Posts Tagged ‘Music’

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!

 

 

Garmin 645 Music – Listening to music on a run without a phone

645MusicIn this post I’ll talk about Garmins that store and play music and share a review of the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music as a wrist GPS for those who want music without carrying a phone.

  • Which Garmins can store and play music
  • Which music apps are supported
  • My review of the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music including: Size and appearance; Using Spotify on the 645; Bluetooth headphones; Battery life; How do I update/add Spotify playlists on my 645; What could be better?
  • Summary

When I first got into running, I needed music to get through the long runs. I had an iPod mini loaded up with tunes. In winter, I kept the iPod in a jacket pocket. In summer, I had to pick up an arm band. As time passed, two things happened:

  • I found myself doing longer and longer runs without music
  • I bought our family a subscription to Spotify and stopped using iTunes.

Recently I found myself wishing I could listen to music on my runs again. There were several challenges to overcome:

  • My phone was so full of Candy Crush versions and running selfies that I had no storage space for Spotify playlists
  • Canada is the land of overpriced cell phone plans, so streaming music on your phone costs about the same amount as a guaranteed entry to the London marathon
  • Phones keep getting bigger! In summer, I’m lucky if I can find a pocket in my women’s running clothes that will hold a car key.
  • My flip belt can carry a phone, but I have a tendency to sweat when I run, so that only works if I put my phone in a Ziploc bag.
  • My smaller running belt can only hold my phone if I take it out of the case, no proCarryingPhoneOnRun.jpgblem unless the day it’s not in a case is the day you drop it on the garage floor (do you like my spider web screensaver?)
  • My water belt has a larger pouch, but for long runs I can either hold my phone or my supply of Tap Endurance Gels (shots of maple syrup as my nutrition, what could be more Canadian).

I was at the Chicago marathon race expo with my sister Judy. Judy is my source of information for new running gadgets because she works at Bushtukah, a locally owned sports store. She told me Garmin had a wrist GPS that could store and play music. Garmin had a booth at the expo, the perfect opportunity to check out my options.

Which Garmins can store and play music?

There are several models of Garmin which store and play music.

All the models store up to 500 songs.

Model Price US$ Diameter Thickness Weight Battery Life with music
Fenix 5S Plus $699.99 42 mm 15.8 mm 65 g Up to 4.5 hours
Fenix 5 Plus $749.99 47 mm 15.8 mm 86 g Up to 8 hours
Fenix 5X Plus $1049.99 51 mm 17.5 mm 96 g Up to 13 hours
Forerunner 645 Music $449.99 42.5 mm 13.5 mm 42.2 g Up to 5 hours
Vivoactive 3 Music $249.99 43.1 mm 13.6 mm 39 g Up to 5 hours

Which music apps are supported?

When I wrote this post the following music services were available on the 645:

  • Spotify
  • Deezer
  • IHeartRadio
  • KKBox
  • Runcasts (for Podcasts)
  • AWA
  • Line
  • MiguMusic

My review of the Garmin Forerunner 645

My previous Garmin was the Forerunner 735 which I bought with dreams of triathlons since it tracks indoor and outdoor swimming. I decided to stay with the Forerunner series and bought the black Forerunner 645 Music with Rose Gold hardware.

When I bought it, Spotify was only supported on the Fenix, but the Garmin rep told me the software update for Spotify on the 645 was coming out in the next 3 months.

Size and appearance

Garmin Forerunner 735 Garmin Forerunner 645 Music

Forerunner 735 and Forerunner 645 Music on wrist for  comparison

The 645 was smaller than my 735, and the rose gold was, well, prettier, than my 735. So I switched over to my 645 even though I didn’t have music yet. I got a number of compliments on the watch. Unlike the last two Garmins I have owned, the 645 doesn’t scream Garmin when you see it. I can usually spot undercover runners and triathletes at work at about 50 paces by their Garmins.

Let’s be clear, it’s not a dress watch. It looks out of place when I wear it with an evening dress (one day maybe I’ll replace the dead batteries in my actual dress watches but since I wear my Garmin 365 days of the year, that seems unlikely). Taking it off in the summer risks blinding everyone with the thick white tan line across my wrist. But, general opinion among my runner friends was this was the nicest looking Garmin they had seen. My sister even took a picture to send her store manager suggesting they start carrying the rose gold version.

