As an audiologist, I often get asked about the latest ear gear, including trends in headphones.
One question that has popped up a lot lately is about bone-conduction headphones. When I'm out and about, I've started seeing these more and more in the wild. And often patients ask me about these devices, how they work, and if the headphones are comfortable for regular use.
If you feel in the dark about these headphones, don't worry. I'm here to shed some light on the matter.
In this article, we'll dive deep into what bone conduction headphones are, how they work, my personal experience with the Shokz OpenRun model, and ultimately, why they're a worthy consideration.
What are bone-conduction headphones, and how do they work?
First things first, let's discuss what bone-conduction headphones are. As the name suggests, bone conduction headphones rest against your cheekbones rather than fitting inside your ears and transmit sound vibrations through your bones directly to your inner ear.
In other words, instead of blasting soundwaves through the air, they send vibrations directly through your skull bones to reach your inner ear, leaving your ear canal free to pick up on ambient sounds. It's like having a personal concert right inside your head.
And the best part? Your ear canal stays open, so you can enjoy your tunes while being aware of your surroundings.
Let's take a closer look at Shokz, one of the leading brands in bone conduction headphones.
Get ready to unbox some serious audio with Shokz bone conduction headphones.
Inside the box, you'll find a sleek, lightweight pair of headphones with a charging cable and carrying bag. The charging cable is unique to Shokz, and the magnetic component helps it stay in place.
If you need a secure fit during your workout, don't worry—an optional headband is included in the box. With four fun colors, these headphones are incredibly flexible and can adapt to fit any head size and shape.
Before you dive into the music, be sure to give the headphones a quick charge. A 10-minute charge will yield 90 minutes of battery life, so you can start listening in no time.
Pairing the headphones to your phone is a breeze—simply enable Bluetooth and select "OpenRun by Shokz" to pair. Once you're paired, you're ready to enjoy your new headphones!
To wear the headphones, position the earbud-shaped pieces on your cheekbones just in front of your ears for optimal sound quality. I found these quite comfortable and unobtrusive to wear.
Need extra security while you move? The headband keeps the headphones firmly in place, even during the most intense workouts. I wore them to the gym and found them comfortable without losing their grip during my workout, and the headband helped secure them in place.
And don't worry about getting caught in the rain—these headphones have an IP67 rating, which means they're water-resistant enough to handle a sweat session but not meant for swimming.
Plus, with a moisture detection alert, you'll know when it's safe to charge again.
How are they different from traditional headphones?
With earbuds, the sound journey begins by sending sound down the ear canals. However, earbuds have direct contact with the ear canal and are susceptible to build up from wax and debris.
But bone conduction headphones? They take the direct route, skipping the eardrums and leapfrogging straight to the inner ear via the skull bones.
The result is easy listening that still keeps you in tune with your surroundings.
Basic Controls and Buttons
Shokz bone conduction headphones feature simple controls and buttons. You can turn them on or off with just one button, and you can easily control the volume, play/pause music, or skip tracks with the touch of a button.
The volume up is also the on/off button. The multi-function button has multiple functions: one click will play or pause music, two clicks while playing music will go to the next song, and a triple click, while music is playing, will return you to the previous song.
When your phone rings, just hit the button once to answer and again to hang up—no need to take off your headphones.
To note, the built-in microphone will give you decent call quality at best. Keep that in mind if you take regular calls through your headphones.
Battery Life and Charging
Another thing to consider when purchasing any pair of headphones is battery life. Shokz bone conduction headphones typically have a battery life of eight hours, enough to get through a full day without recharging.
But, this may vary depending on how often you use them and how high you have the volume. When it comes time to recharge, you plug them into the magnetic cable and let them charge for two hours.
Though, there is a catch: Their unique cable is specifically designed for Shokz headphones. So, keep it close and don't lose it—because other universal chargers just won't cut it.
Sound Quality And Phone Call Quality
The latest Shokz OpenRun iteration is the 8th generation from the brand. They report these headphones feature Bluetooth 5.1 and PremiumPitch™ 2.0+, delivering clear sound, powerful volume, and rich bass.
