Marsboy nice2 bone conductive headset review

marsboy nice2 headest top reviewYou may have noticed that many a different headphone and earphone passes through GadgetyNews. From the £1100 Oppo PM-1 and their slightly more affordable stablemate, the PM-3, right the way through to the sporty Veho ZS-2 and £20 KitSound Arcade via the £150 Musical Fidelity EB-50 IEMs. The Marsboy Bone Conductive headset is definitely a first for GadgetyNews.

This is not the first time I’ve tried on a set of bone conductive headthings though. My first encounter with this technology was at last year’s Wearable Technology Show and Damson’s Headbones headset.

In that environment they seemed to work. Now I have had a chance to live with the Marsboy nice2 headset for a while in real life situations, what do I think?

Marsboy nice2 bone conductive headset technology

I think the Marsboy moniker is quite apt as these don’t really look like any headphone or earphone you will have every encountered.

They do look quite space age.

Before I go any further it might be best to explain what this bone conduction tech is all about first. The basic premise is actually quite simple. Bone conduction is the act of passing sound based on its resonance through the bones in the skull to the inner ear (on the right in the diagram below), rather than via the ear canal directly (the left example below).

bone conductionThis technique is used in some hearing aid products and, more recently, Google utilised bone conductivity in their Google Glass product to transmit information rather than the user having to wear earphones.

So, what’s the point?

Well, I guess that they’re more hygienic than earphones and IEMs for a start, but I generally prefer over the ear headphones any way.

Some state that, as the sound source isn’t directly in or over your ear, it alleviates the threat of volume jumps and pitch differences from damaging your inner ear. That’s going to be a plus in anyone’s book.

For me, however, I think the most salient point is that not covering up or shoving something in to your ears means that you are more aware of your surroundings and less likely to be hit by a vehicle or jumped from behind.

Marsboy nice2 bone conductive headset design

The Marsboy headset is targeted at those who enjoy working out with motivational beats being pumped in to their auditory canals.

There’s a distinct lack of the expected sporty pizzazz on the packaging. Don’t get me wrong, I love understated and clean but for such a futuristic product I was a little underwhelmed by the natural coloured cardboard box initially. Then the design grew on me as it started to remind me of those ‘futuristic’ designs from the 40s and 50s – who fails to fall for retro-futurism? Not I.

marsboy review contentsInside the box you’ll find the headset and a PBT Bandage (a rubber support that can be used if the users’ head is particularly small). You also get a micro USB charging cable, 2 safety ear plugs and a brief user guide.

As with most Bluetooth sports headphones and earphones the band that connects the ear pieces sits behind the head and the nice2 is designed in the same way.

marsboy nice2 bone conductive headphones review controlsThe neck-band houses an on/off switch, covered USB charging port, Bluetooth LED, and volume up/down buttons. The conduction pads sit over your ear, and settle just in front around where your jaw is hinged.

Both the left and the right conduction pads have buttons on them – on the left pad is the phone/call button and the on right is the play/pause button.

The outer edge of the Marsboy headset is shiny black (a bit of a finger print magnet) whilst the inside is a slightly textured matte affair. The conductive pads are soft rubber.

They do look quite good, I have to admit.

Marsboy nice2 bone conductive headset performance

Speaking, or rather typing, as someone who prefers ‘proper’ headphones offering me to review earphones is sometimes a risky business. Now, with bone conductivity, I have no idea what to expect. Which should be a good thing I guess.

The nice2 headset feels sturdy enough, with flexibility where it belongs, in the arms.

I did have a minor issue thanks to my long hair but, once I got the band under my locks and the conductive pads where they should be all was comfortable for the most part. I won’t say that it felt the most natural thing in the world for the first few wears, but you do get used to it.

The device is very light, tipping the balance at just 43 grams, and this certainly goes some way in to making the device feel comfortable. The pads seem to grip the head about right without feeling like a vice.

marsboy nice2 headset reviewAs a spectacle-wearer I am also pleased to report that the nice2 didn’t have an issue with my glasses.

Pairing the Marsboy with my phone or tablet is typically simple. Turn the device on and use your smart device to find the Marsboy bluetooth ID, and tap it. Sorted.

The call button, along with with the headset’s in-built microphone actually makes using Google Voice or Siri simple. Both buttons on the pads work as intended but I would’ve liked a double-tap option to skip to the next track – but that’s just me.

Making and taking calls is a tad other-worldly at first but the voice on the other end of calls come through clear and close even in built-up areas. According to my call partners, the microphone on the device did a good job of passing along my dulcet Northern tones to their lugholes.

The headset stayed in place even on long brisk walks – I don’t jog or cycle but I am fairly confident that they’d stay put.

Marsboy nice2 bone conductive headset audio quality

Using the Marsboy nice2 to take calls is one thing. I was interested in how this conductive tech would work with reproducing the complexities and nuances of music.

After a number of hours I can state that bone conductivity does work. I was getting music in my head and I could control the volume which, incidentally, can be turned up plenty loud and the volume control is well stepped.

My first outing with it all was fine until I got on an almost empty tube train one Saturday morning. As I stepped in to the carriage the guy sat on the first seat gave me a curious look – this I am generally used to. But, when I sat down, I got what could only be described as a glare from the lady opposite.

If you have ever used open-backed headphones on a train then these looks will be familiar to you. The thing is there is pretty much no isolation with the Marsboy headset.

Outside and on the street this isn’t really an issue and, even at home, as long as you temper the volume, the leakage is no more than that of some earbuds.

marsboy nice2 bone conductive headset side reviewThe thing is, if you’ve had the volume loud enough to hear the track outside then it’s going to be too loud for your fellow travelers when you get on the bus or train.

Audio quality is a bit muffled and middley. A bit like when you wear Bluetooth headphones and start the track on your phone and then realise you haven’t paired the device.

I chose a to play Prince’s new release ‘HITNRUN Phase One’ and whilst the Purple One’s voice came through the music tended to get a bit lost amongst traffic noise and other distractions. Fortunately, the headset comes with some earplugs for when you want to shut out the world.

I’ll tell you what though – if you ever get to test some bone conductive noise makers, get used to listening to a track playing through them and then stick your fingers in your ears. Being able to still hear the track when you know you’ve your fingers shoved in your ears takes a while for your brain to compute what’s happening!

The earplugs do help but the nice2 fails to reach the same level of audio clarity as even some moderately priced earbuds in my opinion.

Marsboy bone nice2 conductive headset review conclusion

I can see the benefits of the Marsboy nice2 and other bone conductive headsets, especially the safety aspect. I was wowed by the other headset I tried on briefly and I was looking forward to a similar experience.

The nice2 appears to do everything it is supposed to. The build quality is pretty decent and it is comfortable to wear once you get used to it.

I did enjoy being able to hold conversations, ok order a coffee, without having to take off my headphones and be fully aware of what was happening around me even with the volume cranked up.

I am afraid that I am used to having more definition when listening to music on headphones and compared with my daily drivers of the NAD Viso HP50 and Oppo PM-3 closed-back headphones, the Marsboy didn’t come close.

Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by the headphones I use? Perhaps the bone conductive technology is not for me – although audiologists have used it to remedy hearing loss.

Yes, the Marsboy nice2 bone conductive headset is lightweight, pairs up with any device via Bluetooth swiftly and without issue and its 6+ hours battery life are all pluses, not to mention the safety bonus, but it just falls down on music reproduction for me.

If you fancy trying out the futuristic bone conductive technology, the Marsboy nice2 headset is available now and is showing them with a £17 discount – so they can be yours for under £50.