Next-Gen Audio: How To Pick the Best Bone Conduction Headphones

Bone conduction headphones are better for sports, health, and sheer coolness.
Odin Odin (180)
0

Did you know that your ears require a certain type of environment? We already know that our hearing can be damaged by listening to audio that’s too loud, but not as many people know that using earbuds can lead to ear infections. Creating a germy, moist, wet environment inside our ears is simply not a good idea! But most of us spend many hours each day connected to friends, family, work, and hobbies, through our technology, and most of these applications require some sort of audio component.

None of us want to be “that guy” blaring our audio out loud and contributing to noise pollution. But, if wearing headphones can be hazardous to our health, what else is there? Bone conduction audio technology is the answer.

Bone conduction headphones work by using your own bone as the medium through which sound waves travel to your inner ear. Normally, headphones shoot sound waves directly into your ear canal, where they bounce into your tympanic membrane (ear drum). But, with bone conduction technology, the inner ear can be directly vibrated. This has numerous benefits for spacial awareness, hygienic health, and multi-use scenarios. It can even help people with blockages or damage to the outer ear enjoy music.

Some image description
with bone conduction technology, the inner ear can be directly vibrated

Furthermore, these are harder to lose than modern earbuds, but remain significantly lower profile than any form of traditional headphones. Utilizing all the latest technology, many models are water-resistant, dust-resistant, and feature multi-point Bluetooth pairing (which allows you to keep them connected to multiple devices at the same time for sheer convenience factor). And, of course, all the best models come with built-in microphone capabilities, ensuring that, at the tap of a button (or a word, if you have voice commands enabled) you can take that important phone call.

Oh, and in case you’re not interested yet, these headphones can feature all-day battery life, far surpassing ordinary wireless headphones when it comes to providing for your audio needs.

These days, I personally use bone conduction headphones almost exclusively, only switching to my professional headphones when I need to do video editing, or want to fully immerse in a video gaming session.

Posted in these interests:
different kinds of headphones
h/headphones13 guides
h/technology89 guides
Sports
h/sports7 guides
Cost IP rating Battery life
$179.95 IP55 10 hours

These have quickly become my go-to headphones, and I wear them almost cybernetically at this point, even using them to play audiobooks at night as I go to sleep. They’re sleek, don’t cause me any difficulties even after 8+ hours of use, and allow me unparalleled function when I’m out and about.

Pros

Great battery life, very comfortable, reasonable IP rating.

Cons

Pricey, non-ideal IP rating, and higher volumes will leak sound.

Cost IP rating Battery life
$129.95 IP67 8 Hours

A little cheaper than the Pro, these also come with much better water resistance. It’s still not recommended to swim with them, but just about anything else is fair game. They’re a slight degree more compact, and feature a sort of matte coating that I like the feel of. I wore these through the second year of the pandemic non-stop, to avoid getting ear infections due to the need to be at my desk working for extremely prolonged periods of time, and I found them very comfortable.

Pros

Fully enclosed, this model offers a great IP67 rating for water and dust resistance. It’s definitely not rated for swimming, but it can handle running in the rain (and probably something like a shower).

Cons

The IP rating comes at the cost of slightly more dulled audio, and a bit more buzzing against the skin at higher volumes.

Kaibo Flex
Kaibo Flex
on Kaibo Audio
Cost IP rating Battery life
$119 IP55 8 hours (plus a portable battery-dock that adds 20 hours of capacity)

I’m always skeptical of new Kickstarter projects because I’ve seen so many fails to come through, but these are already on the open market despite their campaigns just ending at the beginning of 2022. That is highly impressive, as are their claims regarding the sound quality, fit, and battery length.

I have yet to use these myself, but I’ll be reaching out to the company to see if they can supply me with a copy for testing purposes. If it lives up to everything it claims, this is likely to be the hot contender for the Shokz throne. You, dear reader, will be the first to know when I get my hands on them.

Pros

Quick charge, reasonable (if basic), IP rating, multipoint Bluetooth, and a 1-year warranty.

Cons

Very new product that’s Kickstarter-based.

Zygo Solo
Zygo Solo
Cost IP rating Battery life
$299 Text 3 hours

These got on the list solely because of their claim to a novel technological principle: all the other bone-conduction headphones I’ve seen have been limited to internal storage only, which is a huge limitation. I was unable to find specific details regarding their true IP rating, however, so I’d suggest testing them heavily in the initial period of use.

Shokz has its own pair of waterproof headphones for swimming, though, so if you’re okay with just having preloaded content, those are probably the better option.

Pros

Can actually stream content from a nearby phone! Reasonable return period and warranty.

Cons

A little bulky, and requires that you’re comfortable leaving your phone someplace near the pool. **The biggest con is that I couldn’t find an actual IP rating from the company. They claim “waterproof” but that’s not the same thing.

Cost IP rating Battery life
$129 IP67 8 hours

These are the only true alternative to Shokz on the market (as far as I’ve encountered, and I’m always on the lookout for new bone-conduction breakthroughs). They offer a product very comparable to the non-Pro version of the Shokz OpenRun. There’s a little doubt whether the audio quality is quite as good as the OpenRun as well, suggesting that Mojawa still needs to fine-tune their transducer system. One thing I have noted: these can be found on much steeper sales than the Shokz products, so if you want a compariable Shokz experience for as much as $30-$50 less, keep an eye out for one of those sales.

