I’ve been using Shokz OpenComm bone-conduction headphones for the past few weeks, and they’ve quickly become my default headphone choice for voice and video calls.

I also found myself using them for watching video when I don’t want to disturb those around me – and, indeed, for pretty much everything other than music …

Bone-conduction headphones

Although there are different forms of headphones – in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear being the main ones – most work in the same way. A driver moves air, to create soundwaves, which you hear through your ear-drums.

Bone-conduction headphones work in a completely different way. They vibrate against the bones in your cheek or upper jaw, and those vibrations are picked up by your inner ear, or cochlea. Your ear canal is completely bypassed.

The traditional advantage of bone-conduction headphones has been sound transparency. By not filling or covering your ear, you can still hear environmental sounds, making them ideal for use when cycling, for example, when you want to be able to hear approaching traffic.

These days, transparency can be offered with any earphone type, by using microphones on the outside to relay external sound to the headphones.

But they also have another big advantage: comfort. Over-ear headphones typically offer the best quality, but these can get hot if used for extended periods. Both over-ear and in-ear headphones can also become uncomfortable when used for more than an hour or two at a time.

Bone-conduction headphones, in contrast, are super comfy. Indeed, I have frequently completely forgotten that I’m wearing them!

The main drawback is sound quality. I would never use them for music, but for audio and video calls, watching Netflix, and the like, their comfort rapidly made them my default choice.

Shokz OpenComm

I was previously using the Shokz Aeropex (sold under the company’s former AfterShokz branding). The OpenComm is essentially the same thing, but with the addition of a microphone boom.

There’s also the OpenComm UC, which comes with its own USB-A Bluetooth adapter. The company says this boosts range and quality, but I have to say that using it with the Mac (with a USB-C adapter), I’ve experienced no discernible difference.

Microphone booms are becoming a rarity these days, mostly the preserve of gaming headsets. Mics built into headphone casings perform remarkably well, so the days of boom mics are probably numbered.

That said, I do find they work better in tricky situations, such as combatting wind-noise when outside. There’s also a psychological thing, of finding myself less tempted to speak at a higher volume than actually needed.

Whether or not you find a boom mic necessary, I can’t recommend Shokz bone-conduction headphones enough when it comes to all-day comfort.

Sure, if I want to listen to music, then I’m going to reach for my Bowers & Wilkins PX7 when at home, and my Master & Dynamic MW08 when out and about. But for calls and video, it’s my Shokz OpenComm I pick up every time (unless I’m already wearing them because I’d forgotten they were on my head).

If you’re using them with Apple devices, though, I’d skip the UC variant.

Shokz OpenComm are available for $159.95 (or less on Amazon), and the OpenComm UC for $199.95.

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