Bone-conduction headphones: an honest review
I was searching for new headphones, mostly to use at the gym. A few people recommended bone-conduction headphones, which tbh I had never heard of. Thank goodness for Google.
After reading tons of reviews, I decided to try them for myself. The problem I found with reviews, however, is that most of the in-depth ones were from techie people. Which is helpful. But I’m not a super techie person and I would have loved to read a review from someone like me. (If you’re wondering who someone “like me” is, I’m a mom who loves to go on walks, sometimes jogs and frequent my yoga mat and the gym.)
So here’s a brief intro to what bone-conduction headphones are and a review of the ones I chose, AfterShokz Trekz Air. I paid for these and was not compensated in any way for this review, opinions are 100% my own.
What are bone-conduction headphones?
Bone-conduction headphones allow you to have an open ear. While most conventional headphones send sound through your eardrums, bone-conduction headphones send sound through vibrations in the bones of your skull. Cool, huh?
So why would you want your ears free? Here are a few key benefits:
Better situational awareness.
Allows some with hearing-impairments or microtia to listen to music.
More comfortable, especially if you’re constantly adjusting those awful ear buds that keep falling out of your ears.
IMO the biggest benefit to this technology is the ability to have awareness of your surroundings while also enjoying your music/podcast/whatever you like to listen to. You can still hear out of your eardrums. For this reason, bone-conduction headphones seem to be the most popular with runners, cyclists, etc. — people who for safety reasons need to be aware of traffic and other people while they’re listening.
My Review of AfterShokz Trekz Air: The good, the bad, the verdict
I chose AfterShokz Trekz Air after researching because supposedly they are the best bone-conduction headphones currently on the market. Or ze bezt, since they like their z’s. They retail for $150, which is far less than the most expensive conventional headphones on the market. AfterShokz is like the Apple or Nike of bone-conduction headphones, and the Trekz Air is their newest, lightest-weight headphones on the market.
Not having anything jammed in my ears is liberating. I love how comfortable and truly lightweight these are. For my fellow Lulu lovers, if these were leggings, they would be the Lululemon Align pants. :)
I also love that I can still hear what’s going on around me. When I went for a walk with my toddler boy, I could still hear him when he needed me. I would also be able to hear if anyone were to threaten us, which is awful to think about but something we must keep in mind because safety.
I tested them out at the gym and even during peak hours when it was loud in there I could still hear my music juuuust fine but it’s definitely an adjustment. I’ll get into that in a bit. They do come with earplugs if you needed to tune everything out, which I will probably only use when I’m mowing the lawn. As advertised, they were fine to sweat in and didn’t budge when I burpee-d.
The battery life is great at 6+ hours. That might go down over time, I feel like that’s just what happens, but for now it’s great. Also, the Bluetooth range is impressive. I had my phone downstairs and at the opposite end of the house and I never lost connection. My cheapy earbuds I was using from TJ Maxx lost connection if I went more than three feet from my phone. I realize that’s comparing apples to oranges but still, I’m pleased! This is probably true of any good quality Bluetooth headphones, but it’s new to me.
The bad is also the good, in this case. They don’t block everything out. That’s kind of the point. So if you want to completely zone everything else out, you’ll need to use the earplugs. And if you’re using the earplugs all the time, you might as well buy different headphones, IMO.
They also vibrate against your face if the volume is up high and you’re listening to a song with lots of bass. You can turn it down, but it’s not that intense. It doesn’t bother me. But if you want to jam out to music with lots of bass for several hours, it would be annoying. I was concerned about this since I do listen to a lot of bass when I’m working out, but for me it’s really not a big deal.
Speaking of cranking the music up, that’s another potential downside. If you have the volume up too loud, people around you can hear the music. I only mention it because it’s true but IMO it’s a non-issue because if you need it up that loud, the environment is loud. The volume I use at the gym would be inappropriate for the volume I use at home. But at the gym, the environment is loud so someone would have to be like reaaallly up in my business to hear anything. For this reason, it’s no biggie to me but it’s worth mentioning if you like to max out your volume at the library.
I have to tell you, it took a minute to get used to these headphones. The first day I used them on a walk I loved them. Then when I tried them for the first time at the gym I wasn’t into it. The gym I go to has it’s own music playing, so I didn't like being able to hear both. I turned the volume up and by the end of my workout, I was used to it. I continued to use them the next week at the gym and now it doesn’t bother me at all. I actually like that I can listen to my music while also being aware of what’s happening around me. But if you love blasting your music and tuning the rest of the world out at the gym (or anywhere, for that matter), you won’t dig these. The point is that you DON’T tune out the rest of the world.
I might update this post after I’ve owned these for a few months if anything changes. But for now, I’m into them. Like I’ve said, it does take some adjusting to get used to being able to hear both your music AND your surroundings.
I was nervous to try them because I’d never used bone-conduction technology before. I wish more stores allowed you to “try before you buy” — I went to Best Buy with this intention but they didn’t have any displays to test. However, if you buy from the AfterShokz website they have a 45-day return window so that made me feel better. I didn’t want to drop $150 on something and then hate it. I’m sure if you bought them through Amazon Prime you could also return them, but I’m not 100% on that so don’t hate me if I’m wrong.
If you think you’d like these but don’t want to fork over $150, the Trekz Titanium is $100. Same technology, just not quite as lightweight.
If you’re on the fence, give it a go! Some people do seem to hate them. Others love them. You won’t know which camp you’re in unless you try them! I love them now but it’s kind of like beer — it’s an acquired taste.