I bought the Trekz Titanium Bone Conduction headphones (https://aftershokz.com/products/trekz-titanium) on a whim on a recent trip to Boston. I don’t usually listen to music while running but Brookstone had an awesome offer running on this pair and I got it for almost 70% off.
For the uninitiated (like I was till I saw these), bone conduction technology transmits sound waves directly to the inner ear via the bones of the skull, as opposed to via the outer and middle ear (eardrum) like in conventional headphones (for more, read this and that).
By now, the Geek and the famous Indian Value Seeker in me were both aroused, so I decided to give it a whirl in the store before committing.
The main difference from a user’s point of view is that there is no “earpiece” to place over or inside your ears. The “speakers” are actually some kind of motorised vibrators placed on the bone just in front of the ear, leaving the ears open to ambient sounds. Other than that, they are very similar to any other wireless in-ear sports headphones – bluetooth enabled, need to be charged, light and portable, sweat-resistant etc.
My first impression was this tingling sensation caused by the substantial vibrations of the “speakers”. It wasn’t painful or pleasurable – just weird, irritating even. And I felt sure there is no way I can do a long run with this buzzing in my face! The sound quality didn’t seem too great either. As can be expected, low frequencies were weak and the sound felt almost tin-ny.
I decided this was not for me, but the fancy tech and the price proved irresistible and I bought the headphones anyway. I figured I’ll just gift it to someone.
For nearly 3 weeks after I returned, the headphones just lay packed in their box. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it. Finally a couple of weeks ago I decided to try them out in real-world conditions. I have to admit I have been pleasantly surprised and been using them regularly since.
The tingling sensation I was worried about? I didn’t even notice it while running. The sound quality, while still not even comparable to any good quality in-ears (my other headset is a Bose Sound Sport in-ear), is actually VERY good considering the technology and certainly more than good enough for casual sports use. The low-frequency response is really not that bad, it’s just that you won’t (to paraphrase) “feel the music”.
The convenience of wireless sound (these are my first wireless headphones) is much more than I expected. The bluetooth signal is fine most of the time, but there has been the odd occasion when the signal is scratchy, and on one occasion, I lost the signal entirely for a good 30-odd seconds. I don’t have a point of comparison so am not sure how it fares v/s other bluetooth headphones.
Battery life is fine, my estimate is around 6-8 hours of continuous play. Again, not sure how this compares with other similar products, but with less than 6 hours of running a week, this works fine for me even if I were to use the headphones for every run.
The fit is absolutely fantastic. No problem at all of the headset moving around while running. Although one has to be careful while wiping off sweat from the face – a problem I have faced with most headphones.
One of the main claimed safety advantages of these headphones for sports is that since the ears are not covered you can hear ambient sound. I found that if you are listening to music at a high volume, it may still not be as safe, but at a mid to low volume, you can actually have a conversation with someone while the music is playing in your head (literally :-)).
However, how this pans out for non-sports use, I am not sure. I am pretty certain these headphones would be a bad choice for noisy places like airports and your local CCD on a Saturday evening!
All in all, I must say I am quite happy with the headphones. I’m sure I can get much better sounding headphones with similar benefits, but the fact that they serve my limited purpose, AND have novelty value, I will continue to use them for sometime.