Pros: Snug wraparound design; Lets you hear your surroundings
Cons: Low volume; Mediocre audio quality; Weak bass
Verdict: These innovative headphones use bone conduction to let you rock out without plugging your ears, but the audio quality could be better.
If you've ever had to endure repeatedly removing and once again donning your earbuds whenever someone speaks to you while you're listening to music, Audio Bone has a solution. Its $189 pair of headphones uses the science of bone conduction, which transmit audio through your skull so you'll no longer block out surrounding sound by having earbuds planted in your ear canals. However, the audio quality is slightly muffled and not very loud, and you'll need to tinker with how you position these headphones to get the best sound.
Our gray and black Audio Bone 1.0 headphones (also available in blue, orange, and white) feature a U-shaped design that wraps around the back of the head. Although the buds aren't nestled in your ears, the 1.3-ounce headset sits firmly against the skull and doesn't dislodge easily, even when jumping or running, which should prove enticing for athletes or fitness buffs. The four-foot cord is just long enough to reach a pants pocket on a six-foot individual. The headphones have a waterproof rating of 1XP7 (tested at 3 meters for 30 minutes), so it can deliver audio while submerged--provided your player can get soaked, too. Audio Bone also sells the headphones in limited-edition "fashion colors"--pink, lime, taupe, and purple--for an additional $30.
Bone-Conduction Technology and Audio Quality
Bone conduction transforms sound waves into vibrations that are heard in-ear, bypassing the eardrum (Audio Bone claims that this also lowers the chance of eardrum damage). We tested the audio quality by positioning the earbuds over the bones directly in front of our ears. When we fired up Duran Duran's "Greatest Hits" playlist, high-end sounds lacked vibrancy, and the low-end sounds were lifeless. Also, while listening to the Retronauts' podcast, we had to push our iPod touch's volume to its limit in order to hear the conversations or music interludes.
Since these headphones don't cover your ears, we were not only able to hear the podcast but also ambient noise, which was useful for keeping abreast of our surroundings when walking around Manahattan. We could hear the honks of cars and people chatting on a busy midtown Manhattan street, but still enjoy our music. Initially, it was odd hearing two different sound sources, but we quickly adjusted and were able to block one out when needed.
In extremely noisy locations, such as a subway, we couldn't hear anything unless we placed the earbuds directly over our ears, which defeats the purpose of the bone-conducting technology. When we left the Audio Bone headphones on our temples and then inserted ear plugs, the audio improved dramatically. This method could come in handy on flights or other noisy locations where you'd like to block out the surrounding din.
The $189 Audio Bone 1.0 headset frees you from having to remove your earbuds or headphones to rejoin the rest of the world. Its a bit pricey considering the less-than-stellar sound quality, but if you're an athlete or an outdoors type and want a pair of headphones that will stay in place during heavy activity, the Audio Bone 1.0 headset is worth considering.