There is a wide range of bone conduction headphones on the market now, rather than leaving the “budget” option as last years model, AfterShokz have released the OpenMove. Are they a bargain at half the price of their bigger brother?
Aftershokz Openmove Review
The Aftershokz Openmove is the latest model from the company that basically took bone conduction headphones mainstream. Anyone who has used this type of headphone, essentially transmitting sound through your bones and leaving your ears open, know that they are not the last word in fidelity – HOWEVER by keeping your ears directly free of buds etc you can still hear what’s going on around you. Hence they are the only headphone Bone conduction headphones that are approved for use in road races under the UKA rules of competition (see UKA FAQ Document relating to UKA Rule 240S 5).
What AfterShokz missing in quality, they certainly make up for in utility their xTrainerx headphones I reviewed last year highlight that clearly with their design being specifically engineering for swimmers.
In terms of pigeoning the Aftershokz OpenMove, they are more of a blend of the previous Aftershokz Air and the Titanium than a whole new unit.
The headline features are:
- USB C Charing – YES!
- Bluetooth 5.0 – Hello battery life
- EQ mode – personally more of an advertising piece, as mentioned fidelity isn’t really core here
- Lighter weight – 29g to the 36g compared to the Titanium3
Aftershokz Openmove Review – Design
Unboxing you’ll get:
- Afterskoz OpenMove
- Carrying pouch,
- USB-C charging cable,
A minor point for looking at where savings have been made, compared to the top of the line AfterShokz Aeropex, we’ve not got the slightly more protective, and water resistant case in the box
Comparing all three headphones together it is clear that we are talking about a blending of the Aeropex and the older Titanium rather than a ground up reworking
When it come to weight, the Aftershokz OpenMove sit in the middle of the three:
- Aftershokz Aeropex 26g
- Aftershokz OpenMove 29g,
- Aftershokz Titaniums 36g
When comparing from the topdown, you can seethe the Titanium has a thicker head bank compared to the two newer models.
All three bands are siliconised, and provide equal grip, but as the Titanium is a little heavier, and the Openmoves have slightly protruding modules on the sides, there is a very similar feel to the Aeropex when it comes to wearing them, as you have fewer contact points, so they feel less noticeable on your head
I’ve always been a big fan of some of the vibrant colours that the Titanium AfterShokz were available in, by contrast to the slightly more sombre higher end models
When launched there were basically black and white models of the AfterShokz OpenMove available, with your choice of blue, pink or grey highlights. Although currently the UK store only lists grey and white variations
To my mind the best upgrade is the change to USB-C charging, with the port underneath a rubber flap on the RIGHT ear pod as with the Titanium. We have the same button configuration as well, a combined power/ volume up button and separate volume down button. The status LED also sits in from of the charge port. I think with the lay out of the buttons compared does reinforce the feeling of an update, rather than a new unit
I am pleased with the USB C compared to the other units in the range, as both current top end units, the Aeropex and the XTrainerz use proprietary magnetic charging ports which whilst giving the benefit of full waterproofing – the OpenMove’s are rated as IP55 vs the others IP67… I’d actually prefer to have the standardised USB-C. I’m not a fan of proprietary cables, as they get lost, break and are generally a pain in the neck by comparison. For most people, IP55 will be more than enough. But if you did want to go swimming with the units, you would need to be moving up the price bracket.
When it comes to charging the Aftershokz pack a 135mAh battery affording ~6hrs of calls/music, losing 2 hrs to the Aeropex. The red charging LED turns blue when fully charged after around 2 hrs of being plugged in.
On the left earphone is the diguised multi-function button, given it is now part of the band, as opposed to a discrete button, we’re unlikely to see the cover coming off as has happened on my Titaniums. We also have a larger area to press, and the design does guide our fingers when on a run.
In terms of functionality, it is the normal approach from Aftershokz
- Single press to play/pause your music
- Single press to answer/end call
- Further music control with double press to skip forward and triple back
- Long press to activate your phones voice assistant.
Speaking of calls, the right earphone has the two noise cancelling microphones above and below the ear pod, and give surprisingly good sound on calls.
AfterShokx have reengineering their contact pads and transducers significantly compared to the older Titaniums. I have found a much better volume, but also crucially a reduced sound when wearing the headphones
Similarly to the improved music, the now flat sound pads on the AfterShokz OpenMoves give a much clearer, less… muddy sound when using the hands free. Previously with the Titanium the hands free functionality was acceptable when needed, but I don’t think you’d call it good. Only this morning I was having a video call on my phone, and it was easier to wear the OpenMoves and keep the phone on the desk, then having to remain close to the phone due to volume
The Openmoves transducers do have better sound transmission, perhaps clarity is the word compared to their predecessors. Bass doesn’t seem great, until you put earplugs in, which sort of defeats the point if used these outside.
