Aftershokz Bluez 2 Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones  £89.95

9/10

Sleek and comfortable answer to the cycling-with-headphones debate

Weight 42g   Contact  www.aftershokz.co.uk

by Elliot Johnston   July 24, 2014  

The Aftershokz Bluez 2 headphones may have finally settled the debate over whether cyclists and headphones mix. These Bluetooth-enabled bone conduction headphones certainly have made my mind up.

Controversial London Mayor, Boris Johnson, weighed in on the debate towards the end of 2013 following an unusually high number of cyclist deaths on the capital's streets during the month of November.

Johnson's comments sparked a national conversation - which polarised road users - about whether further safety guidelines, like banning cycling while wearing headphones, should be introduced to help protect cyclists.

Personally, I've always landed on the don't-ride-with-headphones side of that debate; you can blame my safety conscious father and years of enforced adolescent caution. But the sharp-looking Bluez 2s have totally changed my mind.

If we overlook the headphones' sleek design, user-friendly Bluetooth connection, and handy on-board controls for a moment, and focus on Aftershokz' patent-pending bone conduction technology, you'll quickly understand why my stance on cycling while listening to music changed overnight.

Bone conduction technology may be a new term to you, but you should get used to hearing about it. It's the same technology that Google are using for their incoming, optical-display, head-mounted Glass computer, and it works by sending sound waves through pads placed on your cheekbones which stimulate your inner-ear by vibrating your bones rather than your eardrums.

This leaves your eardrums free to register the sounds of your surroundings.

I must admit, I had doubts about the tech. I was apprehensive about the fidelity of the headphones as well as my ability to remain aware of nearby traffic and ride on busy roads safely with the kit on my head.

It only took one ride to clear me of those doubts and appreciate the excellent balance that the Bluez 2s offer.

When cycling at high speeds the roar of the wind wasn't enough to drown out the music, and when I turned the volume to maximum I was still well aware of the position of every car that whizzed by as well as the sound of my gears changing and my chain slapping.

It's a bit like you're imagining the music. You're not using your ears; your brain can't place the sound that the headphones are producing which makes the music sound like it's actually inside your head.

You don't lose out on much musical clarity either. Obviously, the Bluez 2s aren't going to offer the same sort of high-fidelity listening that a high-end pair of upmarket headphones would, but that's not what they're for.

The £89.95 price tag may seem like a large outlay for a pair of headphones that don't make you feel like you're in the studio sitting next to Justin Bieber. But maybe that's to your and the headphone's advantage.

The Bluez 2s aren't designed to be cutting-edge audio equipment, even though they perform commendably on that level. They're designed to be a trade off between awareness and clarity, and in that regard they fit the bill.

The price tag may make you gawp, especially when you consider that Aftershokz' wired alternatives sit in the £49.95-£69.95 price range. The ease-of-use and accessibility of the Bluetooth-enabled Bluez 2s certainly justify a heftier price tag, especially when you consider that these are much more than a simple pair of headphones.

There are a couple of questions you should ask yourself before dropping the money on what are, in all honesty, a reasonably pricey pair of headphones.

How often will you use the Bluez 2s? Do you ride into work every day? If I didn't, I think I'd have to take stock before considering a purchase like this.

Will you only use them to listen to music? I certainly didn't. The Bluez 2s became the perfect sidekick to my phone's GPS connection and Google Maps navigation, as well as my on-board entertainment system while riding. I was easily able to find my way down a complicated country lane route that I'd not taken before with voice prompts from the app which was running on my phone.

I was also able to take phone calls while riding thanks to the accessible action button on the left audio pad. A single click picks-up and hangs-up phone calls, as well as playing and pausing music, skipping track - I rather belatedly discovered - requires a simple double-click of the same button.

The on-board volume controls tucked behind your right ear took a bit of getting used to before I felt like I could access them safely while riding at speed, especially when you've got to navigate around helmet straps, but they're prominent and easy to use.

The rest of the tech works excellently too.

I've had a fair amount of experience with Bluetooth enabled devices, not all of it good. But connection problems aren't something that the Bluez 2s suffer from.

At no point was I tempted to give up on the headphones in a fit of frustration, and repeated restarts to find a connection weren't something I had to deal with. There was only one occasion when switching devices prompted a 'connected' notification while still playing music from my phone.

