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Verdict: 
Good quality lightweight headphones that keep your ears free for hearing other stuff
Weight: 
30g

The Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones have a lot to recommend them: they're comfortable, the sound quality is good, and they don't block your ears from hearing other sounds – a good thing when you're out on your bike. Bass response isn't the best and they don't really work at speed, but if you like to listen to music on your bike they're definitely worth a look. The Trekz Titanium headphones are probably the better value option though.

  • Pros: Light, comfy, good sound
  • Cons: Wind noise a problem, bass response not as good as over/in-ear headphones

There's a lot of talk about headphone wearing on bikes. On the one hand you have studies showing that wearing headphones negatively impacts on your perception of 'sounds crucial for safe cycling'. On the other there's the obvious comparison with motor vehicles, pretty much all of which have powerful sound systems, and many of which are soundproofed and even double glazed. If that's okay for one set of road users, why not another?

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Anyway, whatever your stance, you'd probably agree (possibly grudgingly) that a set of headphones that don't block out other sounds would be A Good Thing, if you are planning to listen to music on your bike. And the Aftershokz Trekz Air are such headphones.

Cosmetically, they're similar to the Aftershokz Trekz headphones we've previously tested. But they're updated to be lighter and sound better. They're a bit smaller overall, and the titanium-sprung band swoops down lower over the back of your ears.

Aftershokz Trekz Air Headphones - worn back.jpg

"The next generation of bone conduction technology is what's inside our lightest and most organically designed open ear headphones to date," says Aftershokz. "We cut the bulk and used titanium everywhere possible to ensure they not only fit more securely but sound better too."

Bone conduction, if you're not up to speed on all this, is a technology whereby the headphones use a vibrating plate that sits on your skull, in front of your ear. The vibrations transmit through to your ear bits (technical term), and you hear them as sound. But because there's nothing in your ear, you can still hear all ambient sound too, or hold a conversation with a work colleague. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you've done a bit of rub-your-tummy-pat-your-head learning, it's second nature.

The Trekz weren't heavy at 39g, but Aftershokz has saved a claimed 20% on the total weight and that's (more or less) confirmed by the road.cc scales of truth, which have the Air headphones at 30g. They're really light, and it's not at the expense of run-time, which remains at six hours. Pairing them is simply a case of holding down the power button until they're in pairing mode and hooking them up to your phone or computer.

Aftershokz Trekz Air Headphones.jpg

The sound quality is, in general, very good: there's plenty of clarity there. They're not the equivalent of sticking on a set of studio headphones, or a pair of high-quality in-ear buds, but they're fine for listening to music in the office, or out and about. If you're the kind of person who spends more on speaker cables than you do on bike wheels then they're probably not for you, but I found them to be fine for general use.

One thing that bone-conduction headphones struggle with is getting a decent bass response. The Trekz Air headphones are pretty good when you've got the volume jacked up a bit, though not too much in my experience. When you have them on full volume they're both pretty audible to other people and a bit tickly on your head parts as you start to feel the vibrations as much as hear them.

The optimum volume for general listening is between about 50% and 75% of full, depending on what type of music you're enjoying. More acoustic and you can go quieter, anything that leans heavily on bass instruments needs to be a bit louder. Aftershokz trumpets its LeakSlayer™ technology which it says reduces external noise. I'd say they're comparable to a set of in-ear headphones in that regard: you wouldn't want to have them on full whack in the quiet carriage, but they're fine if you're considerate.

Aftershokz Trekz Air Headphones - detail 2.jpg

If you stick your fingers in your ears they get louder and the bass response improves significantly. Which is weird. Aftershokz includes a set of foam earplugs in the box for that reason, although that obviously negates their USP. And if you move your jaw about then the equalisation of the sound can change quite dramatically, which can make for interesting phaser effects when you're eating your lunch.

The Trekz Air headphones can also be used as a Bluetooth headset when they're connected to your phone. They chirp at you when you get a call, with a big button to answer it, and dual microphones for speaking your brains. If you like to look like you're talking to invisible people about town, then they work very well. I don't like doing that, but you can answer a call easily on your bike as well, or in the car. I don't like doing that either. Call me a bluff old traditionalist, etc.

