Bone conduction is a relatively new development in headphone technology that allows you to free up your ears whilst listening to whatever you like on your device. This can be a great benefit for outdoor sports or other activities; you can both hear what’s going on around you and whatever you’re listening to on your headphones.
Vidonn is a Chinese company which makes wearable smart technology designed to be worn during sport activities. Currently their range is limited to smart watches and one pair of Bluetooth headphones; the F1.
The Vidonn F1 headphones are one of the cheaper bone conduction headphones currently on the market. One of the big names in bone conduction headphones is Aftershokz, and their wireless headphones start at around £100 (although they have cheaper wired alternatives). By comparison, the Vidonn F1 are currently available on Amazon UK for around £55, although we were able to buy them for a lower price through Ali Express.
Let’s see how they perform.
- Speaker type: Bone conduction transducers
- Dimensions: 130mm x 115mm x 65mm
- Material: Titanium alloy, TPU
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
- Frequency response: 20Hz - 20KHz
- Battery: 180mAh Lithium Polymer
- Standby time: 7 days
- Play time: 6 hours
- Talk time: 3 hours
- Charge time: 2 hours
- Charge port: Micro-USB
- Weight: 38g
- Waterproof grade: IP55
- Up to 10m range
Box contents; Headphone, USB charge cable, manual, earplugs.
The Vidonn F1 headphones also feature CVC (clear voice capture) noise cancelling. This technology isolates the sound of your voice when you’re speaking, meaning that if you take a call while using the headphones your caller can hear you more clearly with reduced background noise.
The headphones are available in black with either grey, blue, or yellow accents. Vidonn provides purchasers with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee for a full refund provided the device was bought from an authorised distributor. In addition to the guarantee, the F1 comes with a 12-month warranty.
What is bone conduction?
Before we get into the review let’s first consider how our hearing normally works.
Sound travels as vibrations through the air around us, and these vibrations are picked up and focused by our ear. The sound waves travel down the ear canal and vibrate the ear drum. These vibrations then travel through bones in the middle ear, which in turn vibrate the fluid-filled cochlea which transform the sound waves into electrical signals. These signals are processed by our brain, which is how we hear sound.
Bone conduction technology works by bypassing the outer ear, ear canal, and ear drum. The vibrations are applied to the bony part in front of your ear (your jawbone and cheekbone) which conduct the sound directly to your middle ear, from which point it is processed as normal.
There are several advantages of bone conduction technology. Firstly, it means you can hear sound from different sources. Your ears are not covered (like traditional headphones or earbuds), there is nothing in your ear canal (like in-ear headphones), so your ears are free to hear nearby sounds as normal.
Secondly, they can be useful for people with partial hearing loss that is caused by a problem in their outer ear (the point up to the ear drum).
Does bone conduction prevent hearing damage?
Are they better for your ears when compared with traditional headphone or earphones? Not exactly. Most cases of Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by damage to the hairs in the inner ear. These are the part of your ear that transform the sound waves into electrical signals, and when these hairs are damaged they do not repair themselves or grow back. Since bone conduction still relies on your middle and inner ear to work, NIHL is still a risk and consequently it is best to avoid listening to anything at a high volume.
Vidonn, and other bone conduction headphone manufacturers, claim that using their headset reduces the risk of hearing damage. These claims do not seem to be founded in research and consequently should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
The Vidonn F1 headphones are easy to set up and pair with your device. First you need to charge them which takes less than 2 hours. A red LED denotes charging, which changes to blue once the headphones are fully charged. With the headphones turned off, you press the Volume+ button for 5 seconds to begin the pairing (you will hear a voice prompt), then with Bluetooth enabled on your phone select ‘Vidonn F1’ to complete the process.
Once paired, you turn the headphones on and off by pressing the Volume+ button for 3 seconds. As with the pairing you will hear a voice telling you whether the device has been turned on or off, and you will also hear ‘Paired’ if the headphones are in range of a paired device.
