AfterShokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones

7
£149.95

VERDICT:

7
10
Comfortable to wear with decent sound clarity and good battery life
Decent sound without masking environmental noise
Comfortable to wear
Waterproof
Good battery life
Muddy standard EQ, especially using earplugs
Headband doesn't play nice with some helmets
Proprietary lead means you need to take care not to lose it
Wind noise a problem on the bike
Weight: 
26g

The AfterShokz Aeropex wireless bone-conduction headphones are a good choice if you want to listen to music while also paying attention to other stuff that's going on. The reproduction quality isn't as good as even a cheap set of in-ear buds but it's generally good enough, and the Aeropex headset is comfy to wear and fully waterproofed. If you like to listen to music on your rides and still hear what's going on, they're a good option.

Bone conduction you say? If you're not familiar with the concept it's fairly simple: instead of feeding sound waves through the air into your ear, a bone-conduction headphone sits just in front of you ear, and a moving diaphragm vibrates directly onto your skin. The vibrations work their way through the bone structure of your skull and they're picked up by your inner ear, which translates them into sound.

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That means your ear is empty, so you can also hear environmental sounds, like your mate shouting that they've punctured, or an Audi revving six inches from your rear wheel. It also means that you can still hear someone coughing two rows back on the plane, or the din of your lawn mower, so AfterShokz includes earplugs for the times you don't want to hear anything else but what you're streaming.

AfterShokz Aeropex wireless bone conduction headphones - worn 4.jpg

In the box you get the headphones, two charging cables and those earplugs, all in a nice silicone case with a magnetic clasp. Two cables? Well, the Aeropex headphones are the first AfterShokz headphones to move to a fully waterproof construction. You can do that with a standard micro-USB charging post but the tiny terminals and their close proximity mean that any moisture in there when you're charging can eat away at the connections by galvanic action and they don't tend to last that long.

Instead, AfterShokz has opted for a magnetic charging port and a proprietary cable. You get two, so that means you can charge at home and at work; or, more likely, put one safe for when you inevitably lose one.

AfterShokz Aeropex wireless bone conduction headphones - charger port and buttons.jpg

It's swings and roundabouts: the proprietary connector is the price you pay for proper waterproofing. They're not recommended for lap swimming, but a long ride in the rain should be well within their limits.

The headphones use the Bluetooth 5.0 protocol and claim connectivity up to 10m. They were simple to pair to everything I tried to pair them to (phone, laptop, PC) with no dropout issues even when I was walking through the house to make a coffee. The connection seems really stable, and there's a built-in microphone if you like to take important business calls when you're out on your bike. It works well.

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This is not the first pair of AfterShokz bone-conduction headphones, nor the first we've tested. It's the new range topper, though, and pricey at £149.95. So what's changed? Well, the sound is better, says AfterShokz. 'Re-engineered technology delivers the widest dynamic stereo sound that bone conduction can offer,' it says. 'Say hello to deeper bass, less vibration and louder volume.'

If there are gains there, they're reasonably marginal. I also have a pair of the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium headphones to hand which we tested back in 2016 and are available for half what the new Aeropex headphones cost. And there's not a great deal of difference in the overall volume or the sound clarity, though the new headphones are slightly better.

Bass and volume

Bone-conduction headphones struggle with two specific things. Firstly, they find it hard to transmit bass frequencies. The Aeropex headphones are a bit better here than their predecessors, although I'd suggest it's more of an EQ tweak than necessarily that there is more bass available. Out of the box they sound bassier, but with earplugs in they're also a bit muddier overall with lots of mid and not enough high frequencies.

I've generally found that I need a headphone EQ app on my smartphone to get the best out of bone-conduction headphones, and for both open ears and earplugs the EQ is cutting the mid frequencies quite a bit. With earplugs in I need high frequencies ramped up basically as far as they go to get a balanced sound. With a bit of fiddling, though, it's pretty good.

