Bluetooth headphones come in a range of shapes and sizes. Aftershokz Bluez 2 bluetooth headphones use bone conduction technology to let you hear your music AND the outside world. The marketing machine is good, but is this unique way of listening to your tunes actually any good?
Aftershokz Bluez 2 Bluetooth Headphones Review – TitaniumGeek
Over the years I have used several pairs of bluetooth headphones, and so far none have really fit the bill. I have always found there to be a horrible balance between battery life and size. Even more so with durability. Here I’ll discuss a bit about the bone conduction headphones, how they work, and then review the AfterShokz bluez 2 bluetooth headphones properly
My Previous Bluetooth experiences
For a while I used a JayBird Sportsband. This was my first purchase of bluetooth headphones after trying MANY different versions. I personally found my biggest problem, when running, is that in-ear headphones simply come out. Or you get sweaty ears, which means lots of annoying popping and crackling.
The JayBird Sport band wasn’t too heavy. But rather uncomfortable on the ears. I think it was designed for someone with the head of an egg. Perfectly smooth and symmetrical. It would just about cope with your ears. But the foam pads would become unpleasantly saturated on anything over 30min runs. The headset was supposed to come with a handsfree feature. You could make calls from it, and also receive them from the buttons on the sides, but all the recipient could usually hear, in my experience, was you fighting through a hurricane. I finally gave up when sweat corroded one of the ear speakers, and didnt really have any great desire to replace them.
So that was 2012.
First encounter with AfterShokz
I basically made do with a series of regular headphone when running until September 2013 when at the Birmingham Indoor Cycle show I came across AfterShokz.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I saw them, and walked by initially – we use bone conduction examinations when assessing the functioning of a persons hearing. To determine if a problem with a persons hearing is due to the part of the nervous system that controls the hearing, sensorineural hearing loss, or whether the ear is essentially blocked by something, conductive hearing loss and the sound can’t reach the ears. I didn’t really think it sounded great.
I continued walking around the show, and found myself back in the gadget area. Walking by the stand again, I thought I’d give it a go. If nothing else it might give me an interesting anecdote when explaining things to the students.
The headphones they were displaying at the time, were a wired version, and a bluetooth version. I tried the Bluetooth version – The AfterShokz Bluez.
Its not often that I’ve tried something, and gone “Wow, I need this in my life! – NOW”
The thing about bone conduction headphones is they are not supposed to be the last word in audio fidelity. You could even argue respectably that part of their selling point is actually safety.
How AfterShokz Technology works.
There is a little flat rubbery pad on the sides of the headphones ear ear pod, where the bud/ear piece would normally be actually touch your skull at the temporal bone, just in front of your ears. This pad vibrates, transmitting the sound THROUGH YOUR SKULL, bypassing your ears and ear drum, into the sound sensing organ of the cochlear. This is the part of your hearing apparatus that turns the sounds vibrations into nerve signals your brain perceives as sound. In the case of AfterShokz, the vibration is coming through the temporal bone of your skull, rather than through the ear drum.
I’m not really one of hyperbole. But when you pause and think about that. Thats really quite wild.
OK, but there are lots of things in like that are cool, but that doesn’t necessarily make them useful. The VW XL1 is an amazing car, with amazing technology, but its not useful – YET.
Bone conduction technology was first used with the military. Here the comms kit sits in from of the ear, using the bone conduction to transmit conversations, without obscuring the ears.
This is where AfterShokz is brilliant.
Standing in the middle of the cycle show, I was able to listen to the music played over bluetooth, but also perfectly clearly hear the salesman, as my ears weren’t covered by the headphones. The best way I can describe it, apart from the fact the sound is inside your head, is its just like having music on in a room. You can still listen to the music, but you know if someone starts to have a chat with you.
Living with AfterShokz
I purchased the headphones on the spot. Subsequently I have found them exceptional for both running and biking. You get to hear cars going around you, or more importantly coming up from behind. Now some people will say – headphones/music on a road bike – your are nuts. However its not only music you have coming through your ears. Before I purchased a Garmin head unit. I’d ride with my phone in a jersey pocket, and using the CycleMeter App I’d get regular verbal feedback on my pace, average speed and distance. The rest of the time, I’d have silence through the ear pods, simply to hear the cars. With Aftershokz I was able to have the same audio feedback, but NO impairment to my ability to hear cars when cycling. Personally I’d call that a success.
Aftershokz bluez 2 bluetooth headphones review!
