Truth be told, I haven't reviewed a bone-conduction headphone for several years. The reason for that was the early models I tested from AfterShokz sounded so bad it was hard to recommend them to anyone. But AfterShokz's designs and technology have come along way since then and its new $150 (£150) Trekz Air is a compelling wireless sports headphone.
In case you don't know what a bone-conduction headphone is, it's one that delivers sound through your cheekbones. That's right, the headphone driver doesn't go in your ears or cover them, it sits directly in front of them, resting on your face.
The big benefit to the technology is that thanks to its 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 Trekz Air comes in handy, particularly for people who need to listen to music while they run.
The Trekz Air is the trimmed-down sequel to the well-received Trekz Titanium. Its 20 percent lighter than the Titanium, weighing 1.04 oz., and is even more comfortable to wear (its frame and wraparound band also incorporate titanium into their structure).
I'm not going to tell you the headphone sounds great because it doesn't -- comparatively speaking, anyway -- but it sounds a whole lot better than those early AfterShokz models I tested. You're still not going to get really rich, immersive sound with good clarity and strong bass. The sensation is more like listening to good background music from speakers you can't see. It's both in your head and not in your head, if that makes any sense.
I'm partially making the reference to background music because you can only crank up the volume so high before you start feeling the sound vibrate on your cheekbone, which can be a little disconcerting. I kept the headphone at about 75 percent volume -- or right to the point where the I started to feel a vibration. That volume level was adequate but a standard in-ear headphone will sound louder.
Anyway, I'll have a full review once I spend more time with Trekz Air, but my early impressions are positive. It's a wireless sports headphone to keep an eye on, especially for people who are looking for an alternative to your typical in-ear or on-ear around-the-neck style headphones.
Here are the Trekz Air's key features, according to AfterShokz:
- Durable and flexible titanium Frame and wraparound band
- OpenFit design allows you to tune in to your music or a call without tuning out the world around you.
- PremiumPitch+ technology optimizes the sound and includes additional features like LeakSlayer technology, which helps eliminate sound leakage
- Sweat-resistant (IP55 rated to repel sweat, moisture and dust)
- 6 hours of battery life for music calls
- Fully charges in 1.5 hours, but a 15-minute charge provides enough boost to "get you through a long workout or marathon call"
- Dual noise-canceling mics help reduce surrounding noise and enhance speech clarity
- Voice Prompts guide you through power, pair, play and talk and more
- Improvements over Trekz Titanium: Reduced sound leakage, improved dual noise canceling mics, new antenna for improved Bluetooth connection, resigned bone conduction transducers deliver more bass
- Price: $150 (£150) -- available now