$79.95 from the AfterShokz website (with free shipping in the USA) or from retailers
AfterShokz is a range of open-ear headphones that use bone conduction to transmit sound as vibrations through a user’s cheekbones rather than using the more widely implemented method of air vibrations through the ear canal. Read how this works on the product webpage. We tested the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium model.
Although listening via bone conduction might seem like science fiction, it is a method that has been used for almost a century. Hugo Gernsback described a hearing aid named the Osophone in 1923 and was granted a patent the following year. Ludwig van Beethoven used a primitive application of the effect to ameliorate his deafness by holding a rod in his moth and touching it to his piano. The phenomenon has also been used in highly specialized applications for the military, scuba divers, and ocean-yacht racers. Google Glass uses this method when communicating from the software/device back to the user.
The headset came neatly packaged in a display case with a warning and advisory sheet, instruction sheet, warranty card (with a serial number for online warranty registration), ear defenders, storage/carrying bag, and a charging cable. The units are available in five colorways: slate (grey/black); pink; ocean (blue/black); ivy (green/black); red. The review model was the slate version, which we found aesthetically pleasing and visually unobtrusive in use. The covering material is a soft rubbery compound with a pleasant tactile sensation, which also wipes clean quite easily. There is titanium inside for lightness and durability—the clue is in the model name!
The product webpage has a link to a sizing guide tool. For smaller heads the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Mini is available and is one inch smaller. The unit was very easy to set up, and comfortable to wear. We used the ability to pair to two devices (semi-)simultaneously, which is a useful feature when using a Mac/iPad while also being able to access an iPhone. The website support page offers several pages of instructions, advice, and troubleshooting tips.
The main use-case argument for these headphones is for circumstances when you do not want plugs in your hearing canals or muffs over your ears. The bone conduction technology allows you to hear the ambient sound, which is safer than isolating yourself from your acoustic environment, and for many users there will also be the added benefit of being able to comfortably wear one of these headsets for longer periods than is possible with conventional air-vibration models. The inevitable trade-off between the sort of sound quality audiophiles seek and a quality acceptable during sports and work-environment activities has been handled very well.
The sound is clear and has a wider dynamic range than you might expect. We wore the headset during a bicycle ride, for a step-exercise session, and in a domestic environment where occasional conversation with several people required our attention. The AfterShokz Trekz Titanium was robust and is IP55 certified for environmental hazards like water, sweat, and dust. The unit was really secure when worn and we had every confidence that it would stay in place. The device can also be worn comfortably with hearing aids and spectacles (yes, all three at the same time). The controls were easy to operate: this is helpful because it would be safest to operate at the lowest acceptable sound level and thus maximize the awareness of ambient sound. Lower sound levels also minimize the tactile vibration that can be felt at higher levels.
We liked the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium headset very much. It is highly recommended for any of the various use-scenarios and we think you will be as impressed with the sound and functionality as much as we were during our tests. Check the support webpage for a local retailer offering demos or use the 45-day-money-back return policy on website orders. Ours are going nowhere except on our next outdoor adventure!
Our MyMac Review Rating is 8 out of 10. A well-made product at a reasonable price for the fit, finish, and functionality on offer.