The Aftershokz Trekz Air are open ear, wireless, bone conduction headphones that allow music to play without disturbing others or blocking out ambient noise. This is my review.
Bone conduction headphones don’t work the same as typical headphones. Instead of vibrating air on or directly into the ear, bone conduction sends vibrations through the skull, which then stimulates the inner ear directly. This allows the ears to be completely unobstructed, leaving them open to receive information that would otherwise be drowned out by traditional headphones.
The Treks Air wrap around the back of the head and place small drivers just in front of the ear, where they pump audio through the skull. The right side of the headphones has two buttons, volume down, and a volume up which doubles as a power button. The left side of the headphones has a multi-purpose button for answering calls, pausing music, and skipping tracks. The headphones are completely wireless utilizing the Bluetooth 4.2 standard, 6 hours battery life, are IP55 certified (sweat and rain are fine), and the headphones include a small carry case, ear plugs (in case you do want to block things out) and a small usb micro charging cable. The weigh 1.06 oz (30 grams), and retail for $150.
What I liked
The stand out feature of these headphones is of course the bone conduction. Instead of covering or even plugging the ears entirely, these headphones leave the ears completely free to pick up local noises. At low to moderate volumes, music leaves outside audio completely clear and easy to distinguish. Footsteps, crunching leaves, breaking twigs, and rolling vehicles are all clear and present. Instead of music playing into your ears, it sounds almost like a speaker is floating behind your head, playing as you hike or bike. Being able to hear animals, people, or traffic is a huge advantage, and could be the difference between hearing a threat that can be avoid, and simply running onto one.
Music quality is still pretty good despite not having a tradition driver. Voices and instruments are clear with mids and bass having a clear presence. Mids are a little lacking at low to moderate volumes, but shine through at higher volumes, at which the sound profile opens up to surprisingly good levels. These will not compete with a set of traditional headphones at even half their price as far as sound quality goes, with the sound being a bit muddier and with less range overall, but they certainly do not sound bad. In fact, they’re quite pleasant to listen to, if a bit pitchy at times (although never disturbing or painful). Admittedly, I’m a bit of an audio snob and very hard to satisfy, but I am still overall quite happy with the sound profile.
The headphones are surprisingly comfortable. A big benefit of the non-traditional drivers is that they are not wedged directly into my skull, which is a huge positive. They’re also not cupping or being wedged onto the ears, instead resting gently against the top of the antihelical fold (back of the ear) and lightly against the zygomatic arch (just above the jaw). The produce very little pressure and literally float behind the back of the skull, as they don’t actually contact here at all. Their built is very flexible, seemingly lined with flexible titanium to retain their shape, and come across as some of the most comfortable sport headphones I’ve ever tested.
Using the headphones is rather simple. Hold the volume up button to power them on, up and down for volume, tap the multi-use button to pause or answer a call contextually, or double tap to skip a track. It doesn’t get much simpler to use than that.
The Trekz Airs in particular are exceptionally light weight at just over an ounce. This makes them easy to justify on basically any hiking, biking, or backpacking trip
They pickup no wind noise at all, which is exceptionally rare with any type of headphones making them especially useful when biking where wind noise is practically always existent on all my other headphones.
Handily compatible with most helmets and winter headwear.
What I didn’t like
While the controls are simple to use, they could still be refined and easier to actually press. The multi-use button on the left is large and easy to find as it is placed right on the side of the unit. However, the volume buttons on the right are on a different part of the headphones altogether and are much smaller and harder to feel out. They’re also in line with the micro-USB cover, which feels pretty similar to the touch. This can cause some confusion and makes them more difficult to use than they should be, especially while biking. Why they didn’t use large, easy to find volume buttons like they did on the left I cannot figure out. The volume is also nearly impossible to adjust while wearing full fingered gloves as they are small, flat, and cannot be detected through the material.
The battery life could be better. While 6 hours is fine for most bike rides and runs,, it could easily fall short on long hikes and especially multi-day adventures. With even budget headphones clearing the 12 hour mark these days, it is hard to understand why these come up so short. Perhaps the bone conduction drivers require more power than traditional drivers? Whatever the case, battery life could be better.
Playing music at the louder volumes will still drown out ambient noise, although not entirely.
As someone who loves music, especially while exercising, the Aftershokz Trekz Air have quickly become my go to set. It isn’t necessarily for the audio quality and definitely not for the battery life, but instead for the comfort and safety they provide when I’m in the wilderness or the city. The ability to hear what is around me is essential for me to be able to keep myself out of situations that would otherwise be easily avoidable. Thankfully, they also sound rather good for this type of headphone and they have so far been rather durable with their one piece, cordless design. The audio controls are fairly disappointing, but overall package is still good enough that I cannot consider them anything less than essential when pairing music in the outdoors.
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These headphones were not provided to us for review and we were under no obligation to cover them.