Sometimes you run across a press release and, if the PR agency did it right, something about it catches your attention. Amid the flood of CES 2012 press releases and meeting invitations was the following subject line:
Ear-free sound transmission? Meet AfterShokz at CES.
That got my attention, and an appointment was made soon after.
AfterShokz is a new company “on a mission to change the way the world listens to music on the go”. How? With ear-free headphones that transport sound through your cheekbones. The headphones use bone conduction technology to create a unique listening experience that doesn’t involve putting things on or in your ears. The military has used similar technology for years, and it’s now coming to the civilian masses.
There are three versions of the AfterShokz headphones. The Sport model only has the headphones and uses a standard headphone jack. The Mobile model adds an in-line mic and uses a single headphone jack. The Game model includes the in-line mic, but uses USB exclusively. All three models charge via USB.
The concept works very well. In fact the entire meeting time the representative had me wear the AfterShokz and listen to music while we spoke. I could hear both the music and the conversation clearly at the same time. They’re definitely comfortable.
A review sample was provided at the show, which provided the perfect opportunity for field testing. I wore them while walking between our hotel and the CES show floor, while working in the hotel room, and on the flight home.
Wearing the headphones in public didn’t seem to present an awareness problem. During one trek to the convention center a Honda Insight approached from behind—I was able to hear the tires (because the Insight’s engine is nearly silent) and get out of the way before the driver could flatten me (I’m assuming malicious intent but there’s no evidence to back it up).
Back at the hotel room I was able to have conversations with everyone in the room without a problem. No big deal, as conversations were as easily audible as they were during the meeting with Aftershokz on the show floor. These would definitely be useful in an office environment where listening to music could otherwise mean coworkers inadvertently sneaking up on you.
The flight home was the only real issue for me. Since the general sounds of flight were unobstructed, music was harder to hear (though not impossible). Earplugs probably would have helped considerably, but by the time that thought occurred it was too late to request them.
The only place I feel AfterShokz has stumbled is cost. The Sport model sells for $60 on their web site. The Mobile and Gamer models sell for $70. It may be a tough sell at those prices, especially when decent ear buds can be obtained for half the cost. Are they worth the price? Yes, if you find the technology useful, especially considering AfterShokz sound pretty good and come with a lifetime warranty.
If you’re looking for a better way to listen to music while exercising or working and can absorb the cost, the Aftershokz Sport headset is a great product. We’re happy to award AfterShokz the Icrontic Stamp of Approval for a product we would happily recommend to our readers.