Aftershokz Openmove Review – Specifications
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Bone conduction technology: 7th generation of Bone Conduction Technology
- Sweat/Water resistance:IP55
- Bluetooth® version:Bluetooth® v5.0
- Battery:Rechargeable Li-Polymer battery
- Compatible profiles:HSP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP
- Battery capacity:135 mAh
- Frequency band:2402 – 2480MHz
- Continuous play:Up to 6 hours
- Maximum RF output power:4dBm
- Standby time:Up to 10 days
- Wireless range:33 ft (10m)
- Charge voltage:5.25V ± 5%
- Speaker impedance:8.0 ± 0.5ohm
- Charge time:2 hours
- Speaker sensitivity:96 ± 3dB
- Charge type:USB-C
- Microphone sensitivity:-40 ± 2dB
- Warranty:2 years
Aftershokz Openmove Review – Using the Device
One of the major benefits, as far as I’m concerned with the updates, including Bluetooth 5.0 is the ability to connect with two devices
Certainly in our household, it’s not unusual for somebody to shout hey, my headphones have run out of juice, can I borrow yours, as somebody heads out for a run. No not a major issue in the grand scheme of things, but still really nice that I can have the OpenMoves paired to two devices and not have to keep repairing if they have been borrowed by someone else
Pairing is itself very straightforward: Power up the OpenMoves, within 2 second of powering on hold powers and wait for assistant to saying “pairing” – when pairing mode entered, the LED will also flash alternating blue/red/, then connect as normal from your phone/tablet etc
Apart from beaming music/calls from your phone, this is the only interaction with your phone. No apps, no updates, no settings to fiddle with – and honestly I’m fine with that. I view the OpenMoves and the AfterShokz generally as being products that reduce distraction, and this lack of customisation – beyond EQ aligns with that as well.
Speaking of EQ – if you were to use these in a gym – not that anyone can due to COVID and lockdowns at the moment, but when the world restarts, you NEED to use the supplied earplugs. The reason being, the open ear design means that you are going to ALSO be hearing everything around you. Put simply, bone conduction head phones don’t work in a noisy environment without headphones
How does this relate to EQ? There are three EQ settings, you access by holding both volume buttons for 3 seconds WHEN AUDIO IS COMING THROUGH THE HEADPONES – crucial point, I spent ages trying to adjust them, but couldn’t get it to work, then I read the manual – DOH!
There are three modes to cycle through, Standard, Vocal Booster and Earplug mode. The Aftershokz assistant will tell you which mode you are in.
Honestly I never really found the EQ settings of use leaving them in normal all the white. If pushed, Standard is well that. Vocal boosts the higher frequency and Earplug reduces the bass.
Aftershokz Openmove Review – Exercise
At the end of the day, these are sports headphones, note I didn’t say runners headphones, although that is mainly where I used them.
I find I end up coming from behind to put the OpenMoves on. Holding them wide to the drop over my ears. With my current lock down hair, I need to ensure they are against my head and not hair, but other than that perfect fit. Genuinely pressure is such that the literally disappear when running with them, and barely move around when running. Yes the Aeropex are lighter, but I really don’t think there is going to be a noticeable difference now
This returns to my previous point about simplicity, you turn them on, go for a run and just enjoy. No faffing with settings etc, from that perspective these are true runners headphones.
But they do also work well on the bike. Sitting slightly flusher than the Titaniums, I find that they don’t interfere with the straps to the same degree, but I’ll confess I would only really wear these when cycling on a slow spin, somewhere quiet on my own. The open ear is great, but I want to hear the traffic completely.
That said, I’m more than happy to use the OpenMoves when riding on Zwift. Here the sealed nature of the OpenMove is better than in ear units, just wipe the sweat off after, and also means I’m more likely to hear the doorbell when doing a workout.
Aftershokz Openmove Review – Conclusions
Having been a big fan after bone conduction headphones for years, it is great to see the refinements that have gone into the Aftershokz Openmoves. These are certainly a good improvement from the Titaniums – polish where needed, and design unchanged where possible. Whilst not yet on par with in ear headphones – and I’m not really sure they could be, the sound has improved greatly, sufficient that whilst the Aeropex are technically better from an audio perspective, I’m not sure I NEED that when I’m puffing and panting on a run.
Yes there are some sports focused headphones that try to mimic the open ear component by piping the outside world through the speakers, but then you lose the benefits of NOT having sweaty stick ears with buds stuck in them.
Yes if you want the best sound when pounding the tarmac look elsewhere. But if you want the best running (or cycling headphones) given the price, inclusion of USB-C and the improvements in audio quality over the Titaniums, I actually think the AfterShokz OpenMoves have stolen the market from their own Aeropex!