Two years ago I discovered my affinity for podcasts. On a lengthy road trip, Abigail and I cranked through the first season of Serial around Thanksgiving. On our recent move to Chattanooga, I discovered another audio drama (We’re Alive – a zombie apocalypse survival story with huge production value that I highly recommend if you are into that) that engrossed me and left me wanting more. I slowly began to listen to less radio and more podcasts on my daily commute to and from work.
One morning on a run I found myself wishing I could listen to more content as the 25 minute trips each way to and from work weren’t enough to satisfy my craving. I started considering running with headphones, something I never really did before. Just the thought of the tether of the cord annoyed me. Regular earbuds don’t generally fit my ears and fall out very easily anyway. I started researching Bluetooth models to eliminate the cord factor. Most of the available options were either over the ear or in-ear options. This brought up another concern of mine – safety. How safe would it be to run on the roads or trails with something covering or physically inside my ears, blocking the surrounding world? Sure, I run against traffic like I’m supposed to, but there is something to be said about still being aware of your surroundings. Too many times Abigail and I have come across other runners with headphones in who had no idea we were there until we passed them. We know this because they verbally shrieked or gave a startled jump as we passed by. I definitely didn’t want to be that person. I just about conceded that I would never be able to listen to my beloved podcasts while running when that very morning on my normal commute into work, my eyes (or should I say my ears) were opened to an entirely new type of device.
Ironically enough, I was listening to a Trail Runner Nation podcast when they began talking about AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Bone Conduction Headphones. These headphones are Bluetooth and wrap around your ears, sitting just in front of them on your jawbone. The sound vibrations travel through your bones and allow you to actually hear the audio being played while simultaneously leaving your ears open to the world around you. No cord, wrap around the ear, and they allow you to be aware of your surroundings? Color me intrigued! I ended up getting a pair for Christmas because I’m pretty sure my family heard me talking about them so much. What more can I say besides I absolutely love them! They live up to their claim as advertised. I’m able to hear the music or podcasts from my phone clearly while still being able to hear the world around me on my runs.
The manufacturer claims a 6 hour battery life. I have powered them through one complete cycle and got close to 8 hours. The full charge time claim is an hour and a half. I usually charge things overnight while I’m sleeping so I’m not entirely sure on the accuracy of this claim but I have no reason to believe it isn’t true.
There are three buttons total on the Trekz Titanium – volume up, volume down, and a multi-function button. The volume up button also acts as the power button by being held down for two seconds. If upon turning on the headphones, the button is held down, the device will enter pairing mode. While music is paused or no device is connected, either volume button can be pressed to hear the battery level (battery high, battery medium, battery low, or charge me). The multi-function button has a simple one touch feature to do most functionality, such as playing or pausing music or answering calls. Additional features include double-clicking to skip to the next song or holding down to ignore an incoming call or perform a voice dial. The device is charged through a micro USB port with a pivoting cover for protection.
As mentioned above, I love the actual performance of the bone conduction. The 4.1 wireless connectivity sound is clear yet not too loud that others around you will be able to hear anything. I do find myself having to increase the volume a notch or two if there are very strong winds or a lot of close traffic, but it’s more of an observation rather than a con of the device. Your ears are still open to the outside world after all. The built-in microphone seems to work great as callers have been able to hear me just fine.
The entire unit is comfortable to wear. The band is lined with titanium (hence the product’s name) so it is lightweight (36g) and durable, keeping its shape no matter which way you stretch or twist it. It also comes in two sizes, regular and mini for children or those with smaller heads. The wrap around band sits low on the neck and I tend to forget it is there while running. Also included in the box are two tiny bands that slide onto the device to aid in getting that perfect fit if your head is too big for the mini model but not quite big enough for the regular size model.
The unit is rated IP55 meaning it is dust protected and water resistant from jets spraying from any direction. This is just a fancy way of saying this thing isn’t going to break if you sweat a lot (like me) or get caught in the rain on your run. Just don’t go swimming with them or submerge them in any way. There is a two year warranty included in the box so you should be safe to test these out even if the weather doesn’t look like it is going to cooperate on your next run.
So I know what you are probably thinking. All these pros, there has to be something wrong with it. Well about the only thing I can think of that might leave some people hesitant to buy is the price. At $129.99 these things aren’t cheap. Some people may be completely content with their $5 earbuds from the gas station. My response would be that in the price, not only do you get a set of quality wireless headphones, but you also get enhanced safety through the open ear design. That to me is worth the additional cost. With a two year warranty, if these things do somehow quit working, you are covered. I’m a big fan of these and see myself using them for a very long time.
I have since discovered a con to these headphones. It’s not a game changer by any means, but it’s worth pointing out. This morning on my run, I went to turn my headphones on and instead of hearing the familiar powering on jingle I heard the powering off tune. Uh oh. Apparently I had left the headphones on after my last run two days earlier. Needless to say the battery didn’t last too long into my morning run after being on for 48+ hours straight. There is no auto-off function with these headphones. They do not turn themselves off after a predetermined amount of time detecting no activity. Again, it’s not a huge deal and I still very much love these headphones but it is mildly annoying to put up with.