Chapter in this post:
The word “bone conduction headphones” alone sounds a bit martial and while listening to a podcast recently I was fascinated enough to write to the company AfterShokz. The request was of course for a product sample so that I could get an idea of this special type of headphones. The headphone "Aftershokz Trekz Titanium“Arrived promptly at the Sir Apfelot headquarters at Christmas, so that I could test it undisturbed on the holidays.
Before I go into more detail about the AfterShokz product, I would like to briefly say something about how bone conduction headphones work. The functionality of the headphones is basically similar to a so-called cochlear implant, in which certain areas in the hearing process (such as the middle ear and the eardrum) are skipped in order to bypass the dysfunctional areas of the "patient". This means that people with hearing impairments can still "hear" again - albeit to a limited extent. Here is a video that shows you how the cochlear implant works:
There are of course some differences to the headphones that I would like to introduce here: With the cochlear implant, the auditory nerve is stimulated directly with the help of an electrode, while with bone conduction headphones we only pass over the eardrum and the middle ear and the sound directly via the bones into the send inner ear canal. This means that the headphones generate only few "audible" sound waves and, mainly by resting on the skin in front of the ear, bring the vibrations through the skin and cranial bones to the appropriate place in the inner ear, where they are converted into electrical impulses for the auditory nerve.
The main advantage of bone conduction headphones is that they do not cover the ear and the user therefore perceives significantly more ambient noise. This is helpful for joggers or cyclists who need to hear if a car or other hazards are approaching. The headphones can also be helpful for people at work because you can still hear what colleagues are saying - even if you don't take the headphones off. For bus or train travelers, they offer the great advantage that you can hear the announcements while you are listening to your music or your podcast.
Another good area of application, for which there are no alternative devices, is with people who have to wear hearing protection. This can be the case, for example, when doing your trade in a noisy work environment. If you have these small plugs in your ear canals for professional reasons, you usually no longer perceive anything happening outside. There is no way to sweeten your work with podcasts, music or audio books - except with bone conduction headphones.
While the earplugs close the ear canal, the headphones can still transport music and the like over the bones. In this way, you can protect your hearing even in noisy work environments and still listen to music at "room volume". This is much healthier for the ear than putting on normal headphones and then turning the music up to the maximum so that it drowns out the noise.
An alternative would be noise-canceling headphones (like the Bose QC35). However, they work best when you have a relatively "steady noise". The noise-canceling technology does not work quite as reliably when noises occur suddenly. For this reason, they are particularly well suited when you are driving the S-Bahn, U-Bahn or bus or when you are on a plane - in kindergarten they will be less able to do much. ;)
Less known is the fact that bone conduction headphones are very interesting for the blind or hard of hearing. While blind people are more or less completely cut off from the outside world by normal headphones, with bone conduction headphones they still hear a lot of the noises from their surroundings.
Those who are hard of hearing, on the other hand, who have lost their hearing due to damage to their eardrum, can use the "bone conduction" headphones to listen to music or audio books again, as these transmit the audio signals directly to the inner ear and thus "circumnavigate" the damaged area in the hearing.
As you can see, this type of headphone has some interesting uses. In my case, however, they are more intended for jogging or office work. The test report therefore preferably refers to these areas.
But now, after so much theory, finally to the actual test report on the AfterShokz headphones.
The first thing you notice about the bone conduction headphones is that the sound transmitter is not on the auricle, but in front of the ears. So very different from normal headphones. As a result, the auricles are not covered and the sound of ambient noises is perceived unchanged. The design of the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium is modern and sporty.
Operation is via three buttons, two of which are intended for volume up and down. The volume up button is used to switch on and off at the same time when pressed for a longer period of time. If you want to go into pairing mode, press the power button and hold it down for 5 seconds until you hear the confirmation tone.
On the one sounder element that rests on the head in front of the ear, there is another button that serves as a multifunctional button. With it you can take phone calls and start and pause music playback.
There are still some special functions, such as an equalizer and pairing with several Bluetooth devices (multipoint), but I do not explain these in detail because you can read about them in the operating instructions that I have photographed.
The Trekz Titanium is held in place with the ear hooks and by the tension that comes from the ear hook. This has a core made of titanium, which makes it extremely flexible and robust. At the same time, it ensures that the headband always springs back into its original shape when you take off the headphones. By "pretensioning" the bracket, the headphones are pressed lightly against the head and are held tight by the ear hook, as it were.
The bone conduction headphones from AfterShokz are very comfortable to wear because they are also relatively light (36 grams). He holds his position very reliably even during sporting activities. I had it on my head while jogging and doing "yoga-like test contortions" and it never ran the risk of falling off. Even if you bend forward, it remains stable on the head. The neckband moves slightly up or down here and there, but as soon as you keep your head in a normal position, the headband slips back into the correct holding position.
You can use the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium very well for sporting activities. Only for people with long and very thick hair, according to my friend, it is not so well suited, since you can neither get the hair over nor under the neckband (if you really have a lot of hair). So then either press the hair from above or from below against the bracket, which is uncomfortable in the long run. For most people, however, it shouldn't be a problem.
The sound properties are probably a very important criterion for most of them. But you should keep in mind that you don't have normal headphones in front of you, but one that transmits the sound waves in a very special way.
