bone conducting headphones

i recently read an article on the guardian's bike blog about chilli technology's bone conducting headphones, and was really intrigued to see if they would work as well as had been reviewed. i thought they might be able to solve a problem i had:

i cycle through london on a daily basis, and feel that wearing earphones or headphones is too dangerous, as they block out the noises around me. i like to be able to hear the traffic, and if i wear headphones i feel disconnected. what these headphones promise to do is allow you to listen to your music, but not block out all the other noises.

these are probably not applicable for short journeys as much, and (as many people point out in the guardian article) not everyone likes to listen to music when cycling. however, i usually cycle about 15 miles a day and being able to listen to something can really relieve the boredom.

the design is very simple, but the technology is a bit more complex. instead of sitting in your ear, they sit on your cheekbones, and you hear the music being played through them. it's a strange sensation at first, but you get used to it quickly. they fit comfortably around the back of your head, and i've tried them on a few people and found that regardless of head size or shape they still seem to find their place ok.

there is an in-line control function to turn them on and off, and adjust the volume. they do require a charge, but again this is very easy thanks to a simple usb attachment, and lasts up to 15 hours. there's also a handy function which turns them off if they aren't in use for 15 minutes, which is a bonus.

the sound quality is good, but you shouldn't expect super-hi-fidelity with them, as this is not what they are for. you can adjust the volume on them but i found the biggest variable was the device i used to play music. an ipod shuffle, with it's small size and integrated clip were the obvious choice, but in terms of volume it does not go as high as a larger ipod or iphone.

cycling through the city gave various results depending on where i was. at busier junctions, the music was drowned out a bit, but i think this is probably a good thing (safety wise). i tried listening to music and to language-learning tapes. i thought the latter in particular would be an especially good thing to try given the length of my journeys, but i found these suffered more than music in being drowned out when at lower volumes.

it's a great thing though, well designed and easy to use. i definitely felt aware of my surroundings whilst still being able to listen to things. the use of these is not purely limited to cycling, they are also useful in similar scenarios where situational awareness is required, like running.

they are available from chilli technology for £49.99.