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Out of all the different form factors audio gear comes in, bone-conduction headphones may be the most unique. You’ve seen plenty of earbuds and over-ear headphones, both wired and wireless, and they all have their purposes. So, why would you move on from the tried-and-true options that everyone already loves? Surely, the best wireless earbuds that are near ubiquitous are enough for use on an airplane or in the gym.

Well, there’s a case to be made for the best bone-conduction headphones. These models, which don’t even go in or cover the ear, do something very interesting: they transmit sound through vibrations on your cheekbones. While the sound quality isn’t always as good as the more traditional options, this leaves your ears completely open so they can breathe. These headphones are also significantly lightweight. Plus, they look pretty cool in a modern kind of way. And, as you’ll notice from some of the options here, they’re great for workouts, with a few even being the go-to for use while swimming.

Editors choice

1. YouthWhisper SuperQ3

9.25 / 10
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If you respect your ears and want great audio on the move, few options are better than the YouthWhisper SuperQ3. These open-ear bone conduction wireless headphones are safe for your ears; they let in surrounding sounds, but you can still enjoy quality audio. Also, the open-ear design resists the build-up of germs and wax inside your ear canal.

Perfect for people who love working out in public places, these wireless headphones connect via Bluetooth 5.1 and are flexible yet durable. They are very comfortable to wear as well. The transducers produce pretty good sound and don’t rattle your skull with unnecessarily loud bass. The headphones are IP67-grade waterproof so that you can wear them in rain or shine. As a surprise extra for this price range, they have ANC too! However, the battery is not up to the mark for everyone, with only 6 hours of playtime.

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YouthWhisper SuperQ3
Premium pick

2. Shokz OpenRun Pro

9.00 / 10
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The Shokz OpenRun Pro bone-conduction headphones are some of the best headphones money can buy. They transmit premium sound through your temporal bones, with rich details and thumping (but not damaging) bass. They feel pretty sturdy with a strong band and good quality material and connect via Bluetooth 5.1. to Android or Apple phones.

The batteries are excellent in these Bluetooth headphones — they last 10 hours on a full charge or 1.5 hours after a 5-minute charge. Because of their open-ear design, the ShokZ OpenRun Pro don't block out external noise. However, they are great for communication since they feature dual noise-canceling microphones. And to top it off, they have IP55-grade water resistance and easily tackle sweat and light rain.

Best value

3. Kimwood HS1

8.75 / 10
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Kimwood HS1 bone-conduction headphones may look like a premium option, but don't be fooled; these headphones are definitely affordable. The HS1 2022 model features an ultra-lightweight frame and comfortable material. The titanium headphone band will bend and stretch quite easily without damage, giving you a lot of flexibility.

The HS1's audio quality is not exactly legendary, but it gets the job done in public places with lots of background noise. The batteries are good enough, giving you 8 hours of playtime on a full charge or 1 hour for a 10-minute charge. Conveniently, they use a USB-C port for charging and connect to Android or Apple devices through Bluetooth 5. The mics are especially good, letting you easily hold long calls and meetings.

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Kimwood HS1

This updated version of H2O Audio’s triathlon-geared headphones are an ideal option for any extended workouts. You get five hours of use, an IP68 rating to handle long periods underwater, and a secure fit so that you can take on any number of physical activities while listening to music.

While they come with a built-in 8GB MP3 player — a requirement for any headphones you plan to use underwater — they also have H2O Audio’s unique Playlist+. This patent-pending tech can store playlists, podcasts, and music from your favorite streaming service, which means you don’t have to bring a phone (or get the MP3 versions) to use. The just-under-$200 price tag is quite high compared to a lot of options on here.

