Top-notch build quality, comfort and fit but is it finally “good enough”?
If you haven’t tried a bone conduction headphones before, I implore you to try one if you ever have the chance. My first time was magical and the reaction was consistent with a couple of my friends.
Bone conduction headphones are one of those headphones that people love to bash. It falls under the “open-ear” category where you can wear it without blocking your ears. There are people, who wore them regularly, swear by it. There are also people who barely gave it a chance, dismissing it as a toy.
When AfterShokz released the AfterShokz Aeropex, we thought it will be a great idea to try out what the latest bone conduction technology has to offer and see if the old wives’ tale still stands.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Snug fit – Doesn’t come loose during exercise
- 8 hrs of continuous playback time
- Great to use for workout like running
- Water detection charging cable
- Loud bass causes loud vibration which irritates the ear
- Open-ear form factor becomes disruptive in a noisy environment
- A “forward mids” sound signature limit the types of song that can be reproduced well.
- Someone with longer hair might prevent the transducer from making full contact with the cheekbone
AfterShokz shows their consumer savviness with a top-notch packaging. You flipped open the magnetic latch off the hard-case box and it reveals the bone conduction headphones. The accessories are found within a sealed box.
List of accessories:
- 2 proprietary cables
- A pair of earplugs
- A silicone pouch
The silicon pouch is a softcover pouch that you keep the Aeropex in. You slide the Aeropex (transducer first) in smoothly and the pouch cuddles the headphones nicely. The pouch is closed magnetically in a satisfying way.
Water detection cables
The problem with proprietary cables is the cost of replacement. AfterShokz mitigates this by providing 2 cables out of the box.
However, these are no ordinary cables. They are able to detect moisture between the charging jack and warn its user when that happens.
The earplugs were a surprise for me. You would think that someone who buys an open-ear headphone, well.., wants to keep their ears open. But it must be there for a reason and I trust a company like AfterShokz to have done their due diligence in user research.
As a veteran leader in the bone conduction headphones market, I expect AfterShokz to deliver great build quality. The Aeropex did not disappoint.
The matte rubber material was nice to touch and the weight is light without feeling cheap.
The wireless bone conduction headphones sit comfortably between the cheek and ear, above the temporal region. The headband goes around the back of my head without touching my head. The clamping force kept the headphones snugly on my head without any discomfort while my ears are kept free and airy.
As my hair is getting rather long and unwieldy, I need to make sure it doesn’t get in the way and prevent the transducer from having full contact with the cheekbone.
There are two inline controls found on the headphones. The playback button is found on the left transducer while the power/volume button is found on the right underside of the headphones.
It takes a bit of practice to get used to the positioning of the controls.
Clicking on the power button (when there is no audio playing) will tell you the battery status which is a convenient feature.
- Bluetooth Version: 5.0
- Battery Life: 8hrs
- Multi-point Connection: No
The wireless bone conduction uses Bluetooth V5.0 for its connectivity. The battery life is also pretty impressive with 8 hours of continuous playback time.
Sadly, there is no multi-point connection support for the Aeropex. I alternate my headphones usage between my laptop (when I’m at my workstation) and my phone (when I’m working out or out of the house). Having no such feature means that I have to manually cut off the Bluetooth connection from the first device before connecting it to another device.
I have no problem with the stability of the Bluetooth connection throughout my testing in quiet and active areas.
After reading so many reviews online, it has lead me to believe that bone conduction headphones simply cannot cut it as a pair of decent music headphones.
My conclusion after the testing with the Aeropex – this is simply not true. You can enjoy your music on it, at least I did.
These are, of course, not audiophile-grade quality. Discard all the talks about sound staging, airiness, bass depth etc. Qualities that are usually associated with traditional headphones.
Sound conducted sound via bones simply cannot replicate the experience of conducting sound via air. Although you can’t fight physics, the limits can be pushed. The Aeropex can reportedly reproduce sound from 20Hz to 20KHz which is the full frequency range that a human ear can ear.
The overall sound signature has a forward mid-range. The vocals are clear but slightly colored. It works well with song genres like Pop, R&B, and Rap. Another myth that I dispelled was the bass or the lack of it.
The Aeropex can reproduce bass; quantity-wise but not depth-wise. To get a stronger bass effect, you have to increase the volume gain. This increases the vibration strength which leads to your cochlear receiving the bass effect. The bass is more on the boomy side.
As for treble-wise, Aeropex performs better in the lower treble than in the high treble. The higher treble sounds rolled-off.
So what does that say about the Aeropex sound quality, just based on critical listening? It is nowhere near audiophile quality.
But can I still enjoy my music on it while I run? Can I listen to my podcast clearly with it while I drive? That’s a definite yes.
A common usage of open-ear headphones is for workouts such as running or cycling, where you might want to be aware of your ambient surroundings. With an IP rating of IP67, the Aeropex is clearly made for exercising.
I’m more of a runner than a cyclist, so I took the Aeropex on a 5km (~3 miles) run.
Since the only thing keeping the headphones on your head is the two transducers, I was expecting the Aeropex to flop around during the run. However, that didn’t happen. Despite the sweatiness, the Aeropex stayed in place throughout my dynamic warm-ups and the run.
The open-ear form factor was useful but only to a certain extent. Hear me out.
I was running through a quiet road where there is occasional Personal Mobility Vehicle (PMV) and cyclist sharing the same running path. This is where the open-ear concept works wonderfully. You can anticipate their movement while still enjoying what you are listening to.
The loud environment competed with my music from my ear’s attention, resulting in a disruptive experience. I had a brief flashback about the provided earplugs that I chucked aside. That would have come in handy.
- Driver: Bone conduction transducers
- Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz
- Sensitivity: 105 ± 3dB
- Microphone: -38dB ± 3dB
- Bluetooth version: v5.0
- Compatible profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
- Wireless range: 33 ft (10m)
- Battery: lithium polymer
- Continuous play: 8 hours
- Standby time: 10 days
- Charge time: 2 hours
- Weight: 0.92 oz (26g)
After using the Aeropex as my daily driver, I start to get the appeal. The build quality is great. The sound quality works well enough for me to get through my workouts. The comfort is top-notch. It kept my ears free from any physical intrusion.
But there are plenty of situations where I wouldn’t want to be using it like on a noisy transit, running beside a noisy road, etc. For those situations, I prefer having my over-ear or in-ear headphones where it allows me to be in my blissfull little corner.
Ultimately, is the AfterShokz Headphones “good enough”? I wouldn’t say the Aeropex is anything groundbreaking from their previous models but it is certainly the best model now.