Hear your music and what’s going on around you!
I love listening to music on the trail. If I’m out for a ride on my own it helps get me stoked for a fun descent or breaks the monotony of a long climb. On the other hand, I also feel a need to hear what’s going on around me.
Being able to hear your surroundings while on your mountain bike is essential. Sure, if I’m on my own, I’d rather be on a quiet trail with no interruptions and no need to hear the world around me. However, most of the time that’s not reality. There are people riding up behind asking to pass, people stopped on the side of trail asking questions or saying hi. And then there’s nature itself. If there’s an animal nearby, big or small, I want to know about it!
In my quest to listen to music and at the same time remain aware of what’s going on around me, I’ve tried some different things. Like playing music from a speaker, or phone, in my hydration pack. But what if I don’t always want to carry a pack? What if everyone else on the trail doesn’t enjoy my music selection? I’ve tried riding using only one earbud, but that only solves half the problem as I can only hear on one side.
Then I came across bone conduction headphones. They let you hear what’s going on around you and listen to music at the same time!
What is bone conduction?
Bone conduction technology was originally designed for military applications but has now filtered down into the consumer market. Essentially, it broadcasts sound through the bone just in front of your ear canals. This leaves your ear canals open and free to take in other sounds, like those made by other mountain bikers or animals. One of the names at the forefront of consumer bone conduction headphones is Aftershokz. In this bone conduction headphones review I will look at this product.
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
After some research on the subject of bone conduction I picked up a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones.
These are designed to be sport headphones. They wrap around the back of the head like many other sport headphones, they are water resistant, and suitable for use in a sweaty environment. Detailed specs for the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium can be found elsewhere, so in this bone conduction headphones review I will stick to the aspects of the product I find relevant to mountain biking.
“Even with the headphones playing, I can still hear the sound of my chain turning as I pedal.”
The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones have a lot going for them:
The ability to hear the world around you… and listen to music!
The biggest claim to fame for the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium has to be that they are headphones that let you hear the world around you while listening to music, and the headphones deliver on that promise. With the volume set to a moderate level I’m able to easily hear people talking to me, or around me and respond accordingly. I can also hear other, less obvious, ambient noises. For example, even with the headphones playing, I can still hear the sound of my chain turning as I pedal.
They fit well
As mountain bikers, we’re generally wearing glasses and a helmet while riding. The prospect of wearing more on our heads can be a bit daunting, but I found the Trekz Titaniums fit quite comfortably with my helmet and glasses. They are meant to sit on top of the ear, so glasses sit on top of the headphones and the helmet strap over top of that.
I also find that the headphones don’t move around on my head much. As I move through my normal riding range of motion they stay solidly in place.
Fit is different for everyone. There are endless combinations of head shape, glasses and helmets out there so please take the above with a grain of salt.
A simple, but useful array of on-headphone controls
I tend to ride with my smartphone in my hydration pack. It can be frustrating to have to take my phone out of my pack to control my music. Fortunately, the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium has a good basic set of controls on the headphones themselves.
On the right side, just behind where the headphones begin to wrap over the top of the ear, there is a power on/off button, which also doubles as a volume-up button. Beside that there is a volume-down button.
On the left side of the headphones, there is another button. This one is on the transducer itself and can be used to pause or play music. This is great if you want to pause your music to chat without rooting through your pack to find your phone.
In addition to the main benefits noted above there are a few other things that make the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium a good option for mountain bikers:
- The unit’s Bluetooth range is good. I can leave my phone in one spot and move all through my house listening to music with no cutting out. On the trail this means you should be able to stop, take your pack off, with your phone in it, and keep listening to music as you move around. They also have multi-point pairing, so you can pair them with multiple devices.
- They use a standard micro USB cable for charging. This cable is used by a lot of other products so you don’t have to add another type of charging cable to your collection.
- The claimed battery life allows for 6 hours of playback time. I’ve only tested the playback for about 3 hours, but the headphones worked well for that length of time.
- The headphones have a IP55 water resistance rating. This means they should resist sweat and rain. I haven’t tested them in the rain, but I can say they do resist sweat, as advertised.
- The construction of the headphones feels solid. They are fully wrapped in a rubberized coating that should add some protection and has a nice texture.
- There is a wide range of available colours, so there should be something that works with any style of riding kit!
My list of negatives is shorter than positives for the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium in this bone conduction headphones review. However, this list will be significant for some users:
” Unfortunately, they don’t separate the ambient noise you want to hear from the ambient noise you don’t want to hear, like wind.”
The idea behind these headphones is that they leave the ear canal open so you’re able to hear ambient noise. Unfortunately, they don’t separate the ambient noise you want to hear from the ambient noise you don’t want to hear, like wind. Wind noise can be a bit of an issue with the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium, and I suppose all bone conduction headphones. If there is a significant wind rushing past your ears it interferes with your music.
Luckily, mountain biking doesn’t produce a lot of wind, as opposed to say road cycling. This may just be part of the price you pay for being able to wear headphones that let you hear what’s going on around you and also listen to music!
Lack of bass
Another strike against the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium is a distinct lack of bass. I’m not a sound expert, so I can’t say for sure why this is the case. I suspect it is inherent to the way bone conduction works. If that’s the case, there likely isn’t much that can be done to increase the bass. Other than the lack of bass I find the sound to be pretty good.
Who should buy them?
In my opinion, the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium are a good option for mountain bikers. I find them to be great headphones that let me hear what’s going on around me and enjoy my music at the same time. I can control them while riding using the buttons on the headphones themselves, and they fit well with a helmet and glasses.
Where the headphones fall a bit short is in their sound. Wind can interfere with the sound, and bass is lacking. For these reasons I would advise against these headphones for people looking for perfect sound fidelity.
In summary, if you are looking for one pair of headphones to do it all, you will probably need to look elsewhere. If you are looking for headphones to use specifically for mountain biking, and so that you can hear your music and everything else around you at the same time, the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium are a great choice!
Other bone conduction headphone options
I’ve only had the opportunity to test out the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium for this bone conduction headphones review, but there are others. For comparison, here’s a few other bone conduction headphones I’ve come across:
I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below, or you can contact me directly from our Contact page.
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