Headphones for Cycling: Choosing Between Air Conduction and Bone Conduction Headphones
Aug 31,2023 | David
Table of Contents:
1. Differences Between Bone Conduction and Air Conduction Headphones
2. Which Headphones to Choose for Cycling: Air Conduction or Bone Conduction?
3. Benefits of Wearing Bone Conduction Headphones While Cycling
4. 5 Bone Conduction Headphones for Cycling Recommended
With the rapid development of technology, there are various types of headphones available in the market. Among them, bone conduction headphones and air conduction headphones are the most commonly used for cycling.
In recent years, bone conduction headphones have gained popularity as they offer the functionalities of regular headphones while avoiding the drawbacks of Bluetooth headphones, such as discomfort and ear pain caused by prolonged use.
Moreover, they also provide some hearing protection. On the other hand, air conduction headphones function by transmitting sound through the air. So, what are the differences between these two types of headphones? Let's explore them below.
Differences Between Bone Conduction and Air Conduction Headphones
Bone conduction refers to a method of sound transmission to the inner ear nerves through bone vibrations. The external lymphocytes produce vibrations with the same frequency, exciting the cochlea to produce auditory perception. Bone conduction headphones utilize this principle to reproduce sound, allowing us to hear it. For example, when we chew on sunflower seeds, we can hear the crisp sound because the sound is transmitted through the bones to our auditory nerves, thanks to bone conduction.
Air conduction headphones, on the other hand, transmit sound through the air. The sounds we hear in everyday communication, in-ear headphones, speakers, etc., are transmitted through the air. Air conduction headphones have a sound outlet, and when you wear these headphones, the sound you hear is received through this outlet. This sound wave will vibrate the eardrum and other nerve units, which does not offer any hearing protection.
Bone conduction headphones have a different sound production mechanism as they use bones to transmit sound. Therefore, sound waves do not pass through the eardrum like regular air conduction headphones, thus avoiding harm to the eardrum. Bone conduction headphones not only protect hearing but also provide a better listening experience for people with sensitive ears or partial hearing impairments.
When we listen to music with headphones, loud volume can damage the hair cells in the ears. Bone conduction headphones mitigate this problem since some of the vibration waves are absorbed by the bones during sound production, reducing the damage to the inner ear hair cells indirectly. This lowers the harm to hearing caused by headphones, and that is the difference between bone conduction and air conduction headphones.
Which Headphones to Choose for Cycling: Air Conduction or Bone Conduction?
During cycling, most people prefer using headphones to listen to music and enhance their workout experience. So, how should we choose between air conduction and bone conduction headphones for cycling? Let's compare them from the five aspects below.
1. Sound quality
Winner: Air Conduction Headphones for cycling
Air conduction headphones use the natural sound wave transmission of our ears, which achieves more natural and higher-quality sound.
Air conduction headphones, especially closed-back and in-ear headphones, can isolate your eardrum from external noise, improving clarity. Good isolation reduces auditory masking. On the other hand, bone conduction headphones, by avoiding many sound wave transmission steps through diaphragm-produced sound waves, can achieve clear sound reproduction in noisy environments. The sound waves also do not affect others due to air diffusion. However, bone conduction headphones cannot replicate the subtle details of music since the bone vibration range cannot reproduce the frequency range that humans can hear, but the eardrum can.
If audio quality is critical to you, avoid bone conduction headphones. However, for outdoor cycling enthusiasts, bone conduction headphones may be more suitable.
2. Build quality
Winner: Bone Conduction Headphones for cycling
Some air conduction headphones and bone conduction headphones have sturdy designs, with waterproof and dustproof certifications, and durable materials.
But most bone conduction headphones have a more compact overall design, tailored for outdoor activities like cycling. Compared to many air conduction headphones' designs, they are more lightweight and easier to wear. Therefore, you won't face problems like ear pain or excessive clamping force due to inappropriate ear contours.
