I like options, especially when it comes to listening to music. Sometimes that means I want to isolate myself from the rest of the world to live in my personal soundscape – in other situations I want to (or have to) let the outside in.
I spend an alarming amount of money off time on the media on my phone. As a commuter, runner and gymnastics rat I always like to have a soundtrack that keeps me company. Luckily, I'm a fitness and tech writer, which means I can access almost any headphone that's available for testing. About the ear, over the ear, really wireless – all are great.
But the most transformative listening experience I've had since my first wireless headset set came when I tried AfterShokz's open ear bone conduction features. The company has just released its latest model, the Aeropex, and testing new technology has changed my mindset to headphones.
The big seller is the bone conduction audio delivery system, which allows the listener to keep his ears open, even while the music is pumping. The technology is based on "transducers [that] that direct mini-vibrations through the cheekbones to the inner ear," says the company, whose products also have built-in systems that adjust pitch and limit "sound leakage," the two biggest limitations you have could expect from this kind of facility. Technically, the Aeropex can compete with other fitness-oriented audio devices on the market. The company states that you can get up to 8 hours of battery life per charge, along with an IP67 water-resistant rating.
Does the Bone Conduction Hearing Tech work?
Usually, audio quality is my biggest concern for my headphones. I'll make some sacrifices if I have access to booming basses and crystal clear sound, but if I find it hard to focus on what I'm listening to, the game is over. The first time I used Bone Conduction Headphones (AfterShokz's older Trekz Air model), I was in a gym running a disgusting Top 40 playlist over the overhead speakers. I wanted to drown out the cursed Pit Bull songs that poisoned the air around me, but the open ear released me. I wrote off the concept and put in my more traditional in-ear buds to finish the training.
Then I received the new Aeropex test device. My first job was to get the headphones working. As soon as I hit the road, I realized that this was a very different experience than in the weight room. With some headphones, you can feel the impact of your footsteps in your sealed ears and create a disturbing stroke effect that causes headaches after a few kilometers. The opposite was the case here. My steps were constant in the periphery of my hearing, but in a minor and reassuring way. I could focus on my tempo and the music and then on the audiobook as I switched media to see if bone conduction technology was good for music only. Actually everything sounded good .
I was never quite in my own world and wore the Aeropex, which was of vital importance as a city runner. While I love to hide all sounds at times – screaming again at this dreadful fitness playlist and the New York MTA – the reality of sharing streets and sidewalks makes it safer to at least maintain some awareness of what's outside of me Audible bubble happens. This open sensation was also welcome as I ran to the trail, where I still had some awareness of the wind in the trees and the crunching of dead leaves underfoot as the music played. It was more as if the added audio were a companion than that the all-consuming force demanded my attention.
More Than Just a Runner
The time I spent running convinced me – but I thought the usefulness of AfterShokz technology stopped outside. Then I decided to whisk her into my martial arts studio. I love spending my Sunday afternoons working on my skills as a Muay Thai Bag, doing exercises and perfecting combos. I always share the mat with a group of people practicing jiu-jitsu and rolling on the floor behind me.
I tried to listen to music through headphones on the mat before, but the noise cancellation features of devices like the Powerbeats Pro left me dangerously unnoticed by my surroundings.