In an era of stylish, sonorous over-ear headphones and earbuds, audiophiles would rarely consider an open-ear form factor. This is unless you're a cyclist, runner or anyone who needs to listen to the traffic when out and about. Bone conduction headphones present a safe means to enjoy your favourite tunes via vibrations along the bones, so the ears are always free from any enclosure. No more sweaty earcups, nor any ear fatigue!
How do bone conduction headphones work?
A Dubai-based audio engineer and founder of rehearsal and recording studio, MNK Studios, explains the inner workings of a bone conduction pair and why it might be the perfect fit for you. "Bone conduction headphones work by converting sound energy into vibrations," said Miltiadis Kyvernitis, who's been in the sound field for over two decades.
"That being said, the headphone drivers (the speakers) don't block your ear canal, but they rest just below your temple on your upper jaw bone. The vibrations produced by these specially designed headphones pass through your bones, bypassing the eardrums and reaching the cochlea in your ear directly," he said.
Open-ear headphones today may be branded as the outdoor sports gear, but the technology behind them has been around for centuries, our audio expert tells us. In fact, renowned German music composer Ludwig van Beethoven was believed to have used bone conduction to wrap up his last symphony, at a time when he almost fully lost his hearing. Turns out, besides the eardrum, a medium to hear has always existed.
Who are bone conduction headphones for?
Are bone conduction headphones an audiophile's number-one choice? Most likely not, says Miltiadis. He describes the experience as listening to "background music in your head". With their open design, these headphones offer an alternative to traditional listening devices, especially for those who are hard of hearing and wear hearing aids.
"As of late, however, many use bone conduction headphones if they don't want full obstruction of their ears, in case they want or need to hear their surroundings clearly. This could be when communicating with others, for instance, or riding a bicycle on a busy street and needing to keep an ear out for traffic, while the music is 'playing in their head,'" said Miltiadis.
If you've decided to shop for a pair, expect some sound leakage. It's an inevitable by-product of the headphones' design and technology, as sound waves will transfer to the ambient air. But, fortunately, only people sitting really close to you will be able to hear your playlist, says our expert.
We've picked out the best-rated bone conduction headphones on Amazon below, so that you can safely run your next marathon to tunes. Make sure to become a Prime member to score free, fast delivery.
1. Best Overall: Shokz OpenRun Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones
- Secure titanium frame
- Dual mics for calls
- Eight-hour battery life
- Quick charge for 1.5-hour use in 10 minutes
- Comfortable and lightweight at 26 grams
- Vibrates noticeably when the volume is increased
Shokz is a well-known brand in the bone conduction niche, as Miltiadis points out. Experience the best of open-ear listening by a manufacturer that has its own patented bone conduction technology. The OpenRun model is wireless, over Bluetooth, weighs only 26 grams and is water-resistant against sweat, splashes and unexpected drizzle. Jump during a HITT workout, reach for the toes in yoga or cycle through bumpy, unpaved roads - the titanium wraparound frame stays put throughout. Despite its wireless connectivity, enjoy eight hours of battery life with quick 10-minute charging for 1.5 hours of listening. There are dual mics on the body, so you can answer calls hands-free as long as your phone is on you. Cyclists, runners and casual listeners love the OpenRun for sticking on, without the discomfort of in-ear buds. They do note an increase in vibration when the volume is high, otherwise they wear light enough to forget their presence.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh29 and two years for Dh47.
2. Best Budget: Siniffo Bone Conduction Headphones
- Value for money
- Great fit around the head
- Quick Bluetooth connection
- Eight-hour battery life with quick charging
- No sound leaks, per reviews
- Answer and volume controls on the device are small, say reviews
Siniffo's X15 offers a budget option for those curious about bone conduction listening. It's still incredibly lightweight at 28 grams and carries a water-resistant rating of IP56 to make the wireless headphones sweatproof. Much like the Shokz OpenRun, the X15 features a noise-cancelling mic for clear calls and runs for eight hours straight before needing a charge. Impressed reviewers are surprised at the price-to-performance ratio, leaving five stars for the sound stability and comfort. Others picked these up to participate in marathons that don't allow in-ear devices, and attest to hearing their surroundings while still enjoying their audiobooks and music. Reviewers also mention almost no sound leakage. Another advantage is the Type-C charging port on the headphones, meaning fewer cables to lug around.
Warranty: The manufacturer offers a two-year warranty.
3. Best for Swimming: Shokz OpenSwim Swimming MP3 Headphones
- MP3 headphones let you download 4GB worth of songs and books
- Comfortable under water
- Fits well with swimming gear
- Eight-hour battery life
- No Bluetooth support
What if your headphones could double as an MP3 player? This means you get to listen to 4GB worth of media wherever you are, even if you leave your phone behind at home. Unlike our previous options, the pair doesn't come with Bluetooth connectivity, relying completely on built-in storage. Don't fret, however; their stability in water - with swim caps, goggles and earplugs - is worth the high price tag. Do note that their IP68 rating only makes them resistant to up to two metres of water. Swimmers in the reviews say the headphones work perfectly underwater, and even better with earplugs in. If you frequent the pool often, then these could elevate your swimming experience immensely. Check out other waterproof pairs for swimming here.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh46.58 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh35 and two years for Dh57.
4. Best for Office: Shokz OpenComm Wireless Bone Conduction Headset
- Excellent noise-cancellation on the boom mic
- Lightweight despite the added mic
- Clear audio on both ends of the line
- Eight-hour battery life
- Pairs with two devices at the same time
- No dedicated mute button on the device
- Beeps on mute
The constant lodging and dislodging of headphones in an office environment can get tiring and cause unnecessary ear fatigue. Upgrade to Shokz's OpenComm model that comes with a noise-cancelling boom mic. Attend online meetings and chat with colleagues at the same time, for eight hours straight. And, since these weigh just 33 grams, you'll clear day-long conferences in a breeze, not knowing you even had headphones on in the first place. There's dual Bluetooth connectivity, too, so your phone and laptop will be paired at all times. Users say the other party on the line always reports clear reception. The headphones get five stars from multiple reviewers who work from home and the office. According to them, it works great over Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings, although some face connectivity issues with the latter.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh51.58 for 12 months with select banks.
5. Best Value for Office Headphones: Monodeal Bone Conduction Headphones
- Noise-cancelling boom mic
- Switches between dual devices seamlessly
- Touch controls
- Six-hour battery life
- Unique charging cable
An inexpensive alternative to Shokz's OpenComm, the Monodeal X100 bone conduction headphones also feature a noise-cancelling boom mic. Designed for work calls, voice chats and online classes, the pair supports dual Bluetooth connectivity, and switches between the devices as calls are received. It does carry a smaller battery than others, giving you only six hours of charge. Reviewers have tested it out with six-hour-long meetings on MS Teams, Zoom and in noisy public settings, leaving five stars. They say that it manages to filter out any ambient chatter from colleagues, when on calls. However, with its own charging cable, buyer do wish the pair had a standard interface.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh23 and two years for Dh38.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.