When we’re young, and throw on headphones, we want to drown out the world with our music. We like to escape to our favorite places or to dive into playlists, leaving obligations and worry behind.
And, as an adult, we enjoy the isolation when at the gym or in the library. However, as much as we’d like to, we can’t do this when walking on the street. Riding a bike? Navigating your way through the Port Authority or a train station? You need to hear ambient noises. It’s downright dangerous to tune out the real world.
What’s a good audio balance? Open-air headphones, like the AfterShokz Trekz Air, do a good job of blending cancelling out ambient and white noise, but not to the point where you don’t hear a horn honking or person addressing you.
When it comes to earbuds, most OEMs incorporate some form of noise isolation or cancellation. While both are great, and have their respective use cases, the AfterShokz solution is a little different. And it’s welcome, too.
Enter the AfterShokz Trekz Air
As a pair of wireless headphones that wrap the back of your head, the Trekz Air use bone conduction to help deliver your audio. Moreover, it leaves your ears unobstructed. Yes, it delivers your bass and lows into your temples and cheekbones; the mids and highs are projected back into your ear.
Priced around $150, the Trekz Air are aimed at athletes and those serious about their workout. Sure, they work for all purposes and can be used for commutes and chilling poolside, but you wouldn’t drop that kind of money on some so-called everyday earbuds.
To describe the audio experience it might be easier to picture these as tiny speakers and not headphones. The “OpenFit” design provides two bone conduction transducers, one for each cheek. When worn they sit out in front of the ear and snug themselves against your cheek. There are two ear ports or speaker grille-like spots which play the music near your ear.
Powered on and paired, the Trekz Air never get to where they are overly loud. In fact, we had to keep the volume levels at around 75% or higher to really enjoy the music and make out the details. On the other side of the coin, those around us could never really hear anything happening. Sure, you can listen closely for it, and hear something, but the earphones were largely an intimate experience.
More on Design
Getting back to the design for a moment, the headphones are very, very flexible. Because they’re built using actual titanium, the AfterShokz Trekz Air can be twisted, pulled, and thrown in a bag without fear of breaking.
Created to be worn around the neck when not in use, they won’t actually drape. The light weight and flexible design, however, never feel obtrusive or distracting.
These are the sort of headphones/earphones you want when you’re getting into a solid workout or breaking a sweat on the treadmill. The IP55 rating means they’ll stand up against sweat; the silicon coating feels soft and inviting. This is different from being just waterproof, and also an important distinction.
On each side of the Trekz Air you’ll find a small housing that contains batteries and controls. They also help stabilize the earphones and keep them still when worn. Controls are simple in that the right unit has power and volume buttons. Each press signals a pressing by playing a tone with the max volume tone being unique.
Interestingly enough, we found that the Trekz Air didn’t fit all heads. Whereas it was snug as a bug for a few testers, others found them wanting to fall behind the head and onto the neck. It happened often enough that we had to double-check the box to make sure we didn’t have a large model and that a small might be available.
How do the AfterShokz Trekz Air sound? In short, pretty good. The long version, though, is that you have to keep levels high and that they’re never “full” or “warm” like other headphones. The goes back to the target user and their needs; it’s sound for convenience and comfort. They’re not your all-purpose headphones or the ones you’ll grab to whisk yourself off to The Dark Side of the Moon.
Depending on what sort of music you’re listening to, you may find the bone conduction a little weird. This was especially the case at first for a few testers. Heavier, bass-laden music vibrates your face in a way that could be off-putting or distracting.
The earphones do allow for hands-free phone calls. To help, each speaker has noise-cancellation to lower the ambient sounds and enhance voice.
One of the downsides to keeping volume levels as high as we did is that it impacts battery life. To be sure, AfterShokz tells us we should get up to six hours of usage from a full charge. We don’t know that we would have gotten that as the indicator (visible on phone) dropped quicker than expected.
Regardless, you’ll find yourself charging these up more often than you might like. Instead of every few days we felt more comfortable with nightly routine. Factor in some commute time, an occasional phone call, and a little YouTube TV at lunch and you’ll have it almost halfway drained before hitting the gym or setting out for a run.
There is a quick-charge mode that lets you charge the Trekz Air for just 15 minutes where it adds an hour of time. So, throw these on the charge while you’re getting changed and ready for a workout.
We liked the time we spent with the AfterShokz Trekz Air but we don’t know that we’ll be reaching for them very often. The build quality is superb and we love the Midnight Blue color. And, fortunately for us they fit the head nicely and stayed put in all cases.
On the other hand, we didn’t like having to keep volume levels so high. It was as we didn’t even hear things until around 30% or so. Not only that, but the battery life left us feeling short-changed.
The bone conduction is an interesting and effective concept, but it’s not for everybody. At roughly $180, the Trekz Air are not priced for everybody. If you live an active lifestyle or often find yourself at the gym, these may be more appealing.
One area where these headphones excel as compared to your typical earbuds is the warranty. AfterShokz provides a two-year warranty for them where a lot of the competition only give one. This could be a deal-changer for more physically demanding and rigorous users.
You can learn more about, and purchase, the Trekz Air at the AfterShokz website. Additionally, you can purchase them at retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. with pricing as low as $150 in some places. At that price we feel more confident in suggesting them.