“What’s the main difference between Bone Conduction headphones and normal headphones?” is the question I seem to always get asked. As regular readers will know my pair of AfterShokz Bone Conduction Headphones are practically glued to my head now wherever I go. I’m wearing them right now as I write this, listening to some Johnny Cash, so let’s Walk The Line and Fall Into A Burning Ring Of Fire while we try to once again answer that question.
I’m used to the question now because of how frequently I’m seen in my stylish pair of Bone Conduction headphones. This technology is becoming much more common, but they are still a novelty for most people.
Something they’ve seen before but never really thought about until the guy on the treadmill next to them is using them in full view. I also suspect my fellow gym-goers are secretly calling me The Bone Conduction Guy’ behind my back. I wonder what they’d say if they knew I also wrote blogs about them too? I’d never escape that nickname then.
The Guy Who Has New Gadgets
I don’t mind really. I quite enjoy being the guy who has new gadgets before everyone else. I love gadgets if truth be told. Only last month I went on a family vacation and brought a ridiculous amount of them. I brought 3 portable games consoles, two laptops, two tablets, three pairs of headphones (including my Bone Conduction headphones of course) and two separate portable speakers.
And I genuinely mean it when I say #SorryNotSorry. My wife didn’t approve, saying to me, “Do you really need this many gadgets? You’re only going to play on one game console, write on one laptop and listen to one pair of headphones anyway.” How right she was, I only did wear one pair of headphones that week as it happens. You can guess which ones they were. It was indeed my Bone Conduction headphones, and what makes them different from my normal headphones?
Bone Conduction Headphones Feel Better
The fact that they don’t actually funnel sound through my eardrum. We’ve gone into how Bone Conduction technology works in other blogs so we’re not going to repeat that in precise detail here, but essentially Bone Conduction headphones work by sending sound vibrations through your skull, so it rumbles around your bones, finally landing in your cochlear.
Allowing your brain to hear the sound in its purest form. Normal headphones work by directing as much of the sound as possible through your ears in the traditional way, so the sound waves are picked up by your eardrum then funneled through to the cochlear that way. It’s a different way to hear the sound and some people prefer it.
How Does The Design Work?
The truth is we detect sound from Bone Conduction all the time, especially when we move or interact with the world physically. Most sound reaches us by sound waves traveling through the ear, but the most satisfying and dare we say, intimate sounds are actually heard through Bone Conduction.
There really is something fun about hearing sound that way. Think about how weirdly gratifying it is to walk on crisp snow, hearing that crunch as you walk. That crunching noise is traveling up through the bones in your legs, spine and skull before slipping into your cochlear.
Please see some of our other Bone Conduction Headphone articles, “Vidonn F1 Titanium Bone Conduction Headphones” and “Facebook Patents Pioneering Hybrid Bone Conduction Audio Devices: Smartglasses, AR/VR.”
Bone Conduction Headphones and Audio Books
We’re unsure about why Bone Conduction makes the sound feel so rich and satisfying, perhaps it’s something we need to research and write another blog about. Watch this space. One example of it was when listening to audiobooks or relaxation tracks through Bone Conduction headphones.
Somehow the sound feels closer and seems to permeate our minds in a way hearing sound in a traditional way doesn’t achieve. Perhaps this is why? Whatever the case may be, this is the difference between Bone Conduction headphones and normal headphones. Although I gave my fellow treadmiller the abridged version.
If he asks again then perhaps I’ll send him to this blog and embrace the moniker of That Bone Conduction Guy’ for the end of all time. Or until I find another gym and go through all these questions again. Although I think I know the reason for all these questions. In the time that I’ve been wearing Bone Conduction headphones regularly I’ve heard them all:
Bone Conduction Headphone Questions
- “What’s the difference between Bone Conduction headphones and normal headphones?”
- How can you hear something that’s not in your ear?” (Courtesy of my father in law who was oblivious to the fact that he was using the same technology in his hearing aids)
- “What is that thing around your head?”
- “Can you actually hear music from those?”
- “Do they work?”
- “How much were they?”
- “Can I have a go?”
- Looking Stylish
The Real Question
I think the real question all these people are asking is “Wow they look cool, can you tell me if they work well so I can get a pair?”. This is why I’m always happy to answer the questions I get. I take it as a compliment. Discovering new technology is fun and a few months ago I was the other guy on the treadmill.
I was on the fence about Bone Conduction headphones until I started using them frequently. Now I couldn’t be without them. They’ve stealthily infiltrated various areas of my life and come nearly everywhere with me. I’m actually starting to consider buying a second pair.
The technology looks and feels stylish so it’s only natural for others to be intrigued when they see someone they know wearing them. They are becoming more popular, but they’re still not an item you see every day.
Design And Style Difference
As well as functioning differently than regular headphones, Bone Conduction headphones are also different in design and style. The standard design is a headband that snuggly fits around the back of the cranium. It normally has to comfy parts around the ears to make sure it is nice to wear and not irritating.
Finally, there is a speaker that is can be located in two different spots. Some designs see the speakers fitting directly in front of the ears but a few inches below our temple, while other designs have this behind the ear instead.
What Makes Them Different?
Mine wraps over my ears and fits snuggly in the soft part of my skull in front of my ears and below my temples. This is the best route to the cochlear and is considered the best place for Bone Conduction headphones to sit. It’s at least considered the spot with the most access to the cochlear.
The sound, however, can reverberate through the headphones themselves meaning it gives the impression that it’s flooding the skull with sound. This can be a very interesting and intense way to hear a sound, especially for those who are used to listening to music or audio in the traditional way.
Bone Conduction Earbuds?
While I’m perfectly happy with my rather awesome AfterShokz, I’ve even bought my wife, mother-in-law and father-in-law a pair, I’ve noticed something else. Something new has caught my eye and I’m rather tempted to purchase them. My Bone Conduction headphones are wireless but, like a traditional pair of headphones, are two speakers connected by a headband. I’m now becoming aware of separate bone conduction headphones that fit in each individual ear.
This design seems to work a lot as earbuds do, or Apple AirPods. There are no wires and no connecting material between each pod. Each working independently of the other. Are they Bone Conduction Earbuds? My first thought was simple: I want them. But as I thought about it would the lack of headband take away from the functionality? After all, the vibrations reverberating through the entire headset is what makes Bone Conduction headphones so unique.
If this was absent wouldn’t it have less bone to conduct around? We’re confident each cochlear would find enough sound, but would it create the same feeling of immersion I’ve come to expect from Bone Conduction headphones? This is something I’m keen to learn more about, so I’ll report my findings when I’ve been able to secure a pair.
What Does the Future Hold for Bone Conduction Technology?
If they work in the way that I hope and don’t lose any vibration sound quality then Bone Conduction Earbuds could be the future of Bone Conduction technology. From what I can tell they look and work in a similar way to hearing aids, but clearly without the sound magnification technology.
Using these for audiobooks when lying in bed or under my hat while I walk my dog could revolutionize my audio experience, just like earbuds and Bone Conduction headphones have each done before in recent years.
Bone Conduction headphones are the future, that’s becoming close to an established fact, many of us are simply waiting for the world to catch up and discover them. Could it be, that by the time this happens they are already replaced by a smaller sleeker version? The technology is always improving so it’s not out of the realms of possibility.
However, should this be the case then you can bet your bottom dollar that this will lead to even more questions in the gym from the guy on the other treadmill. “Hey what are those things in your ears?” Here we go again.