Rock out to your playlist while staying aware of your surroundings. These are the best bone-conduction headphones of 2020.
While bone conduction sounds both futuristic and a bit intimidating, it’s actually a realistic and comfortable alternative to earbuds or over-ear headphones. By moving the vibration of the sound into the cheekbones, bone-conduction headphones leave your ears open and able to hear what’s going on around you. Now you can add a soundtrack to your life without drowning it out.
This article is focused solely on bone-conduction headphones. If you’re looking for other styles, check out our Best Workout Headphones and Earbuds of 2020.
The Best Bone-Conduction Headphones of 2020
Best Overall: AfterShokz Aeropex
AfterShokz dominates the bone-conduction market, and it has come out on top with its newest model, the Aeropex ($160). The new PremiumPitch 2.0+ technology delivers a higher quality sound than other products. This is paired with a new angle on the transducers, creating the potential for louder volume with less vibration.
One of the biggest complaints about bone-conduction headphones is the vibration. Louder volumes can produce an uncomfortable tingling on your cheekbones in other models. So, we were excited to see this addressed with the Aeropex.
The Aeropex weighs just 26 g, and it has an impressive 8-hour battery life and a fully waterproof design. It takes about 2 hours to reach a full charge. These headphones are sweatproof and waterproof, but they’re not meant for swimming. If you’re looking for a fully submersible option, read on.
Battery: 8-hour runtime, 10 days of standby, 2 hours to full charge
Weight: 26 g
Pros: Lightweight, long battery life, waterproof
Cons: Expensive, vibration at high volumes
Runner-Up Best Overall: AfterShokz Air
The Air is AfterShokz’s more affordable option ($120) that still delivers premium audio quality in a lightweight and secure headset. The Air boasts many of the same pros as the Aeropex. It has a titanium frame that ensures security around the back of the head, even during a rigorous workout, and a microphone for easy access to phone calls.
The Air weighs just over an ounce (30 g) and uses PremiumPitch+ technology to send clear audio through the cheekbones, keeping the ears open to ambient noise. Although this model is not fully waterproof, it is IP155 certified to repel sweat, dust, and moisture.
It takes 2 hours to reach a full charge. And the Air will last for up to 6 hours while running and up to 20 days on standby. Its LeakSlayer technology helps reduce the amount of natural sound leakage, and the noise-canceling microphone minimizes background noise during calls.
We have read complaints that after 6 months, this model tends to start failing, but we haven’t experienced any failure during a yearlong test.
Battery: 6 hours running, 20 days of standby, 2 hours to full charge
Weight: 30 g
Pros: Lightweight, secure headband, water-resistant
Cons: Still pricey, vibrations at high volume, durability concerns
Best Budget Bone-Conduction Headphones: Vidonn F1 Titanium
Just because we have (so far) only listed AfterShokz models, it doesn’t mean that brand is the only option. Vidonn is a Chinese company that has been in business since 2013.
The F1 headphones are on par with AfterShokz Trekz Titanium’s durability and comfort level for all active sports. The sound falls just short of the AfterShokz line and could be improved by a higher level of bass available.
The CVC and noise reduction technologies both live up to what more expensive brands have to offer. The F1 also has an IP55 sweatproof rating.
Overall, for bone-conduction headphones under $50, the F1 Titanium has many of the same qualities as pairs over $100. What’s missing is an accompanying carrying case and crisp, clean, bass-filled sound. Vidonn offers up to a one-year warranty, whereas AfterShokz provides a 2-year warranty.
Battery: 6 hours running, 10 days standby, 2 hours to full charge
Weight: 36.8 g
Pros: Price, durability, similar tech to other brands
Cons: No carrying case, short warranty
Best Value: AfterShokz Titanium
The AfterShokz Titanium ($80) brings many of the same benefits and features that both the Aeropex and Air do, but it does so at a slightly lower price. The Titanium still utilizes both LeakSlayer and PremiumPitch technology to optimize the sound with low natural sound leakage levels.