Aftershokz Trekz Air Headphones - detail 3.jpg

What about the fit? Well, they're a one-size-fits-all set of headphones, and unless your head is like an orange on a toothpick you should be able to get a good connection to your temples. I found that the band round the rear, which sits away from my neck, would sometimes catch on the collar of a shirt or a coat, but for the most part you can stick them on and forget all about them. They're light enough to be unnoticeable.

Since this is a road cycling website it'd be amiss to not talk about using them on your bike, and specifically a road bike. If you're riding with a helmet then they don't really interfere with the straps on any of the helmets I've tried, but it's possible that they might depending on how far back the rear strap is attached. When you're riding a road bike, and your head is tilted up a bit, the rear band is more in conflict with your collar than when you're sat at your desk, or walking round town. Even so, I didn't really have any major issues. Out on the bike you can easily pick up the sounds of car engines and shouts from your mates, most of the time.

> People's Choice: Your favourite songs about bikes and cycling

One thing I did have an issue with is wind noise. Once you're up to about 30km/h, or you're cycling into a headwind, there's a lot of noise for the headphones to contend with, and that reduces your listening pleasure significantly. There are a number of products out there that can reduce wind noise in your ears when you're riding: Wind Blox and Slipstreamz to name two. If you're serious about listening to music on your bike then that's worth looking into. Aftershokz is missing a trick by not developing its own solution, too: the headphones sit more or less exactly where you'd want to place a baffle of some sort.

The Trekz Air headphones are weatherproof to IP55; that means 'Water projected by a nozzle (6.3 mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects', and 'Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment'. You can't chuck them in the river but they should be okay for riding in the rain (or the Sahara) and I've had no issues during testing.

Overall, the Aftershokz are a very good set of headphones for bike use, if you like to listen to stuff when riding, and also for office and home use. They're light and comfy, and the sound quality is decent too. They're a premium set of headphones, and it's debatable whether they're £50 better than the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium ones we've already tested. They're lighter, and Aftershokz says the sound is better, but those are marginal gains given that they cost half as much again. If you get the chance, try both and see which fit the best: at the end of the day that's likely to make more difference than 9g of weight or a slightly improved bass response.

Verdict

Good quality lightweight headphones that keep your ears free for hearing other stuff

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Aftershokz Trekz Air Headphones

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for

Aftershokz says, "The next generation of bone conduction technology is what's inside our lightest and most organically designed open ear headphones to date. We cut the bulk and used titanium everywhere possible to ensure they not only fit more securely but sound better too. Trekz Air are inspired by the demands of elite and aspiring athletes motivated by their music and their world."

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

From Aftershokz:

Bone conduction technology delivers music through your cheekbones, ensuring ears remain completely open to hear ambient sounds

A 20% lighter build than its counterpart

A new organic design delivers increased comfort

Complete wraparound titanium design provides a flexible fit for unnoticeable all-day comfort and stability

OpenFit™ design ensures maximum situational awareness and comfort during long-term wear

PremiumPitch+™ guarantees a premium audio experience, including wide dynamic range and rich bass

Bluetooth® v4.2 connectivity and convenient multipoint pairing

LeakSlayer™ technology significantly reduces natural sound leakage

IP55 certified to repel sweat, dust and moisture, from workouts to wicked weather

Enjoy six hours of continuous music + calls on a single charge

EQ presets boost bass and reduce vibration on the go

Dual noise canceling microphones exclude surrounding noise, effectively enhancing speech

Audrey Says™ voice prompts guide users through power, pair, play and talk

Hassle-free 2-year warranty

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
9/10
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well. They're a good set of headphones with the bone-conduction tech giving them a USP for riding.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Good sound, good battery life, comfortable.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Bass response still not the best, expensive upgrade over the standard Trekz.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but I'd probably get the cheaper Trekz Titanium headphones.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

The performance is comparable to the Titaniums. The minimal weight saving and marginally improved sound probably don't fully justify the £50 price hike, though.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 44  Height: 189cm  Weight: 94kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

12 comments

Avatar
rix [242 posts] 10 months ago
1 like

I've been using Aftershokz (Bluez 2S) for 3 years now and I love them. They are perfect for cycling, zwifting and parenting. You can watch a movie and still hear when baby is crying. Watch TdF and still have a conversation with your family.

