The Aftershokz Airs are a brilliant concept for headphones. Coming in at just 30 grams, they work on the technology of bone conduction, rather than the traditional in-ear or over-ear style. They are lightweight, tough and durable, as well as having an open-ear design, meaning you can still hear and pay attention to your surroundings. But for all its strengths, there are still drawbacks.
This is not a sponsored review.
After a recommendation from friend and college Jamil Dowling , I received a set of Aftershokz Air as a gift, and over the last few days since getting them I’ve tried them out in all places I would normally listen to music.
Firstly, I used them on my daily commute. One of the key selling points for bone conduction headphones is the safety element, so that you can still hear all your surroundings. However, as my currently going by public transport, this feature is pretty unnecessary, and I found I had to put the volume to the max in order to hear and enjoy my music like I normally would. The headphones do come with a pair of earplugs – the cheap foam types that get handed out for free at gigs – but I felt pretty strange wearing them on the bus. Personally, I do carry a set of clear earplugs on my keys, for when I’m at gigs or other loud environments, so I could use these, but not everyone does. It also defeats the objective of having open ears if you are then stuffing them up.
The next area I tried them out was general listening around my house, as well as listening to my submissions. I knew they would never be as good as my expensive studio monitors or speaker system, but the truth is I was still a little disappointed in them. Without being in a noisy environment, I didn’t have to put the volume as high, but the sound quality was similar to lots of pairs of cheap earphones I’ve previously owned. It felt like I was listening to a lower quality sound than what I’m used to hearing. I’m not going to be using these for submissions in a hurry.
However, the lightweight, cable free design meant doing stuff round the house while listening to music was easier. I didn’t have to worry about cable knots or becoming unplugged.
My final area of use was for exercise, specifically running, and this is where they come into their own. The first part of my run route was along roads, and the open-ear design meant I was less worried about vehicles out of sight, and I didn’t need to take them off/out before crossing roads. Again, I did have to turn the volume up to the max in order to hear my music, but as soon as I got off the main roads that wasn’t a problem. The lightweight design meant that there was no bouncing around, and the titanium headband kept them secure and in place. It was also at this point I realised that the side action button, used to pause and skip songs, wasn’t working, and I am currently in contact with Aftershokz to try to get this resolved. I did also find that, if I wear a hat, they don’t quite sit right on my head. The titanium band is non-adjustable, which is probably why.
Overall, these headphones are great for their target audience – those commuting by bike or on foot, as well as those who want to be able to hear safely when out doing exercise. This leads me to the question of ‘Are they worth it?’. Coming in at just under £100, my honest answer has to be no. The Aftershokz Titanium, which come in at £69.95, and the only difference being 6 grams heavier, 0.1 versions earlier Bluetooth, and a Polycarbon ear hook, are probably a bit better value for money. The open-ear design does feel safer than a standard pair of in-ear headphones, and there are people out there who could – and do – benefit from these if they are unable to use in-ear or over-ear headphones.
Even though the technology has been around for a while, I think it will be a little while longer before there is a pair out there that has the potential to overtake what we traditionally see as headphones in terms of quality and usability.
Review by Ted Stargatt
This was not a sponsored review.