They're comfortable too, even with a helmet on. I regularly found myself wearing them throughout the working day, from commute to commute, discovering that the awareness the headphones allowed on the road translated quite nicely into an office environment where popping a pair of headphones in can be quite antisocial.

Fortunately the device's battery, which is charged through a standard covered-up micro-USB port, also facilitates day-long wear. Aftershokz say that the The Bluez 2s will last six hours at low volume, which corresponded to them comfortably managing both of my commutes as well as periods of use in the office and at home at a reasonable volume without needing a charge.

Aftershokz provide a tension strap that give the headphones a tighter fit, which I never felt the need to use. They're also water and sweat resistant, which was handy on both the hot and wet commutes.

I mentioned Google's Glass computer earlier in the review, and throughout the review period I couldn't help but feel that this was my first experience of the next wave of wearable technology.

Throughout almost every working day, and every time I rode my bike, I wore the Bluez 2s. I used them to navigate, take phone calls and listen to music.

While they're not a computer in their own right - they require a connection to a Bluetooth-enabled device to work - they behaved in a very similar manner to how I imagine some of the tech on the horizon.

I strongly believe that wearable tech is the future. You needn't just take my word for it, just listen to the noises coming out of Google, Samsung and Apple.

Whether or not the complex and pricey bits of kit that these big tech firms are conjuring up have a market that's ready to embrace them remains to be seen. But Aftershokz, and their Bluez 2 headphones, certainly do. You won't catch me riding without them.

Verdict

Sleek and comfortable answer to the cycling-with-headphones debate

road.cc test report

Make and model: Aftershokz Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

The Aftershokz Bluez 2 are a pair of headphones aimed at active individuals who want to remain connected to the world while also listening to audio - at least that's what Aftershokz have to say about them.

I'd have to agree with them. I'm an active guy who used the Bluez 2 headphones to stay aware of my surroundings while listening to music - spot on Aftershokz.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Speaker type: Bone conduction transducers

Sensitivity: 100  3dB

Frequency response: 20Hz - 20KHz

Microphone: -40dB +/- 3dB

Bluetooth: 2.1 +EDR

Compatible Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP

Wireless Range: 10 m / 33 ft

Playback time: Up to 6 hours

Standby time: Up to 10 Days

Charging time: 2 hours (using included micro USB to USB cable)

LED indicator for operation, low battery and charging

Warranty: 2-Year

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
10/10

I had absolutely no problems with the construction of the kit. The sleek black look, and the creak-less plastic certainly look every bit as sharp as they are pricey.

Rate the product for performance:
 
10/10

Fit the bill in both quiet and loud conditions. Fantastic balance.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

The sweat and water resistant vibrating bone conduction pads have withstood testing up to this point. A free two-year warranty from Aftershokz will cover you if they fail in the future.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
10/10

I found them comfortably wearable all day.

Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

The price will put many would-be customers off. It's new tech, so I'm sure as time goes on, prices will drop, but I'd advise you to take the plunge.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

I absolutely loved using the Bluez 2s and the more time I spend in the saddle, the more I think I'll grow to appreciate them.

Overall rating: 9/10

 

 

22 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Hmmm i think i really need to try these,I have cycled with earphones a couple of times but i really don't like to.

posted by Ratfink [29 posts]
24th July 2014 - 16:35

45 Likes

seven's picture

posted by seven [112 posts]
24th July 2014 - 17:45

40 Likes

I'd be interested in a view on these from someone who does wear headphones.

I think any headphones that block sound, adds risk, but not all headphones do that. Over ear cans (beats etc), or ear canal types do, but earbuds block very little. I very rarely wear headphones when cycling, but often do whilst walking and I like to still be aware of the world around me unlike some of the zombies we have to deal with.

So how do these compare to just wearing normal earbuds?

posted by bikebot [549 posts]
24th July 2014 - 17:58

34 Likes

Note for road.cc, listed price is without VAT.

£83.29 + 20% = £99.95

posted by bikebot [549 posts]
24th July 2014 - 18:18

38 Likes

There is a skip button. You double tap the only button while playing a track to skip rtfm.

Also agree that these work very well. 3 hour first ride was problem free.

