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My favorite bone conduction headphones have 3 invaluable safety features

The Suunto Wing headphones are my new go-to for maintaining awareness of my surroundings while enjoying hours of motivating music.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Suunto Wing bone conduction headphones are available in Lava Red and Black for $199.
  • Long battery life, LED lights, head movement control, portable battery pack, and IP67 water and sweat resistance are the highlights.
  • Pricing is relatively expensive, but the durability and endurance more than make up for it.

My first exposure to bone conduction headphones happened just a few year ago, when I wanted to listen to music during my runs while my ears remained open, aware of my surroundings. It didn't take me long to realize the other benefits of the product category, including the longer battery life than standard earbuds, and the fact that these ear hangers never fell out no matter how much I juked and jived while running.

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Since then, we've gone from two or three competitors in the bone conduction market to almost too many to count, including from companies that are already established in the fitness market. Suunto is known for its GPS sports watches, but for the past month, I have been running, trail running, indoor rowing, cycling, and walking with the company's new Suunto Wing headphones. And they're fantastic.

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The Suunto Wing bone conduction headphones come in Black and Lava Red (as reviewed) with a price of $199. This is a pretty standard price for high-end bone conduction headphones, and the Suunto Wing offers a few unique features I have not yet seen on any other model.

Also: The best bone conduction headphones you can buy

The most significant reason I wear bone-conduction headphones is for awareness and safety, especially when running at night or in unfamiliar territory. Suunto's rendition has a unique safety feature in the LED lights positioned on both sides of the headphones. 

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Three small lights are embedded into the block behind your ear where the battery is located. The lights can be customized from the Suunto smartphone app to shine constantly, in flashing mode, and in an SOS pattern. Three bright red LED lights appear on each side of your head and this will help make you more visible to those around you as you exercise outside and/or at night.

Two buttons are found on the underside of the headphones, controlling power and volume up/down. With a quick configuration on the smartphone app, you can then long press the volume down button to toggle the LED lights on and off, which makes things very convenient when you need more safety.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Another unique feature of the headphones is the head movement control functionality. Again, this can be toggled on and off in the Suunto smartphone app and is turned off by default. When a call comes in, you can shake your head from side to side twice to reject the call or nod twice to answer the call. 

This feature goes beyond taking calls; If you are listening to music, shaking your head twice from side to side switches to the next song. I used this quite a bit when listening to some random Spotify playlists and found shaking my head much easier than pushing buttons on my watch or headphones.

Also: I hiked with Garmin's 'unlimited battery' GPS tracker and it made life so much easier

One final feature not seen by others is the power bank charging system. The headset rests securely on a triangular battery pack that has a plastic clip to secure the headphones. You can then take this battery pack with you when traveling and recharge your headphones, adding about 20 hours of playback. 

The headphones themselves last up to 10 hours with a full charge, with 10 minutes of charging providing you with up to three hours of music support. I traveled with the power bank during a recent trip and can confirm that Suunto's battery life estimates are accurate. I'll add that activating the LED lights does impact the battery life, reducing it to about four hours, down from 10 hours.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

I've had earbuds fail in the past from my sweat and the often rainy conditions I run in, but bone conduction headphones do not rest inside my ears and sit out on the surface of my head. It certainly helps that the Suunto Wing are rated at IP67 and sweat and water-resistant.

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One minor gripe I have is the multi-function button found on the outside of the left side. It's a bit too flush and is the same color as the headphones, so it wasn't always the easiest to activate or see. 

ZDNET's buying advice

I've tested several bone conduction headphones over the past few years and they're only getting better. The Suunto Wingheadphones came out of nowhere and have quickly become my preferred headset thanks to the additional safety features, portable battery pack, and outstanding performance. The head movement control is especially useful as it's often inconvenient for me to tap around to play music or answer calls.

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