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I'm looking for a way to listen to my audiobooks while commuting without obstructing my ears.

One (rather expensive) option appears to be the Tunebug Shake (a Bluetooth turn-your-helmet-into-a-speaker gizmo); however, I'm hesitant to spend $120 on a device made by a company which does all their consumer promos with skater-style helmets and doesn't answer emails asking questions about sound quality with vented helmets.

Another option would be a water-bottle speaker (I commute with a Camelbak -- this is Austin, after all -- so either of these mounts are fine). Obvious downside is positioning -- my two water-bottle cages are below and behind my ears -- and several of the commercially available devices are specific to Apple hardware (and the thought of buying an iPod rather than using my existing Android-based phone smarts a little).

Suggestions? Experience?

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I just put in one ear. –  crasic Jan 6 '11 at 22:01
    
Charles, would you be interested in writing a blog post about books you've listened to while riding, and maybe the places you rode while listening? No pressure at all, but ping me on chat or on meta if you're interested. –  Neil Fein Jul 28 '11 at 3:25
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11 Answers 11

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think this would be ideal for the purpose listed. Audio is vibrated to the ear with bone conductance. Not sure how good they are but they do fit the bill for rockin while riding.

http://www.neatoshop.com/product/Audio-Bone-1-0-Headphones-Black

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Bought those. They work well. Downsides are the lack of Bluetooth support (my phone is an older HTC without a headphone jack) and moderately uncomfortable fit (the adjustable / comfy-fit model isn't waterproof; for commuting outdoors, the 1.0 version thus makes more sense). –  Charles Duffy Feb 18 '11 at 2:47
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I'm assuming you want those more to be able to hear traffic, less because how unobstructed ears look. I use a pair of cheap sony ear plugs. They're the kind of plugs that don't go all the way in the ear, but are only small round bulbs that sit at the front. Thus they still allow me to hear everything around me perfectly.

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The Cy-fi speaker is an option. It is a wireless speaker that attaches to your stem or handlebars and wirelessly plays from an ipod/mp3 player. The upside is that it doesn't cover your ears at all. The downside is that you're playing loud enough other people hear.

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I have a Cy-fi. I'm not sure how loud it is to people other than me, but my impression is that the audio is loud enough for a rider to hear, but not really loud enough for most people to notice as the rider goes by. (At least, I haven't had anyone remark on it, either positive or negative.) The sound quality (particularly the bass) obviously isn't as good as what you'd get from headphones, but it's pretty decent, and it definitely doesn't cover your ears, and makes it much easier to hear cars and such. –  Kyralessa Jul 25 '11 at 3:02
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Almost any low quality ear plugs (so, unexpensive) will do the job. That is because cheap ones fail to insulate your ears from the external noise sources, and that's precisely what you do want to achieve.

Of course, you shouldn't set the device's volume to full throttle :-)

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There are products like this one: http://www.iworld.co.uk/p/Slipstreamz_Cycling_Earwear_for_Headphones.htm?affiliatecode=gbase which claim to do what you want, and appears to be relatively cheap. They appear to take your existing ear phones and position them in such a way that you can hear your music, the shields cut out the wind noise but you can still hear your surroundings. Whether they work as advertised is another question, along with whether they'll make you look like a tit.

Weird earphone mounts

There's a previous thread here: Is listening to music dangerous while cycling? which discusses whether listening to music whilst cycling is safe.

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I've used similar covers in the past, and found them to be absolutely useless. YMMV, of course. –  zigdon Dec 20 '10 at 19:28
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I simply stream Pandora on my Blackberry and then put it on speaker-phone with the volume all the way up and the phone tucked inside a runner's waist pouch (similar to a fanny pack but very small and made of lycra and meant to hold a few bucks and a credit card. Available at most running shoe stores) strung around my neck. Very safe and the audio isn't bad at all.

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I travel everyday across town, I like to hear the traffic when its busy and I like my music to sound good on quieter stretches of road, all the in ear bud things just sounded rubbish. I am now really happy using some igrado on ear head phones.

like these http://whathifi.com/Review/Grado-iGrado/

They are completely open so about as antisocial as you can get on public transport, they bleed sound its untrue, however its perfect on the bike since you can hear everything around you and the music sounds great.

Took some getting use to though, the band goes round the back and clamp the ears quite tightly. The cord is also one that hangs down infront instead of around the back of the neck which does cause some tangles sometimes.

As for the robustness, the build quality is great, but as they are open, they are quite exposed to the elements, so far so good but I have only been using them through the winter, snow, sleet but no driving rain.... well see how it goes next year, may also be a bit sweety in summer though.

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These look like an excellent solution: earbuds/headphones designed to be worn in one ear only, that combine a stereo input into just that one speaker.

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I use the regular Blackberry ear phones with mike. They are $2 on Amazon these days, and they leak noise around them very well.

However, of course the issue is not entirely related to hearing the things around you, as well as paying attention to the things around you.

I personally prefer to listen to talk radio (I Heart Radio or Pandora) or podcats while riding. Or even talk on the phone. But it does distract somewhat while riding.

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I've not tried them yet, but I read these ear buds allow ambient sounds in. Supposedly they fit in the outer ear without actually penetrating the ear canal.

http://www.marshallheadphones.com/product/minor

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I think by definition, if you can hear the your music/audio book/whatever, you are 'obstructing' your ears. Don't put yourself (and others!) at danger! When you are riding, you should be fully engaged in RIDING.

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