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These headphones are better than Apple's AirPods

I love my AirPods Pro but I prefer these bone conduction headphones over them. Here's why.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
HAYLOU PurFree bone conduction headphones against a green and yellow background.

HAYLOU PurFree bone conduction headphones.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Anyone who knows me personally will attest to the fact that I'm a huge fan of headphones and earbuds. I wear a set pretty much all day, and while I love the functionality and integration with the iPhone that my AirPods Pro offer, I much prefer to use bone conduction headphones because they solve a lot of the problems that the AirPods have.

There are a number of players on the market, but I recently tried HAYLOU's new PurFree bone conduction headphones.

And they are good. Very good.

Also: The 5 best wireless headphones

The HAYLOU bone conduction headphones consist of a band that fits around the back of your head and hooks over your ears. Right from the start, I have to say that this is super comfortable. The soft silicone coating on the headphones is comfortable in all conditions I've tried them in -- hot, cold, wet, dry, when chilling out or when sweaty -- and the "high-elastic titanium wire" design is flexible enough to fit a variety of head sizes and shapes.

I've not had any problems with the headphone falling off no matter what I'm doing -- walking, cycling, or even chilling on the sofa. 

HAYLOU PurFree bone conduction headphones against a green and yellow background.

Comfortable and easy to use for hours!

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Along with the headphones, you get a magnetic charging cable, earplugs (for times when you want to block out the world), and an instruction booklet that guides you through the charging and pairing process, and gives you a heads up on how the three buttons work.

The three buttons -- a volume up, volume down, and multifunction button that handles play, pause and such -- are straightforward and easy to use while the headphones are on. 

Closeup of buttons on HAYLOU PurFree bone conduction headphones.

The buttons are all easy to use and offer great tactile feedback.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

At the heart of the PurFree headphones is a pair of 17mm sealed bone conduction vibrators -- the speakers -- that sit on the cheekbones to carry the sounds into the ears. HAYLOU claim that these have been designed to reduce vibrations by 30%, and sound leakage by 90%. Having used a number of different bone conduction headphones I have to say that I'm impressed by these. The sound quality and levels are more than acceptable, and sound leakage does seem to be minimal.

There are also a pair of dual noise-cancelling microphones that allow you to make calls when out and about. Call quality is acceptable to me even when the ambient noise levels were high.

Also: The 5 best noise-canceling headphones

Running the headphones is Qualcomm's 3044 chipset, which makes use of Bluetooth 5.2 technology, allows for a combination of good wireless range, low power consumption, and low latency (which means that when you're watching a video, there's no visible lag between people's mouth movements and the sound).

Powering the show is a tiny battery that lasts for up to eight hours per charge, with a charge taking 90 minutes. 

In too much of a hurry to wait 90 minutes? A quick-charge feature means that you can get two hours of runtime from a 10-minute charge.

The headset comes with a single proprietary charging magnetic charging cable (so don't lose it!) that plugs to USB-A (I do wish this was USB-C because most things are these days).

Closeup of magnetic charge cable plugged into the HAYLOU PurFree bone conduction headphones.

Magnetic charge cable.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

As for sound quality, I'm very impressed with it. I've spent quite a few hours listening to a combination of different audios -- music, podcasts, audiobooks, and movies -- and I've no complaints. If you're an audiophile, then bone conduction isn't going to satisfy you, but for me, the quality is fine and the benefits of bone conduction far outweigh the negatives.

Also: 5 tips for preventing hearing loss caused by headphones

Speaking of negatives, what are they?

I don't have many. In fact, there's only one for me, and that's the single charging cable. I would like two, so I could have one as a backup. 

If you're in the market for bone conduction headphones, I highly recommend taking a look at the HAYLOU PurFree headphones. They tick all the boxes for me, and for $120, the price is certainly good compared to other bone conduction headphones on the market.

What are bone conduction headphones?

The difference between bone conduction headphones and regular headphones is that rather than plugging up your ears and sending the sound directly into your eardrum, bone conduction headphones feature tiny speakers that sit on your cheek bone. 

These little speakers vibrate and transfer the sound to your ear via your jaw and skull bones.

Sounds weird, but it works. And it works well. 

Pros and cons of bone conduction headphones


  • You can still interact with others while wearing your headphones (this might be a con for some people!).
  • They don't block your ears.
  • No more sweaty, itchy earholes.
  • Safer because you have greater awareness of what's going on around you.


  • Sound quality isn't as perfect as in-ear or over-the-ear earbuds and headphones.
  • Can take some getting used to.
  • There's some sound leakage, so others might be able to hear what you're listening to.

How to these bone conduction headphones compare to Shokz headphones?

Probably the biggest name in bone conduction headphones is Shokz. So the obvious question is how do these compare to headphones from Shokz?

I own several Shokz bone conduction headphones and have found that the HAYLOU PurFree compare really well when it comes to sound quality, comfort and performance. In fact, the PurFree sound louder and clearer than the Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones I've been using, and yet cost $50 less. 

One advantage the Shokz have is that it is possible to buy a replacement charging cable should you need one. 

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