Panasonic's bone conduction headphones pump sound directly into your skull (hands-on)

Gallery Photo: Panasonic bone conduction headphones photos

The CES show floor is rarely the best environment to test audio equipment, but a relatively quiet moment this morning was our first chance to try on Panasonic's new bone conduction headphones. The Bluetooth-based wraparound set doesn't actually fit into your ears — instead, two "speakers" sit just outside them and vibrate the sound directly into your skull. The general idea behind this and other bone conduction products is to create a low-power device that lets listeners hear both music and ambient noise, something that's ideally suited to the fitness market Panasonic looks to be targeting. Unfortunately for us, the fact that the headphones were prototypes made it difficult to test these claims.

I'd never used bone conduction before, and the sensation was fascinating: if normal headphones are like putting your ear very close to the speaker in a room, these are like listening to the noise in two rooms at once. Without anything blocking your ears, listening to either music or the noise around you is more a matter of concentration than anything. That said, though the sound felt nicely balanced and mellow, the headphone volume was low enough that you had to really focus to catch details. We were told that this could change later, since the final set won't be released until the fall.

The design was similarly hard to judge. An inside band will eventually provide adjustability and a snugger fit, but my set was loose enough that it shifted when I moved — not ideal for exercise. We're also not sure what kind of battery life it'll get. Right now, it runs on a single AAA battery, but that could be changed in the future. As for price, there's still no official word, but a representative told us they'll be roughly in the Beats headphone range, and wouldn't cost more than $300.

The Verge
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.