The best bone-conduction headphones in 2024

Bone-conduction headphones let you approach audio and activity with open ears and an open mind.

Best overall

The Shokz OpenRun Pro bone-conduction headphones are placed against a white background with a gray gradient.

Shokz OpenRun Pro

Best for kids

A pair of pink bone conduction headphones with a unicorn pattern on a blue and white background

N/0 Kids Bone Conduction Headphones

Best waterproof

A pair of blue bone conduction headphones on a blue and white background

Shokz OpenSwim

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If you’ve got a bone to pick with the way traditional audio devices disconnect you from the world, there is another option: bone-conduction headphones. Headphones, in general, can play many valuable roles. No (or some) bones about it: they let you jam out to music, dive into podcasts, or dial into phone calls while blocking out environmental noise. This can help you concentrate on tasks, but there are some circumstances when being cut off from what’s around you isn’t optimal. The best bone-conduction headphones let you enjoy all your favorite listening experiences with your ear canal exposed so that you can drive, walk, run, bike, swim, etc.—all while remaining completely aware of your surroundings.

How we chose the best bone-conduction headphones

Bone-conduction headphones are still a relatively new product. But—after consulting academic articles, peer recommendations, real-world user impressions, and our own first-hand tests—we have identified certain models that stand out. Following extensive research, we selected pairs that address the specific needs of athletics, work environments, and age. We chose units that were easy to use, incorporated the features we love about traditional headphones, and prioritized sound quality.

The best bone-conduction headphones: Reviews & Recommendations

Sitting right outside the ear on the jaw, bone-conduction headphones are a different physical and acoustic experience than most people are used to. But different can be good. Here are our picks for the best bone-conduction headphones to help keep you in the hear and now.

Best overall: Shokz OpenRun Pro

Best overall

Shokz OpenRun Pro

Why it made the cut: Shokz is dedicated to producing top-tier bone-conducting headphones, and the OpenRun Pro is the company’s most advanced model, employing ninth-generation technology to boost sound quality.

Specs

  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
  • Battery life: 10 hours
  • Charge time: 1 hour
  • Water resistance: IP55
  • Microphone: Dual noise-canceling

Pros

  • Good sound quality
  • Impressive battery life and quick charging
  • Sweat-resistant for intense exercise

Cons

  • Hard to replace charging cable
  • Audio quality can’t hold up against traditional headphones

Without a doubt, Shokz has cornered the bone-conduction headphone market. The company produces thoughtfully engineered, top-quality products, creating an audio experience to complement the activities you enjoy. The OpenRun Pro is an excellent pair of bone-conduction headphones. They are ideal for just about any situation but are great headphones for running. Available in four colors and two band sizes, the OpenRun Pro fits gently, yet securely, around the back of the head, looping around the ears and resting against the temples.

The headphones employ patented ninth-generation bone-conduction technology. They are equipped with Bluetooth 5.1 (using the SBC codec) and feature PremiumPitch 2.0 signal processing, which prevents bleed, minimizes distortion, and produces a more dynamic bass with minimal vibrations. The battery lasts 10 hours, and you can get a full charge in an hour. Or, with a quick five-minute charge, you’ll get up to 1.5 hours of battery life. Each pair comes with a proprietary magnetic USB charging cable, which easily snaps onto the charging contacts on the headphones.

A dual noise-canceling mic will let you make clear calls. An IP55 rating means this pair can withstand dirt, dust, and sweat. A built-in moisture detector will let you know when it’s getting wet. Keep in mind that while the OpenRun Pro is water-resistant, it’s not designed to be fully submerged in the pool, and you won’t want to run in too heavy of rain with it either. If you would prefer more water resistance, the OpenRun offers many of the same features with an IP67 rating.

Best waterproof: Shokz OpenSwim

Best waterproof

Shokz OpenSwim

Why it made the cut: The OpenSwim have an IP68 rating, which means they can be fully submerged in water for up to two hours; you can swim with them without making terrible sacrifices regarding audio quality.

