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New AfterShokz bone-conduction headphones due in September

AfterShokz has a new, improved version of its headphones that use your cheek bones to transmit sound.

The new AfterShokz Mobile features 21 improvements.
Sarah Tew/CNET

AfterShokz is one of a handful of companies making bone-conduction headphones, launching its brand earlier this year. Unlike conventional headphones and earbuds that use the eardrums to transmit sound, AfterShokz headphones rest in front of your ear and utilize bone-conduction technology to transmit sound through your cheekbones to your inner ear, bypassing your eardrum completely. The technology, originally developed for military personnel, has been around for a while, but AfterShokz and others have turned it into a niche consumer product.

Although the headphones work just fine, audiophiles probably won't be impressed with the sound quality. After all, these are the antithesis of sound-isolating headphones designed to block out ambient noise. With these, your ear remains completely uncovered and you can easily have a conversation with someone while listening to music. AfterShokz has been targeting joggers, bike riders, skiers, skateboarders, hikers, and others who want to stay "connected to their surroundings" (on Amazon, I saw a pair of waterproof bone-conduction headphones for swimmers).

I recently got a sneak peek at the second-generation model of the AfterShokz Mobile (AS301), which is due to hit the market in September and has a built-in microphone for making calls. I hadn't tested the current model, so I didn't have reference point, but the listening experience is definitely interesting, and those who don't like having earphones jammed into their ears will certainly appreciate the AfterShokz. They offer a secure fit and seemed pretty comfortable, though it does feel a little strange to have them sitting on your cheeks at first.

Dennis Taussig, AfterShokz's chief marketing officer, said the company had made 21 improvements to the headphones, including an upgrade in sound quality. I'm not going to list all the improvements, but here are a few of the highlights courtesy of AfterShokz's PR rep, who's modeling the headphones in the picture above:

  • The battery box is 3 percent smaller and lighter, and looks and feels more streamlined, even down to the design of the buttons.
  • Volume controls are included on that battery box, so you don't have to pull out your mobile device to make volume adjustments.
  • The headband is slightly larger now, adding 1/4-inch on each side. The new size universally accommodates more heads.
  • The headband is a matte black with a reflective strip added across the back as a safety feature for runners/bikers.
  • MSRP for new AfterShokz Mobile: $79.95
  • Scheduled to ship in September.
The battery box in the new model is smaller and now has volume controls. Sarah Tew/CNET