Winner: Bone Conduction Headphones for cycling
Most air conduction headphones do not have headbands or ear pads since they do not exert pressure on the ears and do not require pads to provide comfort. However, since they rely on the ears to maintain headphone stability, long-term wear may cause slight discomfort around the ears.
On the other hand, bone conduction headphones offer extensive comfort and fit. High-end headphones come with extremely soft memory foam padding to compensate for the clamping force on the ear contours. Many bone conduction headphone manufacturers are increasingly focusing on using lightweight, flexible materials for enhanced comfort. For example, Wissonly and Shokz are dedicated to developing bone conduction headphones with better comfort.
Winner: Bone Conduction Headphones for cycling
In terms of meeting usage requirements for various scenarios, bone conduction headphones are more cost-effective, especially with the appearance of more excellent brands and the popularization of bone conduction technology. Various new products keep emerging in the market. Low-priced air conduction headphones, aside from being affordable, do not offer any noteworthy sound quality or performance.
5. Sound leakage
Both air conduction and bone conduction headphones for cycling have some degree of sound leakage. Most closed-back air conduction headphones have no sound leakage issues. However, open-ear air conduction headphones tend to leak sound since the ear cups are not entirely closed. Most bone conduction headphones may have some sound leakage, but not as loud or noticeable as open-ear air conduction headphones since the leakage is limited to body vibrations. Worth mentioning is that the Wissonly Hi Runner bone conduction headphones have excellent sound performance, and compared to other bone conduction headphone brands, they do not exhibit this problem.
Considering the comparison from the five aspects above, for outdoor cycling fans, if you want to choose compact headphones that can be easily carried in a bag or that provide environmental awareness, dustproof, and waterproof features at an affordable price, cycling bone conduction headphones will be the best choice.
Benefits of Using Bone Conduction Headphones While Cycling:
1. Hearing protection:
Most cycling enthusiasts enjoy wearing headphones for extended periods, but if the duration and volume are not controlled properly, it can lead to hearing damage. Traditional headphones can harm hearing due to the impact of sound waves on the eardrums and damage to the inner ear hair cells, which is irreversible and poses long-term risks to our hearing. Bone conduction headphones, on the other hand, transmit sound through bones without impacting the eardrums, thus avoiding any damage to them. Additionally, bone conduction headphones can filter out some electronic noise signals while transmitting sound, reducing the energy reaching the inner ear hair cells and minimizing damage. Therefore, wearing bone conduction headphones while cycling can protect hearing to a certain extent, but it's crucial to control the volume and wearing time to maintain ear health.
2. Maintaining ear canal hygiene:
When using regular headphones, it's easy to transfer bacteria from the cycling headphones into the ear canal. The humid and enclosed environment created by the blocked ear canal can foster bacteria growth, leading to ear-related issues. With bone conduction headphones, there's no need to block the ear canal, so they don't transfer bacteria into the ear canal. Moreover, most bone conduction headphones have smooth surfaces that are easy to clean with water, reducing the risk of bacterial infection during cycling.
3. Enhanced outdoor music safety:
Many headphone enthusiasts, even during outdoor cycling, enjoy listening to music, which can disrupt their ability to respond promptly to external sounds, posing safety hazards. Bone conduction headphones effectively address this issue as they use "bone conduction" to transmit sound, while external sounds are transmitted through "air conduction." These two sound transmission methods do not interfere with each other, allowing cyclists to receive ambient environmental sounds accurately and enhance safety.
4. Improved comfort during use:
Traditional headphones used during cycling can cause discomfort and pain in the ears due to prolonged foreign body sensation in the ear canal, elevated ear canal pressure, and potential loss or slipping of the headphones. Bone conduction headphones, being worn outside the ear canal, do not cause any discomfort or pain, even during extended usage. They are also more stable than regular headphones, making them ideal for long cycling sessions, ensuring a secure fit and avoiding the risk of headphones falling off due to sweat.