Design and comfort
The Vidonn F1 headphones are lightweight and very comfortable to wear. They feature a titanium alloy structure which is highly flexible, and the black TPU plastic seems durable and of a high quality. There are three buttons; Play/Pause (which can also be used to answer phone calls), Volume up, and Volume down. The play/pause button and the flap covering the Micro-USB port is a soft plastic material, and the volume buttons are a hard plastic. We opted to get the version which features grey accents because it is more neutral in appearance than the yellow or blue.
The headphones wrap around the back of your neck and come up over the top of your ears to rest at the top of your jawbone. This method of wearing can feel a little odd at first but is easy to get used to. Moving your head can change the placement of the speakers slightly, but it is very difficult to dislodge them. It is worth bearing in mind that the placement of the band at the back of your neck can be affected by what you wear – eg collared tops – or by lying down. However, the headphones are very comfortable and can be worn for hours without discomfort. Anyone wishing to keep their hair looking fabulous will be happy to know that these headphones can be worn with minimal hair disturbance. They can be a little awkward to wear with glasses, but it’s still possible – you just need to get the placement right.
When it comes to sound quality, there’s no getting around the fact that these headphones do not perform as well as other types of headphones. The sound is a little tinny, and the bass tends to get a little lost. This can be easily remedied by wearing earplugs with the headphones (the difference in sound quality is astonishing), but obviously you then lose the benefit of hearing other sounds. This does, however, demonstrate that the sound quality is there, but it just gets a little lost among the background noise.
Consequently, during our testing we found that listening to audiobooks and podcasts is preferable to listening to music on the F1. It would depend on the type of music you want to listen to, of course, but since the bass isn’t strong enough to carry well over background noise we found that listening to the spoken word tends to sound better than music. That is not to say that you cannot listen to music with these headphones, but if you want to get the most out of music then you will probably want to do it without any background noise.
Another slight downside of these type of headphones is sound leakage; other people can more easily hear what you’re listening to, akin to hearing the other half of someone’s phone conversation. It depends on the ambient noise and the volume level of the headphones, but to be honest we didn’t find this to be at all problematic.
Once of the main reasons people choose to use bone conduction headphones is so that they can hear everything else around them, but this has a slightly frustrating consequence; if you’re listening to something in a place with variable external noise levels, then you may feel like you need to constantly turn the volume up and down. Not a deal breaker, but worth bearing in mind.
If you make or receive phone calls using the Vidonn F1 then you’ll be pleased to know that the sound quality is surprisingly good. We found that the CVC noise cancelling technology effectively minimises background noise, meaning that whomever you are speaking to can hear you clearly even in a noisy environment.
Battery life was calculated by listening to audiobooks and adding together the length of chapters listened to on one charge (including partial chapters). The volume level varied, but on average it was at around two-thirds of the maximum volume.
The battery life was particularly impressive. Vidonn claims that the F1 headphones have an expected battery life of 6 hours, but in our testing we experienced performance of well above that, with one instance of 8.5 hours. Using the F1 headphones to make or receive calls reduces the battery life, but further testing would be required to determine the extent of this.
We’ve established that bone conduction technology still has the potential to damage hearing, so why choose bone conduction headphones? The answer is simple; they’re fantastic when you want to hear what is going on around you. Do they sound as good as over-ear noise cancelling headphones? No. But that’s not why you get these headphones. You choose bone conduction for situational awareness.
If you need to keep your bearings, then one alternative is to use in-ear headphones or earbuds and just use one side. However, whilst this means you have one free ear, it does impair your hearing on the other side and it also means you cannot listen in stereo. Bone conduction headphones are a much better alternative.
We did not fully test the water-resistance of the Vidonn F1 headphones, since they were used primarily for non-sweaty walks. However, they survived a number of trips out in the rain with no visible damage or impact on sound quality. The headphones are rated up to IP55, which means that “water projected by a nozzle against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect”.
We found the Vidonn F1 headphones to be comfortable, durable, and to have a surprisingly good battery life. If you are looking to invest in some wireless bone conduction headphones and don’t want to spend £100+ then these are highly recommended.