Review – Aftershokz Headphones

Review of bone conducting headphones

This post is not sponsored – I have a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Titanium, which I’d link to, but they don’t appear to be for sale anymore. Possibly because I’ve had them for at least two years now.

Let’s assume they’ve continued to improve their technology. Check them out at Aftershokz, or at any number of stores that I’ll let you google instead.

Aftershokz makes bone-conducting wireless headphones. What this means is that the headphone doesn’t actually block your ear – it wraps around your head and sits with a little block on your cheek right in front of your ear.

So why am I ‘reviewing’ a set of headphones I’ve had for two years? I’ve been thinking about habits, and ways to improve your health and state of mind that don’t require you to magically acquire momentum and motivation to do the healthy thing. And having headphones that allow me to comfortably walk without being entirely blocked off from awareness of my surroundings (or having just one earbud in and thus only aware on the opposite side) has improved my health.

I use them as my primary headphone, for music, podcasts and phone calls. These headphones have drastically increased the duration of my dog walks, because they mean I can comfortably listen to music or a podcast while I’m walking. I love my dog, but evening walks in the winter, with just me and the dog, are lonely. He is not a conversationalist. Plug in a good podcast and I’m game for a much longer outing, no matter what the weather is.

The Good

Hands-free – I shove my phone in my pocket and go on long walks, or leave my phone charging at my desk and get chores done around the house. Bearing in mind that I live in the main floor of a bungalow, I can access everywhere in my house without relocating my phone or losing bluetooth connection. If I go to the basement I’ll need to bring the phone with me. My absolute favourite thing to do while having a nice conversation with someone is futz. I’ll be chatting, but I’ll also be chopping vegetables, or folding laundry or tidying up or any number of things that are inconvenienced by a wire.

Awareness of your surroundings – This might be an element of having grown up with my dad – before I got these, I did not wear headphones/listen to music on dog walks. Because safety first, and awareness of your surroundings can not be achieved when you’re blasting DREAMER and wearing earplugs. If I’m wearing in-ear headphones, I don’t hear the person bellowing at Ripper to leave the nice dog alone, as their off-leash dog-aggressive dog tears towards us across the trail. If I’m wearing in-ear headphones, I might not notice a car coming when I go to cross the street in my all-black winter-wear at dark-o-clock. Might I also add “woman walking alone”? With bone-conducting headphones, I am still aware enough of my surroundings that I can hear people, cars, etc. approach.

Comfortable – I find these extremely comfortable. I wear glasses, and while I need to pull my glasses up so that the arms sit above the headset for it to fit properly, I can comfortably wear both for long periods of time. Especially compared to earbuds, which I find uncomfortable and hard to keep in my ear.

Quick Connection – You’ll be connected within seconds of turning the headphones on.

The Bad

I use this term loosely – it’s not so much bad as it is “not good”. These are the downsides of this type of technology.

Music Quality – when I first started looking into these headphones, the main complaint was the base. And I would agree, you’re not getting the kind of rich base tone you’d get with, say, your speakers, or a great set of noise-cancelling headphones. These are not what I’d call “sit and wrap yourself in music” headphones. The purpose is to be able to hear your surroundings. When I’m at home and listening to music, it’s playing loud and on speakers, or even just my phone. I live alone, so I don’t need to have headphones to keep the noise down, but if I did, I’d have an over-ear pair to listen. So while the music quality doesn’t match up with that of a quality pair of headphones that muffles outside noise and is intended to immerse you in the sound.

Outside Noise – This is another element that could best be described as “Not the intent of the headphones”. If you are in a loud place, or vacuuming, or a garbage truck drives past you… that’s what you hear. Not the music, not the podcast, not the person you’re talking to. This is the downside of the “aware of your surroundings” upside. When you don’t need to be aware of your surroundings, you can either put in headphones that do block out noise, or put in ear plugs. I work in construction… I have reusable earplugs around the house because protecting your hearing is super important. And yes, instead of owning a pair of nice headphones, I just put in earplugs to listen to music while vacuuming or mowing the lawn. Long term, maybe I’ll get a set of wireless headphones that aren’t jawbone, but for now it works for me.

Wind/Echo – I have had complaints from people I’m talking to if the headphones aren’t settled properly that I get echo-ey. If it’s very windy out and I am talking on the phone through my headset, the person on the other end gets a lot of background noise. More, I think, than if I was just on the phone.

The Neutral

Just some info, no judgement in either direction.

