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AfterShokz Aeropex: New bone-conduction sports headphone is best-sounding yet

Geared toward runners and bikers, AfterShokz' latest headphone is lighter, sounds better and is fully waterproof.

The Aeropex are available now in black. Red, blue and gray colors are coming soon.

David Carnoy/CNET

Every two years or so, AfterShokz releases a new bone-conduction headphone that's a little better than the last one. New for 2019 is the Aeropex, which AfterShokz says are its "lightest, highest-quality headphones yet." 

The Aeropex is available now in "cosmic" black for $160 or £150. There's no word yet on Australian pricing, but the UK price converts to about AU$260.

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I've been playing around with an early sample and it definitely sounds better than the company's previous flagship model, the Trekz Air -- or the Air ($100 at Amazon), as it's now called. It's also slightly more comfortable to wear.

A bone-conduction headphone is one that delivers sound through your cheekbones. That's right: The headphone driver doesn't go in your ears or cover them. Instead, it sits directly in front of them, resting on your face.

The technology can be a good match for people with partial hearing loss. The other big benefit is that thanks to the headphone's open design, you can hear what's going on around you while listening to music or having a phone conversation through the headphone. That openness allows runners and bikers to hear traffic, an important safety feature. Also, some race coordinators don't allow you to wear anything in your ears, which is where a headphone like the Aeropex comes in handy, particularly for people who need to listen to music while they run.  

The only issue is bone-conduction headphones don't sound as good as standard headphones, particularly for bass performance. Over the years, however, AfterShokz has steadily improved the sound quality to the point where it's gone from pretty bad to OK to slightly better than OK. 

The headphone's new charging port.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Aeropex features "re-engineered" bone-conduction technology. With two micromagnets that control the electrically induced magnetic field, AfterShokz says that Aeropex "delivers sound vibrations with higher efficiency and fidelity than ever before." New angled transducers also help you accurately place the Aeropex on your cheekbones. The result is better bass and sound without as much vibration at higher volumes. When you crank the volume you still feel the vibration on your face, but it's not as strong as it is with the Air.

Read more: Best headphones for running in 2019

It's also worth mentioning that to make the headphones waterproof, AfterShokz had to move from a Micro-USB charger to a proprietary charger that adheres magnetically to the port. What's interesting -- and unusual -- is that you get two charging cables in the box in case you lose one. The headphones also come with a nice rubber protective carrying pouch that has a magnetic clasp that's easy to open and close. And an additional set of foam earplugs is included. Stopping up your ears while you're wearing the headphones does improve sound quality, particularly the bass, but I don't use the plugs. 

AfterShokz

I'll have a full review in the coming weeks, but my first impressions are good, although the $160 price tag feels slightly high. To reiterate, the sound quality still won't measure up to a decent pair of inexpensive Bluetooth sport earphones like the Anker SoundBuds Slim ($26 at Amazon). But they do work pretty well for making voice calls (the midrange is just fine) and have noise-reduction technology to help eliminate some background noise. 

Aeropex key specs

  • Weight: 26 grams (0.9 ounce)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • OpenFit design, meaning there's nothing in your ears
  • PremiumPitch 2.0+: Sound-preservation technology produces better audio quality with less overall vibration and 50% less sound leakage
  • Battery life: 8 hours of music play and talk time (fully charge the headphones in 1.5 hours; a 15-minute charge will get you more than an hour of music playback)
  • IP67 waterproof rating (waterproof down to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes)
  • Moisture Detected Alert: If the headphones are plugged into the charger while wet, the headphones will alert you to remove them from the charger to avoid damage to the battery
  • Dual noise-canceling mics for voice calls
  • Voice prompts guide you through power, pair, play, talk and more
  • Available now in Cosmic Black for $160 or £150 (red, blue and gray colors are coming soon)