Sound quality is the most critical factor for many users when considering any type of headphones. With virtually any open-ear headphones, there will be some trade-offs in sound quality due to the mechanics of bone conduction.
But what was it like in real life? I was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality.
I loved having a soundtrack to my day while still being aware of what was happening around me.
There is some detectable bass, even with the open-ear design.
However, I do gravitate towards more bass sound. Unfortunately, the headphones don't feature an equalizer function, as there is no app to adjust the sound. If I turned up the volume to get more bass, I felt the vibrations more than I heard the sound.
While bone-conduction headphones may not have the same sound quality as noise-canceling headphones or other top-tier models, they still deliver an impressive listening experience.
The sound quality is clear, and you'll notice ambient sounds as you listen. When making phone calls, they work nearly as well as traditional headphones.
As bone conduction headphones keep you more in tune with your surroundings, the background may sometimes interfere with your music or audio listening.
Want to block out noise? Try putting in a pair of earplugs to reduce any background noise. I liked the difference in ambient noise reduction while wearing these with filtered earplugs, like Loop.
Of course, be mindful of your surroundings if you're running or walking in busy areas. Hidden trails, on the other hand, are the perfect spot where you can enjoy this effect.
Shokz Bone Conduction Headphones Safety
Safety is one of the most important factors when purchasing any type of headphones.
Shokz bone conduction headphones claim to be safe for your ears and improve situational awareness. As they don't rest inside your ear canal, they leave your ear open, allowing you to hear ambient sounds, such as traffic or sirens, while still enjoying your music.
As an audiologist, I recommend taking sensible safety precautions and bone-conduction headphones are generally a safe choice.
From my listening test, turning up the volume on these bone-conduction headphones became uncomfortable due to the vibration on the skin above a certain volume.
It is advisable to keep the volume at 50-60% and consider wearing earplugs in noisy environments.
With Shokz headphones and filtered plugs, you'll experience an unparalleled "personal surround sound"—all while keeping your ears healthy. I really liked this combination, which I'd describe as "personal surround sound."
The result is more bass without needing as much volume and less background noise. Filtered earplugs will still allow you to hear your environment, just at a lower volume.
How long do they last?
Shokz OpenRun has a 2-year warranty. Most people get several years of use out of their headphones, though you may choose to invest in newer technology as it becomes available.
Who should get Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones?
These are a great option if you enjoy a soundtrack with your outdoor exercise. I liked how lightweight they felt, and the sound quality was good, even with the open-ear aspect of these headphones.
Who might not enjoy Shokz OpenRun?
Users who prefer a bass-heavier sound may like something other than bone-conduction headphones. Individuals with sound sensitivity may also find the awareness of their surroundings while listening to audio distracting.
Also, consider head size and your exercise routine, as the fit may be a concern.
I ordered the standard size OpenRun, but there is also a mini version for those needing a smaller band size.
Additionally, if you are very dynamic exercise (e.g., moving from jumping jacks to push-ups, bench press to deadlifts, etc.) and prefer to avoid wearing the headband, retention will be difficult with continuity of sound quality.
- Good sound quality for bone conduction headphones
- Open-ear design allows environmental awareness
- Flexible fit
- Comfortable to wear
- Volume is easy to adjust with your phone
- No app or equalizer function
- Fit accommodates most, but the two sizes won't work for all
- Without a headband, sound quality can fluctuate with movement
- Control buttons on the headphones take getting used to
What if you don't like them?
If you try the Shokz OpenRun and find they're not for you, no worries—they have a 45-day return policy. That gives you time to thoroughly test them and know if they're a good fit for you.
Whether you're looking for a new pair of headphones for your daily commute or exercise routine, Shokz bone conduction headphones are worth considering.
They offer many benefits, including comfort, safety, sound quality, and versatility.
As an audiologist, I give them my stamp of approval and suggest using them responsibly. If you're still unsure if bone-conduction headphones are right for you, this guide has given you a better understanding of what they are and how they work.