AfterShokz open-ear headphones

Headphones that go outside of your ear but still deliver premium stereo sound?  The folks behind AfterShokz open-ear headphones promised that and more.  Always the skeptic, I wondered how on earth that could be possible.  Alas, I tested the AfterShokz open-ear headphones at the gym, on a run in my neighborhood, and while walking my dog down a busy urban street.  Now I can attest that they are indeed a pretty cool invention that works.

Initial reaction

Open-ear headphones from AfterShokz

The AfterShokz open-ear headphones arrived in a lightweight, small rubberized carrying case.  Could such a cute little case really contain bone conduction headphones that would help me “prioritize situational awareness and comfort through its unique open-ear design”?  I wondered.   Eagerly, I charged the headphones up with the included charging cable and got set to try them out the next day.  I couldn’t wait to see if the lightness and comfort matched the brand’s claims.

Where was it tested?

Once the headphones charged up fully, I took them on a spin to the gym.  I’ve become a little addicted to the Peloton spin classes.  Fortunately, my teeny gym features a single Peloton bike and it’s usually available when I want to ride.  A little problem with my corded headphones holds me back (literally) when I ride the Peloton.  The cord is long enough that I can sit back on the bike and plug into the machine, but sometimes I need to lean forward when I’d really rather lean back.  So I figured listening to the class with these wireless headphones and be a little more comfortable.

Voila, they worked!  The sound quality surprised me.  I was so absorbed in the class, or the sound quality was so good, that I was apparently oblivious to the horrible rap music another member was blasting.  Note that the AfterShokz open-ear headphones do not claim to be noise-blocking.  However, the music seemed like it was right inside my head.  After I removed the headphones, I noticed the rap music and the member apologized and offered to turn it down.

Technical specifications

The AfterShokz Trekz Air open-ear headphones use bone conduction technology to transmit audio waves to the inner ears through the skull, bypassing the eardrums completely.  You place the headphones on your cheekbones, just in front of your ears. This leaves your ear canals open, allowing you to remain alert and aware of ambient sounds, teammates, coaches, training partners and more while you enjoy your music. Bluetooth® connectivity gives you the ability to be free of wires and make and receive phone calls.
Other features include a nanotechnology coating and watertight rubber gaskets to repel sweat and moisture from the inside out.  Also, something called LeakSlayer releases sound generated by the transducers in order to cancel sound generated by the housing, significantly reducing leakage, even when compared to traditional headphones and earbuds.

How did the headphones perform?

In short: they were awesome.  The three buttons near the right ear piece are easy to use (volume up/down and an on/off button) and intuitive.  This is not a complicated device that takes much time to learn.  Not only did they perform well at the gym, allowing me to hear an on-demand spin class clearly despite ambient noise around me, but they also performed well in other situations.  Running along a fairly quiet residential street, I appreciated the great sound quality and the freedom wireless earphones provide.  Walking my dog in the heart of the city, I was able to carry on a conversation with my mom, who remarked that she could even hear me better via my new device than talking into my cell phone like I regularly do!

Room for improvement

Curly hair workaround

I love these headphones and feel really lucky to have been selected to try them out!  The only thing I would change, perhaps for a future version, is to make them a little more friendly for those of us with thick hair.  It was not a big deal to pull my hair back and put the headphones around my neck.  But, if I could also put them on the outside of my hair, I would be a happy camper.

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