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The other issue is volume. The maximum volume you can hear is dependent on how much vibration the headphones can send into your skull, which is limited in the most part by how tightly they're held there. The narrow headband on the Aeropex headphones has a similar spring tension to the Trekz Titanium headphones, and the overall volume is comparable. If you turn them up too loud then they bounce off your skin which is tickly and affects the sound quality.

AfterShokz Aeropex wireless bone conduction headphones - worn 2.jpg

They're loud enough to hear out on the open road, and still have ear-room for approaching traffic or other cues. With your ears open you get plenty of wind noise when you're travelling fast, like you normally would on a bike. The headphones are ideally placed to stop that: all you'd need is a small wind baffle stuck on top to disrupt the air over your ear. Something like the ones designed to stick over a camera's internal mic would probably do the trick, although I haven't tried yet.

The tension band sticks out a bit from the back of your head, which it does with all the bone-conduction headphones I've tried. This can be an issue with some helmets: sometimes it's where the retention system sits, and urban helmets with a low rear can foul the band too.

AfterShokz Aeropex wireless bone conduction headphones - worn 1.jpg

If you get a chance it's worth trying out the headphones with your usual riding gear to see if you're going to run into any problems.

Lighter and longer lasting

Two things have drastically improved over the older, cheaper Trekz Titanium headphones. The first is comfort: these Aeropex headphones are just miles more comfortable than any other bone-conduction headphones I've tried. They're lighter and smaller, and they have a full silicone outer that's kind against the skin. I haven't reached a point where they've become uncomfortable.

AfterShokz Aeropex wireless bone conduction headphones - worn 3.jpg

Secondly, the battery life has improved even though they're smaller. AfterShokz claims a battery life of eight hours for the Aeropex heaphones, and although I haven't quite got that I have managed over seven, which is really good considering their size.

Conclusion

Overall, these headphones are better than the Trekz Titanium ones I've been directly comparing them to because they're to hand, and they're also better than the Trekz Air headphones that we've also reviewed and were launched at the same price, although they're widely available for under £100 now.

If you want to listen to music and also hear what's going on around you then bone conduction is the way to go and these are the best ones I've tried so far. At £150 they're expensive. Are they five times as good as a no-brand £30 set from Amazon? Probably not, although we have just ordered a pair to find out. But like the others we've tested before them, they're a good investment if they fit your needs.

Verdict

Comfortable to wear with decent sound clarity and good battery life

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road.cc test report

Make and model: AfterShokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones

Size tested: One size

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?

From AfterShokz:

OPEN-EAR LISTENING

With nothing inside or over your ears, patented bone conduction technology allows for total awareness and comfort while you listen.

ENHANCED AUDIO

Re-engineered technology delivers the widest dynamic stereo sound that bone conduction can offer. Say hello to deeper bass, less vibration and louder volume.

MUSIC + CALLS

Adventure awaits - don't get held back by your headphones. With 8 hours of battery life, enjoy music, calls, audiobooks, and podcasts all day long.

WATERPROOF

IP67 rating makes these fully sweat and waterproof to welcome intense workouts and extreme weather. *Not recommended for lap swimming*

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Very nicely made and presented.

Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10

Good overall. Still issues with bass response, volume and wind noise.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

No issues in testing, hard to comment on long-term but other AfterShokz units I've tested have lasted well.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
10/10

Really light.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
9/10

The comfiest bone-conduction headphones I've used yet.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

Expensive but good quality.

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

Well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Comfortable, good battery life, strong connection, waterproof.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Sound a bit muddy out of the box, still issues with bass reponse and volume, wind noise on the bike.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Wireless bone-conduction headphones start at about £30 on Amazon. This is the top of the AfterShokz range, and it's the market leader.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, mostly.

Would you consider buying the product? Maybe...

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if it suited their needs.

Use this box to explain your overall score

Like the other bone-conduction headphones we've tried they're a good solution to a specific issue when riding – listening to music and hearing other stuff – that works, but not without compromise. They're pricey but they work well, so overall I'd say they're good as opposed to exceptional. Performance and comfort probably the best yet, but you pays your money, etc...

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 189cm  Weight: 94kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed

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, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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