Training is like a fight. How military technology evolved into Aftershokz headphones
While Bose and Sony tweak noise canceling and isolation technology in their headphones, AfterShokz is going against the grain. All surrounding sounds are heard in her headphones, including the conversations of colleagues in the office, the grinding of braking tires on the road and the shouts of pedestrians.
It’s simple: runners, cyclists and some other users need headphones that let outside sounds through. You can’t grow a second pair of ears, but you don’t need to. With AfterShokz, you will hear two worlds at the same time. Here’s how it works.
Spear in the teeth
Our perception of sound is primarily acoustic, meaning we hear sound waves traveling through the air. Human hearing is so arranged that we also feel the sound, which is transmitted through the vibration of the bones. Therefore, for example, the voice on the recording and the voice live sounds differently. And if you plug your ears and start humming, you will still hear the melody. Bones serve as another pathway for sound transmission.
The phenomenon of bone conduction was discovered by the mathematician and philosopher Gerolamo Cardano in the 16th century. The scientist found out that if you grip a spear with your teeth, you can hear sounds through it. This knowledge found application only later, when the first primitive hearing aids were created in Europe. This was used by the deaf composer Ludwig Beethoven: he held a pipe in his teeth and applied it to the piano to hear his own music.
Modern bone conduction hearing aids have been around since the 1970s. Cochlear’s implantable hearing aids were first implanted into the skulls of patients in Gothenburg, Sweden. In addition to the hearing impaired, the technology is now used by scuba divers and other users who need to ensure hearing underwater and in noisy environments. Or hear everything that is happening around with your ears, but still receive audio information.
For example, on the battlefield. Chinese Voxtech has adapted bone conduction technology for the military, special services and police since 2001. In 2011, these developments were inherited by the AfterShokz brand, which directed them towards peaceful purposes. AfterShokz’s mission was to develop sound reproduction technology so that its users do not sacrifice safety and situational awareness.
That is, if you run down the street and listen to music, then you isolate yourself from the surrounding sounds and you may miss a lot of things: cars, passers-by, cyclists. It’s a dangerous situation, but running in silence is boring. In addition, you can not listen to music, but answer an untimely call, or, in the best traditions of workaholism, combine a run with a working call. You need such an accessory so as not to sacrifice any aspect of life – and AfterShokz had the right technology.
In 2015 AfterShokz launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in support of their first Trekz Titanium headphones. A telling name – the accessory had a light and durable titanium arc. Titan was chosen for its ability to conduct sound. To the surprise of the team, the idea raised about $ 700,000, which was more than enough to start production.
Second generation, released in 2018
Weighs only 30 grams
Lightweight and comfortable
There is Bluetooth
9990RUB 8,991 by promo code MADSOUND
The first experience revealed a number of deficiencies in bone conduction. For example: purity of sound. Due to the nature of the transmission, bass is lost and the sound seems fuzzy and quiet, incomparable with acoustic technology.
This did not stop the developers. After collecting feedback, after a couple of years they released the following version: AfterShokz Trekz Air…
Trekz Air headphones look like a device from the future. Their arc covers the back of the head and ends with two large transducers that are attached behind the ears. The shells themselves remain open, the headphones transmit vibrations through the part of the head at the earlobe. There is a built-in microphone, so the accessory can be used as a headset.
The bow is made of titanium, like in the first model, due to which it bends perfectly. She sits high and does not cling to the hood or collar. The earbuds can be bent and tucked into a pocket, or fastened tighter on the head. They are IP55 water resistant, but not completely waterproof, so you shouldn’t swim in them.
An important advantage of the Trekz Air: they are lightweight and weigh only 30 grams. Despite such a low weight, they do not fly off, even if you shake your head vigorously. A clever design keeps them behind their ears – the transmitters fit snugly like a glove. The headphones are covered with a layer of soft-touch silicone, which also helps the accessory to sit tightly in place, plus the metal does not cool the skin.
The small size has a significant drawback – the battery life is only 6 hours. Also, since the earbuds are fixed in size, they may not fit on particularly large heads.
Trekz Air connects to a sound source via Bluetooth. The presence of the connection is confirmed by the built-in female voice of the accessory named Audrey. Connectivity usually does not arise, which is commendable for wireless headphones. Then the fun begins: you listen to your favorite tracks, but the surrounding sounds are not lost behind them.
Trekz Airs sound significantly better than the original Trekz Titaniums: they have full sound with less bass loss, but still weaker than good acoustic headphones. The volume is especially affected – in a gym or in a quiet park it is imperceptible, but it is not enough in the metro or a noisy city center. Plus, when you turn the volume up to full (by pressing the buttons on the right side of the case), vibrations are perceived as tickling. The louder the more intense.
