Bone Conduction Headphones - are they Hifi?

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Fretless
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Netherlands

Bone Conduction Headphones - are they Hifi?

Unread post by Fretless » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:21 pm

Anyone who has read Dan Brown's latest blockbuster 'Origin' will have spotted that 'bone conduction' headsets play a part in the plot. These are a form of 'silent' headphone developed originally for military use - they consist of small transducers that sit on the upper jaw, just in front of the ear-opening. Vibrations from these are transmitted via the skull to the inner-ear that treats them as normal sound-waves. The big advantage here is that the wearer is still able to hear normally through the ears and remains aware of their surroundings - handy in combat situations.

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Of course it never takes long before commercial enterprises move in to earn a buck or two and the target market became the sports fraternity. Runners, cyclists, hikers all like to have music on the go - but it helps if yuor headphones don't entirely block out the sounds of approaching cars or other hazards - so lightweight models have been created for the leisure market. Being of an inquisitive nature and wanting to try everything for myself I have picked up a pair of Aftershokz Sportz Titanium phones to test.

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These are about the cheapest bone-conduction phones out there (50 pounds or so) because they use a wired connection (no bluetooth) and have no inbuilt mic to make phone calls with. The little box in the lead contains a rechargeable battery that should give about 12 hours playing-time. Every review states clearly DO NOT expect audiophile-quality sound from this type of headphone - bone conduction just isn't that sensitive for the subtle acoustics that your average hifi-nut is going to demand.

I had (accidentally) tried a pair of the expensive bluetooth version in a shop and was surprised simply that it worked! So it was time to get hold of this modest pair to see how they feel. Loading some music into my Huawei smartphone and playing via Foobar the results are interesting. Acoustic music works pretty damn well - I have the debut album by folk-rockers America playing at the moment and the guitars are reasonably defined, voices pleasantly tuneful - even the imaging isn't too bad. Major cons are that the overall sound is a bit flat and 'cardboard-boxy' and it doesn't really make any difference if you are listening to crummy MP3's or HQ WAV files. No tiring and piercing treble though which is a plus. An odd sensation comes when you crank up the volume in order to get some bass - the transducers start to vibrate in a rather uncomfortable way against your jawbone, weird!

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Like I said - artists like Joni Mitchell and Nanci Griffith come over pretty well but I played 'The E.N.D' by The Black-Eyed Peas which relies on heavy synth-bass and that didn't work at all. Complex and heavy rock doesn't fare too well either. Watching a bit of Star Trek on Netflix, the Aftershokz worked really nicely - and for spoken word, like audiobooks, you won't need anything better. If you are doing outdoor activities or need to be able to listen out for your surroundings then these might be handy.

This is a niche audio product that is good for listening to tunes in specific circumstances (you can also use them whilst driving!) also they are apparently very suitable for those who have certain types of hearing problems as they bypass the auditory canal.

Interesting and fun - Yes!
Audiophile - No!
(but the technology is new and improving)
NVA: P50sa - SSP - A40 - LS6 - Cube3
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Ithilstone
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Swaziland

Re: Bone Conduction Headphones - are they Hifi?

Unread post by Ithilstone » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:17 am

big fat NOPE from me
Nothing to see here...

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CN211276
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Location: Cardiff
Wales

Re: Bone Conduction Headphones - are they Hifi?

Unread post by CN211276 » Tue Jan 23, 2018 7:54 am

I follow the green cross code when I cross the road.
I set a course just east of Lyra
And northwest of Pegasus
Flew into the light of Deneb
Sailed across the Milky Way

NVA BMU, Sonore microRendu/McRU PS, AQ J-bug, Wirewold Ultraviolet, Chord Qutest, NVA P50SA, NVA A80sMk2, NVA Cube 3s, NVA LS6, NVA TIS mk2. Rega Planar 3, Denon DL-110, NVA Phono 1, NVA SSP Mk2, Grado SR 325e, headphones, Chord Mojo.

Second system
Arcam Miniblink Bluetooth DAC, Marantz pm 5004, Wharfdale Diamond 121, NVA LS2.

Out and about
Oppo PM3, Audioquest Dragonfly Red.

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