This is a review of AfterShokz Bluez open ear bluetooth wireless stereo headphones. Open Ear Stereo Wireless Bluetooth Headphones | AfterShokz Bluez
All of my previous reviews of wireless headphones were focused around sound quality, noise isolation, and ear tip fitment. Now, here comes a new chapter in wireless headphones with all these rules out of the window. Based on a military technology of bone conduction, AfterShokz were designed to sit outside of your ears conducting the sound through your cheekbones to your inner ear - a shortcut bypassing your eardrums. I know, the description of this process doesn't sound too attractive, but once you get these wraparound headphones on - it will make a perfect sense. I was a bit confused myself reading the description, that's why I couldn't wait to receive my review sample, to test it out, and to share my first hand experience.
Once you open the box, the first thing you notice is a very nice and sturdy carrying case which is the size of the box itself. These are not earbuds or some foldable headphones, but rather a full wraparound band headphones with a unique design shape where having a carrying case with a generous bonus storage pocket is a great idea. For anybody who has Tone+ or similar headphones, you will know what I mean when it's time to pack your headphones and you wish you would have a carrying case to protect these from breaking. Once you take headphones out, you couldn't believe how lightweight these are at only 1.5 ounces (43 grams). These are designed to wrap around back of your head with ear piece pads aligned to sit right in front of your ears. The pads are soft rubberized and form a tight seal around attachment. As stated by manufacture, these are water resistant and sweat proof, backed up by 2 year warranty, and you can clearly see that from a solid design. For a better fitment there is a adjustable rubber tension band that hooks inside of headphone band, and it does a good job keeping these up without falling down on your shoulders.
The controls are located on the sides of earpieces and on the back of the headphone band. First of all, big thumbs up for a dedicated physical sliding power switch. There is no second guessing if you turned these on/off, or if they are still paired up or in a standby mode. You turn it on and get a voice prompt about connecting, pairing up, and battery status (when you hit volume buttons). Right next to it you will find a standard micro-usb charging port. Bluez also come with a high quality micro-usb cable that you can use with your own wall adapter or charging from your laptop/PC usb port. These headphones are rated for up to 6 hours of continuous playback time, and standby time of up to 10 days. Also, it supports all the available bluetooth profiles (A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP), and once paired up I tested it for up to 50ft wireless range in my house until I got disconnected. Also, on the back you will find Volume up/down controls which double as playback control when you hold it down to skip Next/Prev while playing songs. Typically, volume and playback skip controls are not the most used functions so having it on the back of the headphone band is not a bad idea. For your common most used play/pause and call functions, these two buttons are placed on either side of the sound earpieces. Very elegantly designed, those fit in the corner and easy to locate and operate either if you are playing music from your phone/tablet or need to pick up/hangup a call. Both functions work as expected, and receiving and carrying on a phone call worked great.
But the main point of these headphones: how does it sound? AfterShokz manual refers to earpieces as "transducers" since they actually don't go into your ear. As I mentioned before, they sit in front of it, right on your cheekbone, and it WORKS!!! There is no vibration or anything you might associate with "bone conducting" terminology. Although the sound is not the same as you will experience with in your ear headphones, it's loud and clear and you can actually feel some bass. This is not the same as if you would take regular over the ear headphones and slide them down to your cheekbone, the sound is actually almost like if you would have headphones over your ears. For a test purpose, I even put earplugs (as you can see from my pictures, I used a quality Comply earplug/filters) while listening through Bluez to make sure it's not the sound bleeding out of these that I hear. With earplugs in, you loose some high frequency content but can still hear mids and low frequencies which "conducting" through your cheekbone. Another thing to point out, you will not be welcome to use these on a plane or a bus or anywhere else where you expecting to have privacy while enjoying the sound. To outsiders, these are like a pair of high frequency speakerphones on your ears - it is quite noticeable. So my theory on this bone conductive technology is that low frequencies and some mids are conducted through a bone, while all your high frequencies get to your ears by the sound bleeding out of these transducers. That is the only thing that makes sense to me how they work, and from all the testing I have done.
Overall, I found these to be very unique piece of technology. They are not for all around everyday use if your intention to enjoy private sounds or phone conversation. Also, as you move around and tilt your head the sound will change a bit because of the transducer positioning and reception of high frequency content (lows and mids won't be affected that much). BUT, for a sport activity or any other activity where you don't want to have full noise isolation and actually require to stay alert with a surrounding environment while listening to your music or carrying on phone conversation - these are irreplaceable!!! Furthermore, I read a number of posts from people who have partial hearing loss and use these to listen to music since they bypass eardrums. I personally can think of a number of uses myself where I'm riding a bike, or doing gardening outside, or hiking outdoors, or when I'm working out in my home gym - just a few examples where these can come very handy since you still enjoying a music, have full wireless control of the playback (the sound quality is actually not bad at all!!!), can pickup the call, don't have anything plugged into your ears, and can still get alerted by everything that is going on around you. A definitely innovative piece of technology.
Here are the pictures.