Three years ago I discovered the TrekZ Air bone conduction headphones and when I go running in the dark or while on my business trips, these have served as my default headset. Bone conduction headsets provide good audio performance while allowing me to have my ears open for safety reasons.
As I train for an upcoming Ragnar trail race, I've been rocking out with the Naenka Runner Pro bone conduction headphones and have been very pleased with their performance and flexibility to perform for any sport you desire, including swimming.
In 2019, I followed up my TrekZ Air review with an evaluation of the AfterShokz Xtrainerz that are specifically designed for swim workouts. These headphones have 4GB of internal storage for up to 1,200 songs on local storage, but there is no Bluetooth support so you are limited to MP3 music that you own and manually load on the headset.
With the Naenka Runner Pro you get a pair of very well constructed bone conduction headphones that support Bluetooth streaming of music from your watch or phone and that also support playback of onboard music for swimming when your phone or watch is not available for streaming. You essentially get functionality that took two separate headphones in one and the Naenka Runner Pro is currently priced at just $129.90 on the Naenka site or as low as $117.99 on Amazon.
- Speaker driver: 16mm speaker
- Water resistance: IPX8 waterproof
- Onboard storage: 8GB for more than 1,500 songs
- Battery: 230 mAh with wireless charging cable, rated for 6-7 hours of playback. Two hours needed to charge the headset.
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
- Materials: Titanium alloy with soft touch matte silicone cover
- Headset weight: 33 grams
The retail package includes the Naenka Runner Pro headset, USB-A to wireless charging connector, and foam earplugs to help improve your audio experience while swimming. The charger connects easily thanks in part to two magnets that help align and keep the charger connected. You do need to be a bit careful when setting the headset down after making the connection as the magnetic charging adapter may fall off with too much movement.
The wraparound headset has a titanium frame and is coated in soft-touch silicone material with a matte finish. It looks great and is comfortable for all-day wear. The battery and internal components are primarily housed in the two rectangular sections that are found adjacent to the curved area that goes around your ears.
The charging cable connects to the inside flat part of the long oval section on the right side of the headset. I hate the tiny USB-C port cover and opening on the TrekZ Air and much prefer the wireless charging design. On the underside of the right side is one longer toggle button for volume control and a round power/pairing button. On the forward end of this oval piece is the mic opening for voice assistants and calls.
There are no buttons or controls on the left side, but it matches the size and shape of the right side.
After charging up the headset, simply press and hold the volume up (+) button until you see the LED flash blue and red. Pair up your device and you are ready to go. The volume buttons are used to control volume and playback, including next song and previous song. The power button is used to play/pause the music.
The power button also controls call functionality with a single press to answer a call or a double press to decline a call. Double press the power button to switch modes between Bluetooth or onboard music playback. Press and hold the power button for one second to activate your voice assistant or just speak the proper keyword.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
One of the best features of this headset is the dual mode support that gives you the ability to use it as a typical Bluetooth headset for running, biking, and other sports while also being able to use it for swimming with no connected watch or phone. In order to load music on the headset you simply connect the USB cable to your computer and manually copy songs to the headset that appears as a USB drive. Unfortunately, downloaded subscription service music is not supported and you must have your own MP3 files to copy over.
The Naenka Runner Pro is focused on providing a bone conduction headphone experience for exercise and while it has a single microphone on board, I did not find call quality to be of much value. Callers said I sounded a bit distant and hollow while on my end the caller also sounded a bit distant. The headset is fine for emergency calls or occasional calls, but don't purchase it as your primary headset for business calls.
When you choose a bone conduction headset, it's understood that audio performance cannot match earbuds or headsets that are in or over your ears openings directly. That said, the open ear safety aspect surpasses amazing audio quality for me when out running. The headset sounds good with clear and crisp audio, but the bass is a bit weaker than the TrekZ Air I have been running with. Volume is also a bit lower when outside running near busy roads, less than what I experienced on the Air.
Another aspect of the Naenka Runner Pro that I greatly appreciate is the large and well defined buttons that allow me to easily control playback and volume while running. I hate the tiny buttons on the TrekZ Air and usually just give up trying to control my music. Not so with the Naenka and this was a refreshing realization.
I also tested out the headset while swimming in a local lake and they performed very well. The headset remained in place while swimming and also while running where it did not bounce on my neck or anything. Battery life takes a serious hit when switching to onboard music playback, something more like 45 minutes to an hour instead of the six to seven hours when in Bluetooth mode.
The Naenka Runner Pro is a solid bone conduction headset and if you want to enjoy audio content on land and in the water then I highly recommend you consider this headset. It is very comfortable for long term wear and battery life is acceptable for at least a marathon. The price is reasonable given that it supports two modes of playback.