Originally part of Make the Sound Better, this article has been reworked to be more relevant, and the recommendations list has been updated for current recommendations in 2023.
Bone conduction headphones are a niche alternative to your typical in-ear earbuds. These rest directly on the listener’s cheekbones, and then rather than using airwaves to vibrate your eardrum, the vibrations from the bone conduction beelines for the cochlea.
Originally this made them most appealing to people with hearing problems that affect their eardrums. However, bone-conduction headphones have gained the most traction with athletes. The bone conduction design doesn’t block your ears and therefore gives you environmental awareness when you are outdoors.
For road cyclists, bone conduction headphones are the only headphones you should wear as this will allow you to hear the traffic around you. Also, because they wrap around your head, they are not going to fall out and get lost, which TWS earbuds can do.
For runners, you don’t specifically need to wear these; I still prefer in-ear earbuds as I prefer to block out the sound around me (and my heavy breathing). Many others prefer the improved safety that environmental awareness brings. However, bone conduction headphones are the only headphones that are approved for use in road races under the UKA rules of competition. The England Athletics has a partnership with Shoks, formerly Aftershokz, but the rules don’t specifically say this is the brand you need to wear.
Shoks are by far the most popular and best brand on the market for bone conduction, but they have quite a few options to choose from, and there are other brands out there worth considering, especially if you are on a budget.
Best Bone Conduction Headphones 2023 Buying Guide
Below, we are going to take a look at the best bone conduction headphone available in the market. If you are looking for something good, this is the list for you.
I am adding a note about sound quality at the top because it is important to address. Some of the best bone conduction headphones can sound quite good, but in general, they will never compete with in-ear earbuds. They almost always struggle with bass, and the environmental noise you are letting in has a negative impact on sound quality.
Benefits of Bone Conduction Headphones
Considering how bone conduction headphones work on a different principle to deliver sound, they are inherently different, but they do pose some amount of benefits.
With that out of the way, we can start looking at the benefits below, so you know what you should be going for and what you should be avoiding.
The Situational Awareness Increases
Considering how the bone conduction headphones do not necessarily set on top of your ears, the outside noise and sound is not blocked at all; this means that if you are commuting or you are sitting in a room full of people, or even when you are traveling, these headphones do provide you with the situational awareness.
The same situational awareness is more or less absent from the standard set of headphones available in the market, and that is why, this is an important factor that you should not really overlook because it is actually really good.
Comfortable for a Lot of People
Just like sound, comfort is extremely subjective for most people when you are talking about headphones in general.
However, the thing is that if you get tired of having something inside your ears for longer periods of times, or you are just tired of having something sit on top of your head for extended period of time, then going for bone conduction headphones is definitely a good idea and should not disappoint you in any way whatsoever.
That being said, if you are looking for something comfortable, these headphones definitely take the cake as they are among the more comfortable alternatives available in the market. But again, this is something that is largely subjective because not everyone feels that way.
A Different Listening Experience
Another thing about these headphones is that they are offering a different listening experience, and that is what some people actually look forward to. You are not going to have to worry about any issues that might come in your way, and you will be able to enjoy the music really, really well, too.
However, before you go ahead and splurge on these headphones, we would highly advise you that you test these headphones out because that is one of the most important things.
Who Needs Bone Conduction Headphones
Now that you are aware of just who is going to benefit from these headphones, the next step is to start looking at just who is going to need these headphones, in the first place.
This is technical for a lot of people because headphones are largely subjective. Still, we are going to take a look at these factors because it is an important thing that we look at these things so we can have a better understanding about it at the same time.
Below, we are going to talk about a few instances where bone-conduction headphones can be really, really useful for you.
People With an Active Lifestyle
If you are someone who generally leads an active lifestyle, then going for these headphones might be the right thing to do.
Whether you go for a jog every morning, or you are working out in the gym, having spatial awareness is one of the most important things that you will have to go through.
And the best part is that you can easily distinguish between the sounds from outside as well as the sound that is coming from the headphones. Allowing you to run or work out without any fear of running into some issue.
As previously mentioned, bone conduction headphones are the only headphones that are approved for use in road races under the UKA rules of competition.
Just for safety, bone conduction headphones are the only thing you should wear when cycling on the road.
People Who Commute Often
Another use of these headphones is for people who commute or travel often. Taking your headphones off every time there is an announcement, or every time you have to cross the road, or something similar to that is a nuisance that not many people are fond of.
However, with bone conduction headphones, you do not have to worry about that as you can just wear them and forget that they were there in the first place because you will be able to hear everything.
People That Struggle Finding Comfortable Carbuds
The previous guide suggested these for people that wanted something different. While that is technically true, I think most people in general are better off with in-ear earbuds.
However, some people find them very uncomfortable, they may find them too intrusive or perhaps their ear shape makes it difficult for them to stay in. This is true for my partner, and she will often wear some Shokz OpenRun when just going for a walk.
Best Bone Conduction Headphones 2023 Review Guide
1) Shokz OpenRun Pro:
Best Bone Conduction Headphones 2023
Shokz, formerly AfterShokz are without a doubt the best bone conduction brand on the market and the Shokz OpenRun Pro is their flagship product. So these are inevitably the best bone conduction headphones you can buy.
Bone conduction headphones often have a somewhat unpleasant sensation due to the vibrations they generate, especially at higher volumes and when the bass intensifies.
