Most of us rely on headphones daily to listen to music, podcasts, and phone calls. But for some, traditional headphones are not practical for sizing or safety reasons. In such cases, bone-conduction headphones (or open-ear headphones) are a great alternative. If you aren’t sure where to start, read on to learn about the best bone-conduction headphones.
Tip: If these top bone-conduction headphones don't work well with your PC out of the box, try improving your sound and microphone quality on Windows with these recommendations.
1. Best Overall: Shokz OpenRun
Shokz is probably the leading brand in bone conduction headphones, and the Shokz OpenRuns are no exception. Their patented PremiumPitch 2.0+ sound technology helps maintain the bass in music and speech, an ongoing challenge for open-ear headphones.
For the average headphone user, the OpenRuns have excellent features that give them the edge. First, the headphones have an IP67 rating. You can submerge the headphones for 30 minutes at 1 meter (a little over 3 feet) without device failure. Furthermore, the OpenRun headphones weigh just 26 grams (less than an ounce).
Finally, these bone-conduction headphones are equipped with dual noise-canceling mics for phone calls. With multipoint pairing, on-board volume, and multifunction buttons, the Shokz OpenRun headphones are a versatile pair of bone-conduction headphones and worth the price of admission.
- Patented PremiumPitch 2.0+ sound technology
- 10-minute quick charge function
- 10 meter (33-foot) wireless range
- IP67 rating
- 2-year warranty
- Proprietary charging cable
- Difficult to hear in high wind
- Sound leakage at high volume
2. Best for Swimming: Zygo Solo
Most waterproof bone-conduction headphones require you to load MP3 files onto the headphones before you dive in. However, the Zygo Solos are the only IP68 waterproof bone-conduction headphones that allow you to directly stream audio without using Bluetooth. Thanks to an FM transmitter that acts as an intermediary between your phone and the headset, the Zygo Solos send audio via radio waves, as opposed to Bluetooth.
In addition to audio streaming, the FM transmitter acts as a one-way walkie-talkie, which is great if you receive coaching or use the Zygo app for instructions. Furthermore, with a built-in accelerometer, Zygo promises activity tracking soon via a remote software update.
However, the Zygo Solos aren't only for swimmers. If you’re involved in canoeing, paddleboarding, water skiing, or any other water sport, the Zygo Solos provide an impressive streaming range of 1/3 mile (just over 0.5 kilometers) above water.
- Up to a 50 meter (55-yard) range in 0.6 meter (2-foot) depth
- Optional swimming earplugs
- On-board volume control
- Multipoint connectivity
- 3-hour battery life
- Heavy at 66 grams (1.75 ounces)
- Requires you to leave equipment at pool’s edge
- No microphone for phone calls
Also helpful: if you're concerned about your phone sitting too close to the pool, try one of these waterproof Bluetooth speakers instead of headphones.
3. Best Storage: Naenka Runner Diver2
The Naenka Runner Diver2 headphones are highly versatile, offering both Bluetooth streaming and 32GB of onboard storage. In addition to supporting MP3, M4A, WAV, APE, and FLAC files, you can connect to any device and stream via Bluetooth.
The Naenka Runner Diver2 headphones boast an impressive 10 hours of battery life and have reduced the weight to 32 grams (just over 1 ounce). While a little heavier than some other bone-conduction headphones, they should provide a comfortable fit for prolonged periods of wear.
With an IP68 waterproof rating, the Runner Diver2 headphones are suitable for land and water activities.
- Bluetooth 5.3
- 32GB of onboard storage
- Proprietary sound leakage reduction technology
- IP68 waterproof rating
- Includes swimming earplugs
- Audio lacking in treble
- Proprietary charging cable
- Shorter battery life, if listening above 60% volume
- Only available in one size
4. Best for the Office: Shokz OpenComm2 UC
While on the more expensive end of the spectrum, the Shokz OpenComm2 UC provides an excellent catalog of features for those who spend a lot of time on calls and Zoom meetings. With an impressive 16 hours of talk time and eight hours of listening time, they will easily survive a long workday. Even if you forget to charge them, a quick 5-minute recharge will keep you going for an additional hour.
The OpenComm2 headphones have a soft silicone coating for optimal comfort. Additionally, the microphone rotates back, so you can move it out of the way if you’re not on a call. The headset comes with a Loop110 wireless adapter for a more stable connection over traditional Bluetooth, and can maintain two active connections simultaneously.
Like all Shokz bone conduction headphones, they use the company’s proprietary bone conduction technology and PremiumPitch 2.0 audio processing. This provides superior sound quality, compared to the competition. In addition, the noise-canceling boom mic with a mute button ensures parties on either end of the call experience excellent sound fidelity with minimal background noise.
- 30-meter (98-foot) range
- Zoom certified
- PC and Mac compatible
- Up to 16 hours of talk time
- 60-minute charge time
- IP55 rating
- Not suited for high-noise office environments
- Expensive, compared to other options
Good to know: whether or not you use bone-conduction headphones, you can easily share your audio with others on Zoom.
5. Best Budget: Shokz OpenMove
There are many cheap bone conduction headphones in the $30 to $50 range. However, spending just a little more will result in a noticeable difference in quality with the Shokz OpenMove.
There are many features on the Shokz OpenMove headphones, including dual noise-canceling microphones for phone calls, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, and the on-board multifunction and volume control buttons.
The bass is a bit lacking, compared to more expensive models, as is the six-hour battery life. That said, for the casual headphone user looking for an open-ear headphones experience, the Shokz OpenMoves are a great option.
- 10-meter (33-foot) range
- USB-C charging cable
- Titanium neckband
- Polycarbonate ear hook, rather than titanium
- No quick-charge function
- 6-hour battery life is shorter than most
While they may not be for everyone, bone-conduction headphones are an excellent option for those who want to enjoy audio streaming while keeping their ears open to the outside world. If your goal is streaming with as little noise interference as possible, consider looking into the best noise-canceling earbuds. If the price tags in this list of the best bone-conduction headphones are a little too high, check out some more budget-friendly options.
Image credit: Unsplash
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