies of music is blocking outside noise, and these don’t do that. Like, at all. If that’s what you’re after, you’re better off going for a pair of active noise canceling headphones.
Some people might find bone conduction headphones uncomfortable. While the sensation of comfort is relative, I think it’s fair to say that any pair of bone conduction headphones you get will not be as comfortable as something like Bose QuietComfort 45 or Sony WH-1000XM5 with their plush memory foam ear pads. But if you can get used to the sensation of having a plastic pair of headphones against your temples, bone conduction headphones can make a great tool. You can have your cake and eat it too.
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Frequently asked questions about bone conduction headphones
Bone conduction headphones don’t sound as good as traditional headphones, especially in terms of bass and sub-bass, which are virtually inaudible. They are designed more for situational awareness and safety, allowing users to hear their surroundings while listening to content. They are particularly suitable for spoken-word content and ideal for runners or cyclists who need to know their environment.
I don’t think bone conduction headphones are best for podcasts, no. However, the under-emphasized bass response of most bone conduction headphones doesn’t affect podcasts (spoken word content) as much as music.
If the main reason you’re considering bone conduction headphones is to be able to hear your surroundings while using them, then yes.
Listening to music through bone conduction headphones is far from immersive since external sounds mask your music. You’ll still hear your music, but it won’t sound as good as it would through a pair of earbuds that sit in and seal to your ear.
Bone conduction headphones don’t sound as good as standard headphones and earbuds. Some listeners may find that having something rest on their jawbone is uncomfortable, too.
The article mentions the microphone quality of several bone conduction headphones, such as the Shokz OpenRun, Shokz OpenMove, and AfterShokz Aeropex. The general consensus is that the microphone quality is decent but not remarkable. It suits quick calls but may not provide a true-to-life voice quality.
If you’ve never used bone conduction headphones, you may experience some slight discomfort during your first use. However, just like with any pair of headphones or earbuds, you shouldn’t experience any nausea or headaches if you’re careful about not raising your volume too much.
Most of the time, bone conduction headphones have IP ratings that can withstand, at minimum, the sweat that you develop during workouts.
Also, if you like to run at night or generally just be aware of your surroundings, bone conduction headphones keep your ears free to hear the world around you while you jam out to your playlist.
Yes, bone conduction headphones can still work for you because they make contact on the cheekbone, right below where the frames of your glasses rest.
That said, depending on how small or stout your ears are, you may have difficulty achieving a secure fit behind your ear with glasses and headphones. This also depends on your frames’ thickness because wireframes will be less obtrusive than thick plastic ones.
Bone conduction headphones, like AfterShokz, are not designed to be used as hearing aids. However, they can benefit people with certain hearing impairments because they bypass the outer ear. This means individuals can wear hearing aids while using a bone conduction headset. Someone with moderate to severe hearing loss may benefit more from specialized hearing aids, and it’s recommended to consult with an audiologist.