They are also IP55 rated for sweat and dustproof use, making them great for workouts. The Bluetooth V4.1 technology ensures quick pairing without the hassle of connecting every time you put them on. It weighs in at 36 g, and the battery will run for 6 hours at a time.
The Titanium comes in both a slim and normal fit for different head shapes and sizes. The titanium band is secure, durable, and comfortable to wear, but it’s a good idea to try these on before purchase. The different sizes can either make them form perfectly to your head or make them an uncomfortable nuisance to wear.
The main difference between this model and the higher-priced AfterShokz is a decreased sound quality and increased weight. If you don’t mind a few extra grams and marginally lower audio quality, the Titanium is a great value.
Battery: 6 hours running
Weight: 36 g
Pros: More reasonable price tag, sweatproof, quality
Cons: Sizing issues, lower quality sound
Best Waterproof for Swimming: AfterShokz Xtrainerz
These wireless bone-conduction headphones allow for complete comfort while swimming. With the AfterShokz Xtrainerz ($150), you can bring 4 GB of sound into the lap pool. This combination MP3/wireless headphone set removes the limits of Bluetooth ranges by storing your music directly.
They have an 8-hour battery life. And with a waterproof rating of IP68, the Xtrainerz will have you coming up for air long before being submerged at 2 m for 2 hours. The tight titanium band around the head ensures a snug fit, so you won’t be diving to the bottom of the deep end to retrieve this pair.
We recommend pairing these with earplugs, which creates a clearer sound by removing the sound of water rushing through your ears.
Battery: 8 hours running
Weight: 13.3 oz.
Pros: Virtually waterproof, long battery life, highly durable
Cons: Heavy build, only internal storage
Best for the Rugged: Pyle Bone Conduction Headphones
Another pair of completely waterproof, IPX6-rated, bone-conduction headphones brings the list to an end. And they clock in at a reasonable price point. If you’re someone who doesn’t take well to brittle objects, then Pyle’s Bone Conduction Headphones ($79) may be the right fit for you.
This pair will play full volume for up to 3 hours and offers a long standby time of 240 hours. The 4.1 Bluetooth tech reaches up to 35 feet of separation and ensures easy pairing.
The rugged build helps keep them in place on your head — and makes them less likely to snap if you drop them while biking or accidentally smash them in your gym bag. These are the heaviest option listed here, and the sound quality doesn’t reach that of AfterShokz. But they are durable and come with a one-year warranty.
Battery: 2-3 hours running, 10 days standby, 4 hours to full charge
Weight: 39.7 g
Pros: Lower price, durable but comfortable build
Cons: Longer charge time, lower quality sound
How Do Bone-Conduction Headphones Work?
Bone-conduction headphones take advantage of the fact that sound is simply vibrations and direct those into the bones in your head.
These headphones use plates that sit against the cheekbones to deliver sound vibrations through the jaw and skull bone directly into the cochlea. They leave the ear canal open, which allows outside sound to still get in.
Unlike traditional headphones, bone-conduction headphones allow the user to hear what’s happening in their surroundings. This makes this style of headphones a great choice for outside activities where hearing oncoming cars or bikes can save lives. They’re also a great option for underwater swimming or for people with in-ear hearing aids.
Can Bone-Conduction Headphones Cause Hearing Loss?
Unfortunately, any type of headphone will lead to hearing loss if they are used at an irresponsible volume. Bone-conduction headphones still vibrate the cochlea and can damage it just as much as traditional headphones can.
Are Bone-Conduction Headphones Any Good?
Bone-conduction headphones will not deliver the same quality audio as in-ear headphones. For the sharpest, loudest audio quality, headphones or earbuds are better.
But, bone-conduction headphones are good. They provide a lot of options to still listen to music without sacrificing your situational awareness. And this is extremely valuable while hiking, biking, or even working from home.
Have a favorite pair of bone-conduction headphones we missed? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.