Published on February 23, 2016
Damson Headbones are described as ‘enhanced sensory headphones’, intended to let wearers enjoy their music whilst leaving the actual ear uncovered/unblocked. To achieve this Headbones, which connect via Bluetooth, employ what is known as bone conduction technology whereby the sound (that’s your music) is transmitted via vibrations through the skull just behind the cheeks. How well do they perform? RunningMonkey put them to the test…
Comfort and fit
The first thing you’ll notice about the Headbones is the weight – it’s a pretty hefty 78g, something of a shock if you’re used to running with ear-buds with little or no discernable weight to them. The arms hinge open (really for easier storage) and can then be flexed slightly for a snugger fit. Round the back, where the majority of the weight sits, an adjustable, rubberised ‘sports strap’ keeps the battery pack and inner workings away from the head.
On the run things don’t stay exactly put; there’s a lot of bounce from the weight of the rear unit and we found constant readjustment was needed to keep things in place. Additionally the units that actually sit against the cheek transmitting the ‘sound vibrations’ could really do with a more rubberised coating; once things got sweaty on the run there was a tendency towards even greater movement.
When RunningMonkey first tested out bone conduction technology back in 2013 with a review of the AfterShokz Sportz 2 headphones (you can read it here) our expectations with sound quality had been low. In fact the Aftershokz were a pleasant surprise with quite impressive quality across the scale and proving only slightly ‘tinny’; unfortunately the Damson Headbones are, contrary to what Meghan Trainor may assert, all about the tin.
Granted running isn’t the optimal place to be listening to music anyway, but we had expected far more from the Headbones then they were able to deliver.
Arguably the big selling point for the Headbones (indeed any bone conduction headphone) is that they add a dash of safety to the run. For many running is synonymous with listening to a banging play list and keeping the ears uncovered is a great way of staying alert to ambient sound. Traffic for example or a race marshal yelling about an escaped bull. In this respect Headbones may find their market.
Charging via USB Headbones offer a battery life of eight hours – this can be extended by plugging a standard set of headphones in to the unit (a pair ships with them) in which case close to 20hours is advertised. If you opt to do this you obviously lose the advantages of bone conduction in terms of safer, more ‘aware’ running. On test the batteries delivered close to promised performance although, as with most rechargeable units, this is likely to drop off over time.
The main control button sits on the right cheek mount and controls power, pairing and muting to take calls. It’s responsive and works perfectly well although, oddly, the volume controls are to be found at the back of the unit. If you want to crank things up or turn them down you’ll need to jab around blindly at the back of your head…
Damson Headbones try hard, but just don’t really stack up. Compared to the audio performance of the AfterShokz Sportz 2 or Bluez 2 it’s like listening to a tin can at the end of a piece of string versus enjoy a pair of Beats. Also consider that the Sportz 2 and Bluez 2 weigh in at 23g and 45g respectively (the Sportz 2 are wired not Bluetooth) compared to the whopping 78g of the Headbones.
Then there’s the cost. Damson Headbones have an RRP of £104.99 (currently on sale at £99.99), whilst a set of svelte AfterShokz can be yours from Amazon from as little as £59.99.
The Damson Headbones featured recently (and unsuccessfully) on BBC’s Dragons’ Den. Such shows are invariably heavily edited and the company has posted a detailed right of reply on their experience here but we can’t help thinking the Dragons dodge a bullet by declining to invest.
Full details and online purchase of the Damson Headbones at damsonaudio.com