Can the Naenka Runner Diver bone conduction headset reviewed here match the Shokz OpenSwim and get into our best bone conduction headphones ranking? In a market of relatively few headsets that can be worn while swimming this new product takes on the market leader with a similar specification, but at a higher price. With IPX8 waterproofing, 16GB storage and 10 hours playback time the Naenka Runner Diver is arguably going to have to surpass its rival if it wants to succeed. However, it does have one very useful feature that its rival lacks and that explains the higher price – it adds Bluetooth. Read on to see how it performs in the pool and why I think it’s now the best headset for swimming.
Naenka Runner Diver review: price and release date
The Naenka Runner Diver is manufactured by Shenzhen Mengqu Life Technology Co. in Shenzhen, China and first went on sale in April 2022, with Naenka asking $169.99 / £135 / AU$238 on its own website. They’re available only in grey. Those prices don’t compare particularly well to the Shokz OpenSwim, this product’s main rival and the market leader in bone conduction headsets.
Naenka Runner Diver review: design and fit
Naenka Runner Diver specs
Battery life: 10 hours
Recharging: proprietary charging cable
Bluetooth/MP3: Bluetooth and MP3
The Naenka Runner Diver uses bone conduction technology that sends vibrations directly to your inner ear. While the best bone conduction headsets are mostly aimed at runners, gym users and cyclists looking for something that doesn’t go directly in their ears and also lets them hear what’s going on around them, the Naenka Runner Diver is something slightly different. Although they have the same basic design as other bone conduction headsets, the Naenka Runner Diver’s transducers are tear-drop shaped and they’re rather large. In the box are some screw-style earplugs, which are designed to improve the sound quality when swimming (they prove an integral part of the package).
They recharge using a 60cm USB cable using – sadly – a proprietary cable that magnetically attaches to connectors on the inside of the temple. It makes sense given the waterproof (IPX8) design.
In use I found the Naenka Runner Diver really comfortable, if a little bulky on the head. There’s a reason for that; the Naenka Runner Diver is designed to be a little more substantial so they grip on to the head when the wearer takes a dive into a pool. Although I'm not convinced those with smaller heads will find them as good a fit, they didn’t move around during several workouts during our test.
Naenka Runner Diver review: sound and features
The idea is that you can use the Naenka Runner Diver as you would use any pair of wireless earphones – whether that’s while you work or while you workout – then switch to MP3 mode when you go for a swim.
Worn above water the Naenka Runner Diver are impressive, with plenty of low frequency sound and enough treble detail, though perhaps they lack a little in the mid-range. Taken under the waves the bass levels jump significantly. That’s especially true if you wear the included earplugs, which stop the water lapping at your ears from ruining music and generally just create a more consistent, bassier soundstage while you’re in the water.
I didn’t experience much in the way of tickly vibrations, though the Naenka Runner Diver could go a little louder. A slight worry is that their quoted 10 hours battery life applies only to when the Naenka Runner Diver is used at 60% volume; I'm pretty sure most users will put them on full volume most of the time.
The Naenka Runner Diver is really easy to use. Side-loading MP3 files is a bit of a pain, of course, but it’s easy enough to find a few podcasts as MP3 files to drag and drop – though all that does require a computer. It also supports FLAC files if lossless music is your thing. The product itself is easy to use in the water, with the on/off switch on the left transducer also toggling between Bluetooth and ‘music’ (i.e. ‘Walkman’) mode and the volume rockers behind the right ear also skipping between tracks.
Although comparisons with its rival brand are inevitable, the Naenka Runner Diver is actually an incremental upgrade of the Naenka Runner Pro, another pair of bone conduction headphones boasting both a waterproof design and Bluetooth. On the Naenka Runner Diver some improvements have been made including upping its internal memory from 8GB to 16GB (which is about 3,000 songs) and increasing battery life from six hours to 10 hours (thanks to its 180mAh battery, which can be full charged in 90 minutes), though it still weighs the same 33g. They can go 5m under the water so can be used for swimming, snorkelling and and surfing.
Despite having Bluetooth, I suffered a frequent loss of connection when using the original Naenka Runner Pro paired with both a smartphone and a computer. That wasn’t the case during my test with the Naenka Runner Diver, which uses the latest Bluetooth 5.2 specification and kept a stable connection throughout my review.
Naenka Runner Diver: alternatives to consider
For a very similar pair of bone conduction headphones, but without the Bluetooth connectivity. Head for the Shokz OpenSwim, which weigh in at 29g and also use a proprietary charging cradle. For a slightly different waterproof option for the swimming pool the Zygo Solo headset receives music via a radio transmitter that’s connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth. It’s extra tech to put pool-side, but it works flawlessly.
Naenka Runner Diver review: verdict
The Naenka Runner Diver are top-notch bone conduction earphones, ideal for all kinds of exercise. Sound quality is excellent out of the water and even better underneath it, and though having to switch to MP3 is a pain, it’s easy to do. Usually I mark down products that think it’s OK to introduce into our lives a proprietary cable that’s easy to lose, but in this case I can see why that’s a logical decision on this waterproof product.