By Lisa Smith
If you’re like me and prefer to run with a soundtrack, you likely have a drawer full of various headphones that didn’t quite work out. I struggle to find earbuds that won’t fall out after just a quarter-mile; their silicone covers fall off and get lost, and after just a few uses, they get that disgusting sweat crust. Who wants that? Still, I muddled through with various low-quality earbuds—I’d stuff one side down my running bra so I could hear my surroundings—the cord flapping away.
After upgrading to the iPhone 7, my standard earbuds no longer fit the bill. Apple did away with the headphone jack, reconfiguring their proprietary earbuds to connect through the charging port. At the same time, I heard about the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium, a bone-conducting Bluetooth headphone that, at first glance, would solve many of my problems with standard-issue earbuds.
Gone are the in-ear buds. The AfterShokz Trekz Titanium use transducers which guide mini vibrations through the cheekbones near the jaw hinge to the inner ears, delivering sound without plugging or covering the ear canal. The transducers sit just in front of your ear, and the neck band is rigid, which avoids crimps and tangles. AfterShokz come in two sizes: Regular and Mini. I have an average size head, but found the regular size too big*—the neck band hit the back of my neck and dislodged the transducers. Unless you have a large head, I’d suggest choosing the mini.
Out of the box, it took about two hours to charge the lithium ion battery, compared to the advertised 90 minutes. Battery life is rated at six hours of continuous listening, with 10 days of standby life, which is reasonable given the size and light weight (the mini is 1.27 oz (35g) and the regular is 1.34 oz (38g)). They paired easily to my iPhone by following the directions included.
First off, the best part: They don’t budge while I’m running. Not even when I’m sweating heavily. They also are completely enclosed and sweat-proof, so there’s no disgusting crust to deal with. When I’m not actively using them, they rest securely around my neck.
The fact that they don’t cover or close off your ear canal means that you can maintain situational awareness of other people or cars, which is a huge safety feature.
The controls on the AfterShokz are simple: a larger button on the left transducer pauses music with one press, or skips to the next track with two presses. There are volume controls on the right arm, though I find it easier to adjust the volume from my phone (I’m a long-time devotee of the TuneBand arm band). You are able to make and receive calls through AfterShokz, but I have not used those features.
I did find the sound quality lacking. The sound is a little tinny, with not much bass range. I tried increasing the sound mix on my phone, but found the “buzzing” sensation with increased bass unpleasant.
One note to fellow glasses-wearers: depending on the size and shape of your glasses frames, the temple arm and the over-the-ear part of the AfterShokz can compete for space over your ears, especially if you’re also wearing a hat or visor. I had success putting the AfterShokz on first, then my glasses. Or if I’m running with sunnies, I put the end of the temple arms over my hat band.
*Regular comes with optional FitBands: Silicon rubber bands provide adjustability to accommodate smaller head sizes.