We first took a look at the next generation of sports headphones from AfterShokz when we reviewed the Sportz 2 – whilst we were impressed with the bone conduction technology (more on that below) we still felt there was a way to go in improving things both aesthetically and acoustically. Now though there are the AfterShokz Bluez 2 to consider…
The issue of safety always, rightly, crops up when it comes to listening to music on the run and even more so when it comes to using headphones on the bike. Debate amongst yourselves and reach your own conclusions; personally TriGear feels there’s a time and (safe) place for use during a run, less so when it comes to the bike but either way the Bluez 2 and their bone conduction tech feel infinitely safer than traditional in-ear headphones.
So, to the tech inself: unlike conventional headphones the AfterShokz Bluez 2 and their predecessors use bone conduction technology to deliver sound through the user’s cheekbones to the inner ear, a technique that leaves the ears open to ambient sound with obvious safety advantages when it comes to listening to music on the run. To use the tech for the first time is a revelation – if you’re expecting metallic vibration like picking up radio through a filling you’re in for a huge surprise; the sound – from deep bass to high-ends – is remarkably clear with little discernable difference from in-ear options and there’s really no learning curve when it comes to effectively listening to two things at the same time.
The AfterShokz Bluez 2 are wireless Bluetooth with a charging time of around 2 hours (via mini USB) that promise approximately 6 hours of playback – on test we were certainly getting close to this time, although as with most rechargeable tech this is likely to drop off a little over time and extended use.
The headphones are held in place via a one-piece wraparound headband that sits at the back of the head, drapes casually over the ears without adding pressure, and holds the ‘phones gently against the cheeks. An optional tension band can be added at the back for both stability and for those with smaller heads. The 45g weight feels heavy in the hand – certainly in comparison to traditional bud earphones – but once on and correctly positioned they proved perfectly comfortable on the run.
The controls on the AfterShokz Bluez 2 do take a little getting used to. Volume and power / Bluetooth pairing buttons sit under the right arm whilst the multifunction button (MFB) is over the left cheek. There wasn’t a run that went by for the first few days when we didn’t turn the music up when we meant to turn it down and vice versa, but, in time, it does become second nature. The MFB is used for a host of functions from skipping tracks to answering calls on a connected phone, we found that using it for basic functions – like pausing the music – worked a charm, but trying to learn the more complex clicking-combinations (answering a second incoming call, whilst putting the first on hold) was beyond us. Pure user inability rather then tech-fail, but as we don’t work in a call centre we won’t sweat the fact that this function will be forever beyond us.
The AfterShokz Bluez 2 pack in a huge amount of technology and innovation from the ‘Audrey Says’ voice prompting to the brilliantly named ‘LeakSlayer’, which helps reduce that annoying (to everyone else) music leakage from headphones – something you might imaging is compounded by bone conduction but isn’t.
Even if you only use the basic functionality of the AfterShokz Bluez 2 there is much to recommend them; beyond the great sound quality, improved aesthetics, and Bluetooth convenience it’s the added safety of ‘open ear’ music enjoyment on the run (and bike?) that really appeals to us.
The AfterShokz Bluez 2 retails at £89.95 with further details and online purchase at aftershokz.co.uk