I've been hearing murmurs of bone-conduction technology for a while now but nothing compelling enough for me to seek it out - I just didn't see the point. While getting my gear nerd on at the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver a couple of weeks back, I happened to walk by (you guessed it, a bone-conduction headphone company). The listening station was empty, so I decided to give it a quick go and put on the units for a quick sampling. As you probably know trade shows are hectic, loud, and at around 4:30 pm tend to erupt into day drinking bro-downs. Suffice it to say, I didn't exactly get the best listen but was intrigued enough to reach out to the company for a review unit.
I received their latest model called the AfterShokz Trekz Air which is their sleekest and best sound unit to date. After a two hour charge, I paired them up with my iPhone X and off I went to the gym.
The headphones themselves are light, easy to put on, and are quite comfortable for working out or any activity where you need to be cognizant of your surroundings.
As surprising as this technology is, this type of headphone comes with an obvious caveat, and that's sound quality vs. functionality. The Trekz Air is purpose-built for athletes or commuters that want to listen to music but still have contact with the outside world.
I believe there are different headphones for different situations, and these just filled a void that I never knew was possible.
So how do they sound? I tested with a variety of music from ambient to punk rock and of course electronic music. They sounded great for what they are; I could hear my music clearly and still be "in it." For lack of a better example, it's like you hear "voices" in your head that you actually want to hear, it's like a personal soundtrack vibrating through your skull.
Since these are not actually in your ear, I objectively need to look at them differently. Bone-conduction is just a different experience than traditional buds, as the sound is delivered through your cheekbones while resting on your face.
The music that sounds the best is ambient, downtempo, jazz, and some rock. Music with a lot of bass doesn't translate that well, but it's still passable - so if you need to crank that thumping techno mix, it will sound ok.
If you are listening to more bassy music, then I would suggest keeping the volume down a bit because if you go too high, they will vibrate too much and annoy you.
It's best to pair these with a playlist or a mix and let them run, there are some tiny buttons to control playback with, but they are not the easiest to use, especially if you are in motion.
Summary - If you are a person that is on the go in hectic environments or big into sports that require you to listen to your surroundings (biking, running, etc.) then you will love these. If you want to tune out and are more finicky about your sound quality, you will be disappointed with these.
These are my new goto headphones for biking, snowboarding, and hectic commutes.
In the Box - MSRP $149.95
Comes with charging cable + nice carrying pouch
Earplugs - if you wear them the sound tightens up, but it kind of defeats the purpose.
From Aftershokz Site
The next generation of bone conduction technology is what’s inside our lightest and most organically designed open ear headphones to date. We cut the bulk and used titanium everywhere possible to ensure they not only fit more securely but sound better too. Trekz Air are inspired by the demands of elite and aspiring athletes motivated by their music and their world.