You do need to keep your phone in your right rear pocket for the best connectivity though.

posted by bradtipp [11 posts]
24th July 2014 - 19:03

46 Likes

I have a pair of the original ones and have been wearing them on my commute for over a year now. They work exceptional well and you can still hear the traffic and talk to people as they pass or you pass them. It's a real bonus being able to take a quick phone call as well, though the noise cancelling on the original ones is not brilliant so you need to knock the speed back to 15mph or so. I've tried them with route guidance from the BikeHub app and apart from the annoyingly loud beep before every instruction it works well, fading the music out and back in.

I've had no problems with connectivity. I originally thought I did but found out it was actually a problem with the transmission protocol causing clipping in the sound. The solution is to keep the volume on the iPhone below the ¾ volume level and adjust the volume to the desired loudness with the controls on the BlueZ. If you do that you will find that the range is actually massive. I've left my iPhone in the kitchen and wandered upstairs to grab forgotten items and not lost connectivity. The volume problem sure does sound like the connection is dropping though so understand why some think it is limited.

I also have a RFLKT and can control my iPhone and change my tracks from there. It's a winning combination.

I don't use them when I'm out speeding about on the road bike but for the daily commute they make it very civilised.

My first pair did have a problem early on but they were replaced without a quibble by AfterShock. I'm a very happy user.

Its a long press on the volume up and down buttons to skip forward and back tracks by the way...

posted by paulrbarnard [125 posts]
24th July 2014 - 19:51

55 Likes

How are they with sunglasses on ? as the pad is next to the ear do they cause any issues there ?

I love the idea of these, wearing headphones is just dumb in my view but I do miss the music when I'm out on solo rides, this looks like the answer, just worried about sunglasses getting in the way.

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
24th July 2014 - 20:25

36 Likes

Shades should be fine, I've been using the cabled version with either specs or shades on for most of the last year without any problems, even the basic model I've got is excellent

posted by Geordie Simon [10 posts]
24th July 2014 - 20:51

36 Likes

mikeprytherch wrote:
How are they with sunglasses on ? as the pad is next to the ear do they cause any issues there ?

I love the idea of these, wearing headphones is just dumb in my view but I do miss the music when I'm out on solo rides, this looks like the answer, just worried about sunglasses getting in the way.

The originals work fine with my Rydon glasses but you do add another dimension to Rule 37. If your sunnies have thick arms you might get problems as the arms slide under the BlueZ.

posted by paulrbarnard [125 posts]
24th July 2014 - 20:55

29 Likes

Quite happy with £10 earbuds here, which enable me to hear not only the music I'm listening to, but quite often the music that extrovert tossers are playing in their vehicles.

Unless your ears are on the back of your skull, don't rely on your sense of hearing when cycling. Just don't. Wind noise alone is more than enough to mask the sound of a vehicle, even at fairly low speeds.

posted by Mr Agreeable [142 posts]
25th July 2014 - 0:02

33 Likes

@bikebot and @bradtipp cheers for the heads-up.

I've had a chance to go back to the product and have a play with the skip-track feature which sailed straight over my head during the review period.

In my opinion, that really completes the product for me.

The initial review, which you'll notice has now been updated, also quoted the price minus-VAT, that's now been changed too (cheers).

While the updated price made me 'gawp' just that little bit more, my understanding of the prices of Aftershokz' wired alternatives was also 20% down.

It's all relative, and the collective jump in price hasn't dissuaded me from the Bluez 2s justified value over its counterparts.

Yes, they're expensive, but having tried to go back to using earbuds in the office, I realised how much I genuinely dislike being isolated by my music. The Aftershokz have barely left my ears for the last month or so, and I don't expect they'll be leaving them again anytime soon.

I like to listen to music all the time, and these allow me to do that without being antisocial or limiting my riding awareness. That alone is worth the added cost.

posted by Elliot Johnston [114 posts]
25th July 2014 - 11:32

27 Likes

Silly question but can other people hear the output if it's playing at a reasonable volume? In other words, if you were playing music through them, and assuming you were sitting in a fairly quiet room, would other people get annoyed at the typical tinny high-hat and cymbals you hear from those teenagers wearing their iPhone/iPod 'phones that don't know how to use the volume control?

posted by timboid [12 posts]
25th July 2014 - 18:45

23 Likes

@timboid
Generally speaking, yes. Do you have any in-ear pre-earbud headphones, like the old cheap ones Apple used to release with the iPod?