I had already read a few reviews and was prepared for "very average" sound. After I put the Trekz Titanium on and switched it on, I thought at first that it had installed a normal audio speaker somewhere, because it sounded like a standard speaker. It was only when I put my fingers in my ears as a test to make sure that I couldn't hear the sound through my eardrum either, did I believe that the music was actually being transmitted through the skull bone. So the sound is really convincing.
It is interesting that in "normal" operation you think it sounds pretty good. If you then put your fingers or ear protection (included with the headphones) in your ears, you will notice that the sound is even better. This is probably the case because the cavity in the middle ear is sealed by the "plug" and the sound waves can propagate better inside. The bass in particular is even stronger in this case. As a rule, however, the headphones are used to have the ears "open" and in this case the sound is slightly worse than with good headphones. But not so much worse that you couldn't listen to music with it. To put it in numbers: If you had to rate them like normal headphones, I would give them an 8 on a scale from 1 to 10.
It is also interesting that almost all of the friends I gave the headphones for testing had the first reaction: "It's not over the bones, it's completely normal!" But I was able to convince everyone of the technology very quickly after I explained the finger-in-the-ear trick to them. Then came the second reaction “That sounds even better!”. Since for some people the bass is apparently too "fat" with earplugs, you can even switch between two equalizer settings. How to do this is explained below. In any case, it's nice that this option exists.
In my opinion, bone conduction headphones are only recommended for "earmarked purposes". If I want to sit on the sofa at home listening to music and don't care what is going on around me, there are cheaper Bluetooth over-ear headphones that have better sound. But if I fall under one of the target groups mentioned above, then the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium is definitely a good choice. When it comes to bone conduction headphones, it is definitely in the upper class. The operation is intuitive and the sound is so good that I also use it as headphones in between at home, for example when I want to listen to music, but also cannot overhear a phone ringing or the doorbell.
Anyone interested in headphones will find here at Amazon various offers and colors. There you can also find the old model, the "BlueZ 2", which is, however, much bulkier and heavier.
From AfterShokz I got the message today that there is a new model that is named "Trekz Air"hears. They have been revised again and should now sit even better and have a better sound. The already low weight has also been reduced again. Everything that has changed in detail, I'll write again in a new article. A model for the I will get tests in the next few days and I will link the test report here.
If you want to check out the Trekz Air, this is it Amazon link:
Incidentally, a new model will be launched on the German market at the beginning of 2017: the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Mini. Aimed at people with a smaller head size, such as children, this model is particularly exciting as a children's headset. I am definitely on the list of the first testers in Germany at AfterShokz and I am already looking forward to presenting my contribution to the model to you. Most of it will be based on the opinion of my two children, because they are the testers for the headphones. ;)
Because I don't find it that exciting, I've added the technical data at the end. Some readers still want to know, so I didn't want to leave them out completely:
Model Number: AfterShokz Trekz Titanium AS600
Speaker type: Bone Conduction Transmitter (bone conduction transmission)
Frequency spectrum: 20Hz - 20KHz
Sensitivity: 100 +/- 3dB
Bluetooth version: 4.1
Compatible profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
Transmission distance: 10m
Battery: rechargeable lithium ion (micro USB)
Runtime: 6 hours
Standby time: 10 days
Charging time: 1,5 hours
Weight: 36 grams
In addition to the headphones, the scope of delivery also includes micro-USB charging cables, two rubber covers for better adaptation to the head, two ear plugs and a transport bag for the headphones.
Which mobile devices work with the Trekz Titanium?
The headphones are compatible with Bluetooth V4.1 and work with all iOS and Android devices such as tablets and smartphones that are Bluetooth-enabled.
Does the Trekz Titanium support multipoint?
Yes, you can pair the headphones with two different devices at the same time. How this works is described in the notes below.
Are the headphones waterproof?
No. It has been developed to be dirt, sweat and water resistant and it can withstand “tough” use such as bad weather. It also survives saunas and steam baths, but the manufacturer recommends drying it after use and then stowing it away. It is not recommended to wear the headphones while swimming or showering. So it is not explicitly "waterproof"!
Can you also wear the headphones with a hat?
In principle, yes. I tested it and pulled my hat over my ears and headphones. Only at the back of the head you have to "lay" the hat under the neck tape so that it is comfortable to wear. I would say: it works, but it is not optimal.
Can I also use the Trekz Titanium with glasses or a crash helmet?
That's fine. To do this, you first put on the headphones and then put the temples over the bridge of the headphones. With headphones, you have to push the rear area of the strap under the helmet between the neck and the helmet.
How long does the Trekz Titanium's battery last?
The headphones are charged with a micro USB port. When the battery is full, it lasts about six hours when listening to music and about 10 days in standby. Charging takes about 1,5 hours.
Are there other colors of the headphones?
Yes, the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium is available in the colors Ocean (blue / black), Ivy (green / black) and Slate (gray / black).
Power on / off -> press the power button and hold it for 2 seconds
Mute -> press both buttons during a call and hold for 2 seconds
Toggle EQ setting back and forth -> press and hold both buttons for 2 seconds
Query battery status -> press volume up or down during paused music playback
Adjust volume -> press volume up or down button
To reset all settings and Bluetooth connections, press all three buttons on the headphones at the same time and hold them for 3 seconds.
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Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He appears as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with problems of a technical nature. In his free time he drives electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with his iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions for current bugs.
The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de