Avatar
rjfrussell [500 posts] 10 months ago
2 likes

I don't have these, but do have the Trekz Titanium headphones.  So, in case if it of interest to anyone....

The fact that you can listen using them without anything in your ears is obviously one selling point.

However, there is a huge difference in sound quality between using them with and without earplugs, especially with the bass sound.  By way of analogy, imagine the sound on a fairly standard flat screen TV-  with no ear plugs, the sound is a bit like that.  Putting in ear plugs is like connecting a really good sound bar to the TV.

The reason why I use them is because they are lightweight, waterproof, and my ears don't have that V or U shaped bit at the bottom that you can hook buds into-  any buds just fall out of my ears.

So, actually, I mostly use them indoors or outsdoors (for example) mowing the lawn/ hedge cutting, with earplugs in.

Not convinced they are really a great thing for bike riding outdoors.  But, then again, unless a ride clashes with a test match, I'd never really listen anyway.

Avatar
alansmurphy [1946 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

Is there much spillage of noise, how suitable for the office?

Avatar
dave atkinson [6446 posts] 10 months ago
3 likes

alansmurphy wrote:

Is there much spillage of noise, how suitable for the office?

i use them in the office, they're very good for that. the amount of noise they spill is comparable to other headphones, plus you can amuse yourself by seeing what makes a good speaker if you stick the headphones on it. wiggle boxes are good.

Avatar
MarsFlyer [17 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

I've been using Trekz Titanium for cycling and running and am very happy with them - it's good to be able to hear cars when cycling and birds when trail running. I tried on a pair of the new ones and they do feel lighter and neater, but will stick to the Titanium for now.

Avatar
Grub [8 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

Quick question about connectivity: I use a pair of bluetooth earphones (not this brand), but have found that with the earphones (at the moment) under a skull cap and the phone in a ziplock bag in a rear pocket (perhaps under another layer or two) the connectivity is very poor - lots of break-up.

How is it with these?

Avatar
dave atkinson [6446 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

Grub wrote:

Quick question about connectivity: I use a pair of bluetooth earphones (not this brand), but have found that with the earphones (at the moment) under a skull cap and the phone in a ziplock bag in a rear pocket (perhaps under another layer or two) the connectivity is very poor - lots of break-up.

How is it with these?

I don't keep my phone in a ziplock bag, because it's fully waterproof. but they'll happily stay connected if i'm at one end of the house and the phone is at the other, and I've not had any issues with breaking up on rides

Avatar
BehindTheBikesheds [2603 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

You can a set of BOSE Sound Sport for £150, very impressive bass, too spendy for me, Think you should review some of the cheaper offerings as even independant testing a fair few are getting very high scores compared to branded/expensive options.

I like these as they are IPX7, obvs not the same type as those reviewed but then I don't need to have the volume up loud and never had issues hearing other stuff with them in.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B073CCHKMN/ref=psdc_4085751_t2_B01F4SEY22

Avatar
nmanfield [26 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

Ive used these daily for over a year and half .  They are great.  Just wanted to give a shout out about their customer service which is simply fantastic

Avatar
RoubaixCube [92 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I own a bluez2 and one of their titaniums. Not so comfortable for glasses wearers

Avatar
Spangly Shiny [226 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I also have the Bluez2 version but rather than 6 hours of battery life the nagging voice telling me to recharge kicks in after about 40 minutes. No recommendation from me!

Avatar
maviczap [245 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
rix wrote:

I've been using Aftershokz (Bluez 2S) for 3 years now and I love them. They are perfect for cycling, zwifting and parenting. You can watch a movie and still hear when baby is crying. Watch TdF and still have a conversation with your family.

I too have had my Aftershocks for ages, as being partially deaf in my right ear, they restore stereo sound by conducting the sounds through my cheek bones.

They'll never be as good as proper headphones, but then what use are proper headphones if your ears aren't working properly

I broke one arm, but fixed it with some Suguru