The Naenka Runner Pro is a bone conduction headphone designed for sports (including water sports) and exercise. You can clearly hear your surroundings and even talk to people thanks to its open-ear design. You can listen to music not only with Bluetooth but also using the built-in music player. The Runner Pro currently retails for $119.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Naenka for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Water resistance rating: IPX8 (can be used while swimming)
Package and Accessories
The Runner Pro comes in a handsome black box adorned with gold print. On the back of the box is a colour image of the headphones and a list of features. Inside the box, we find the Naenka Runner Pro, a pair of foam earplugs, a USB charging cable and a user guide.
Like most bone conduction headphones, the Naenka Runner Pro is made of plastic supported by a titanium alloy neckband. The circular transducer housings rest on the bone just in front of your ears.
The Runner Pro is lightweight and feels both comfortable and secure to wear. It doesn’t feel loose or shift when you’re moving about. It even stays in place when you’re swimming. Yes, you can use the Runner Pro while swimming thanks to its IPX8 rating.
The headphones use a proprietary charging connector rather than the more common USB port to achieve their water resistance. The connector snaps on magnetically but some care needs to be taken as I found it somewhat easy to dislodge. A single blue LED can be found just next to the charging connector.
All of the controls are located on the right side of the neckband. The power On/Off button is used to play/pause music and to answer/hang-up phone calls. A 1-second press activates the voice assistant.
In addition, double-clicking on the power button switches between Bluetooth and the built-in music player modes. With its 8GB of onboard storage, the Runner Pro can hold approximately 1,500 songs. The player is compatible with WAV, FLAC, MP3, APE and WMA file formats.
A single click on the + and – buttons raises or lowers the volume while a long press skips to the next song or previous song. Each button is easy to recognize by touch and the controls feel intuitive to use.
Battery Life and Call Quality
Runner Pro’s battery life is rated at around 6 hours. It also has a standby time of 240 hours.
As far as call quality goes, the Naenka Runner Pro sounds a bit muffled and compressed. However, it’s still usable and I was able to communicate easily during calls. Keep in mind that the headphones are designed to work in the water so it’s impressive that they still have microphones at all!
Runner Pro works great for games and videos. It has low latency and there’s no noticeable delay between video and audio when watching movies and YouTube. Gaming performance is good too and I had no problems playing fast-pasted FPS games.
I will preface this section by saying that you need to make some concessions when it comes to bone conduction headphones and audio quality. They do not have the same standard of sound that you can get from regular headphones or earphones. Essentially, these are designed to let you enjoy music or podcasts while still being able to clearly hear your surroundings. If you’re looking for the best high-fidelity experience, these aren’t for you.
Having said that, the Naenka Runner Pro sounds great – for a bone conduction headphone. The large 16mm driver delivers a clear sound, especially in the mid-bands.
The bass response is fairly satisfying for a bone conduction transducer too (probably thanks to the large driver). You shouldn’t expect a massive thumping bass but as long as your expectations are reasonable, the bass is ample for casual listening.
It’s the midrange that shines on bone conduction headphones. The Runner Pro yields clear vocals and instruments with surprisingly good tone and timbre. It’s particularly good for human voices, making the Runner Pro ideal for podcasts, along with vocal and acoustic music.
You may experience some tingling sensation (typical of bone conduction headphones), especially at a higher volume. But Naenka says they’ve reduced the vibration by 33% and noise leakage by 30%.
I personally found the maximum volume of the Runner Pro to be a bit low. This will depend somewhat on the shape of your ears and the proximity of the transducers to your tragus. While not an issue in a quiet environment, you might have difficulty hearing details if you’re in a noisy gym or near a busy road.
Padmate S30 ($59)
The Padmate S30 (review here) is another bone conduction headphone designed primarily for sports and exercising. Compared to the Runner Pro, the S30 has less bass response and slightly less midrange clarity.
The Padmate has a longer battery life, rated at 8 hours compared to 6 hours on the Naenka. However, the S30 has a much lower IPX rating (IPX5 vs IPX8) and cannot be used for swimming.
In addition, the S30 doesn’t have a built-in music player and storage like the Runner Pro. But the S30 is only half the price; if you don’t need the onboard music player or IPX8 water resistance you’d be better off with the Padmate. If, on the other hand, you want music while you’re swimming or just want the extra assurance of a more robust solution, the Runner Pro is the way to go.
The Naenka Runner Pro is ideal for anyone who wants to listen to music or podcasts while swimmingor exercising. It’s also great for when you want to enjoy some tunes and be able to hear your surroundings at the same time. Furthermore, it has a handy built-in music player and an impressive 8GB of onboard storage.