AfterShokz Sport headphones enable runners, riders, plus skiers, skateboarders, hikers and other athletes to safely use their portable music players while staying connected to their surroundings. The headphones aim to achieve this via the integration of patent pending bone conduction technology. Since AfterShokz headphones rest outside the ear, users are able to also hear ambient noises such as oncoming traffic, car horns, ambulances or other warning noises, potentially preventing accidents. Headphones that cover the ear and earbuds that nest inside the ear can significantly restrict a user’s ability to hear these important sounds.
Since early July, at triathlonbusiness.com we’ve been putting the headphones through their paces. A small gathering of age group athletes (2 women and 3 men) have hit the roads and trails, noting down some product feedback…
- The packaging is clearly labelled, with basic information on the headphones’ features. Mention is given to the ‘patent pending military special ops bone conduction technology’. This goes on to note that consumers are offered ‘a more comfortable, healthier and safer listening experience’.
- The QR code on the side of pack works well, directing the user to an online information area and a basic product demo clip via YouTube.
- The bag for storing the headphones appears solidly built and would be useful for carrying whilst travelling.
Set up and instructions:
- The description of the parts (fig. A. headphone including neck band, control and 3.5mm connector; plus a separate USB charger) is clearly set out.
- The ‘how to wear the headphone’ description (fig. B.) takes the user through the steps of wearing AfterShokz effectively.
- ‘How to charge the battery’ (fig. C.) should really be the first feature of the set up instructions, as the battery needs 3 hours to fully charge before use. Athletes using the product noted that this wasn’t clear and presumed that the headphones were ready to use at the outset.
- Registering the warranty at aftershokz.co.uk was straightforward. The packaging alludes to a limited lifetime warranty; yet the website states: ‘AfterShokz Open Ear Headphones have a 2-Year Limited Warranty which covers normal use by the initial user.’
- Speaker type: Dual suspension bone conduction
- Sensitivity: 100 ± 3dB
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
- Battery: Rechargeable Lithium battery
- Playback time: Up to 15 hours at low volume
AfterShokz notes that playback time varies and corresponds to the volume at which playback occurs. ‘AfterShokz patent pending dual suspension technology requires power to deliver high quality sound reproduction.’ Therefore, the louder the playback volume, the shorter the playback time. At low volume settings, athletes can expect up to 15 hours of playback time on one charge.
- Charging time: 3 hours (using USB charger)
- Cable length: 130cm / 51.2 inches (including in-line controller)
- Connector: 3.5mm
- Weight: 45g / 1.6 ounces
- Colour: Black/grey with orange pads
- The ‘in-head sensation’ of hearing music whilst background noise continued was a little surreal at first. Although, most users got on well with the headphones straight away.
- The headphones wrap behind the head and ears, with the ‘earpieces’ placed on the bone just in front of the ears. When riding this felt secure. Having music ‘in-head’ whilst on the road took a little getting used to, but was noted as ‘a pleasant change to road buzz in isolation.’ When running, the headphones again felt secure.
- The wrap behind the ear feature of the AfterShokz can obstruct the comfortable wearing of some sunglasses and, to a lesser extent, bike helmets. Although, users were generally able to work around this and find a comfortable fit before heading out on the road, even if this took ‘a few extra minutes of prep time.’
- The two main downsides when using the headphones are (1) the cable length and (2) in-line controller.
- The cable itself is a few inches too short for connecting with a phone/MP3 player and having this tucked away in the back pocket of a cycling jersey. This is particularly the case for taller riders, or those with a generally long torso! The cord does just reach, yet the controller is positioned too far down the cord. In other words, there is too much cord to play around with at the neck area, once the controller is attached to a cycling jersey or gillet, and not enough cord from the controller down to the MP3 player. It also means an extra amount of cord at the neck, which needs tucking out of the way whilst on the road.
- The in-line controller is a little bulky. While it attaches securely to a jersey, run vest, etc., it can flap around if the clothing is looser fitting. It’s also not clear at the outset that the ‘stop button’ needs pressing in order to bring the headphones to life and thus transmit music from the connected device.
- These two niggles aside, users reported good levels of battery life and sound quality. While the richness of sound would not match a more expensive set of in-ear headphones, or those that surround the ear, the priority is hearing background noise; and the headphones deliver in this regard.
- The use of music to keep momentum levels up during long rides was also reported as a positive. One user undertook two separate rides (3+ hours each). The headphones remained in charge throughout, without any signal interruption. With Strava and iTunes running on an iPhone 4S, the battery on the phone was also within charge after each of the rides. The user noted that ‘the separate battery unit on the AfterShokz was likely to be minimising the drain on the iPhone’s battery.’
Features summary from AfterShokz:
- Ear-free design — nothing in, on or covering the ears
- Unblocked hearing for safer outdoor activities
- Patent pending bone conduction technology transmits sound through cheekbones to inner ear, bypassing eardrums
- Quality listening experience without risk of eardrum damage
- Lightweight design and smooth exterior offer unmatched comfort when worn for extended periods of time
- Wraparound headband is secure enough to remain in place during most activities
- In-line controls conveniently clip to clothing
- Sweat and water resistant
- Includes water repellent storage
- MSRP: £59.95
The AfterShokz are priced slightly above other competing sport headphones on the market. Yet, the headphones are relatively affordable, offer the uniqueness of bone conduction and are a handy way to listen to music – particularly when out riding. Riders, runners and others using the AfterShokz will still need to pay attention at junctions, etc, and not lapse into a false sense of security. Having the ability to hear background noise doesn’t mean we can switch of completely! We played with the mark 1 version of the AfterShokz and a mark 2 version, with a bit of tweaking on the cable length and controller, would make these a hassle free way to enjoy music safely when out hitting the roads and trails.