Some people like to run with headphones on; others really don’t. It’s less of a common sight in road races these days, but many of us still opt for an audio distraction when on training runs. AfterShokz is probably the best-known brand of bone-conduction headphones on the market right now. Editor Julie, who’s never tried bone conduction before, puts them to the test.
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AfterShokz in brief
I’ll be perfectly honest and say that I baulked at the price of these. As someone who has only used basic in-ear headphones, spending circa £70 on a pair seems extravagant. I bought these mainly because they were wireless – I’m sick of getting tangled up on my runs! Bone conduction wasn’t something I’d really considered, but I liked the thought of being able to hear what was around me.
I bought the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Mini (they weren’t gifted to me; it was a genuine purchase). I don’t always use headphones when I run. But I do like to catch up on podcasts a few runs a week, especially the longer ones. I will say right now that I actually take headphones out with me more since buying these, such is my love for them. I can hand on heart say that they were worth the spend, and that they have performed perfectly so far.
First things first, I opted for the Mini version of the Trekz Titanium. I have a small head. They do come in a standard size too, so it’s worth checking before buying. There is a Size Chart on the AfterShokz website to help with fit.
The one I bought on Amazon came with a hard case, which is handy. If I’m spending this much on headphones, I want to look after them! It also came with a soft drawstring case, charging cable and ear plugs. The ear plugs are there so that if you don’t need to hear what’s around you, you can pop them in and zone out.
I charged them using the cable, and was happily surprised by how quickly they charge. When you’re wearing them, it’s also easy to check the battery level – one touch of a button gives an audio prompt, eg ‘Battery high’. Connecting to my phone was also a breeze via Bluetooth.
They felt a bit odd the first time I put them on my head. I couldn’t get them to sit comfortably, but I was trying to get the back band to sit flush. Had I bothered to read the website first, I’d have found out that a gap between the band and head is normal. The main thing is to position them over the ears and let the band sit where it wants. Once I had fiddled a bit, I found the right position for me.
With a podcast lined up and headphones connected and on, it was time to try them out. Now I’m not an audiophile. I was perfectly happy with the sound quality for my purposes. It was clear and not tinny. However, other reviews have described the sound quality as “lacklustre”, so this might be a consideration for you if that’s important.
Volume buttons are located under the band on the right ear are are quite small. I found it easier to adjust the volume on my phone. The same buttons are also used for turning the headphones on and off, and checking the battery level. Another button on the outside of the left ear pauses your tunes, or a double-click skips to the next track. These headphones can also be used to take calls, though I didn’t test them in that way. The outside button has multiple functions to accept or reject phone calls.
I found the bone conduction a little odd at first. But after a few wears, I couldn’t tell the difference anymore between these and wearing my usual in-ear buds. I liked being able to hear traffic and other people. I was probably not as alert as I would be with no headphones, but a lot more so than when wearing in-ear headphones.
There is a fair amount of sound leakage. When I’m running, that’s totally fine – I’m not standing right next to someone and blaring my choice of music at them. I wouldn’t use them in an office, for example, or on public transport. But I only wanted them for running and the sound leak doesn’t bother me in that situation.
What is bone conduction?
Bone conduction is pretty much just what it sounds like. It refers to the conduction of sound through bone, in this case the bones of your skull carrying sound to your inner ear. It actually happens all the time. Soundwaves vibrate the bones in our skull and carry sound to our ears. However, we find it harder to distinguish these everyday sounds than we do sounds transmitted directly to the ear canal.
Bone conduction headphones make the most of this natural process. Rather than sitting in the ear, like traditional headphones, they sit just outside your ear canal. They rest on your jawbone, right next to your inner ear. The sound is transmitted into your ear through the bones.
One advantage of using bone-conducting headphones, is your ear canal is clear, so you can still hear what’s happening around you. For this reason, bone conducting headphones are approved for use in UK road races. Traditional in-ear headphones are not. AfterShokz is an official partner of England Athletics for this reason.
Running with AfterShokz
Actually running with the AfterShokz was a good experience. I noticed they were there for the first run, but after that, they just became part of my standard kit. They don’t move or rub. I have worn them on longer runs and I don’t really notice them.
They seem to hold up well to sweat and rain, and are easy to wipe clean afterwards. The only thing that I did find was that wearing a hat or headband was a little trickier. It was a juggle to find a comfortable position. I didn’t like having anything over them and pushing them into my cheek, which means exposed ears on cold days. I can wear them with sunglasses comfortably though, with a little rearranging.
They lasted well in terms of battery on my runs. They’re designed to last up to 6 hours of continuous play and I haven’t taken them to their limit yet. I did a 3-hour long run and at the end, it still said the battery was high.
All in all, I’m glad I bought these AfterShokz headphones. They were worth the money in the end and I use them a lot. I have been running in them for a couple of months now and have no real problems with them.
I don’t think I’d wear them in a race, even if they are acceptable, as I like to be more aware when masses of other people are around. But they have really helped my training runs to be more enjoyable. I have found myself happily caught up in an audiobook or podcast (and sometimes even music!) and not noticed the miles fly by.
- OFFICIALLY RECOGNISED: The only official headphones chosen by England Athletics. Nothing in/on/over your ears....
- PATENTED BONE CONDUCTION TECHNOLOGY: AfterShokz has 300 patents worldwide. PremiumPitch+ provides a premium...
- OFFICIALLY RECOGNISED - The only official headphones chosen by England Athletics. Nothing in/on/over your...
- EXCLUSIVE PACK - Includes Trekz Titanium and AfterShokz portable storage case. The OpenFit headphone design...
Last update on 2021-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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