Specs:

  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz 
  • Battery life: 8 hours
  • Charge time: 2 hours
  • Water resistance: IP68
  • Microphone: None

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Ample storage for songs and audiobooks
  • Comfortably fits under swim cap

Cons

  • Single-purpose headphones
  • No Bluetooth connection
  • Limited color options

Shokz designed the OpenSwim specifically to deliver your favorite music, audiobooks, and podcasts while swimming. These headphones feature an IP68 rating, fit comfortably under a swim cap, and you can swim as deep as 2 meters for up to two hours at a time. Unfortunately, they are not Bluetooth compatible. But they can store up to 1,200 songs (4 GB) of various file types, including MP3, WAV, AAC, and FLAC. The OpenSwim headphones feature the same command controls and PremiumPitch 2.0 technology as other Shokz open-ear headphones. So, while you won’t be able to stream, you can listen to your favorites with solid, satisfying sound quality. They even come with a noseclip and earplugs.

Best for calls: Shokz OpenComm2 UC

Best for calls

Shokz OpenComm2 UC

Why it made the cut: A DSP noise-canceling microphone means the OpenComm2 headphones are able to isolate your voice while talking, drowning out any surrounding din but keeping you in tune with your environment.

Specs

  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
  • Battery life: 16 hours of talk time // 8 hours of listening time
  • Charge time: 1 hour
  • Water resistance: IP55
  • Microphone: DSP noise-canceling boom microphone

Pros

  • Comfortable for long wear
  • Extended battery life for long phone calls
  • Boom microphone enhances call quality

Cons

  • Shape is hard to store
  • Some sound bleed might limit private conversations

The OpenComm2 UC headphones prioritize clear communication using an adjustable DSP boom microphone. The boom mic suppresses background noise and highlights your voice when positioned near your mouth. Though the person on the other end of the line won’t pick up on your environment’s sounds, the open-ear headphones will ensure you can hear the person talking on the phone and the one right in front of you. The OpenComm2 are Zoom Certified, offering seamless software integration and Zoom controls on the dedicated headset buttons. They are a great pair of headphones for work, as a result.

The OpenComm2 system lets you bypass your car’s choppy stereo if you have to make a call on the road without cutting yourself off from the sound of traffic. You can also stay on the call when you’re at a job site or keep connected during a busy commute, all without losing situational awareness. You can get up to 16 hours of talk time or eight hours of listening time, and with Quick Charge, you’ll get a replenished two hours of battery life in just five minutes.

Best for multitasking: HAYLOU PurFree Bone Conduction Headphones

Best for working out

Hear all around you

Why it made the cut: These waterproof, sweatproof headphones will hold up as you pump iron or just rearrange your living room.

Specs

  • Frequency response: Unknown
  • Battery life: 8 hours
  • Charge time: 10-minute quick charge
  • Water resistance: IP67
  • Microphone: Built-in wireless

Pros

  • IP67 rated
  • High sound quality
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Proprietary charger

Using your sweaty hands to remove your headphones because someone is asking to use the treadmill is common in the gym. So is taking your earbuds out or headphones off repeatedly while roommates/family/friends try to talk to you as you get chores done. Keep your headphones on while keeping your ears open with these sport-friendly HAYLOU PurFree Bone Conduction Headphones. They are IP67 rated, meaning sweat and water won’t get in the way of completing your reps—whether lifting weights or emptying the washer.

An eight-hour battery life gives you all-day tunes power, and 10-minute quick charging gives you two hours of power. The sound quality is superb compared to other bone-conduction headphones, with deep bass and a solid range of highs and lows thanks to a strong Bluetooth 5.2 connection. A noise-canceling microphone means you can take calls without the background bleeding into your conversation. However, a proprietary charger means you’ll be tuneless if you lose power on the go, so prep before you step.

Best for kids: N/0 Kids Bone Conduction Headphones

Safe and Sound

Why it made the cut: These headphones include a volume limit of 85 decibels, and the open-ear design means your child will always be able to hear the world around them and when you call for them.

Specs

  • Frequency response: Unknown
  • Battery life: 8 hours
  • Charge time: 1-hour quick charge
  • Water resistance: IP54
  • Microphone: Built-in wireless

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Volume limiter keeps kids’ hearing safe
  • Adjustable band can grow with your child

Cons

  • Soundbeaming technology is difficult to grasp
  • Susceptible to water damage
  • No noise cancellation means they’re not great for travel

These open-ear headphones aren’t exactly the same as bone-conduction headphones, but the form factor and effect are similar. With soundbeaming speakers resting outside the ear on the cheekbones, these headphones ensure your active child can stay alert to their surroundings even when listening to their favorite songs. The adjustable band is suitable for children ages 4 to 15. With a volume limit of 85 decibels, these headphones go above and beyond to address any concerns you might have for their awareness or hearing. N/0 equipped these headphones with Bluetooth 5.0, eight hours of battery, and an automatic sensor to control playback. An IP54 rating means you won’t have to worry about a few spills or drops in the dirt. Whether skateboarding, biking, or just running around the backyard, your kids can enjoy music and mobility safely.

