Bone conduction headphones have their uses (Week 38, 2022)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 38, 2022

Q. Unfortunately I have some damage to my auditory canal and ear drum. I have never found any earbuds or headphones that were tolerable for more than a few minutes. What is the sound quality of bone conduction headphones?

-E.H., St. Paul, MN

A. Bone conduction headphones are used by those who want to enjoy music or other programming without isolating themselves from the world around them (such as runners, bicyclists and the parents of babies and toddlers) since the ears are uncovered and the sound transmitted through the bones to the inner ear. Your reasoning for purchasing them is different, and the only way to know for sure if they will satisfy you is to try them. I do think it is worth investigating, and in addition to answering your question about sound quality I will provide a recommendation for some excellent bone conduction headphones.

Like any other headphones, the sound quality of bone conduction headphones is largely dependent on the headphones themselves. I’ve recommended them in general to people who need to hear what is going around them but still would like to use headphones or earphones, but until now I have never found a pair that I wanted to praise and recommend in the column. That changed with the Mojawa bone conduction earphones, which I recently reviewed and found quite impressive.

The spec sheet for the Mojawa bone conduction headphones certainly reads high-end, if there is such a thing as high-end bone conduction headphones. The frame is made of titanium and covered with soft, yet grippy and pliable silicone. Noise-cancellation technology is engaged during phone calls to ensure call clarity, and a patented actuator creates the sound. Perhaps this patented actuator is what makes the excellent performance possible, with sound notably better than other bone conduction headphones I have tried.

After charging and pairing them to my phone I put on the Mojawas and started playback of a familiar song. The music immediately came to life, and when I say “came to life” I mean it in the sense that I had an emotional reaction to the quality of the music, which was very good and much better than I was expecting. I remember thinking, “That’s really something, I was not expecting this much out of bone conduction headphones!” The treble and midrange are especially noteworthy, as is the stereo imaging. As expected the effect is much like walking around a room where there are speakers playing music. There is much more immediacy to the sound though given it is being produced right next to your ears.

Loud volumes and bass-heavy music will cause some perceptible vibration. Most of the time it was not an issue, however when I played “Xanadu” from Rush’s album “Exit… Stage Left” I could definitely feel the percussion. Adjusting the headphones on your head can attenuate the vibrations and make them less noticeable. At moderate volumes it is a non-issue.

There is very little sound leakage. I remember listening to full range, rich music and when I took off the headphones all I could hear is weak sound emanating from them. It is very impressive and really shows how effectively the Mojawa headphones’ bone conduction works.

The Mojawa bone conduction headphones sell for $129 on Amazon. At the time of this writing there is a $30 off checkbox coupon, reducing the price to $99. I can’t say if the coupon will still be available at the time this goes to print, but if not I still think the earphones are worth the $129. At $99 they are a great deal.