Up until about a year ago I thought bone conduction headphones were a bit of a gimmick. Actually, that’s a lie. First of all I thought they were some sort of magical device that transmitted sound directly into your head. Soon afterwards, when I understood how they worked, that’s when I thought they were a gimmick. I don’t any more though – I actually use them every time I go running.
So how do they work?
Well, I’ll give you the average person explanation as opposed to the science behind it (largely because I’ll get it wrong and look stupid). Unlike traditional headphones, which send sound through the ear canal down to your eardrums, bone conduction technology uses transducers to convert the sound into vibrations that travel through your eardrum to your cochlea. The result is pretty much the same effect, only one that leaves your ears free to listen to everything else going on around you.
And do they work?
Seriously, the first time I stuck on a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Air I was quite surprised. “Can you hear this?” I said to a friend sat next to me, as if I was wearing a pair of loudly audible speakers on my head. He looked at me strangely, “Erm, no.” Because you’re ears aren’t involved, yet there’s a loud noise in your head, it feels like everyone else must be able to hear it as well. Unless you’ve whacked it up to full blast, they can’t. It’s pretty impressive in fact.
What’s the technical lowdown?
Battery life is six hours, which’ll probably cover most runner’s needs. They’ll charge in two hours (make sure you stick them on the night before a race). I’ve never had any issues with the Bluetooth connection, even with my Fitbit Ionic, which can be a bit weak sometimes. The interface is pretty simple to use whilst running, with volume and on/off just behind the right ear, as well a big button on the left to pause or skip. They’re sweat resistant as well, which is good to know.
How do they feel?
They’re 20% lighter than the previous titanium model, which is a noticeable difference. I often have them on for a race then completely forget I have them on about half an hour later. This is also due to the fact they’re far more comfortable than most headphones. The only points of contact are above the ears where they sit hand a very slightly grip that means that hug the head as well. Either way you barely notice them.
How do they look?
The Canyon Red version is the most recent and they’re probably my favourite style. I mean, they’re running headphones, how cool do you want them to look? They’re more subtle than most you’ll find, unless you’re using completely independent ear buds like Apple’s. They’re also a hell of a lot more stable than anything I’m used to using, you know, the ones where you get sweaty ears when running and constantly have to push them back in.
They’re amazing for fitness, but pretty much useless for anything where you want to cancel out noise. You’d never be able to wear them on a busy London bus or sat in a coffee shop as you’d have to listen to everything else going on around you as well. Same goes for if you’re running somewhere that has lots of ambient noise – you’ll struggle to hear everything. They’re probably not particularly well designed for podcasts and audio books either.
Contrary to my early views on bone conduction, I absolutely love them. I was always confused about the positives of headphones that didn’t block out noise, but as a runner on London streets, it’s pretty damn important. I much prefer them at races as well due to the fact I can also hear the crowds.
They fit perfectly, sound great and are the only England Athletics certified headphones, which means you can often wear them in races where normal ones are banned.
The price tag may be a bit much for some people, but to be honest the Titanium (£99.99) are pretty much identical save for the extra weight and size.
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