REVIEW: Aftershokz Sportz M2 headphones

Thanks to Wheelsuckers member Walt Cundy for submitting this review of the Aftershokz Sportz M2 headphones, which use bone conduction technology to transmit sound through to the inner ear leaving the middle and outer ear free to hear ambient noises, including the sound of approaching vehicles and other danger sounds.

Aftershokz headphones were  originally developed for use by the military and police, where open ears are needed in order to hear the movements of both the target and other members of the unit. It was only a matter of time before the the potential benefits to sportsmen and women would be recognised.

Whether cyclists should use headphones is a matter of debate - just have a look at this forum thread that popped up last summer - but the manufacturers of these innovative, award winning headphones claim that these offer a safer solution to those who like to use headphones when cycling.  Walt tested them out whilst riding his bike and, perhaps a little foolishly, whilst sharing a coffee with his unsuspecting wife! Here are his thoughts and observations.

OK, first impressions:  I'm surprised they work at all seeing as they aren't in your ears! The headphones do what the manufacturers claim,  I suppose. They rest on your cheekbone just in front of your ears with the head band that holds them in place wrapping over your ears and around the back of your head. They are non-adjustable though, but maybe we all have the same circumference of heads!

I first tried them surreptitiously whilst having a coffee with the missus and managed to get through 2 tracks (on low) before she knew I wasn't giving the conversation my full attention! The headphones are easily hidden in my mop of hair and she only heard the music emanating when I turned up the volume. This illustrates the fact that they leak sound a lot more than in a conventional headphone, though I guess this is not a problem when using them for their proper purpose.

The main issue for me is that you lose the bass pretty much. However, I like to listen to the spoken word, podcasts and that sort of thing, where the loss of bass is less of an issue. I did what they suggested and turned up the iPhone full and used the little controller that's attached. Turned up fully for a bassy electronica remix from Ultraista, my temples throbbed and tickled to distraction to the point where I had to turn it down!  It was sufficiently loud and clear at top volume but I doubt anyone could stand the weird sensation. It vibrates and tickles with spoken word as well, but less so.

The controller works well to turn off or adjust the volume, but I couldn't see the black-on-black volume tab easily. It doesn't take long to feel where up and down is. The controller would benefit from a sprung clip to hold it on to your chest/arm rather than a pen clip. Another minor gripe would be that when turning your head whist riding with your helmet over the phones, the sound moves and gets louder/ quieter and can be a bit distracting.

I liked the flashing blue light works in low light as a locator and also reminds you to turn it off when you are finished with.  

When a call comes in whilst using headphones, one press of the orange button connects your call. When done, your music/podcast will restart automatically. This doesn't happen when listening to the radio app on your phone, which has to be restarted after the call.

I like to ride with sounds when on my own and up to now I have made do with old style, purposely a bit crappy earphones (which do not sit tight in my ear) so I can usually hear cars behind me.

The Aftershokz are definitely an improvement from a safety aspect as you can hear more, but, from a headphone sound experience point of view, I will have to test the themin other challenging environments to give a definitive rating. You can also carry on a conversation whilst using the headphones - if you can multi-task that is!

I reckon you have to heighten your awareness of your environment if you use any headphones and these don't change that, bu in summary, I would recommend these phones for those naughty cyclists like me that can't live without sounds in their ears!

Aftershokz headphones sit in front of the ear, which allows wearer to hear ambient noises.

Walt tested the AfterShokz Sportz M2 headphones, which retail at £58.29. There are two other models available,  the Sportz 2 at £49.96 and the Bluez at £83.29 (All figures quoted do not include VAT). The S2 and M2 are wired but the Bluez, as the name suggests, is bluetooth connected.

Having been well received at The Cycle Show in Birmingham last Autumn, Aftershokz wil be at The Bike Show – stand LB407 but you can learn much more about the product and the technology behind it on the informative Aftershokz website.

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Comment by Terry Hayward on January 22, 2014 at 17:09
It's all about personal choices. They look a good bit of kit for those who want music while they ride. Personally I don't. I prefer to have no distractions and my ears completely free to hear potential danger.

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