Battery Life – my headphones last 5-6 hours typically. When they’re connected to my phone, I can see the battery life on my phone. I believe there’s also a way of getting the headphones to tell me this, but I haven’t ever bothered to figure it out. I typically just charge it every two or three days, so that I don’t lose power mid-walk.

Price – the cheapest ones on their website are in the $110 CAD range, but they go up to $200 CAD for the swimming ones. I don’t know where you’re at, but they definitely didn’t fall into the category of “Impulse Buy” for me. I did a bunch of research, and then a friend told me about her experience with them. They also didn’t require extensive saving for me, either, so I can’t speak to whether they’re worth the price for you. What I can say is that I use them almost daily, and have been for over two years. I believe I bought mine on sale for about $100CAD.

Some of the new ones appear to be waterproof in a “Go swimming in them” kind of way. If you swim that much, maybe having music would help you swim harder? It works for walking. I’m intrigued, but can’t comment, as I haven’t tried them.

Summary

These headphones aren’t the same as blasting music from your stereo, but the sound is still good. You won’t hear much from them if you’re walking down a busy street – traffic noise will cover a lot of the sound.

Doing outdoor activity while being able to maintain awareness of your surroundings requires a bit of compromise, though. Bring your music with you without blocking out the world!

I love these headphones, and recommend them for people who like to walk and talk, or who would get further in their jogging or walking or biking if they had some tunes. Check out my podcast recommendations (more coming) if you’re looking for something new to try.

Fair warning, like with any bluetooth device, you will look like a nutbar walking around the neighbourhood talking to yourself.

Podcast Recs – The Magnus Archives

A short review of the Magnus Archive Podcast

Podcast Genre: Horror Fiction

Episode Duration: ~1/2 hour

The Magnus Archives is a horror fiction anthology that follows the archivists at the Magnus Institute. Every episode includes the head archivist reading aloud a statement submitted to the institute about a strange or frightening event. Gradually, the stories begin to tie into each other, revealing an ominous bigger picture truth about the world. I’m paraphrasing their description a bit, click the photo for their official podcast description.

Firstly – Horror – yech. I cannot handle horror in movies. I don’t generally seek out horror in books. If you want deeply unsettling murder mysteries, look to the Scandinavians. My sister and mother love them, but brace yourself for the extra bad things happening to the adult or child who is missing/murdered. They spend too much time in the dark. If you want jump-scares, you’re on your own. Horror movies make me scared of bathrooms. What’s behind the door? What’s behind the shower curtain? Why does something bad always happen in the bathroom?

I’d define this podcast as Spooky, or Ominous. I realize that is not an actual category of fiction.

The Magnus Archive is not that jumpscare type of horror – it is more reminiscent of campfire stories. I think it helps that the Archivist reads the statements in a calm and occasionally dismissive tone of voice. He tells you about what happened to someone, read from their perspective, and it is an eerie thing, or an unusual thing, or even a frightening thing. And one that you know they survived, at least long enough to get to the Magnus Institute and write out a statement.

After the first few episodes you start getting to know what’s going on at the institute, including what’s going on with the other archivists. The statements are the anthology, but they’re tied together by the goings-on at the institute, and by the strange connections between them. If you enjoy the level of scary the stories are, I do recommend giving it a few episodes to decide if you like it or not – I found I enjoyed it more as it went along because of the storyline emerging around the statements.

I know nothing about how to make podcasts. That being said, the volume is all very even, they have subtle music and sound in the background of the episodes that really lets you get swept away in them, and the actors are all excellent. The first time I heard the actor Jonathan Sims (who plays the character Jonathan Sims) speak outside of his character voice I was NOT expecting Johnny Sims. The stories are the right amount of scary that I can listen to them while walking the dog alone at night, but still feel a bit of a thrill. Sometimes the sound does make me look around to find out where the rustling noise is coming from, or the echo-ey steps.

A nice, but also sad thing is that the story is coming to a close in the next few months – you won’t have to wait for a new episode every week. Or wait for the next season during the dreaded hiatus. On the down side, soon there will be no more episodes of the Magnus Archive.

If you’re looking for fandom, you’ll find an awful lot of artwork, embroidery, and fanfic, wherever you find your fandom.

They do give content warnings in their summaries, so if you’ve got anything that you’d call a no-go, read those, get warned, and make a decision.

Have you listened to the Magnus Archive? Let me know your thoughts! If you do try it out based on my post – maybe come back and let me know if that was a good life choice, or if I’m on your list of untrustworthy people now! What else should I be including in a review?

~Statement ends~