Pros

Good IP rating, comfortable, great battery life.

Cons

Can cause some buzzing at higher volumes.

Cost IP rating Battery life
$46 IPX5 8 hours

These are true entry-level bone-conduction headphones, but I see people constantly reviewing them and offering relatively high praise. Given my experience, I’d say that if you cannot afford anything else, and you need bone conduction headphones right away, these are a good option. But be aware of the limitations, the lack of waterproofing, and the muffled audio quality you’ll get in comparison to higher-quality products.

Pros

Great price.

Cons

Pretty poor IP rating, but not the worst. Leaks sound.

Cost IP rating Battery life
$78 IP-X6 3-4 hours

Pyle came out of the gate with an interesting alternative that’s founded a bit in some important areas, most notably in its battery life and IP rating. The sound quality is not as good as Shokz, though it’s reasonable for the price, but I’ve seen complaints about the longevity of the headphones as well. Personally, I like a company with a really strong return warranty, and while Pyle does offer a 1-year limited warranty, I’m not sure if I’d want to go through the process of dealing with it for these. At the end of the day, though, the short battery life is a dealbreaker.

Pros

Reasonable price. Leaks less sound than other lower-cost models.

Cons

Lower build quality, poor IP rating compared to slightly more expensive options. Slow charging time compared to other designs. Really poor battery life compared to slightly more expensive models.

Cost IP rating Battery life
$40 IPX6 6 hours

Another extremely cheap option, these might be worthwhile if you can’t afford a more expensive model. Given that the battery is solid, it has an in-built mic, and generally provides good longevity (as reported by a fair sample of reviewers) these would be a good bet if you need bone conduction headphones without any glitzy features.

Pros

Reasonable warranty, relatively low cost.

Cons

Poor IP rating, bulky. Basically, a clone of the Taygoo model—possibly even the same company in the background.

Cost IP rating Battery life
$50 IP54 6 hours

In terms of audio quality, these totally rate higher than other budget options in the bone-conduction field, but the lack of multipoint pairing is a real shame. You do get a real IP rating, though, which is extremely nice. If you don’t need to connect your headphones to more than one device at a time, these are an obvious choice.

Pros

Better total IP rating than others in this price range.

Cons

Lower moisture IP rating than more expensive models. They released a firmware update that turned off their buggy multipoint pairing, and that’s a really poor move. Hopefully, they find a way to rectify that in the future, but I’m leery of any company that chooses to remove a feature rather than improve their product.

Bose Sport Open Earbuds (Bone Conduction Alternative)
Bose Sport Open Earbuds (Bone Conduction Alternative)
Cost IP rating Battery life
$199 (but sometimes on sale) IPX4 8 hours

If you’re not convinced by the lure of the bone conduction headphones, but you know you need (or want) some headphones that offer a different listening style, these are a great alternative option. They offer solid sound, a good mic, and the freedom of your ear canal. However, they don’t conduct sound in the same way as bone-conduction headphones, so they may be less useful for those with hearing impairments.

Pros

A great 90-day trial period, a price match promise, and free 2-day shipping. A well-known company, and an innovative design.

Cons

Comes in two pieces, which leads us back to one of the major issues of earbuds: how easily lost one can become. Reviewers cite the lack of stability, especially while running or doing intensive sports, as a problem. The design of bone-conduction headphones on the market means they will stay on your head even if you’re doing sparring practice, while these definitely won’t. The absence of a good IP rating is also a fundamental flaw.

Which is the winner?
Which is the winner?

Right now, the field is skewed heavily in the favor of Shokz (formerly AfterShokz). They have a peak design, a corner on the market through a recognized brand, and consistently good products. I’m also a fan of their customer support: my first pair of headphones displayed some bluetooth issues towards the end of my first year of ownership, and the process of getting them replaced, free of charge, was easy as pie. I wish the warranty period were longer, of course, but I’m pleased with what they do offer. And, in terms of my needs for audio quality, multipoint functionality, all-day battery life, and reasonable IP ratings, Shokz is constantly a winner.

If you need to go low-budget, you might do best by buying a copy of each and trying them out during Amazon’s 30-day return window. See which offers you the better experience. My recommendation is the YouthWhisper headphones: their lack of multipoint is distressing, but otherwise they seem reasonable.

I’m very curious, bordering on excited, about the new Kaibo Flex. For a Kicklstarter-led campaign, they delivered on their product with blazing speed, and I love the idea of having a dock that comes with them for easy charging (as well as the 5-minute fast charge feature). Other cool elements are the smart play feature (put on and the audio starts, take off, and it stops), and the claims regarding overall sound quality. If you’re adventurous and have the dough to throw around, try them out, and check back here at Howchoo for updates and a more detailed review soon!

Be careful not to rip these.
Michael Michael (175)
2 minutes

Need to change the tips on your AirPods Pro to accommodate the size of your ears?