Rock out to your playlist while staying aware of your surroundings. These are the best bone conduction headphones of 2021.
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.
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The Best Bone Conduction Headphones of 2021
Best Overall: AfterShokz Aeropex
AfterShokz dominates the bone conduction headphone 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
- Long battery life
- Vibration at high volumes
Runner-Up Best Overall: AfterShokz Air
The Air is AfterShokz’s more affordable option that still delivers premium audio quality in a lightweight and secure headset. The Air ($120) 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
- Secure headband
- Still pricey
- Vibrations at high volume
- Durability concerns
Best Budget: Tayogo Bone Conduction Headphones
These affordable bone conduction headphones from Tayogo ($40) are significantly cheaper than any of the other options on this list. While not feature-packed or waterproof, they’re solid and reliable headphones at an approachable price.
Many users appreciate that these headphones stay securely in place while running or exercising. The sound quality and balance are generally good, though they may generate a slight tickling sensation when used at high volume. On a full charge, these can last up to 6 hours, which is only a few hours less than far more expensive options.
While some bone conduction headphones don’t offer comfortable compatibility with glasses, these have been designed with glasses wearers in mind. The volume and power buttons are easy to access and simple to use.
While these couldn’t be called high-end, Tayogo has created a reliable pair of affordable headphones that offers the perks of bone conduction technology without the hefty price tag.
- Battery: 5-6 hours running
- Weight: 3.2 oz.
- Compatible with glasses
- Tickles the ear at high volume
- Not waterproof
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
- More reasonable price tag
- 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 ($194), 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.
- Virtually waterproof
- Long battery life
- Highly durable
- Heavy build
- Only internal storage
Best for the Rugged: Pyle Bone Conduction Headphones
Another pair of completely waterproof, IPX6-rated, bone conduction headphones, this set by Pyle clocks in at a reasonable price point. If you’re someone who doesn’t take well to brittle objects, then Pyle’s Bone Conduction Headphones ($70) 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
- Lower price
- Durable but comfortable build
- Longer charge time
- Lower quality sound
Best of the Rest
Just because we’ve mostly listed AfterShokz models doesn’t mean that brand is the only option. Vidonn is a Chinese company that’s been in business since 2013, and its F1 Titanium ($69) brings the list to an end.
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 $70, 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
- Similar tech to other brands
- No carrying case
- Short warranty
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Bone Conduction Headphones
Bone conduction headphones are less common than standard headphones, so naturally, most people don’t know much about them. However, the benefits of bone conduction are invaluable for all kinds of active use.
Runners, skiers, mountain bikers, swimmers, and many others appreciate that bone conduction headphones offer the ability to listen to music or podcasts without drowning out the surrounding world. For this reason, bone conduction headphones offer superior safety and general awareness.
Once you’ve decided to purchase a pair of bone conduction headphones, the next step is deciding which ones to buy. Fortunately, the market is relatively small, and selecting the right pair doesn’t have to feel like sorting through an overly crowded field.
Still, not all bone conduction headphones are created equal. In this handy how-to-choose guide, we thoroughly explain all of the features to consider when shopping for your next pair of headphones.
Generally, bone conduction headphones do not provide the same quality of sound that traditional headphones do. Audiophiles, DJs, and audio engineers who are seeking top-level fidelity should choose traditional headphones instead of bone conduction models.
Because bone conduction headphones do not transmit directly into your ear canal, they are not able to deliver the highest level of booming bass or clean sound.
With that said, the headphones that we have selected on this list are made specifically with active use in mind. For that application, bone conduction headphones offer unparalleled benefits.
Also, most users report that a high-quality pair of bone conduction headphones can still generate relatively impactful bass and clear audio. Ultimately, bone conduction headphones aren’t made to fit our sound exactly like traditional headphones.
Many new users of bone conduction headphones tend to turn up the volume to extreme levels in order to try and recreate the sound-canceling experience of traditional headphones. Remember that because bone conduction headphones do not cover your ear canal, and they will never fully cancel out sounding noises.
Be careful when turning up bone conduction headphones to a high volume, as this can result in injury or hearing loss.
Wireless vs. Wired
All of the bone conduction headphones on this list are wireless and feature a Bluetooth interface. For active users, wireless headphones are a common preference. When running, skiing, or biking, a cord may get in the way and become a nuisance.
The downside of wireless headphones is that they need to be regularly charged. Most of the headphones on this list charge via a standard Micro or Type C USB cable. The battery life of a fully charged pair of bone conduction headphones ranges from 4 to 10 hours.
Most bone conduction headphones have a few key design characters in common. All of the headphones on our list of recommendations are built with a curved frame that is designed to fit comfortably around the back of the neck. Because bone conduction headphones do not sit in the ear canal, they rely on the neckband for positioning and support.
Other important design traits to consider include the layout and location of buttons and weight.
Depending on your preferences, you may find that bone conduction headphones are more comfortable than traditional headphones. The lack of an ear pod or bud inside of your ear canal reduces the potential of in-ear soreness and aches. This boost in comfort is especially noticeable and appreciated during active use.
Bone conduction headphones that are geared toward active use should be reasonably durable. On this list, we have included various models that can handle the standard abuse of running, skiing, and biking in the outdoors.
In terms of impacts and drop-related durability, the Pyle Bone Conduction headphones are our top recommendation.
The general durability of bone conduction headphones is directly tied to water resistance. If you plan to use your headphones underwater or in wet environments, be sure to buy a fully waterproof pair. The Aftershokz Xtrainers are supremely waterproof and great for swimming.
Bone conduction headphones range in price from around $30 to $200. Though the cheaper pairs that we recommend on this list are high quality relative to their price, it is important to realize that there is a reliable relationship between price and overall quality.
If you are seeking long-lasting headphones with well-designed features and the ability to hold up to active use and the elements, we recommend investing in the best pair you can afford.
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 vehicles 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.
Can I Swim With Bone Conduction Headphones?
Some bone conduction headphones are fully waterproof. On this list, models such as the Aftershokz Xtrainers are designed to work in wet environments — and you can absolutely swim while wearing them.