One minute review
Bone conduction headphones are all the rage for running, cycling and gym work, but are you ready to spend hundreds of dollars on something you might not like? Then opt for the Padmate S30, a budget bone conduction headset that sells for about half the price of rivals such as the Shokz OpenRun, Shokz OpenRun Pro and Mojawa Mojo1.
The reason bone conduction headphones are so popular is that they have an open ear design. While normal earphones send sound to your eardrums, bone conduction headsets like the Padmate S30 send low-frequency sound to your inner ear through your jawbones. They do that using transducers that sit in front of your ears, not in them. This way you hear everything in your environment, such as cars and people, while you also enjoy your choice of music, podcasts or audio books.
The Padmate S30 gives you a sweat-resistant design, six hours of battery life at full volume (something you’ll need to use), and a handy pause button for when you want to temporarily stop the music. It also features USB-C for charging, which is more convenient than the proprietary chargers most rivals are pushing for.
There are a few things about the Padmate S30 that we don’t like, the main one being not a muffled sound for music but a series of very loud beeps every time you pause the music or skip tracks. It’s seriously irritating.
If you’re looking for an entry-level bone conduction headset to try the technology out for yourself without risking a lot of money, the Padmate S30 is a good option, but it’s a little rough around the edges.
Price and release date
- Cost $59 (about £45 / AU$80)
- Launched February 2022
Available in black, dark green and gray with orange (almost exactly like its more expensive rival, the Mojawa Mojo1), the Padmate S30 sells on Padmate’s own website for $59 (about £45 / AU$80), with worldwide shipping available. Inside the box you’ll find the headset, along with a short USB-A to USB-C cable and a set of foam ear tips.
That makes these some of the cheapest bone conduction headphones we’ve tested, next to the Tayago Bone conduction headphones. In comparison, our current top pick, the Shokz OpenRun Pro, costs $179.95 (about £130 / AU$250).
- IPX5 (water resistant)
- Charging via USB-C
- Missing volume buttons
The Padmate S30 has an impressive (and sweat-resistant) build, with a soft silicone covering over the headband, although the transducers that sit in front of your ears are made of hard plastic. It weighs a little more than its rivals at 30g, but is nevertheless very comfortable to wear. The transducers are quite large and boxy, but don’t feel clunky.
The Padmate S30’s controls aren’t particularly well executed. Normally we would expect volume buttons and an on/off switch behind the ear, but the Padmate S30 has just the latter. The volume has to be controlled via your smartphone, which is a bit restrictive.
In addition, the headset’s pause button – so handy when running or exercising – is not on one of the transducers as usual, but on the chassis behind the right ear. Usually buttons are underneath so you can squeeze the headband to activate them, but on the Padmate S30 they are on the side, making them harder to press.
What we like about the Padmate S30 when comparing it to other bone conduction headsets is that it eschews the proprietary charging cables that seem to be so popular now in favor of a much friendlier USB-C slot.
- Battery life up to eight hours
- Microphones for hands-free calling
- Operating music causes very loud beeps
Pause the Padmate S30 while listening to music or a podcast and you’ll get a really loud beep in your ear. Why? We have no idea. It’s a terrible sound. It happens again when you press the same button to start playback. It’s seriously disappointing.
Other than that, the Padmate S30 has fairly light features, but still has all the needs of the average runner, from a sweat- and water-resistant construction to hands-free calling and long battery life. In fact, the 150mAh lithium-ion battery in the Padmate S30 lasts eight hours at half volume. That may seem similar to rivals, but in practice you’re always going to be using the Padmate S30 at full volume, meaning it’ll only last for six hours.
That’s enough for serious training sessions, though, and as a bonus, it’s quick and easy to charge (even from a power bank) thanks to the USB-C slot. Charging the Padmate S30 takes approximately 90 minutes.
However, it is not easy to control music playback. The headset has only one button – the on/off switch – it takes three presses to skip to the next track and four presses to return to the beginning of the track. Going back to the previous song costs another four.
Unfortunately, just like pausing the music, any attempt to control the music is accompanied by a long, loud and very unpleasant beep. The same goes for waking Siri or Google Assistant, which requires a double press.
- Average sound quality without detail
- Good bass levels
- No vibrations from low-frequency music
The Padmate S30 has an all-round average sound quality which is fine for podcasts, radio and audiobooks, but less so for music.
Bass isn’t a problem as the Padmate S30 handles low-frequency noise very well, and we didn’t notice any tickling vibrations when the volume was turned up. However, when listening to music it seemed a bit muffled and high notes were cut off. This is not unexpected for a pair of bone conduction headphones, which are much more about convenience and usability than the purest sound quality.
They all tend to lack detail compared to hi-fi quality headphones, but the Padmate S30 is nonetheless noticeably a step back from rivals in terms of sound quality. However, if you mainly want to listen to podcasts, radio and audiobooks while running, the Padmate S30 is right for you.