However, when I reviewed the Shokz OpenRun Pro, dialling up the volume on my Pixel 6 to around 70%, I didn’t feel any vibration or discomfort while listening to music that primarily consists of mid and high frequencies. Only a faint vibration is noticeable when the bass kicks in.
Although the bass quality is good, it can’t match the performance of in-ear headphones. There is a slight distortion at higher volumes or with extremely low frequencies. As a result, individuals who prioritize heavy bass might not consider these headphones suitable for daily use.
On the other hand, the mid and high frequencies are excellent. Vocals, in particular, are crystal clear, and overall, the performance is comparable to that of in-ear options.
Overall, these are the best sounding bone conduction headphones I have used and the closest you will get to the quality of in-ear earphones.
- Best sound quality for any bone conduction headphones
- IP55 rating
- 10 hour battery life should last most sporting events
- Proprietory charger
|SHOKZ OpenRun Pro, [England Athletics Recommended] Bone...||£109.95||Buy on Amazon|
2) Shokz OpenMove
The Shokz Openmove are the most affordable bone conduction sports headphones they do. For around $85/£80, these would be my recommendation as the best affordable bone conduction headphones available (but there are plenty that are much cheaper).
Even though they are affordable for Shokz, I found that the sound quality was good with a decent level of bass.
Vocals are surprisingly good, with decent clarity. It is perhaps the highs that suffer the most, sometimes being drowned out by the bass or sounding a little sharp.
I found these sound quite good at higher volumes, the bass doesn’t bottom out, and voices and mids stay clear without becoming harsh and unpleasant.
One big difference between these and the more expensive models is that I could feel the that sense of vibration much more, which feels a bit weird.
- Good performance for the price
- USB-C Charging
- More vibration than the more expensive Shokz
|SHOKZ OpenMove Wireless Headphones, [England Athletics...||£79.95||Buy on Amazon|
3) Shoks Openswim (Formerly Xtrainerz)
I promise I am not a Shokz shill and this is the last pair I am recommending on this list. I thought these deserved a placement because they are unique in the fact they are not Bluetooth headphones but an MP3 player that is equitable for swimming or other watersports.
There is 4GB of storage and they supports MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLAC for device-free listening.
When using them in water, you can use the swimming earplugs which will significantly improve the sound quality (this also works for bone conduction headphones in general, in or out of water).
As you’d expect for swimming headphones, these are IP68 rated for full water ingress protection.
- Designed for swimming and water sports
- Not Bluetooth headphones
|SHOKZ OpenSwim(formerly Xtrainerz) Swimming MP3 Headphones,...||£118.95||Buy on Amazon|
4) Mu6 Ring Open Ear Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
Ok, so these aren’t actually bone conduction headphones but I think they are worth considering depending on why you were looking at bone conduction headphones in the first place.
Mu6 calls these air conduction headphones which basically just means it is a speaker that sits a bit in front of your ear with the drivers facing back towards your ear.
So these don’t use vibrations to bypass your eardrum and are therefore no use for anyone looking for that specific feature. However, it is a similar design, and you get the same sort of situational awareness as bone conduction headphones.
I personally found that the sound quality was generally better than most bone conduction headphones and you didn’t get that annoying vibration from the drivers.
The main downside of this is that they are quite audible at moderate volumes, and because of the sound leakage, the maximum volume you can turn these up to is quite limited. It is fine for general use and fitness, but wind noise will quickly drown out the audio if you are moving too fast, or if it is just very windy.
Another big plus point is that these are cheap at around £40/$52.
- Good sound quality with pleasant bass
- No vibration
- Not bone conduction, therefore not suitable for some buyers
- Sound leakage and limited volume
|Mu6 Ring Open Ear Wireless Bluetooth Headphones with...||Buy on Amazon|
5) 9 DIGITAL Lite Bone Conduction Headphones
I haven’t reviewed these but they are about the best-reviewed none-Shokz budget bone conduction headphones I can find. At around £45, you can’t complain at the price. They are IP54 rated, which is fine for running and cycling, just don’t go swimming with them. They are rated for 6.5 hours of playtime.
I’d recommend these for anyone that only wants to occasionally wear bone conduction headphones, for example just for running events.
- Great price
- Sound quality won’t be as good
- IP54 is lower than competing options
|Bone Conduction Headphones Bluetooth, Wireless Running...||Buy on Amazon|
If you’d hadn’t guessed, my personal preference would definitely be anything from Shokz. The Shokz OpenRun Pro are the best bone conduction headphones you can buy, they are superb, but the Shokz OpenMove are well worth it if you are limited by budget.
I am James, a UK-based tech enthusiast and the creative mind behind Mighty Gadget, which I’ve proudly run since 2007. Passionate about all things technology, my expertise spans from computers and networking, to mobile, wearables, and smart home devices.
As a fitness fanatic who loves running and cycling, I also have a keen interest in fitness-related technology, and I take every opportunity to cover this niche on my blog. My diverse interests allow me to bring a unique perspective to tech blogging, merging lifestyle, fitness, and the latest tech trends.
In my academic pursuits, I earned a BSc in Information Systems Design from UCLAN, before advancing my learning with a Master’s Degree in Computing. This advanced study also included Cisco CCNA accreditation, further demonstrating my commitment to understanding and staying ahead of the technology curve.
I’m proud to share that Vuelio has consistently ranked Mighty Gadget as one of the top technology blogs in the UK. With my dedication to technology and drive to share my insights, I aim to continue providing my readers with engaging and informative content.
Last update on 2023-11-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API