SO after the science bit, the actual review. My original Aftershokz developed a battery issue within their 2 year warranty, and Aftershokz kindly replaced them, but rather than with the same 2013 model. I received the AfterShokz Bluez 2 bluetooth headphones – 2014 model. So I thought it might be worth while putting up a review, and looking of the differences and improvements. However, as I had to send my originals back to them for the warranty claim, I can’t do any side by side comparisons. Which is a shame, as they are rather different…
The Aftershokz bluez 2 bluetooth headphones come in a very sturdy, magnetically clasped, cardboard box. Detailed the changes and improvements.
Just briefly covering those features for a moment.
- Dual cancelling microphones
- Located on the sides of the ear pods. Very effective and allow for conversations whilst running. However I’ve personally found them completely ineffective for cycling other to say that “I can’t talk”
- The heads free feature is activated from a single silver button on the outside of the LEFT ear pod
- Audrey Says (™)
- I don’t know where they got the Audrey name from, but this is a system to allow the headphones to communicate with the user. Rather than a battery status light, the headphone tell you how much charge they have when you switch them on e.g. “Battery medium” in a female voice. They will also tell you when you switch them off what the battery status is, so you don’t leave them uncharged for the next session. If you do however, you run the risk of Audrey becoming annoying. Recently when out on a run, I’d clearly forgotten to charge them, I don’t know what the battery level was, but for the last 15min mins of the run, Audrey insisted telling me VERY frequently “Charge me”. I say very frequently, it was about every 2-3 mins. Its just rather annoying when you are on a run and can do nothing about it. It got to the stage that I think I’d actually prefer it if she’s just run out of battery!
- Two Year warranty
- Does exactly what it says on the tin, and from my own experience AfterShokz have a VERY good warranty service
- Premium Pitch
- Basically meaning that AfterShokz have tweaked the sound quality. I’ve personally not really noticed the difference. But then I’m not an audiophile, and I have purchased these for use in sports, not listing to music. In either respect, personally I have found the sound quality excellent anyway
- Now this has been very effective. The original AfterShokz had flat rubber pieced on the sound pods. Frankly, if the volume is increased enough, there is a question whether they are actually conducting ANYTHING, and its just the sound coming through your ear by the normal route anyway. Not that this matters, but everyone can certainly hear what you are listening to.
- The new nubs direct the vibrations more effectively towards your head, and isolate the people around you from your chosen workout songs/information updates. Of all the changes between version 1 & this version of aftershokz bluez 2 bluetooth headphones, this has been without a double the biggest success.
- Again, I have not real use for this, but couldn’t actually find a way to control it anyway!
Aftershokz bluez 2 bluetooth headphones – Fit
The ONE major disappointment of the new aftershokz bluez 2 bluetooth headphones is the style. The original Bluez was sleek, and part of that meant is curved round your ears, and sat nicely on your neck. The Aftershokz bluez 2 bluetooth headphonesnow rest on your ears, and sort of float over your neck.
A big issue with this, is there is limited adjustability. ie. none. The pods sit just in front of my ear, resting more on my tragus, than my skull. Thankfully this doesn’t impact on the transmission of sound though
The Bluez 2 more more robust, has thicker plastic, and a stronger design. Your are less likely to damage this with it sitting on a table. I think the best way of looking at it was the original looked like a newer model, than the latest one.
The change in design has however given a longer battery life and a greater balance. In the original, the battery was in the thick portion of the back – also where the controls were located. Now one side contains the electronics and the other the battery. So the weight is over your ears, not on your neck.
On the original Bluez, the control buttons allows you to skip tracks with long presses. This is now not possible, and you are left with just the two buttons. Volume and power, and between is the well sealed micro USB charging port
Another benefit of moving the electronics, battery and buttons to the sides, rather than the back of the band, is the electronics should hopefully by less susceptible to sweat – and so far so good!
The removal of the battery, and the weight from the back of the band, has also lead to the positioning of a sweat band at the back to keep the headphones stable. Nice touch certainly
With the changes in style not withstanding. The upgrade from the original AfterShokz Bluez, to Bluez 2 has been considerable. I find these to be not only the best bluetooth headphones I’ve ever used, but also the best SPORTS headphones I’ve ever used. Even if there was a wire required, I don’t have problems with the ear pods coming out of my ears, or the electronics getting sweaty. The fit may not be perfect, but the function certainly is. Whilst I say the fit may not be perfect, it’s certainly not something that stops me using or enjoying these great bits of kit
If you’ve any comments or takes on the review, drop them below!