Naenka Runner Diver Headphone Review
Hands-on with the Naenka Runner Diver Bone Conduction Swimming Headphones Jeff Li/IBTimes

Ever since the invention of the Walkman, we've been able to bring music wherever we go, a frontier that has progressively been pushed outward. With the convenience of true wireless stereo earbuds these days, running and exercising with music is pretty much a given for many.

However, there are still circumstances where personal audio is not common, and doing laps in the swimming pool is one of them. Sure there are those who find the underwater ambience therapeutic, a time where they can spend with their thoughts. But what about for those of us who want some input and companionship in our ears? Can the Naenka Runner Diver Bone Conduction Headphones address common issues faced with underwater headphones? Let's (literally) dive in to find out.

Naenka Runner Diver Headphone Review
Wrapped with soft touch rubber, these headphones are comfortable to wear Jeff Li/IBTimes

Durable and Comfortable Design

First off, I'm a big fan of the behind-the-neck design of these headphones. What Sony coined 'Street Style' back in the 90's is being inherited by bone conduction headphones, which allow the headphones to comfortably hang on the neck when not being used.

The biomimicry aesthetics of Naenka Runner Diver bone conduction headphone gives it curves that are much less machine, and more organic. If you look at the headphone side on, they look surprisingly like a seahorse - a nice hidden Easter Egg left by the designer. The overall surface is covered by a soft-touch rubberized texture, and the uniform blue gray looks inconspicuous but tasteful.

Naenka Runner Diver Headphone Review
The surface that emits the sound into your bone Jeff Li/IBTimes

Waterproof Bone Conduction

Bone conduction headphones are not something new, but I never really understood their appeal until I tried out the Naenka Bone Conduction Headphones. Other than the fact that you're able to listen to music while your ears are left open to hear your surroundings, I didn't see why one would sacrifice the sound quality of conventional headphones. However when it comes to the underwater game, it's a different playing ground altogether.

I've previously used waterproof TWS earphones, and even though the earphones are built to withstand water submersion, the nature of a dynamic driver requires the sound nozzle to be dry, and no obstruction in the ear canal to sound properly. Once there is water between the earbud and ear drum, you end up with a muffled sound.

The Naenka Bone Conduction Headphones on the other hand only requires contact between the earphone and the side of the head, and the effect water has on the sound is minimal to none. Bone conduction drivers also means no vents or sound ports are needed, creating a fully sealed waterproof system that dynamic driver systems just can't compete with. This is one of the best applications for bone conduction technology that I've seen so far.

Naenka Runner Diver Headphone Review
Magnetic puck both charges and transfers audio files for the headphone Jeff Li/IBTimes

Built-in Media Player

The next obvious problem with a Bluetooth headphone that you can swim with is the music source. Would someone need to lug around a waterproof phone to play the music with? Naenka's solution is to include a built-in media player and 16 Gb of internal memory. Simply double-click the power button, the headphone switches from Bluetooth mode to player mode. This means even for both swimmers and runners, you won't need to carry a phone, just put these headphones on and take off.

The media player surprisingly doesn't only play MP3 files, but also high quality FLAC files. In fact Naenka pre-loads a few FLAC tracks out of the box, which demonstrates its ability to playback music on its own. You can load up more of your own music by connecting the headphone with a computer via the included magnetic puck style charging/data cable.

Sound Quality and Best Application

Just how does the Naenka bone conduction headphone sound? If you have never experienced bone conduction headphones, the first impression will be quite a novel one. At first it feels like there are tiny speakers playing right next to your ear canal, but only when I fully blocked my ears and was still able to hear the music, did I realize I'm listening with a completely different part of my anatomy with these earphones.

The burning question people who haven't tried bone conduction headphones have is, just how would they compare to conventional headphones? Firstly I'd say they are fundamentally different, since conventional headphones rely on air vibration while bone conduction uses bone vibration, it's a bit like comparing apples and oranges.

Musically, bone conduction's frequency response range is more limited than conventional drivers. Its strength is firstly in the mid-range frequencies and secondly in the high-range frequencies, with the low-range less present. Because of this, it's better suited for vocal dominant and acoustic music, where bass is less prominent. After using these headphones for a while, I found the best use for them was listening to podcasts and audiobooks, great ways to be entertained during a running or swimming session.

Naenka Runner Diver Headphone Review
This is the first headphone I've seen that comes with ear plugs Jeff Li/IBTimes

Volume Limitation and Solution

If there is one true limitation to the Naenka bone conduction headphone, it would be that its volume ceiling is much lower than conventional headphones. When it's on max volume, the playback would become audible to those who are around you, plus it can be completely covered by a noisy environment.

The solution? Naenka actually includes a set of silicone earplugs with these headphones! The earplugs can keep the environment noise out, while the bone conduction continues to send sound to your ears. It's an unorthodox solution to a problem presented by a unique design.

Naenka Runner Diver Headphone Review
The excellent build and design of the Naenka headphone Jeff Li/IBTimes

Final Verdict

For those who prefer having music or podcasts going in their ears during their workout, the Naenka Runner Diver bone conduction headphone means you can now take it into water. Whether it's for a swim, or even into the shower, the bone conduction technology shows itself to be superior to the conventional earphones.

Naenka Runner Diver Headphone Review

With excellent design and build, together with a massive internal storage and media player and the ability to playback without the need of a phone, the Naenka Runner Diver bone conduction headphone is an excellent choice for those who are looking for some workout companionship underwater. We're awarding it with the IBTimes Recommended badge.

Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.