Trekz Air Aftershokz Headphones review

Air AfterShokz bluetooth bone conduction headphonesIn this post I will review Trekz Air AfterShokz Headphones. These are bluetooth, bone conduction headphones.

When I started training for half and full marathons I wanted to run with music and podcasts for those long runs. But no matter what earbuds I tried they fell out, or my arm would catch on the cord and pull them out of my ears.  Eventually I gave up.  Then Garmin announced watches that could store Spotify playlists.  Music without carrying a phone! Now that’s tempting, but that requires Bluetooth headphones. I picked up the Garmin 645 (follow link for my review of the Garmin) and some Aftershokz Air – Bluetooth Bone Conduction headphones. Here’s my thoughts:

Running is safer with bone conduction headphones

Shows headphone position as above not in earBone conduction headphones vibrate against your cheekbones instead of broadcasting the music into your ear. This makes them fantastic for running outdoors because they do not go in your ears. That means you can hear ambient noise and your music at the same time.  I can hear the birds chirping and my feet against the pavement. Most important I can hear a car coming.  Occasionally I have worn them on long runs with a friend, because sometimes at the end of the run we start to get spread out and I might end up running solo. Sometimes they don’t realize I am listening to music because I can still carry on a conversation at a normal volume level.

The importance of hearing ambient noise was reinforced for me this weekend at the 2019 Ottawa Army Run. There were a lot of hills and some of the wheelchair competitors would get passed on the uphills and then pass the runners on the downhills. It was a crowded race and we kept yelling out “wheelchair on the left” and there was inevitably one runner with in ear headphones who did not hear the other 10 runners yelling to them, finally someone would have to run over to them and tap them on the shoulder to get them to step aside. If you think that was frustrating for us when we wanted to focus on our race, I can only imagine what is was like for the wheelchair athlete who must have spent most of the race yelling out ‘on your left’.

Comfort

The headphones are nice and light, and it’s great not dealing with any cords.

Summer running – I run wearing a visor and sunglasses. On longer runs I do start to feel mild discomfort from the pressure on the back of my ears caused by the combination of pressure from my visor, my headphones and sunglasses (Love my Smith parallel Max 2 sunglasses with the rose coloured polarized lenses though I swap to the clear lenses for occasional night runs).

Winter running – Depending on how cold it is I wear anything from headband, to winter running hat, to neck warmer pulled up over my ears and hat on top. Headband and hat is not a problem, but when I pull the neck warmer up over my ears the band of the headphones sticking out the back is a little awkward.

Shows headphone band sticking out behind neckSitting around – I love them for the occasional conference call, washing dishes, or just walking around. If you are in a recliner or a train seat and have your head resting against the back of the seat you will find the back band of the headphone means you have to adjust the position of the headphones a bit to rest your head back comfortably.

Eating – because the bone conduction relies on contact with the bones, if you are chewing on something while listening to the headphones you will notice a variation in the sound while chewing as your jaw bone shifts.

Weather tested & durability

I have run in weather ranging from -20C to + 30C. I have run in rain and snow. Never had an issue. The newer version which I have is supposed to be more water resistant than the older versions (i.e. better when sweaty or raining). They do come with a warranty as well ( I was told if a pet dog decides to chew them up, they would still replace them, never tested that promise because I have cats, so I don’t know if the sales person was exaggerating :)) I do frequently jam the headphones into a pocket of my backpack or purse, so they don’t require careful care or attention. My son has an uncanny ability to destroy Bluetooth headphones with impressive speed so I bought him a pair of the older Aftershokz for his birthday, 20 months later they are still going strong. He likes the older ones because they come in nice bright colours: yellow, and bright blue. The newer ones are muted colours like navy blue and earth green.

Battery life

When I am going for a long run, I make sure to charge the headphones.  They last just fine through a 20 mile run. I have actually started wearing them more and more around the house, on travel days, while working.  According to the web site the batteries recharge fully in 2 hours and will play for 6 hours of continuous music.

They have a microphone too

Yes these headphones do have a microphone. So, one day, I decided to try and take all my conference calls with the headphones sitting at my desk. I did find that when I was sitting still the vibration of the bone conduction started to bug me after a couple of hours.  I never noticed it at all when running, only when sitting at my laptop and wearing the headphones for multiple hours. They are very useful when I am travelling and need to take a quick call from my phone or laptop and I have not had any complaints about the microphone quality from the people on the other side of the calls.

Sound Quality and Volume level

The sound quality is great, I can listen to them at a low volume in a quiet area with no problems at all. If you are in a noisy environment such as a train or public space it is much harder to hear anything in your headphones because of course since they do not go in your ears they do not muffle any ambient sound.

What feature is missing?

They have a volume control on the headphones, and I discovered the pause button by accident one day, but there are no controls for skipping a song. I have several running playlists, and sometimes a song comes on that isn’t quite what I want for that moment in my run.  I can skip a song by using the Garmin, but not with controls on the headphones themselves. I guess there is a trade-off between simplicity and functionality. I do find these easy to use and easy to pair to my device. I pair them with my phone, my Garmin 645, and my laptop.

Summary

Well since I am sitting here listening to music with my headphones as I put the finishing touches on this post and have convinced two other runners to try them and they are both happy I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked. But I have listed the pros and cons as best as I can for you so you can make your own decision. Happy running!

 

 

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