Using Spotify on the 645

I waited patiently and sure enough in December the Spotify app was available for the 645.  The first thing I discovered was most of the instructions and videos online for downloading music to your 645 do NOT apply to Spotify. All those instructions telling you to download your playlist to your computer and then connect the Garmin to the computer with the USB port do NOT apply to Spotify. Spotify has its own storage format. After watching several videos, downloading apps and playlists to my laptop to no avail, I got desperate and tried something completely insane: I downloaded and read the manual from the Garmin website. 5 minutes later I had downloaded my first playlist to my device. Scroll down for a summary of the steps to get Spotify working.

Bluetooth headphones

All these devices only work with Bluetooth headphones, so I picked up a pair of AirShokz Trekz Air ($149.95 USD). These were recommended by Garmin and conveniently had a booth at the same race expo. I’ll write a separate review of them once I’ve tested them on some longer runs and a wider variety of weather. But I will say, I am happy with them so far and I feel safer with the bone conduction headphones because I can listen to music and still hear traffic and conversations.

Battery life

345972627-too-cold-for-a-runnerSeveral friends who rely on their phones for music asked me about battery life. Winter in Ottawa can result in temperatures that freeze your nose hairs (around -20 C), and even eyelashes (around -30 C but that’s why treadmills were invented). Those same cold temperatures drain phone batteries. I’ve never had a problem with a Garmin battery dying in the cold. I presume the fact it is strapped to my wrist instead of sitting in a pocket or pouch helps keep it warm. I decided to test it on a pleasant -15 C run. I started out with 100% charge. After running 1 hour tracking my run and listening to music I was at 83% battery life. For a marathon runner like me, that means I should not have any trouble listening to music for my longest training runs which max out just under 4 hours. An ultra runner might need the Fenix 5 Plus which promises up to 8 hours of music or the Fenix 5X Plus which promises up to 13 hours. The 645 only promises 5 hours according to the Garmin site.

On a side note, now that I have music on my Garmin, I’ve found myself listening to music more often. I wrote this blog post listening to music from my 645 while riding a train from Ottawa to Toronto with unreliable data connection and wifi. Mental note: download some non-running playlists for travel, I need to save the running playlist for when I want that extra boost (you just can’t run slow to Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones)

How do I update/add Spotify playlists to my 645?

  1. Install the Garmin Connect app on your phone and log in with your Garmin account (create an account if you don’t have one)
  2. Connect Garmin Connect on your phone to the watch (make sure you pick Settings – Phone – Pair Phone NOT Settings – Phone – Find Phone (doh! no wonder I was having trouble getting it to connect the first time).
  3. Connect your 645 to Wifi – FYI – I sometimes get an error that says ‘incorrect password’ when I know the password is correct, I an suspicious that you receive that error message when the wifi signal is weak as well as for incorrect passwords because when I get incorrect password, I usually just try again immediately and it successfully connects.
  4. Install the Spotify app on your 645 from your phone or your computer
  5. Using your phone
    1. In the Garmin Connect app on the phone select Connect IQ store.
    2. Locate and download the Spotify app
    3. Sync your 645 (Press and hold the Light button and choose sync from the menu)
  6. Using your computer
    1. Install Garmin express and use your USB cable to attach and add the ForeRunner 645.
    2. Select Manage Apps
    3. Select Get More Apps
    4. Locate and download the Spotify app
    5. Sync your 645 using the cable
    6. Once the app is installed, press and hold the lower button on the left side of the watch to go to music mode.
    7. Select the … to go to the music options
    8. Choose Library
    9. Go to the music settings, choose library
    10. Select Add Music/playlists to add the playlists you want downloaded to your 645. You Garmin will need a connection to wifi and the Garmin Connect app on your phone to add new music.

What could be better?

The software on the 645 definitely has a few glitches.  Once in a while it freezes, or you go to your playlist and it acts as though it only has one song on the playlist. I just turn it off and on again. On one occasion the power off button wouldn’t work when it was frozen, but after 10 minutes it worked again.

Every now and then the headphones will disconnect and you have to restart the music and reconnect the headphones to the watch. It’s happened to me twice with my headphones, and one of the Seattle Green Lake Runners said she has the same problem.

Summary

If you have Spotify already and you are looking for a way to listen to music without carrying a phone, check out the new Garmin devices with music. Despite the occasional software glitches I am very happy with my Forerunner 645 Music and I’m having fun building new playlists for running. It’s a shiny new toy that does the job, and if anyone (like say your significant other who is not a runner) asks you why you need another Garmin when you already have one, just tell them this one goes to 11! (right Christopher?)

See a list of my other running related posts including race reviews, and some just for fun