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There’s nothing like a good cycle. In my opinion, the only thing that makes a bicycle ride better is music. I enjoy popping on my earphones when I walk, run, or bike ride. I’m a big John Mayer fan, as my Spotify year-end playlist will attest.
So when I zoom through the streets of Cape Town, I like listening to Sob Rock while singing along to every lyric. I’ve always only used earbuds or headphones for outdoor activities, but I was eager to give bone-conduction earphones a chance.
I was super-keen to try out the Nank(Naenka) High-performance Runner Neo Bone Conduction Bluetooth Sports Headphones when offered the opportunity to review the product.
How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?
Why bone conduction headphones? Unlike other products, these headphones don’t rely on traditional speakers to deliver sound.
Instead, they sit firmly against the upper cheekbone near the front of the ears and use transducers to send vibrations directly into the skull. Sound is conducted through your bones and inner ear.
Nank(Naenka) Runner Neo Bone Conduction Headphones Review
The Naenka Runner Neo Bone Conduction Bluetooth Sports Headphones offer a distinctive audio experience by transmitting sound through bone conduction technology, prioritizing user safety and situational awareness during outdoor activities like cycling.
- Stylish design and lightweight.
- Easy charging and long battery life.
- Waterproof against sweat.
- The sound quality is not as expected.
- Not good for listening to podcasts.
- Not good for taking phone calls.
- Extras needed to enhance sound quality.
Why Choose Bone Conduction Headphones?
Those opting for this option want to enjoy music while being aware of their surroundings and ambient sounds. Because the ear canals remain open, the user can remain aware of what is happening around them while enjoying their favorite songs.
For cyclists, this would mean you can be completely aware of traffic, making rides much safer. Because these headphones rest against the upper cheekbone, they are great for extended wear without pressure on the ear canals. They’re also perfect for people with different ear shapes and sizes.
How’s the Sound Quality of the Nank Runner Neo?
This was my first time using bone conduction headphones, and I have to be honest: I was wholly underwhelmed by the sound quality when I put them on for the first time. According to its website, the Nank Runner Neo has 57% better sound quality than similar products due to “high-efficient vibrator 3.0 technology,” which “effectively increases the vibration area by 55%”, making for better sound output.
Having never used bone conduction headphones before, I could only compare my audio experiences to earbuds and over-ear headphones, designed to keep all sound in and the noise out. As a first-time user, I was unprepared for the lower volume of bone conduction headphones. In fact, I was sure the volume on my phone or the headphones was not fully turned up the first few uses. It was lacking the richness and immersive qualities other headphones usually provide.
I used the headphones for several weeks, taking them everywhere instead of my regular headphones. Over time, I got used to the volume levels and realized the perk of hearing traffic or ambient noises around me while listening to music. I’d compare it to a backtrack playing in a film scene where you can still hear all the main characters’ conversations while being aware of the music.
For cycling, this is a great advantage. Being aware of your surroundings while cycling can be lifesaving. But it has its limitations. I tried listening to a podcast while moving through noisy surroundings and wouldn’t recommend it. I kept missing some parts of the conversation due to sudden bursts of noise around me.
I also tried taking a phone call on the earphones and found it nearly impossible to hear the audio clearly. To enhance the sounds, I closed one ear canal with a finger to up the volume as much as possible to hear the person on the other side of the line. This is not ideal if you need both hands while on your bike.
Bone-conduction headphones are great for music but not for podcast audio or for taking phone calls. There’s a lack of deep bass frequencies, which require more direct contact with the inner ear.
To remedy this, the Runner Neo box includes two earbuds and six sound quality enhancers (2 x small, 2 x medium, 2 x large), which can be inserted into the ears to block out other sounds. Using these add-ons did increase the volume and clarity of the sound. My concern is that carrying around the extra earbuds would risk losing them, but according to the Nank, the earbuds and sound quality enhancers are mainly for indoor use and not meant for outdoors or when on runs or rides.
Also included is a rubber band that can be placed on the back end of the earphones to ensure a tighter fit. It’s an extra I didn’t find helpful or necessary as the headphones rest comfortably on the upper ear. Made from titanium and covered in silicone, the headphones weigh only 0.9oz and are light and comfortable to wear. The Nank Runner Neo also fit snugly underneath my helmet and sunglasses.
The headphones are waterproof, which helps protect them against sweat, especially in the temple and lower areas where they make direct contact with the skin. Another positive is the long battery life. Effortless overnight charging will offer at least 10 hours of playtime. In my experience, it might be even longer.
Are the Nank Runner Neo Headphones Worth It?
The Nank(Naenka) Runner Neo Bone Conduction Bluetooth Sports Headphones offer a unique audio experience that caters to those who prioritize situational awareness while enjoying music during outdoor activities.
While they may not match the audio richness of traditional headphones, their safety benefits, lightweight design, and waterproof features make them a viable option for cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts. However, for podcast aficionados and frequent callers, they may fall short in providing the audio quality needed for these activities.
Ultimately, the choice to embrace bone conduction technology depends on your individual preferences and priorities in your outdoor music journey.