Even if we take into account all the weaknesses of the Trekz Air, they are fully justified by the comfortable snug fit and the unique ability to listen to headphones without losing touch with the outside world.
Second generation, released in 2019
Self-sufficient, does not require a smartphone
13,99012 591 rub. by promo code MADSOUND
Next entry in the series, AfterShokz Xtrainerz, these are not really headphones, but a whole player that does not connect to third-party sound sources. The fact is that the novelty was developed specifically for surfers and swimmers, that is, people who do not carry a smartphone with them when playing sports.
The headphones have 4 gigabytes of internal memory for audio files. There is no Bluetooth module – and the accessory cannot be used as a headset for calls and communication with smart assistants and voice trainers.
Unfortunately, with the Xtrainerz in the seas, oceans and pools, you will have to practice the old fashioned way for now. But with songs and not fearing that you will not hear the sound of an approaching motor boat. But even on the boat you will be heard, because the headphones let sound out at high volume.
The Xtrainerz titanium lightweight body is well insulated from moisture and corrosion, protected to IP68. The headphones can be used for swimming in both fresh and salt water. The shape has been chosen such that the headphones fit snugly and do not come off your head, even if you are participating in competitions.
The only fly in the ointment: the battery holds the same 6 hours without recharging. Few people can sit in the water for hours without getting out, but if they forgot to charge the gadget before the swim, then you will have to do without music.
Third generation, released in 2019
Lightweight, 26 grams
There is Bluetooth
13,99012 591 rub. by promo code MADSOUND
Six months after Xtrainerz AfterShokz released Aeropex… The developers have cut the excess weight, and the bezel weighs only 26 grams. It is thin and easy to bend, but at the same time does not break, thanks to the titanium frame. In practice, the earbuds can withstand imperfect weather conditions and intense workouts, as you would expect from an accessory designed for runners and cyclists.
Aeropex fits snugly and comfortably on your head and does not move out, even if you train or run in them for a long time. The headphone housing is IP67 water resistant. They can be dropped into a puddle or wet without fear, but this does not mean that you need to swim with them. These headphones connect to a Bluetooth audio source, and Bluetooth and water don’t mix.
The sound quality of the Aeropex is still incomparable to decent acoustic headphones. Compared to the previous generation, they are better. The developers rotated the transducers at an angle of 30 degrees to the head to reduce vibration and increase dynamic range. It worked: the “tickling” is noticeable only if you turn the sound at full volume, and the bass and detail have increased.
These earbuds last 8 hours on a single charge. The downside is that previous models were charged via USB, while the Aeropex has a proprietary cable. Bad choice, but perhaps the only drawback of an excellent gadget. And the high price, of course.
Fourth generation, released in 2019
There is Bluetooth
8490RUB 7,641 by promo code MADSOUND
Headphones 2020, OpenMove, conceived as a budget option – compared to the Aeropex. They weigh a little more, 29 grams. The titanium bezel is protected from water ingress according to the IP55 standard, which means that splashes and sweat are not terrible, but you should not bathe them.
Apparently, these are headphones for cyclists. This is indicated by the shape and fit: OpenMove does not interfere with the wearing of helmets. The transducers are tightly pressed against the skin and after a while you stop noticing that you are wearing headphones at all.
The sound quality of OpenMove is superior to the first generations of AfterShokz, but not to Aeropex. They are distinguished by high volume, but at the same time – and sound leakage, if unscrewed to the full. Despite the fact that they transmit sound through bone conduction, OpenMove should be muted in public so as not to disturb others. However, like any other headphones.
The battery charge lasts for 6 hours of playback, which is very little. But OpenMove is charged from USB Type-C, which is pleasantly different from all other brethren.
The verdict is the following: bone conduction headphones do an excellent job with their mission – not to jam the world around with music for runners, cyclists and swimmers. They do it too well, because their sound is incomparable in quality to acoustic models.
You may not want to listen to opera arias and complex compositions on the go, because headphones cannot cope with them. But podcasts and cheerful music for And now, appeals in the spirit of “sex is violence” seem to be crazy … primarily to women.
They don’t want to be rescued by force from damned heterosexual men. This battle is lost, look for another front if women are important to you, and not a senseless war with pins during training.
You can purchase headphones from our Madrobots online store. There is a 10% discount for all Habr readers for the entire Aftershokz collection by promo code MADSOUND