I mentioned these in a post recently, and someone expressed some interest in how good they were, so here’s the Oppositelock Review ™ .
What are they?
These are one of a line of bone conduction earphones by Aftershokz. I got them a little over a year ago so I could listen to tunes while I’m out on my rides. For those who aren’t familiar, instead of putting speakers over or into your ears, these things position little pads just in front of your ear, between the ear canals and your sideburns. From there, they transmit the sound directly into your head through the bone. It’s not new tech, but it’s only recently that it’s been perfected for consumer use with music. Their big advantage is safety. They don’t block out any of the sound in your environment, so you can safely listen to tunes while still being aware of your surroundings on your walk, jog, or ride. I’ve found them to be a minor revelation, since I almost always ride alone.
How well do they work?
Pretty well. They pair instantly and perfectly with my iPhone every time and stay connected even if I’m on the other side of the house from my phone. That means I can use them while doing other stuff. They are comfortable and stay put by wrapping around your ears and don’t jostle with activity. You don’t have to readjust them much.
They have a good balanced sound. Just listening to Pandora or my own playlists, I get clear highs and midrange. Base is adequate, but I don’t notice an improvement in base if I press the pads closer to my ear in the way that you can sometimes do with earbuds. So, it’s just the way they are. If you’re someone who wants thumping base, these may not be for you. When I’m out working up a sweat, too much base can give me a headache, so these work for me most of the time.
The sound quality to me is akin to what I find with good mid-range earbuds. I count Apple’s buds in that group for comparison. It doesn’t sound like you’re right in front of the stage, but rather on the other side of an open doorway that’s in front of the stage, if that helps.
The set has a single button over the left pad that you can use to pause and start your playlist, call up Siri, and answer phone calls. Two buttons on the right side of the set handle power, pairing and volume, along with telling you verbally how much battery you have left.
The microphone is fabulous. No one has ever asked me to repeat myself, and I never have to raise my voice on a call. Since they are so comfortable, I sometimes just leave them on around the house if I’m expecting a call, or use them to talk to my family while I cook dinner, etc.
Also, big bonus: they are waterproof. I have used them in the shower dozens of times now. I try to avoid direct jets on them though. They are easy to clean off with a damp cloth.
Battery life is good. The company says six hours. I’ve never timed it, but I can use it over several sessions before I have to recharge. Pressing the volume down button tells you how much you have left, so you have warning. The set charges quickly through a micro-USB cord included. Also included is a pair of foam ear buds in a case that you can use as passive noise reduction if you like.
Are there any limitations?
Yes. A safety caveat: if you turn them up, they will dominate your attention just like other loud sounds right next to your head, and you will no longer be hearing the cars around you. These things have some volume if you crank them up, so I find that I have to keep them several ticks below max.
The other thing to remember is that other people can hear them if they are close to you. They don’t isolate your music. So, if you’re in close spaces with other people and don’t want to be a jerk, you either have to keep them down low or switch to conventional headphones. So you can use them as your only set of headphones, but I bet most people will still keep other sets of cans or earbuds.
How much do they cost?
About $100. You can get better overall sound performance on in-ear buds or over-the-ear cans for that money if you look just a little bit, but those are a different beast for a different purpose. The Trekz Air is aces at what it does, and is so worth the money. I give them four out of five hubcaps.