While I've been quick to lament the disappearance of the 3.5mm headphone jack from some smartphones, I converted to Bluetooth audio a few years ago with my first pair of Jaybird Bluebuds X. Charging them every few days was inconvenient, but it was well worth it to have a wireless pair of headphones for running or weight lifting.
Before this, I had an incident where my headphone wire getting caught on a tree branch, painfully ripping the earbuds out of my ear. It happened only once, but that was once more than I would have wanted.
Flash forward a few years, and it's easier than ever to get a good pair of Bluetooth headphones without spending a lot of money. Whether your preference is toward in-ear, on-ear or over-ear, it's really easy to find something without spending nearly as much as you would on higher end brands.
But the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium wireless headphones are different — in a good way. Let's see why, and whether they're worth your time.
Why I went for the bone (conduction)
A couple of months ago, I decided to start riding a bicycle in hopes of living past the age of fifty. This presented a unique problem: I could skip listening to music while riding my bike and hate the experience; I could listen to music with my earbuds and obstruct the noises of traffic; or I could use my Sony MDR-1000X headphones, which have a cool feature where they pipe in surrounding noise.
The problem with the second option is obvious: if I can't hear surrounding traffic while I ride my bike, I could very easily end up dead. The third option is safer, but still less than ideal because the over-ear design of the headphones would keep sweat trapped around my ears and make the headphones themselves disgusting.
With that, I decided to try a pair of bone conduction headphones, which work by placing the headphone drivers outside just outside of your ears, with the contact points of the headphones remaining in place just outside the ear canal. The contact points cause vibrations to move down your cheekbone, transmitting sound to the brain.
There's a much more in depth explanation here, but long story short is you'll be able to hear your music while also hearing everything from your surroundings, since your ear canals are completely unobstructed. Because of this, they are much safer to use for bikers and anyone else listening to music in a high traffic setting.
I've been using the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones for about a month and a half now, for at least an hour per day. The headphones come included with a m=Micro-USB cable for charging, ear plugs for those that work in high volume areas like construction zones, and a storage bag that I have not seen since opening the box for the first time. Unlike traditional earbuds, the fit on the Trekz Titanium can't be adjusted whatsoever. I was lucky in that they fit me perfectly, but I can't universally recommend the headphones because they just won't fit everyone — it's important to do your research beforehand.
First impressions — knocking me on my ass
The headphones paired without issue, and I began listening to music. And by "listening to music," I mean I had to sit down immediately from the assault on my head. The first song I listened to after putting on the headphones was Come to Me by Lily and Madeleine, and while that song isn't particularly bass-heavy, the notes were still strong enough to knock me on my ass at full volume.
Once I got the volume down to a dull roar, I adjusted quickly to the unique way the headphones transmit sound into my ears. I spent two or so hours trying different genres to find out how each song would feel on my ears. Then it came time for the ultimate test: wearing the headphones while bike riding. Again, I was super fortunate in that the headphones fit underneath my helmet without any issues. With my phone kept in my backpack for the bike ride, I never experienced any connection issues or interference. Nor did I have any issues in a crowded gym full of other people and their Bluetooth devices.
Before taking off on my first bike ride with the headphones, I played with the volume a bit to find out what the best level would be. At higher volumes, it is absolutely possible for the headphones to drown out any surrounding noise, negating the benefits of this design. At low-medium volumes, I was able to comfortably hear my music while also hearing all nearby traffic. I could hear cars approaching to pass me, or sirens from emergency vehicles. It sounds trivial, but the open design of these headphones really improved my bike riding experience.
Using them in the real world
Besides bicycle riding, there are a few other environments where the open design really shines. Being able to hear nearby people in the gym is nice, so I don't feel like a jerk for ignoring people who ask if I'm almost done with a weight bench. It's also good for people like me who always looks and listens for someone who may be injured. The headphones were also fantastic to use while I was moving, since I was able to hear my neighbors while I was loading my U-Haul van. I also used them for the drive itself, since my rental van didn't have an aux port. Again, I was able to hear car horns and sirens without a problem. Finally, while I don't do this myself, the headphones would also be fantastic for an office environment so one could hear their music and coworkers at the same time.
