CES 2011 – VoxLinc Bone Conduction Headphones

When I attend a big event such as CES or Networld+Interop, I like to troll the aisles of small booths at the fringes of the show floor. While the majority of these booths are used by dime-a-dozen resellers and “massaging insoles to relieve back pain” types of companies, I always end up finding a few diamonds in the rough – booths who are showing off products that are new or innovative or just really useful.

One of my finds at CES 2011 was a company called VoxLinc from Shenzhen, China. VoxLinc produces “sports headphones” which use bone conduction technology. With the bone conduction system, the VoxLinc headphones actually rest in front of your ears instead of over or in your ears. This leaves your ears open to hear the environment around you, or even carry on a conversation with someone – while listening to your music. VoxLinc provided a set of their BCT10 bone conduction headphones for review.

VoxLinc BCT10 Bone Conduction Sports Headphones
  • Safety, safety, safety! Stay aware of your surroundings while jogging or cycling
  • Light and comfortable
  • Can carry on conversation without having to remove headphones
  • Sound quality is mediocre
  • Cost is high for headphones of mediocre sound quality
Price $64.99 (expected)
Available March 2011 (expected)
Purchase Amazon.com

The VoxLinc BCT10 bone conduction headphones definitely work as advertised. My wife and I both tried the headphones and found that we could listen to what was going on around us while playing music. My wife often takes our young son out for walks in the park, and with the VoxLinc headphones she can enjoy some music on her iPod but also hear our son when he gets excited at the dogs passing by – or when he poos and cries for a clean diaper!

We also were able to carry on a conversation while listening to music on the VoxLinc headphones. And since I am almost always listening to music on headphones when I work, I appreciate that I don’t need to remove the headphones when I get a phone call or need to talk to a coworker.

The headphones are light, quite comfortable, and put very little pressure on the ears. The headphones use a battery, housed in a rectangular box which sits inline on the headphone cable. This same box also has the power and volume controls for the headphones. Because it contains the battery, the box is a little bit heavy as an inline device, so you will want to use the clip on the back of the box to attach it to your shirt or jacket to prevent the box from bouncing around.

“Battery??” you say. Yes. The headphones have a battery, though there is no noise cancellation or other such feature. VoxLinc explained that the bone conduction system needs more electricity than is supplied by the normal headphone port on a music player, so they have to use a battery to supplement the electrical power to the headphone “speakers”.

The battery can be charged on a USB port with the included headphone jack to USB adapter. It takes approximately 5 hours to fully charge the battery, and it has a 15 hour run time. So it easily provides enough electricity for several days to a couple of weeks of play time with average use.

The sound is good for a headset that doesn’t even touch your ears, but don’t expect studio monitor quality. One issue that I have with these headphones is that a good bit of the sound carries out to the people around me. It’s not a problem for most Americans, but if you ride busy subway trains like folks in NYC or Asia, the sound might annoy other passengers who are crammed in the train car with you. In Japan, fights have broken out over loud headphones in the trains! Of course, VoxLinc markets their bone conduction headphones to fitness oriented people, so this issue of sound carrying to the people around you is just not going to be a problem for most joggers or cyclists.

If the bone conduction headphones are appealing but you want a built in mic for Skype or other computer applications, then check out VoxLinc’s USB10 series headphones, which use a USB connection instead of a standard headset mini-jack.

The bottom line? If you’re a jogger, bicyclist or skater who wants to listen to music, but wants to be safer by hearing cars and people around you, then the VoxLinc BCT10 is an ideal solution.

And we have discovered that the VoxLinc BCT10 headphones are great for parents taking a child out for a stroll around the neighborhood or the local park.

The VoxLinc BCT10 headphones are available in several colors. The MSRP is expected to be $64.99 and the headphones will be available for purchase from Amazon.com later this month.

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