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?
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
About the tester
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.