Two areas I'd like to see future versions improve would be battery life and the controls. The headphones are advertised with six hours of battery life, which is approximately what I get. Not bad, but not great. I also wish there was some sort of battery level announcement. Instead, the headphones give one low battery warning, and five minutes later they power down.
The volume controls are difficult to get to, since they rest on the bottom right arm of the headphones. The play/pause/skip/answer phone calls/hang up phone calls button is located on the left "earbud," and I'm not proud of how many times I held it down thinking it was the power button. Instead, the power functions are triggered by holding down the volume up button. Not the hardest thing to adjust to, but certainly different from any other headphone I've used.
At the end of the day, the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones are a very specific product for a very specific user. Battery and control issues aside, these headphones are phenominal for me. I still can't universally recommend them because of the distinct way they fit onto a head, but they're worth trying at the very least. The slate grey version I've been using retails for $99.99, which is a fair price in my mind. There are also blue, green and pink options for a little bit more money. For those that don't mind using a wire and want to save a bit of money, there is a wired version for $40 less.
Your helmet straps need fixing. Also, 6 hours is hugely disappointing and not long enough for an all day bicycle ride.
It appears more like the helmet is a little too small, and doesn't sit far down enough on his head. Adjusting the straps won't help.
I've had these headphone for quite a while and use them exclusively any time I work out (Bike, Run, Cardio, Weights). They are great. I had a couple of comments that may help you get the most out of the headphones.
1) You can get the battery level on them pretty easily. As long as you don't have any music/audio playing tap the volume up button. It should tell you the battery level. It says "Battery Level High, Battery Level Medium, Battery Level Low".
2) For biking, I find wind noise makes it a little bit harder to hear the headphones. I listen mostly to podcasts, so that is more of an issue than music. A while back I bought a product called Wind-Blox. You put them onto your bike helmet strap and it helps reduce wind noise going into your ears. They aren't perfect but the do help. I hope that helps!
I've enjoyed using these for watching TV late at night.
Your TV has bluetooth?
Why are you reviewing last year's model? The company just released their newest model, the AfterShokz Trekz Air. It would be nice to know if they improved any of the "weaknesses" that you suggested.
I drive a truck occasionally for work that has no hands-free, and no aux on stereo. I find it great for both listening to music but also interacting with Google Assistant. Long pressing the pause button on the earpiece activates assistant and I can request last message to be read, or make a call or dictate a message. It sometimes struggles with road and vehicle noise, but most of the time it works fairly well. My only complaint with the music quality is the lack of base in the music. Sticking your fingers in your ears and still hearing the music play clearly is kind of erie, but also quite incredible
Hi Tom - I handle the PR for AfterShokz and we'd love to send you our new model, Trekz Air, which was just announced last week. Please send me an email with your mailing address if you're interested in reviewing them, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
You might want to make a little more effort to get in touch (surely there's a "media" e-mail address somewhere"?) - a number of points in the review are incorrect, too... Otherwise, try hitting them up on Twitter. I've had these since the Kickstarter days, and I can't recommend them highly enough... But it's disappointing when people point out non-existent flaws.
I got these when they were on kickstarter - great headphones for cycling / running. They just came out with a newer model. You should review the newer version.
You need to update a couple of points in your article:
* If you press one of the "volume" buttons whilst music is NOT playing, it will tell you the battery level audibly (it even says this in the manual).
* The headphones can be gently bent and they will mould to the size of your head (they have "memory titanium" or something like that in them) and they also come with additional clip-on pieces, which help some people with smaller heads... Lastly, if you have a particularly small head, AfterShokz also sell a small/child's size of these headphones.
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