Bone conduction earphones have been out for several years now, and they work by allowing you to hear sound through the vibration of the cheekbones of your face. This means that the sound waves are bypassing the outer and middle ear (where the eardrum is located) and directly stimulating the inner ear.
It was traditionally used for patients with hearing loss and for the military allowing the user to retain situational awareness while in combat. The consumer industry later adopted this and Aftershokz released their first device in 2011. They have since dominated the consumer market and currently have over 100 patents worldwide based on bone conduction technology.
The Trekz Air is the most recent product from Aftershokz and is the new flagship product that offers numerous improvements over the previous Trekz Titanium. Priced at £149.95 RRP, though £140.95 on Amazon, these are the most expensive bone conduction earphones on the market and with a similar price to other premium sports headphones such as the Bose SoundSport Bluetooth and Audio Technica ATH-SPORT70BT.
The new Air model improves ergonomics further and is 20% lighter than the Titanium, the noise cancelling microphones have been improved and the bone conducting technology has also been improved.
The three core technologies that make the Aftershokz models stand out from other brands are:
- PremiumPitch+ which expands frequency band and enhances bass response.
- LeakSlayer technology reduces leakage sound by 70%.
- TitaniumFit assures secure fitting and solid bone conduction contact
Aftershokz are focussed on sports users and as such the Treks Air feature IP55 sweat resistant repelling rain and sweat due to watertight structure design and nano-chemical coating.
The benefit of bone conduction for sports users is that it allows you to listen to your music while still being able to hear the world around you. Because of this AfterShokz is the only Official Headphone chosen by England Athletics for both running and cycling.
Design and Build
The overall build and design feels premium as you would expect for the price. The earphones wrap around your head with a neckband that has a springy metal nature to it. The controls sit behind your ear then wrap over them with the earphone sitting on your upper cheekbone in front of your tragus. The springiness clamps them into place giving you a nice secure fit.
The earphones are coated in a rubber material with the right-hand side that sits being your ear containing the controls and microUSB socket. The socket has a cap that helps keep out moisture.
Pairing them with your phone is as easy as any other headphone and I was able to get them up and running in a few seconds.
These are completely different to any other earphone I have used, so finding the ideal fit is a bit of a guess. However, they are easy to get a decent basic fit as you don’t need to worry about getting a secure seal with your ear canal.
With them weighing just 36g once you have them in place they are incredibly comfortable to wear, with only a slight sensation of pressure on my skin where they make contact. The rear headband doesn’t actually touch my head, but it doesn’t bounce around at all when either running or cycling.
These are by far the most comfortable and pleasant earphones to wear for sports I have tried so far, and require little to no adjustment while in use, they don’t bounce around, there was no snagging on things they just remained in place throughout all my runs.
Both myself and my girlfriend used them for runs and we both found them great
Due to the nature of their design, the Trekz Air struggle to compete with the overall audio quality compared to inner ear headphones. The sound a bit like you would expect for something sat in front of your ear, and at first, I felt like it was more just the earphones acting as speakers in front of my ear rather than any bone conduction. However, there are some included foam tips in the pack and when you use these both the volume and audio quality improve which indicates to me that the sound was coming through the bones rather than air.
They can go quite loud but the higher the volume, the more you will feel the earphones vibrate on your cheekbone which is a peculiar sensation, and I would recommend turning them down slightly. I usually have them so that vocals don’t make me feel anything but deep bass provides some mild vibration.
As you would expect sound leakage is very bad compared to in-ear styles. I can listen to my Anker Soundcore Spirit X quite loud with little to no sound leakage. With these, even at moderate volumes in a quiet room, you can hear them from a distance. I personally would only use these for outdoor activities, I am not sure other gym goers would appreciate hearing my taste in music.
However, these are not designed to be used in an office or for the best audio quality. Running and cycling outdoors the audio quality is good enough, they provide a decent level of bass and have a lively overall audio profile making them suitable for more energetic tracks that I prefer during sports.
Moving beyond the sound quality they do exactly what you want them to, allow you to hear the world around you while doing sports. This is something no in-ear model can offer which makes these a very appealing device for anyone doing sports outdoors. In the case of cycling, this is the only style you should use when road cycling.
The battery life is rated at 6 hours which is about standard for most Bluetooth headphones, but this may fall short for some long bike rides.
These are definitely a niche product, they can’t transition between your daily commute and the gym. Due to the sound leakage, I wouldn’t even recommend them for gym use.
However, there are a lot of runners and cyclists in the world, and these offer environmental awareness that no other inner ear headphone can compete with. For myself, I mainly found these useful for cycling, I know I shouldn’t, but on long rides, I am guilty of wearing inner ear headphones which is quite dangerous. With these, I have the option to cycle safely and avoid the boredom of a long solo ride with some music or podcasts. Considering how much cyclists spend on cycle specific gear I would say these are a must buy.
For runners, if you get frustrated with the constant adjustments you do during a run, then these could be the perfect solution. During my use, I was able to do 10+ mile runs with almost no need to touch them.
Aftershokz Trekz Air Review
Product Name: Aftershokz Trekz Air
- Overall - 90%90%