Best budget: Guudsoud Lite Bone Conduction Headphones

Best budget

Guudsoud Lite

Why it made the cut: If bone conduction is new to you, you might not be ready to shell out $100 or more. The Guudsoud headphones produce satisfying sound quality and suitable specs in a great intro pair.

Specs

  • Frequency response: Unknown
  • Battery life: 6-10 hours
  • Charge time: 2 hours
  • Water resistance: IP54
  • Microphone: Built-in wireless

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Useful, responsive multifunction button
  • Sound quality is good for the price point

Cons

  • Flimsy build
  • Sound quality could be improved
  • Battery life is just okay

If you want to try out bone conduction but are not ready to invest in a high-end pair, this cheap model from Guudsoud might be right for you. Available for less than $40, they are equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a built-in microphone, multifunction buttons, and an adjustable band for comfort. The battery can last up to 10 hours, and a 15-minute quick charge provides one hour of playback. Each pair comes with a USB charging cable and a pair of earplugs so you can create custom noise cancellation.

What to consider when buying the best bone-conduction headphones

If your mom always warns you not to listen to your headphones while walking home at night, or you need to hear the traffic behind you as you pedal to work, try out the best bone-conduction headphones. To determine which pair will work best for your needs, you’ll want to consider where and when you’ll be using them the most. You’ll also want to ensure you understand how they work, especially if this is your first pair of bone-conduction headphones.

First of all, what is bone conduction, and how does it work?

Bone-conduction headphones allow you to experience audio sans any direct interaction with your ear canal or eardrum. While this may sound like some new-fangled, tech-heavy sorcery, there is evidence that bone conduction has been around for centuries. It is rumored that Beethoven relied on bone conduction to compose music after losing his hearing by attaching a metal rod to his piano and biting down on it as he played. But how does it work? 

Typically, sound waves travel through the air and are funneled through the ear canal to the eardrums. They are then decoded into vibrations and sent to the inner ear (or cochlea), which is connected to the auditory nerve. When the vibrations hit the inner ear fluid, tiny hair cells start to convulse, creating electrical pulses that travel up the auditory nerve to the brain. This process is called air conduction. Bone conduction completely avoids the eardrum, which is what’s targeted by the miniature speaker in traditional earbuds, and relies on a transducer of another sort to convert sound waves into vibrations and send those through the facial bones to be received by the inner ear. Essentially, the vibrations the cochlea receives are the same no matter how you receive them. They are simply sent via a different pathway. 

This concept has even been used in reverse. The Sony WF-1000XM4 earphones include a bone-conduction sensor that picks up the vibrations from your voice during calls to help enable clearer speech without picking up ambient sound.

Who should use bone-conduction headphones?

Medically, bone-conduction headphones benefit those experiencing conductive hearing loss, a condition that directly affects the transmission of sound through the eardrums. Conductive hearing loss is just one way the auditory system can be disrupted, so bone-conduction headphones won’t work for everyone with hearing difficulties. 

Bone-conduction headphones are also helpful for those who need to maintain situational awareness while they enjoy their music. These headphones provide an additional layer of safety for bikers, hikers, drivers, or anyone who needs to be aware of their surroundings. Active in dense urban environments? Bone conduction makes for great running headphones. Bone-conduction headphones are also particularly great for swimmers. Air conduction is heavily suppressed when we are underwater, but the vibrations created by bone conduction can still be transmitted. That means a pair of bone-conduction headphones with an Ingress Protection rating of IP68 (aka waterproof) can keep you connected to your workout playlist lap after lap. 

Now, bone conduction won’t make your entire face shake, rattle, and roll, so you don’t need to worry about experiencing discomfort while you listen. In fact, many report that these headphones are secure, comfortable, and easy to wear. However, if you are sensitive to pressure, there is a chance that you may experience dizziness or headaches after a long stretch of listening.

