There is no other medium where the hardware (and sometimes the software) makes as big of an impact on your immersion than with audio. There is also no wider spectrum than audio gear. You can grab a bluetooth speaker on a impulse in a department store checkout lane as if it were a candy bar. Or you can buy a $40,000 speaker to set your rig apart from (practically) any other. The same comparison can be made for headphones. No matter how you boil it down, I always end up at the conclusion that there are truly two types of tech: cool tech, that you just have to have just because, and tech that solves a problem or improves an experience. The Trekz Titanium Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones from Aftershokz fall into the latter category.
The Trekz Titanium are bone conduction headphones. What does this mean? Well, they actually sit on your cheekbones, just outside of your ear, and they send vibrations that travel to your eardrum allowing you to hear the music. It may sound a little far fetched, and a little sci-fi, but they really do work, and they work pretty well. I used these at my desk while working for the first week I had them and I was pleasantly surprised. When compared to my PowerBeats2 Wireless, the audio quality is almost on par. I know the PowerBeats aren't the highest quality headphones out there, but there are two things that are wildly important to me in headphones:
- Fit and stay in my ear
The PowerBeats accomplish this and, to me, sound pretty good. The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium have Bluetooth 4.1, fulfilling the wireless requirement. They're really easy to pair and also feature a few different buttons for control over volume, play/pause, and answering calls. They are also equipped dual noise cancelling microphones for voice calls and Siri commands. I still don't understand mic technology and how two small mics on my cheekbones can pick up my voice and only my voice and sound so good, but they do.
As far as the "fit and stay in my ear" requirement, considering these aren't in-ear headphones, they may be a bit of an exception. Yes, they rest just below your ear, but they fit snuggly over your ear. These are without a doubt one of the most secure sets of headphones I have ever used. I was skeptical at first, but after using these for multiple runs, they aren't going anywhere. I will say, depending on what type of runner you are, they may bounce a bit, but the audio quality is hardly affected.
Often times when comparing which piece of tech to buy we start to develop trade off's. A lot of the time this ends up coming down to cost vs quality. There are a couple of other axes in this spectrum that we may be neglecting.
In a recent vlog, Casey Neistat talks about the new DJI Mavic Pro drone, drawing comparisons with the DJI Phantom 4. The general consensus about the new Mvic Pro drone is that the video quality on it isn't as great as the Phantom 4, which has been out for over a year. The advantage to the Mavic Pro is that it is small enough to fit in your backpack, and if you're wearing JNCO jeans, your pocket. The point Casey makes is that the added convenience of the smaller form factor erases the importance of dropping from great video quality to very good video quality. That is right on par with how I feel about the Trekz Titanium's.
Source: Casey Neistat vlog: https://youtu.be/sw4jDjYnR0U
The x-axis in this scenario is audio quality. The y-axis is ease of use coupled with practicality. Take the Bose QC35's. They sit high on the x-axis, but the thought of taking them with me on a run drops them to the lower third quadrant. The Trekz Titanium sit somewhere in the upper right quadrant, coupling solid audio quality with convenience and practicality. I will sacrifice a little audio quality for the benefits the Trekz Titanium give me.
The simple fact that they leave your actual ear canal vacant allows for some background noise to get in, which in turns make you just that much more aware of your surroundings. This is what I want while running on the trail and listening for cyclists passing from behind, or while riding on the street along with traffic. Sure, I may be sacrificing a small amount of audio quality, but not enough for me to notice or care. This is also great for running with a friend. You can still have your music on to keep your motivated, but you can hold a conversation when necessary. It may be a little bit of a niche market, but this is where these headphones really shine.
They are also Sweat Resistant-IP55 certified and the band that wraps around your head is lightweight titanium. That may sound ridged, but they're surprisingly flexible without sacrificing durability. These things get tossed around and there isn't a scratch or dent on them. They'll hold up in practically any scenario.
I'll get right to it; these are some of the best headphones I have used in terms of battery life. Aftershokz quotes 6 hours of listening, which may not seem like a lot. My PowerBeats2 Wireless are quoted at 12 hours. I swear these things hold closer to that 12 hours than my PowerBeats do. I can go a full week without these needing a charge. Maybe that's a sign that I need to run more...
I do use these while sitting at my desk or on the train or bus. So they aren't just sitting idle until I force myself off the couch. They get their fair share of use, and they still impress me with their charge. In those times when I do run out of juice, in just about an hour I'm back up and running with a full battery.
If I haven't made this clear by now, these headphones are the perfect companion for running and cycling. The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium aren't only for outdoor activity, though. For $129, offering bluetooth wireless connectivity and what I would consider above average sound quality, these are the perfect headphones for just about anyone. If you think you may want to pick up a pair, check out the following link: Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones
What do you guys think? Have you tried bone conduction headphones before? Would you sacrifice a little audio quality for a better situational experience? Sound off in the comments section below!