  • Connectivity Technology: Bluetooth
  • Play Time: 5 hours
  • Waterproof?: Yes
  • Brand: H2O Audio
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H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with PLAYLIST+

The Zygo Solo are one of the best, if not the best, waterproof headphones for swimming. Why? To start, they offer excellent sound quality underwater, which is harder than you would think. Bluetooth doesn’t work very well when swimming, which is why so many swimming-oriented headphones come with built-in MP3 players or are meant to be used with one. The Zygo Solo skip all that and use an FM transmitter so you can play whatever you want off your phone sitting poolside while you do laps. The headphones also have that extremely tough IP68 rating needed for truly waterproof use. Of course, they are very expensive. And, having to keep your phone somewhat nearby and hooked up to an FM transmitter can be limiting, even if the Solo are extremely light.

  • Connectivity Technology: FM transmitter
  • Play Time: 3 hours
  • Waterproof?: Yes
  • Brand: Zygo
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Zygo Solo

Looking like a device out of some 90’s sci-fi movie, the Shocks OpenMove bone conduction headphones are as stylish as they are useful. The lightweight and comfy earbud-free design let you run or cycle on the outside while keeping your ear open for the traffic. The wraparound titanium frame keeps the headphones in place securely and prevents them from slipping off.

The transducers on these open-ear headphones are quite large, delivering surprisingly good audio through your cheekbones (yet no one else will be able to hear them). The sound is pretty balanced without artificial tuning — though the bass may be a bit extra for some people. The batteries, on the other hand, aren’t above the generic level, with only 6 hours of playtime.

Bring out your mojo with the Mojawa Mojo1. These bone conduction headphones have excellent sound using custom dynamic range compression and proprietary bass boost. They can also suppress noise up to 60dB and prevent 90% of sound leakage. The comfortable yet snug fit will help in heavy-duty workouts, while the reflective stripes will ensure you're seen.

The Mojo1 feature a magnetic fast-charging cable, which will juice up your headphones fully in 1.5 hours. As far as battery life goes, they can last about 8 hours for listening and calls. They connect via Bluetooth 5.0 and transmit reasonably good audio. The silicone-patched transducers fit snugly on your cheekbones and are IP67-certified waterproof, letting you enjoy the music even in heavy rains. Just don’t go swimming with them!

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Mojawa Mojo1

The Haylou PurFree's sleek look is sure to impress modern outdoor enthusiasts, while the quality transducers with directional bass-heavy sound will leave you pumped. You can listen to your tunes safely, aware of your surroundings, thanks to the open ear design, and you can easily squeeze out 8 hours of playtime. Plus, they fit snugly and comfortably; since they are lightweight, you'll barely notice them.

These headphones feature dual CVC microphones with noise-canceling technology, so you can take calls without a problem. They also have Bluetooth 5.2, so you can hook up to two devices simultaneously. Additionally, they are IP67-grade waterproof and can withstand sweat and light rain.

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Haylou PurFree

Want to jam out during a swim? These IP68-level waterproof earphones would be what you're looking for, but Bluetooth doesn’t work underwater. Still, these headphones can withstand heavy-duty rain, so no worries about getting caught in a storm. If you do want to try and listen to music while doing laps, the Relaxhome headphones have 32-GB storage and an audio player built in. They can store over a thousand songs and support all the popular codecs like MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLAC.

The sound is average, but users report it's crystal clear underwater. When out of the water, you can connect via Bluetooth 5, which is quick and picks it up in a snap. The cherry on top, the headphones have a pretty sweet incoming noise cancellation when communicating via them.

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Relaxhome waterproof bone conduction headphones

The Tayogo S2 are certainly the most fashionable-looking pair of bone-conduction headsets we have seen — especially considering their color variety. They are built for running or heavy exercise, with the titanium headband circling to fit pretty much all sizes. The open-ear design helps you be aware of your surroundings while enjoying quality beats.

The Tayogo S2 Bluetooth headphones don’t really shine in the audio quality department, but they will at least carry you through the morning traffic. They connect via Bluetooth 5.0 technology, which is effective up to 35 feet, connecting them to your Android or Apple devices like smartphones, Macbooks, tablets, laptops, etc., easily via multipoint connectivity. They are also sweatproof, so they make excellent jogging or cycling buddies.

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Another stylish one, the Moing TouchBone headphones let you stay area-aware and sport high-reflection strips and markings on the sides and back so that you remain visible in low-light jogging or cycling. The build quality is sturdy and ergonomic while also being snug and comfortable on your cheekbones.

