The AfterShokz brand of headphones have been around for a few years now, but have always had a couple of minor niggles. Whether that was the weight, fit, or the hands free function. So will the AfterShokz Treks Air be a home run, or another headphone curio?
AfterShokz Trekz Air Headphone Review – Music Through Bone Conduction
The AfterShokz Trekz Air uses AfterShokz tried and tested bone conduction technology to let hear your music, but also the surrounding world. This makes Aftershokz, and bone conduction headphones a great choice for cyclist and outdoor runners – whilst not all bone conduction headphones are created equally, Aftershokz history in the field means that the AfterShokz Trekz Air might be bone conductions coming of age.
I first came across the AfterShokz brand in 2015 tucked away at the back of the CycleShow at the NEC Birmingham, and frankly initially thought the product was more marketing hyperbole than a solid technology innovation… then I tried them on. I’m happy to put my hand up and say after that first encounter I have now owned two previous versions from the company – the AfterShokz Bluez and then the Bluez2.
In both cases, they are good sports headphones, but I was really unimpressed with the supplementary functions, such as music control and the hands-free functionality, with the Bluez 2’s Audrey “assistant”Very much a believer in iterative products, I was very happy to try out then new AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones on my running and cycling sessions – and obviously with a large helping of Zwifting in the mix to really test out the sweat resistance.
Before I dive into the AfterShokz Trekz Air review proper, I think this might be a good opportunity to review to concept of bone conduction technology
How AfterShokz Bone Conduction Technology works.
As humans we have evolved to hear via vibrations transmitted between the molecules in the air – funny that, what with us not being fish! But sound can be transmitted through other materials and substances – such as a piece of string and two cans – which is an EXCEPTIONALLY crude overview of bone conduction.
We hear sound which is collected by the pina – that radar shaped bit on the side of the head – the pina is actually shaped to funnel sound down our ear canal and towards the eardrum, or tympanic membrane(AfterShokz has some good PR pictures of bone conduction, and as biology is biology, I thought I may as well save myself some work, and use theirs as illustrations!)
When sound hits the ear drum, it is then amplified going through three exceptionally tiny bones (ossicles) in the middle ear, you might recall them from biology at school – the stirrup, hammer and anvilOnce through these bones the sound is converted into electrical signals by the cochlea that our brain can understand – when you look at our hearing this way, it does look for all the word like we are the biological equivalent of microphone system!
But if that is NORMAL hearing, where does bone conduction come in? Well in the same way that the ossicles in your middle ear can transmit sound wave – so can the bones of your skull – kind of why you can hear your own voice when you put your fingers in your ears!
With bone conduction headphones there is a little flat rubbery pad where a headphone bud/earpiece would normally be. This pad touches your skin directly over part of your head called the temporal bone just in front of your ears (Yes your skull is actually made up of twenty-two separate bones, not just a big bone noggin!). The headphone pad vibrates, transmitting the sound THROUGH YOUR SKULL, bypassing your eardrum, into the sound sensing organ of the cochlear – giving you sound inside your head!Those who have read a few of the TitaniumGeek reviews will appreciate that I’m not really one of hyperbole. But when you pause and think about bone conduction headphones – and that fact that we’re using structural conductive acoustics… for headphones, it’s actually is really rather cool!
So that’s the science dealt with, let’s actually look at the AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones, shall we?
AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones review!