They sound a bit louder than those when they're at their highest volume. So, I'd say they're a bit more intrusive than your run-of-the-mill modern earbuds.

That said, I rarely listen to them at full whack in quiet environments. I wear them to stay connected to the world around me, not to drown it out.

No one in the road.cc office has complained, so far. They might just be too polite, though.

posted by Elliot Johnston [114 posts]
25th July 2014 - 18:55

19 Likes

I don't understand the whole 'thou shalt not cycle with headphones' thing.

Deaf people are allowed to cycle, right?

Cue loads of people saying 'ahh, yes, but deaf people have adapted their other senses to compensate' or similar. But that's just confirmation bias at work.

If you want to cycle, walk, drive or do anything else with headphones where having use of your ears would be advantageous you just have to be more careful.

2013 Focus Cayo Evo --- 2013 Boardman CX Team (hit by car, RIP) Sad

IngloriousLou's picture

posted by IngloriousLou [52 posts]
25th July 2014 - 21:08

25 Likes

IngloriousLou wrote:
I don't understand the whole 'thou shalt not cycle with headphones' thing.

Deaf people are allowed to cycle, right?

Cue loads of people saying 'ahh, yes, but deaf people have adapted their other senses to compensate' or similar. But that's just confirmation bias at work.

If you want to cycle, walk, drive or do anything else with headphones where having use of your ears would be advantageous you just have to be more careful.

Blocking sound does add risk, and the argument about deaf people is even simpler than that. Deaf people are at a disadvantage, that's why it's called a disability.

I have a minor disability myself, which I don't need to explain. I know and accept that for certain situations I'm at a disadvantage. I can take more care when it matters, which is me compensating, but I'm still fundamentally at a disadvantage.

I wouldn't recommend anyone removing an important sense by choice, but depending on where you are riding it may not make much difference to your safety.

posted by bikebot [549 posts]
25th July 2014 - 23:39

20 Likes

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
26th July 2014 - 13:47

12 Likes

I run a headphones business and I don't use any when I cycle. Just the way it is and the way it will stay for me.

posted by Joelsim [1385 posts]
28th July 2014 - 13:30

15 Likes

been using aftershokz2 (not bluetooth version) on my 40 mile round trip commute to work since buying a pair at the bike show in january. mixed country back lanes and a roads. couldn't imagine riding without them now. can hear all the traffic etc around me and also clearly hear the radio or music. best thing i've bought in ages. impressively they developed a fault within a week of purchase...and i had a new pair delivered within a week ( which have been faultless). great after sales care !

posted by Simonsays50 [5 posts]
28th July 2014 - 15:42

19 Likes

@timboid yes totally. sound leakage is huge.... but these are not for sitting in a quiet room !

posted by Simonsays50 [5 posts]
28th July 2014 - 15:58

16 Likes

This is the whole point of AfterShokz - they don't block out the ambient noise around you so you still have "use" of your ears.

posted by Rodney Annet [1 posts]
28th July 2014 - 16:55

14 Likes

I remember Bonefones int he 80's it was like wearing a large sponge as a neck brace, now these new fangled ones look the dogs

The Bullsh*t stops when the gate drops

posted by SilkRoadPadd [4 posts]
30th July 2014 - 19:46

13 Likes

Biggest problem I have with in-ears is wind noise. Any speed above 15 mph and you dont even hear the traffic.
Now if a wind shield was built into the Aftershokz, that would be very interesting!
I have a set of Phonic blue tooth in ears- great sound but they work their way out of my odd shaped ears; Aftershokz is the answer!
I have just visited the Excel cycle show and came across these Aftershokz for the first time. The music from an iPhone sounded dull and possibly not loud enough to compete with traffic or wind noise. Bone conduction cant be expected to delivery HiFi quality.
I would need to try these for a while before I was convinced I would use them on a regular basis.

Yours Truly
Hadley

John Grant's picture

posted by John Grant [1 posts]
11th August 2014 - 22:28

9 Likes

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