The ability to tune out the world and focus on whatever you’re listening to is all the rage in the headphone world. What if, on the other hand, you’d want to do the exact opposite?
What if what’s going on around you is truly quite essential, like the sound of your kids trying to set a new record for the longest period of time without destroying the house, or the rolling-coal diesel about to transform you and your bike into a greasy smear in its blind spot?
Bone conduction headphones are the answer. These devices sit outside of your ear canal — in most cases, completely outside of your ear — and vibrate the bones in your skull directly to provide sound to your visual nerve. As a result, you may listen to your music (or video, or podcast, or anything) while also hearing what’s going on around you.
Bone conduction headphones provide a unique listening experience that is both better and worse than traditional earbuds or over-the-ear headphones. In terms of audio fidelity, it’s a bit of a letdown.
There’s no getting around it: current audio simply isn’t built for this type of setup. Many of these designs contain foam earplugs, which are said to improve sound quality… However, this destroys the entire objective. So audiophiles can ignore this post.
So, what exactly is the point? The goal is that you can hear everything around you as well as anything you’re listening to through your headphones with roughly similar fidelity. To someone who hasn’t done it, it’s difficult to put into words how significant it is.
But first, here are some of the reasons why you may prefer using bone conduction headphones:
Short of putting a big speaker to your handlebars, bone conduction headphones are the only safe way to listen to things while riding a bike. It’s critical to keep your ears open for traffic and other dangers. These headphones would be ideal for joggers and dog walkers.
You may be familiar with the pass-through audio mode found on some headphones, which uses microphones to digitally allow external sound to mix in with whatever you’re listening to. It’s similar to active noise cancellation in reverse. You don’t have to take them out when you go through the checkout line, which is a nice bonus.
There are no headphones that don’t make your ears sweaty and unpleasant. Bone conduction headphones, which aren’t in your ears, are the answer. When combined with their portability for workouts, these styles are ideal for staying cool and comfortable when the weather is hot.
There are certain drawbacks. Bone conduction headphones, in addition to the previously mentioned loss of audio fidelity, also let more noise out due to their powerful vibrations. As a result, they might not be the greatest option. If you’re in close quarters with others and don’t want to bother them, such as on public transportation.
However, they are pointless if the sounds surrounding you are so loud that you need hearing protection, which they don’t provide.