Sunday, 24 March 2013

Product Review: AfterShokz 2 Sport Headphones

If you're anything like me, the moment anyone says "headphones" and "cycling" in the same sentence, then I'm already building the arguments in my head as to why those two things are incompatible.  Maintaining an ability to listen spatially to traffic behind is a key attribute of safe cycling.

Around six weeks ago, I was asked to take a look at this product - the AfterShokz sport headphone.  They key reason I was interested to test them is that they claim to overcome the issue of spatial listening by sitting in front of your ear and conducting the sound through your cheekbones into your inner ear, therefore rendering you able to also maintain spatial listening at the same time. 

The technology will look familiar if you watch American action movies, which always feature a SWAT or SEAL team with similar headphone/microphone combinations.  This is pretty much the same technology.

AfterShokz Sportz 2 Headphones with Bone Conduction Technology
Unpacking the headphones from the box, you get a carry case aswell as a couple of cables to allow you to connect them to a USB interface.  The headphones have an internal re-chargeable battery, which lasts around 8-10 hours from my experience.  There is a small switching set which clips onto your jacket, which allows you to increase/decrease volume and a button for taking calls (an in-line microphone is also part of the features). 

My Observations

Rather than racing out on the bike, I put them on whilst walking the dog of an evening and taking a lunchtime walk during my working day.  I have to say they were very good, allowing me to hear cars when crossing a road or cars approaching whilst walking at night.

The music quality is not Bang + Olufsen, that's not the point with these and given their price point of around £50, I don't think they claim to be. However it is more than good enough if you're running, walking or day I say - cycling.  I found myself talking on the phone quite a bit with them.

If you're thinking to keep them on whilst in your office, think again. They do emit the music, like tiny speakers as part of the conductive process, so they wouldn't be appropriate for intimate environments as everyone will hear your conversation or music choice.  They are designed specifically for sport, which means you'll more than likely be on the move in some capacity, where there tends to be a lot of background noise such as traffic.

Showing them to people at the office, people were really impressed by the product concept.  There were a number of runners that like to listen to music, who don't, as they felt it was a little risky at night to block out your listening capability. On the bike, I found them comfortable and also still had spatial listening for traffic and cars passing. 


How the AfterShokz 2 Headphones sit on your ears

Conclusion

I prefer not to listen to music whilst cycling, however if you are a commuter and you do, then these would likely be the safest option if you choose to.  There are a number of different applications for these headphones, for runners particularly I really get it, as they will likely spend most of their time on a pavement reducing the need to listen for traffic.

For cyclists on the road, we are required to be so aware these days.  The road conditions (abundance of potholes) mean we have to be scanning ahead at all times, whilst also listening for what is going on around us.  I won't change my view, that I think it's better not to have added distraction but respect the rights of others if they choose they want to.

If music is something you want whilst on the bike, then blanking out your ability to listen using in-ear phones is a total no-no for your safety.  I'd recommend you consider a set of these AfterShokz headphones, to open up your listening capability.  They'd make a great gift for anyone who participates in sport who trains on their own.

Race-Pace Rating 4/5 Stars

Interesting product, which addresses a key problem which many people will identify with.  Price point reasonable, sound quality - good enough relative to the price, plus a genuine innovation for a gadget lover.  Recommended.

You can find out more about AfterShokz 2 headphones on their website here.

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