How’s the sound quality?

If you’re an audiophile searching for your next pair of headphones, chances are bone conduction isn’t going to be what you’re looking for. That being said, the overall audio quality of these headsets can certainly get you through a tough training session or walk to work. At high volumes, audio can start to distort or get crunchy and an expansive mix isn’t really possible. However, with a quality model, you will still get to experience impactful bass. You’ll feel the vibrations instead of highly pressurized waves from over-ear cans. 

Just remember that even the best bone-conduction headphones aren’t meant to fit or even necessarily sound like traditional headphones or earbuds. If you haven’t used bone-conduction headphones before, you might feel inclined to turn up the volume as loud as it can go in an attempt to recreate that natural, passive noise cancellation that every other type of headphone relies on. Remember that nothing is blocking your ear canal, which means that you will purposefully be able to hear your surroundings clearly. Maxing out the volume won’t affect that, but it could lead to hearing loss down the road.

Can bone-conduction headphones use Bluetooth?

There are wireless bone-conduction headphones that use Bluetooth 4.2 and higher to connect to devices such as cellphones and computers. Set up and pairing is no different with Bluetooth bone-conduction headphones than connecting any other type of Bluetooth headphones. Some may even have onboard controls like play, pause, and skip for your streaming services. Other models are more like a portable MP3 player, with the ability to store hours of songs internally. Remember the iPod shuffle? That’s what you’ll be getting. It’s an excellent option for folks who want to jam out to a curated playlist without their phone.

Can you take phone calls with bone-conduction headphones?

Many companies equip their bone-conduction headphones with a microphone so you can answer calls on the go. While the headphones themselves can’t employ any passive or active noise cancellation to enhance your listening experience, some models can use technology to make calls crisp and clear. The headphones with mic use various means to minimize outside sound—like wind, traffic, etc.—ensuring that the person you’re talking to can hear you without interruption. Just remember that bone-conduction headphones are subject to more sound bleed than traditional units, so you’ll want to be conscientious about volume when it comes to private calls.

FAQs

Q: How much do bone-conduction headphones cost?

Generally, the best bone-conduction headphones cost between $80 and $150. It’s important to go with a quality pair to ensure you’re investing in a safe and well-designed model. Though the history of bone-conduction technology is long, its application to commercial headphones is relatively new, which means you’ll have the most success with an established brand, like Shokz.

Q: Can bone-conduction headphones cause hearing loss?

Any long-term exposure to loud noise can cause damage, potentially leading to hearing loss; this includes listening to music at loud volumes with any headphones. At this time, there is no evidence to support the claim that bone-conduction headphones put you at significantly more risk for hearing loss than any other headphone type, including earbuds and over-the-ear models. It’s important to remember that bone-conduction headphones will not block out surrounding noise, so you should not try to block out additional sound by turning the volume up too loud.

Q: Can you wear glasses with Shokz?

Yes, you can wear your glasses while using Shokz headphones. The company recommends putting the headphones on first and then sliding your glasses into place for a more secure fit. You can also wear them underneath a helmet, and you can wear the waterproof model with a swim cap covering the tips of your ears.

Q: Do bone-conduction headphones sound good?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the same goes for bone-conduction headphones. Imagine you’re holding a phone speaker up to your ear—that’s what it’s like to wear a pair of bone-conduction headphones. Will they perform the same as headphones with active noise cancellation? No. If hearing street sounds and skipping fully immersive earbuds is music to your ears, however, you’ll be happy going with bone conduction.

Final thoughts on the best bone-conduction headphones

Chances are you’re either an experienced bone-conduction headphones user or a novice looking to see if these air-conduction alternatives are right for you. Regardless of your familiarity, finding the right pair means homing in on when and where you’ll use them most. Think about your surroundings and consider your priorities regarding sound quality, microphone use, and waterproof rating, then shop accordingly. If you’re accustomed to traditional earphones or over-ear models, get ready to be surprised by the best bone-conduction headphones.

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Carsen Joenk Avatar

Carsen Joenk

Contributor, Reviews

Carsen is a sound designer and freelance writer focusing on music and technology. She has been writing for Popular Science since early 2020, contributing product reviews and recommendations, with an emphasis on great sound you can take with you on the go. She lives in Brooklyn amongst a growing vinyl collection, exactly three plants, and a fridge full of popsicles.