So what is in the box? Well initially the AfterShokz TitaniumAir themselves but also… another box!Inside the other box are all the other accessory bits you’d expect: The micro USB cable, a couple of earplugs (which initially seem an odd thing to include), warranty card and the dead tree manuals, and quite a nice carry case to stick it all in your gym bag (yup more on that later!)Looking at the AfterShokz Trekz Air alone, I think a reasonable description would be dainty, there is just so little of them. Plus at a tiny 30g they literally disappear when you put them on your head in terms of weightPlus if you compare the AfterShokz Trekz Air to the older AfterShokz Bluez2, again you can see the massive size reductions and increased refinement the Aftershokz team has been able to achieveLooking a little closer at the AfterShokz Trekz Air, and we can see the dual noise-cancelling microphones, with two small holes on the RIGHT ear pod – one on the underside, and one on the outside to allow for noise cancellation – which (spoilers) actually seems effective this time!The hands free feature is activated from a single button on the outside of the LEFT ear pod
It is worthwhile browsing over the manual to get to know the commands you can issue in order to make your life easier when out for a runOn either side of the AfterShokz Trekz Air we have two smooth rectangles – one to hold the battery, and one to hold the internal circuits, antenna and buttonsThe battery pod on the LEFT side, whilst the underside of the RIGHT pod has the power button/volume controls and status lightAt the very end of the RIGHT pod is also the micro USB charging port, covered by a small protective flapIf we actually look at the pods themselves, you can see the evolution from previous generations. The rubber plate is now much softer, and pliable. You can get the rubber membrane to now move easily with just the lightest of finger pressureThe AfterShokz Trekz Air contains the latest generation of the companies “Leak Slayer” technology. The purpose is to maximise the transmission of sound into your head but crucially prevent as much sound leaking out for other people to head. This has been achieved by producing the ride along the membrane, to improve contact with the sides of your head, rather than the previous very flat pads, which had a tendency to allow people to hear your tunes in quieter settings
AfterShokz Trekz Air Specifications
- Speaker type: bone conduction transducers
- Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz
- Sensitivity: 100 ± 3dB
- Microphone: -40dB ± 3dB
- Bluetooth version: v4.2
- Compatible profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
- Wireless range: 33 ft (10m)
- Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion – 183mAh
- Continuous play: 6 hours
- Standby time: 20 days
- Charge in: 2 hours
- Protection: IPX 55 – so resistant to dirt, sweat and moisture (these are NOT for swimming in!)
- Weight: 1.06 oz (30g)
AfterShokz Trekz Air Manual
The manual for the AfterShokz Trekz Air can be found HERE
Using the AfterShokz Trekz Air – The Fit
The ONE major disappointment of the Aftershokz bluez 2 was how inflexible they were. More often than not the hard plastic would just float above your neck, which during a run arond result in them occasionally bouncing around oddly.
Given how light, but also how flexible the AfterShokz Trekz Air are, they have turned out to be the most comfortable sports headphones I’ve ever had!The AfterShokz Bluez 2 do feel more robust, with the thicker plastic, but that also makes the unit more rigid. I don’t have any major concerns putting the AfterShokz Trekz Air in their rubber case and just throwing them in a bag given how springy they are.
Although I say throw them in a bag, that’s going to be for when I arrive at my ParkRun… not the gym – Now remember the ear plugs which seemed oddly including in the box?Whilst theAfterShokz Trekz Air might be terrific at letting you hear the world going on when you are out on the bike, or going pushing during your favourite park run, if you log onto Zwift Running in gym their Achilles becomes very evident. Well in the gym you can hear EVERYTHING as well – and if you have forgotten the little ear plugs, means thatAfterShokz Trekz Air doesn’t really do much other than provide further background noise. Yes it is nice that AfterShokz have thought about this and included the earplugs, but I think it is reasonable to say theAfterShokz Trekz Air are not for the denizens of noisy gyms
AfterShokz Trekz Air Heads Free
Today headphones are required to do a lot more than convey our Spotify playlists directly into our ears, and I think it is fair to say that heads free phone connection is considered to be a minimum requirement now
Now when it comes to being on the bike outside – don’t even think about it. The noise cancelling is good, but isn’t 30kph of wind directly into the microphone good! That said, the first time I ended up using the AfterShokz Trekz Air hands-free was accidental. I was out doing a little jog, and the phone, and subsequently the headset rang. So I gave it a go and was surprised that I was able to continue on with a perfectly reasonable conversation whilst completing the jog.
Similarly using the AfterShokz Trekz Air over Discord, whilst sometimes a little quiet, seemed quite effective. Anyone who uses Zwift for group rides knows that finding an effective pair of headphones you can cycle in, walk with and not destroy with sweat is actually quite hard! Thankfully the AfterShokz Trekz Air seem to fit the bill
AfterShokz Trekz Air Conclusion
When I was travelling at the end of 2017 I bought a snazzy pair of Sony Mx1000 ear pods. Great bits of kit, and terrific sound reproduction, and active noise cancelling.
Whilst these little ear pods are terrific… I’ve actually found that I’m using the AfterShokz Trekz Air more often. Yes, the Sony’s are easy to put in a pocket, but for everything else, the AfterShokz Trekz Air are as good and have a 20hr battery life.
I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the AfterShokz Trekz Air, the sound quality is great, the ability to run along and hear the traffic, other cyclists, pedestrians, heck just ambient noises is terrific.
The lightness of the AfterShokz Trekz Air’s is probably one reason I’m finding that I grab them so often, the literally disappear when you wear them for a run, and so thin that your helmet doesn’t get in the way either.
So from my perspective with the AfterShokz Trekz Air, bone conduction headphones have come of age!
Which has to be a 5/5 from me!