Naenka are the new kid on the block in the world of bone conduction headphones – designed for runners and athletes – hence the name. We took an initial look back in November and here is the update. It’s all too easy to do a couple of day test, whack a product on eBay, recycle the money and move on. We’d rather take the long view.
First of all, let’s get all the headlines out of the way. These are the manufactures’ specs:
- IP68 waterproof / Grade 8 sweat and waterpoof
- Built in 8gb of memory
- 16mm large driver speaker
- Bone conduction technology
- Improved non-sound leakage
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Adopts CVC6.0 noise reduction technology
- Magnetic charging
- 33g weight
- 230mAh battery
- 240 hours standby time
Details and the latest price (circa £93 at the time of writing this article) can be found here: https://www.naenka.com/collections/bone-conduction-headphones/products/naenka-open-ear-wireless-bone-conduction-headphones-compatible-with-bluetooth-wireless-sports-headset-ipx8-waterproof
We have previous reviewed bone conduction heads here and let’s go back over the reasons that you might consider them:
- Ability to exercise and still take in the surroundings. For me, this means running or hiking and still being able to take on bird-song. Personally, when out in nature, I cannot think of any sensible reason to filter nature out!! Bone conduction headphones allow you to enjoy the song of the skylark and yet catch-up on the latest episode of The Cycling Podcast – what can be better than that?
- Here in the UK, in running races, the competitors must be able to be aware of those around them and for that reason, usually, headphones are banned. Not so with bone conduction headphones. Prof Andy Lane and others have conducted research to prove the benefits of the beat of music and good exercise outcomes. Having road legal headphones and beats to get you to a PB sounds good to me.
- Amongst the many headphones that I have here are the Apple AirPod Pros. Running and hiking in these means quiet often getting the whole sound of the body’s impact coming via the fit of the AirPod Pros. With bone conduction headphones, what you get is your surroundings and whatever is coming through the headphones
- For audiophiles, bone conduction is for the hard of hearing, as the method of delivery does have advantages for that group of the population.
- To listen to audio when swimming (beware of salt-water)
- For those who cycle with devices such as the Garmin Varia rear radar (warning system of approaching vehicles), it is possible to connect bone conduction headphones to the Garmin ecosystem and get the warning directly into your skull.
- When commuting around a city and in need of say nav, bone conduction headphones provide audible directions (connected to, say, Google Maps on your mobile device – whilst still being aware of your surroundings.
- Whilst indoor cycling, using Discord and listening to our favourite Spotify playlist (Zwift FTP Smasher) – and still being able to chat to visitors to the paincave.
How do the Neanka Runner Pro perform? As we have already mentioned, this isn’t our first gig with bone conduction headphones. We have used them for at least 7 years and bone conduction Jawbones for phone calls for much longer.
As with colours, your red and my red may very well be different. In audio it appears to be much the same. I may hear a Pulseroll foam roller vibrating quietly against my leg and my wife hears a helicopter over the house! Therefore, in reading the below, please bear-in-mind that these are my perceptions of the audio experience that I obtained over countless hours of wearing the Naenka Runner Pros.
- As with other bone conduction headphones, bass isn’t their strong-point (I am a bass guitar player) and with the heavy dubbed-down bass music that is prevalent in the charts and in motivational music mixes, fans of this music might be disappointed. Personally, I can forgive this for the benefit of the open-ear experience. However, in comparison, plug into your AirPod Pros and play Jesus Walks by Kanye West and wow! Through the Naenka Runner Pro, the sound is best described as ‘muddy.’ In context, I’m not going to run in AirPod Pros as (mentioned previously) I get other perceived sounds.
- Podcasts are a tricky one. Some podcasts are exceptionally put together, with all contributor levels the same and the volume boosted and clear. Some are blooming awful! The best podcasts come through clear, as does the radio on the exceptional BBC Sounds app.
- However… listening through an iOS device. Apple very kindly protect our hearing by monitoring the volume level and reducing it – if good old Apple believe that the volume delivered to our ears are too loud. ‘Riding’ along on an Elite Direto XR, with a fan on and in an otherwise quiet paincave, means that in order to listen to a podcast, or Spotify, the volume needs to on max (halfway up on AirPod Pros for the same perceived volume and on the middle setting – non-noise reduction). This results in the iPhone automatically reducing the volume and rendering the audio coming from the Naenka Runner Pro inaudible. We live in a small village and traffic is pretty light and again, running/hiking along the lanes meant inaudible audio every time a diesel vehicle passed by.
- This is somewhat overcome by uploading audio on to the device. This seams a little retro nowadays and obviously having audio files playable directly from the device must be good for swimmers? The rest of us are in the Spotify/Apple Podcasts/BBC Sounds/Stereo app habit. By playing audio directly from the device’s storage card, does seem to provide crisper and louder sounds. I did have to stop and think though – ‘Where do I store an mp3 files anymore?’
Controls and fit – the Naenka Runner Pro is easy to use and the controls make sense. Sub-Zero weather can be problematic when running along and keeping to skip a track. In this context, getting to the buttons can be tricky and often needs a short stop and taking the glove off.
The fit is good and after a minute or two, I do not notice that I’m wearing anything other than my big bobble hat. I do really like the non-sweaty ears of bone conduction headphones.
Waterproof and battery life – I’ve tied these together. With other bone conduction headphones, I’ve sometimes had to remind myself to charge them – the battery seemed to last for a week! With the Naenka Runner Pro, I never worked out how to check the battery life on the controls and I was often caught out with the ‘battery low’ warning. The unit’s batteries were lasting for 3 hours maximum of audio listening time. However, when testing on unit on one very cold morning, it did slip under ice and I recovered it a metre down – frozen (as was my hand and arm) and working perfectly!
Voice – using the Naenka Runner Pro to record voice or answer a call is an area that needs to be improved upon. Sitting at my desk doing my day-job and speaking to colleagues over my iPhone, and I was constantly getting the feedback from people who could not hear me. Using AirPods was not an issue on any of the calls. Recording the voice using the iPhone Voice Memo app and the audio recorded from the Naenka Runner Pro has a hiss to it. The audio is low and ‘muddy.’ Using the AirPod Pros and there no zero background sound and full crisp audio.
From experience with other bone conduction headphones, how could the Naenka Runner Pro be improved?
- Focus on getting the volume right – yes turbo trainers can be fairly noisy, as can cars/traffic and at the same time, it should be possible to listen to music or catch what someone is saying on the news/podcast
- Enable users to alter the graphic equaliser to suit their own preferences
- Improve the microphone to an extent that phone callers/Discord users hear a clear voice
- A longer battery life would be preferable
- A simple way to skip tracks and answer calls that doesn’t mean having to take gloves off
- The device is good when it’s quiet
- Walking in woodlands, taking in nature and its sounds and also listening to a podcast works really well
- The comfort and build is good
- The little charging port (magnetic) is a nice touch.