Sound-wise, the TouchBone wireless headphones are decent; the sound is digitally enhanced to give you a good soundstage. Meanwhile, they come with dual CVC 8.0 microphones which are excellent for communication. However, they aren't too great on battery, with only roughly 5-6 hours of playtime.

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Moing TouchBone

The venerable Phillips brand has served the consumer audio market far longer than I remember, and now they are stepping into futuristic sound tech. The Phillips A6606 bone-conduction headphones are an admirable effort on that front, with stylish contemporary looks and a sturdy build. They also include safety lights firing backward, which you can control via their app. These can come in handy if you’re in the habit of nighttime runs. With an IP67 waterproofing rating, you are protected from sweat and light rain, but they’re not for swimming.

Phillips' sound is always admirable, and that quality also continues in these Bluetooth headphones. Thanks to the dual mics, the communication is just as good as their easy-to-access controls. The batteries are excellent with 9 hours of playtime, with just a 15-minute top-off giving you another hour. However, some users do notice some quirks with their Bluetooth connectivity.

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How do bone conduction headphones work, and why do you need them?

Instead of subjecting yourself to potential hearing damage by using earbuds and headphones that direct sound right into eardrums, consider bone-conduction headphones instead. They don't put any pressure in your ear canals or plug them up either (take a look at whatever you've been using — they're probably kind of gross).

While traditional headphones send soundwaves via tiny speakers, aka drivers, bone-conduction headphones do exactly what their name suggests. They conduct audio via transducers through the bones that sit in front of your ears, essentially the back of your cheekbones. By sending audio directly into your head, your ears remain completely open to hear the surrounding environment, which is ideal when you're going for a job in a busy neighborhood.

Advantages of bone conduction headphones

There are several benefits of using a pair of bone-conduction headphones. First, since they bypass the eardrum, they won't damage your ears, even at high volumes. Also, the transducers leave your ear canal open, so you can freely hear outside noises, but they do not mix with the audio. It works just like hearing your own voice, perfect for working out in public spaces, where you have to be aware of other people and traffic.

Finally, they are an absolute boon if you have ear damage. If you cannot use earphones or headphones, bone-conduction headphones might be the alternative you're looking for. As a bonus, you don't have to worry about bothering anyone around you if you're blasting your tunes, no matter where you get your music.

Issues with bone conduction headphones

Bone-conduction headphones have some downsides. For instance, the transducer technology has not developed enough to compete with speakers — the audio quality will always be lower than a standard pair of wired earphones. Also, if you don't like outside noise and want to suppress it, you'll have to look elsewhere — these are explicitly designed to let outside noise in.

While they do help protect from ear damage, they aren't foolproof. For example, if you crank up the volume of your bone-conduction headphones, they can still cause damage. Also, if you use them for extended periods, you may get vertigo, or your skin may develop rashes from the vibration. Additionally, the tech that goes into these headphones is pretty power-hungry and will drain the batteries quickly. So, bone-conduction headphones generally don't play more than a few hours for each charge.

Choosing the best bone conduction headphones

The bone-conduction audio technology is still working out the kinks, but a few products on the market now are quite capable of giving you what you need. However, there are a few things you should consider before buying. The first thing to look into is the transducers; their size and quality determine their audio quality. Next comes the build quality, safety features, and connectivity. And there is seldom any product that fires strongly on all pistons — except a few all-rounders we have gathered here.

The real all-rounder option giving you the best return on investment are the YouthWhisper SuperQ3, with excellent connectivity and waterproofing. Curiously, they offer ANC, too. If that doesn't defeat the purpose, then it's a nice and rare thing to have in a bone-conduction headphone. But if you are willing to spend, you will be hard-pressed to find something better than Shokz OpenRun Pro. They give you premium audio quality backed by excellent battery life. However, if pricing is the deciding factor for you, the Kimwood HS1 will fulfill entry-level requirements all the way through good flexibility and communication capabilities.