AfterShokz Sports M2 review: Bone-conducting headphones struggle with music

The listening experience is definitely interesting, and those who don't like having earbuds or eartips jammed into their ears will certainly appreciate the AfterShokz. They offer a secure fit and are comfortable, though it does feel a little strange to have them sitting on your cheeks at first. If you're used to fuller-sounding earphones -- or even Apple's earbuds -- the sound doesn't measure up. It's hard to describe the sound but it just feels very stripped down, like you're listening to a small transistor radio, albeit in stereo.

The battery "box" charges via USB. Sarah Tew/CNET

What's funny and a little disconcerting is that when you crank the volume, the earpads literally vibrate on your cheek, especially if you're listening to bass-heavy music. It kind of tickles. Thus, it's not a good idea to crank the volume. Rather, these sound best at more moderate volume levels.

The other issue is that they do leak a lot of sound. That's another reason not to crank the volume.

The headphones come with a nice, but somewhat bulky, carrying case. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
The AfterShokz Sportz M2 headphones aren't for folks who are sticklers for good sound quality. Rather, they're for someone who's looking for a very "open" design that allows you to hear the external world as you're listening to sound through the headphones. When I was on the treadmill at the gym, I liked them for listening to the TV broadcast; I thought they were excellent for that. I also liked them for making cell phone calls. In other words, they were better for speech than music -- they'd be good for audiobooks and podcasts as well -- which is not surprising considering bone-conduction technology was originally designed for military communications, not music-listening.

So while these ultimately aren't for everyone, they will appeal to people who want comfortable headphones that you don't have to jam in your ears (or wear in your ears at all). Just don't expect them to provide a great listening experience -- for music, anyway.

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About The Author

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music and The Big Exit. Both titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, and Nook e-books.