I was recently in a conversation about listening to audiobooks and the headphones that I wear. I was quite sure that I had already written a post about the headphones that I’ve worn for a couple of years, having checked it appears not, so here it is.
I like walking.
Several mornings a week I walk for at least an hour before work. I regularly walk further on a weekend. Most of the time I walk alone, apart from the company of an audiobook, or a podcast. Sometimes I listen to music, but that’s not very often. I prefer to get lost in a story or the narrative of a good podcast.
I have tried many headphones for this situation over many years, but none of them have come close to the AfterShokz Trekz Air. While other headsets may have given better audio quality, none of them come close to being the complete package of these bone conductive headsets.
Bone conductive headsets don’t go into your ear at all, they vibrate the bone of your scull. They do this by placing what is effectively a small speaker on to the bone just in front of the middle of your ears by using an over-ear headband. If that sound weird, it isn’t, you hear the sound just like you hear all sound and you don’t feel anything. It turns out that you do a lot of hearing through these bone normally. The first time I put them on the only strange thing was how normal it was. The second time I adorned them I didn’t even think about it.
From my perspective these are the things that make AfterShokz so good:
- Ambient sound – because my ears remain open the AfterShokz don’t block out any of the sound around me. Whilst out walking this is not only a safety issue, it also allow me to remain alert to the sounds of the day, including the activities of the local wildlife.
- Waterproof – they perform brilliantly in any weather I don’t have to worry about them becoming damaged.
- Comfortable, even with glasses – once I put these headphones on, I soon forget that I am wearing them. I wear glasses and the over-ear design is thin enough that it remains comfortable.
- Steady – these headsets stay in place wherever and whenever. I’ve tried all sorts of in-ear headphones, but they all work their way out eventually and I spend part of my day putting them back in. When I am all gloved up in a snowstorm on a mountain rearranging my audio is that last thing I want to do.
- Hood compatible – I quite like walking whilst wearing a hood in the wind and rain. The AfterShokz works really well in this situation staying in place and not requiring any adjusting. Some of this is down to the excellent hood that I have on my walking coat.
- Simply work – I use these headphones with an iPhone and the integration is seamless. Turn them on and they connect every time. The buttons are responsive and easy to use.
- Long battery life – I can walk all day and the Trekz have never run out of juice if they were charged. The power is so good that I sometimes forget to charge them, and they have run out in that situation. Having said that I owned them for several months before that happened. When it did happen, I was out walking and near to the top of a mountain when I heard an unexpected voice. It took me a little while to realise that it was the headphones asking, “charge me”.
- Excellent support – the pair I currently have are my second ones. The previous ones stopped working in one ear (or should that be cheek?). A short phone call with the support team and a replacement arrived in a couple of days.
- Built in microphone – the inbuilt microphone is useful if I want to make or receive a call whilst I am out walking, but I generally don’t want to, I’m out walking to disconnect.
- Robust – these headphones have done a lot of miles in some inhospitable conditions. They’ve been dumped into backpacks, coat pockets, laptop bags and still look as good as they did when I got them. I don’t have to treat them like delicate electronics. They come with a protective case, but I’m not good at that kind of care.
There are a couple of times where the AfterShokz don’t work so well, just for a little balance:
- Noisy roadsides – sometimes high-volume roadsides are unavoidable. In this context bone conductive headphones can struggle to compete with the ambient sound. I try to avoid these situations so it’s not too much of an issue but just this morning I cross eight lanes of the M6 via a footbridge and paused the audio part way across. Pausing the audio is a single easily accessed button on one cheek so that’s not too difficult a thing to do.
- High winds – like noisy roads, high winds can make it difficult to hear. This is often fixed by the wearing of a good hood. AfterShokz do provide earplugs with the headphones to help block out the ambient sound, but I never saw the point of these.
- USB Plug – I have several USB cables on which the plug isn’t long enough to charge the Trekz, it’s only a millimetre or so, but it makes a difference. To compensate for this, I have the cable that was supplied with the headphones plugged in to my charging block. I never have to use it more than once a week and it’s on my desk where I work, so not a hassle at all.
In conclusion, I am a big fan. If these ones broke I wouldn’t think twice about getting another pair, but I’m not expecting that any time soon.
Header Image: A windy wet day, with my hood up, on a local hill called Clougha Pike. These sculptures are by Andy Goldworthy and there is some debate about their name. It’s difficult, where they are located, to take a picture which gives you a good scale perspective, so it might be helpful to know that you can stand inside the pobs and there’s a step to help you.