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They’re for anyone who doesn’t want to block up their ears with buds, but who still wants to enjoy the decent sound quality. That’s why the best bone conduction headphones are a good option in busy environments when you need to stay aware or for outdoor activities, such as running and cycling.
But how do these clever bone conduction headphones work? You’re able to hear sound through these headphones thanks to a method that uses transducers. They can send vibrations through your cheekbones and jaw up towards your inner ear. Your brain then processes the vibrations, turning them into the content that streams through the headphones.
While bone conduction buds are a fantastic option if you want a pair of workout headphones so you can be more aware of their surroundings, they can also be useful in any scenario where you’d need to be able to hear a mix of your own music and that background noise, like if you’re walking on a busy street.
We’ve put the best bone conduction headphones on the market today to the test – read on for our top picks.
How to choose the best bone conduction headphones:
There aren’t as many bone conduction headphones to choose from as other kinds of headphones. But there are still a few key things to consider.
For example, if you’re thinking about investing in a pair of bone conduction headphones for use while exercising, be sure to check the IP (ingress protection) rating. This will give you an indication of how well they’ll work when you sweat.
What’s more, those who might be using the headphones to take calls, but who don’t want interaction with their smartphone while doing so, should look for units with built-in controls and a microphone, so you can stay hands-free.
There’s plenty more to consider, including the design, the fit, and the budget. Let’s take a look at the top bone conduction headphones of 2021 to find out more.
The best bone conduction headphones of 2021:
The Aeropex sits at the top of the AfterShokz family, and at the top of our list, offering the smallest and lightest design and a slight step up in sound quality over rival bone conduction headphones.
They’re 30% smaller and 13% lighter than the company’s Trekz Air headphones, and offer an IP67 water-resistance rating, making them an excellent option for exercise and use in the rain.
Despite their slender frame, they include two physical buttons to control volume, and the move to a proprietary charging setup helps them to offer an improved water-resistance rating. Dual noise-canceling mics are available for those times you need to take calls, too.
On the sound front, AfterShokz has adjusted its approach to delivering audio to your ears to improve bass performance and offer less vibration and sound leakage than the brand’s other headphones.
The improvements in bass and clarity are slight, yet noticeable, and with an improved eight hours of battery life and the same quick-charge support as the Trekz Air, the Aeropex are the priciest and best Aftershokz for a reason.
If you don’t want to spend big on the company’s Aeropex headphones, the AfterShokz Trekz Air offer many of the same features and overall audio quality for significantly less money.
Although not as compact or light in terms of their design, the Trekz Air do come with an IP55 rating, making them fit for sweaty workouts. Adopting the signature wraparound titanium frame, their 30g weight is distributed well to ensure they’re comfortable to wear and stay in place.
Pairing with devices over Bluetooth, the headphones feature controls to adjust volume and a mute button to make it quick and easy to cut music in busy environments – or, if you need to have a conversation.
Sound quality is as good as you’ll find on bone conduction headphones, although in busier environments, they’ll struggle to be heard. At full volume, you might experience some of the tickling sensation familiar with bone conduction, so these are best used at moderate volumes.
Offering six hours of battery life, the Trekz Air also comes with a quick-charge feature that will get you an hour of listening time in just 15 minutes of charging.
Vidonn might not be a familiar name, but the brand makes good-quality bone conduction headphones for less than Aftershoks’ cheapest pair, offering an excellent experience.
They’re similar in stature and look to the Trekz Air, weighing in at just 29g. As such, they feel extremely light and therefore comfortable to wear. Plus, an IP55 water-resistance rating means they’re suited to use for exercise and will be able to withstand some light rain.
They pair to your device via Bluetooth, and a built-in microphone ensures you can take hands-free calls. In addition, they include just one discreet button with which you can play and pause music, skip tracks and take and reject calls.
Sound-wise, the Vidonn F3 offers an experience that isn’t too dissimilar to a pair of Aftershokz headphones. The F3s are comparable in terms of power, clarity and definition, with a similar degree of sound leakage.
Battery life is an impressive 7-9 hours, matching the AfterShokz Aeropex, and they charge via micro USB. Just keep hold of the very small cap that covers the charging port, to ensure you can keep the sweat and rain out.
The Xtrainerz are the unique member of the AfterShokz family of headphones, since they’re the only pair that pack in an MP3 player and can be used whilst swimming.
They offer a slim, lightweight design much like the Aeropex, and a higher IP68 water-resistance rating means they can handle being submerged in water up to two meters for 30 minutes.
Coming with 4GB of storage capacity, you can drag and drop multiple file-formats including MP3, FLAC and AAC, and they match the Aeropex for battery life, providing eight hours of listening time.
The Xtrainerz sounds great in the water, offering excellent clarity when submerged. However, the lack of Bluetooth connectivity means you can’t stream music via apps, nor can you make or take phone calls.
Tayogo is a Chinese brand that’s enjoyed a couple of successful Kickstarter campaigns, making headphones that work on land and in the water.
These particular bone conduction headphones are firmly for use on dry land, and are some of the most worthy at their cheap price.
Pairing with devices over Bluetooth, the Tayogo features a set of physical buttons below one of their chunky arms to adjust volume, plus a larger button on the end of the other arm to skip tracks. They also make room for a microphone to take hands-free phone calls.
These headphones sport a bulkier build than the other headphones on this list, which means they can move about when used for energetic workouts such as HIIT sessions. For steady runs and working, while sat down, they remain in position.
The Tayogo presents a powerful sound for bone conduction headphones, but you will feel a noticeable tickling sensation at top volumes, as they channel that sound to your ears. Six hours of battery life is a decent showing and is only a couple of hours shy of that delivered by the top-end pair of Aftershokz headphones.
Overall, if you can live with that slightly bulkier design, these bone conduction headphones do a sound job.