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Audio Technology Review: iHeadbones Bone Conducting Headphones

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Almost 2 years ago, I reviewed a pair of bone-conducting headphones by Audio Bone, but they’re not the only ones in the bone conduction headset industry. Take iHeadBones for example. Yes, the name is quite similar, but I suppose that’s not unlike audio companies having the word ‘audio’ in their names. Today, I review the iHeadBones product.

Unpacking and Setup

Unfortunately, the first thing I had to face was cutting through a blister pack. Sure I understand why manufacturers choose to use this format, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for the customer. Once I had managed to saw my way through the clear plastic that is the mortal enemy of fingers everywhere, I then had to unwrap a number of components and assemble the headset. Not exactly a common operation for a pair of headphones.

Although the Audio Bone headphones were straight plug in and use, the iHeadBones actually come with its own amplifier, and it turned out to be quite needed. The other thing that I had to do – which revealed a significant manufacturing flaw – was to peel off some protective sheets from the foam covering the conduction units themselves. The problem was that the adhesive used on the paper was much too strong and it bonded to the foam; I could not peel the paper off without ripping the foam. Of course, this meant there was no adhesive on the foam to attach to the headset. Although it would have been nice if the adhesive and/or paper covers were better chosen, it would have been better (ideal) if they had just been set up that way in the first place when I unpacked it.

Usage

The way bone conducting headsets work, you put them near your ears, but not in or on them. The headset itself is very light and the rectangular audio conduction didn’t rub my temples too much. The downside of that is that I did not find them very secure, and they moved about my head too easily. That means that despite the photo of the people exercising on the packaging, I just can’t imagine running with these for example, without them falling off within 10 seconds. The 2nd downside of the free-floating nature of the headset meant that the sound and the volume changed when it moved around.

Sound
Like the Audio Bones, the sound quality and frequency response is just not in the same league as a traditional pair of earphones/headphones. Not even close. I wouldn’t even bother listening to music with these. The sound quality reminded me of an old AM radio playing in the next room. Additionally if it weren’t for the amplifier, it would be quite unusable.

But the audio quality really isn’t a problem if you’re listening to podcasts, speeches, talk radio, etc. I feel that the main point of the iHeadBones (or Audio Bones) is for those people who would like to listen to their podcasts, etc. while still being able to tune into their surroundings. Examples include office workers, walkers, students, and even people at home with kids.

Conclusion
Bone conduction headsets have their niche use. Sure, the manufacturers like to tout the safety factor, but honestly, all you need to do is turn down the volume on your regular headset. I’m sure that you’ll immediately know whether or not you have an appropriate application, once you realize you can hear everything around you while still tuning into another audio source, somewhat like hearing both your TV and people talking around you. At about $100 however, I would first consider whether it’s really worth the cost.

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About Khalid J Hosein