Bone Conduction Headphones for Cycling Recommended
1. Wissonly Hi Runner Bone Conduction Headphones:
Recommended for their comprehensive performance, Wissonly Hi Runner is a wireless bone conduction headphones for cycling, supports dual playback in Bluetooth mode and MP3 mode, which provides great convenience for outdoor sports fans. The MP3 playback mode is especially useful when cycling outdoors without a phone signal or when carrying a phone is inconvenient. In MP3 mode, it can optimize the direction of sound transmission, so that the music is more spatial sense.
The headphones come with built-in 32GB memory, enabling storage of up to 5000 songs. They are also IPX8-rated for waterproofing, making them suitable for rainy or sweaty conditions during activities like swimming and outdoor cycling. With a long battery life of up to 10 hours, they are beloved by many sports enthusiasts.
These cycling bone conduction headphones are very light and comfortable to wear, weighing only 28 grams. The surface of it is made of soft and skin-friendly silicone material, which does not contain chemical ingredients that cause allergies. Plus, its overall frame is made of adjustable aerospace-grade titanium steel material, which can adapt to different sizes of head circumference, and won't fall off easily during long outdoor rides. It can work well with helmets to ensure that cycling enthusiasts of every age can wear it securely.
These headphones are open-ear design and won't block your ear canals, allowing you to hear the sounds around you during your cycling, making it safer and more hygienic. The only disadvantage is that you may hear wind noise while cycling. However, it would be safer for cyclists to use bone conduction headphones, safety is the most important thing while cycling. In a comprehensive evaluation, the pros of this headset outweigh the cons.
2. Shokz OpenRun Pro Bone Conduction Headphones:
Shokz OpenRun Pro is the latest flagship model from Shokz, weighing only 28.3 grams, ensuring a lightweight and comfortable feel. Inside the headset is a one-piece molded memory titanium alloy skeleton, which is highly resistant to bending and folding.
The cycling headphones feature an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance, making them suitable for cycling in the rain but not recommended for prolonged exposure to sweat, as it may damage the headphones.
Shokz OpenRun Pro utilizes TurboPitch low-frequency enhancement technology for better bass performance and comes with Bluetooth 5.1, supporting dual device switching for a more rhythmic experience. In sound performance is also more outstanding, it has a more natural tuning style overall.
3. Philips A6606 Cycling Bone Conduction Headphones:
Offering good value for money, Philips A6606 uses Bluetooth 5.2 technology, providing smooth and low-latency sound playback to help cyclists maintain focus. The wireless range is up to 10m, with low power consumption, high security and stability, and strong anti-interference ability. With IP67-level dust and water resistance, they can handle harsh weather conditions, sweat, and short-term immersion.
However, they might experience some sound leakage, but the issue is mitigated through enclosed housing and reduced vibrations of the sound unit to solve the problem of sound leakage, the effect is also recognized by most users. The headphones offer 8 hours of battery life and weigh 35 grams, making them slightly heavier compared to other brands.
4. NAENKA Runner CC2 Bone Conduction Headphones:
If on a budget, NAENKA Runner CC2 offers good value among cycling bone conduction headphones in its price range. The headphones have a high cost performance and are competitive among bone conduction headphones at the same price. Wearing the headphones for hours and hours will not cause pressure on the user.
It is also very convenient for outdoor cycling, and the Bluetooth connection is very stable. The headphones have a lightweight design, weighing only 28 grams, and are made of aviation-grade materials, ensuring comfort during extended wear. They also feature an IPX6 rating for water resistance, making them suitable for rainy days and outdoor cycling, which meets the basic needs of the public for bone conduction headphones. However, they offer a shorter battery life of 6 hours.
Bone conduction headphones offer a complete and comfortable experience for cyclists. The joy of cycling lies not only in the outcome but also in the process itself. Listening to music and enjoying the surrounding scenery while cycling is why we love cycling. Brands like Wissonly and Shokz, with their influential bone conduction headphones, are likely to lead the way to further advancements in bone conduction headphone technology for cyclists in the future.