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Naenka Runner Diver headset review: Excellent sound, even underwater

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Pros

  • Bluetooth and onboard music support
  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Excellent sound quality, even underwater
  • Easy button controls
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Phone calls aren’t great
  • Onboard music must be side-loaded

With long battery life, no chance of falling out of my ears, and an open ear design for safety, bone conduction headphones are my go-to for music when I exercise. If you are a swimmer, there are limited options, and one stands out due to its support of both onboard music and Bluetooth wireless streaming. For the past month, I’ve been running, swimming, hiking, rowing, and more with the Naenka Runner Diver.

I tested out the Naenka Runner Pro last year, and this new Runner Diver improves upon the Runner Pro with twice the amount of onboard storage, newer Bluetooth technology, longer battery life, and changes in the design that make it more comfortable for me and easier to operate. It is priced higher than the Runner Pro, but the improvements justify the higher cost.

The audio quality seems a bit better than before, and I continue to be impressed by the music’s volume level underwater. The Shokz OpenSwim headset supports swimming with bone conduction technology, but it does not support Bluetooth streaming. With a Garmin GPS sports watch or Apple Watch, you can connect via Bluetooth and experience music playing from your watch to your Naenka Runner Diver headset.

Specifications

Speaker driver 16mm dynamic vibrator
Water resistance IPX8
Onboard storage 16GB for more than 3,000 songs
Wireless connectivity Bluetooth 5.2
Battery 180 mAh with charging cable charging to full in 90 minutes. Up to 10 hours playback at 60% volume level.
Materials Titanium alloy with soft-touch matte silicone cover
Headset weight 33 grams

Hardware

  • Retail package contents
  • Comfortable design
  • Button layout

The retail package includes the Naenka Runner Pro headset, USB-A to wireless charging connector, and silicon earplugs to help improve your audio experience while swimming. The charger connects easily, thanks in part to two magnets that help align and keep the charger connected.

The wraparound headset has a titanium frame and is coated in soft-touch silicone material with a matte finish. It looks great and is comfortable for all-day wear. The battery and internal components are primarily housed in the two curved oval sections that are found adjacent to the curved area that goes around your ears. After the curved section, there is a rounded, almost triangular, shaped large piece that serves as the speaker driver that vibrates your bone for the sound.

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Headset, charging cable, and earplugs

Matthew Miller/ZDNet

The charging cable connects to the inside flat part of the long oval section on the right side of the headset. On the top of this side are two large buttons that are well spaced and easy to find while working out. They serve as volume buttons that can also be used to cycle through music tracks. A microphone is found at the bottom of the end of the headset, at the location near your mouth.

On the outside of the left speaker end of the headset is a centrally positioned button that serves as the power and mode selector button.

Also: AfterShokz Xtrainerz swimming headphones: Motivating you to keep going in the pool

Button functionality

  • Device pairing
  • Volume buttons
  • Power button with multiple functions

After charging up the headset, simply press and hold the power button on the left until you see the LED flash blue and red. You can also tap on the right speaker driver area to pair via NFC. Pair up your device, and you are ready to go.

The volume buttons are primarily used to control volume but a long press of the decrease (-) button will move back one track, while a long press of the increase (+) button will move forward one track. These buttons are not used for any other functions.

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The power button serves multiple purposes

Matthew Miller/ZDNet

The power button is used to power on and off the headset via a long 3-5 second press. Pressing and holding for longer when it is off will flip the headset into pairing mode. A double press of the power button toggles between MP3 onboard music mode and Bluetooth wireless mode.

This primary power button is also used to launch your device’s voice assistant via a triple press of the button. Play/pause of music is also controlled with a single press of the power button. Lastly, for calls, the button is used to answer, end, or reject (press for 2 seconds when a call comes in).

Loading music

In addition to connecting the headset via Bluetooth to your phone, watch, or tablet, you can also side load music to the internal 16GB of storage. Approximately 3000 MP3 or FLAC music files can be loaded onto the headset. I have a few hundred songs from when I used to rip CDs into MP3 format, so I loaded about 100 songs on the headset to test it out.

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Large buttons for easy access

Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Loading music requires connecting the USB-A cable to your computer and the other end to the charging connector on the Naenka Runner Diver. The headset will appear as another drive on your computer, and then you simply drag and drop music files onto the headset drive. There is no support for this music to have playlists or any other type of organization, so only load up the music you wish to listen to or scroll through with the headset buttons. Unfortunately, downloaded subscription service music is not supported, and you must have your own MP3 files to copy over.

Also: Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Outstanding bone conduction headset for safe training

Daily experiences 

  • Call and voice assistant
  • Audio performance
  • Built to stay in place

The Naenka Runner Diver is focused on providing a bone conduction headphone experience for exercise, and while it has a single microphone on board, call quality wasn’t great. Callers said I sounded a bit distant and hollow, while on my end, the caller also sounded a bit distant. The headset is fine for emergency calls or occasional calls, but don’t purchase it as your primary headset for business calls.

When you choose a bone conduction headset, it’s understood that audio performance cannot directly match earbuds or headsets in or over your ears’ openings. The headset does sound quite good, though, and the bass performance in the water is excellent. Wearing the included silicon earplugs helps you to focus on the music in water, but if you are not as focused on the music, then leaving your ears open is also a solid experience.

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In the pool, ready for submergence

Matthew Miller/ZDNet

The headset is designed to hold fast to your head, and it is one of the most secure headsets I have tested before. You can comfortably wear it swimming, running, and exercising without worrying about it falling off. It is also lightweight with titanium material so that you can wear it 24/7 without any discomfort.

Conclusions

The Naenka Runner Diver is an excellent bone conduction headset. If you want to enjoy audio content on land and in the water, then I highly recommend you consider this headset. It is very comfortable for long term wear, and battery life is going to get you through at least a marathon. You may not need the onboard music storage capability, but if you want the best underwater audio experience, then onboard music is preferred, and the Naenka Runner Diver is built for multiple sports.

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