(Click above to watch my video review. Press CC for captions)
I’ve been fascinated by bone conduction technology for a long time and always suspected it could be wonderful for people with hearing loss, vestibular disorders, and hearing disorders like tinnitus.
Because with bone conduction audio, the vibrations of sound are transmitted through the bones of the head and face directly to the inner ear.
Now you still need to have a functioning cochlea for this to work, but if you have partial hearing loss, it can help quite a bit. In fact, products like the BAHA bone anchored hearing aid are already use this technology to help the hearing impaired.
So I wanted to give it a try!
Last week, I went out and purchased the best pair of bone conduction headphones I could get my hands on: the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Wireless Headphones.
So what’s it like? Well, let’s get into it.
The User Experience:
After several hours of listening to music and podcasts, both in quiet environments and while riding my bike, I can safely say it’s a unique audio experience.
The biggest distinction here is the open ear design. Sound is transmitted as vibration through the cheek bones directly to the inner ear, leaving your ear canals wide open.
And yet, it still sounds like your wearing headphones. It’s wild.
This makes for an interesting experience as you’re able to maintain situational awareness, which is a good thing if you’re like me and you like to listen to music as you ride your bike, or if you like to exercise outside.
Another big difference is that you can feel the vibrations on your cheek while you listen. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it sometimes adds to the experience, but at the same time it’s something you have to get used to.
Here’s the bottom line: they don’t sound as good as a set of quality headphones.
And as a self-proclaimed audiophile, that kind of thing is important to me. But they don’t sound bad either. In fact, they actually sound pretty good, much better than I expected.
I haven’t tried any other bone conduction headphones for comparison, but in reviews across the internet, the Trekz Titanium is unanimously the best of the best of what’s available for consumers. So, it’s safe to say that this is about as good as it gets.
There is plenty of bass, and the treble comes through mostly clear. At higher volumes, however, it can become somewhat distorted. Though you shouldn’t listen at high volumes anyways. Like regular headphones, it will still cause hearing loss.
The Trekz Titanium are very light weight which ultimately makes them very comfortable wear. They wrap around the back of your head, over your ears, and sit just in front of your ears, pressing lightly into your cheek bones. I did not have any problems wearing them for an extended period of time.
The only possible issue here is that the wrap around headband will be bumped if you lay down with them on or sit back in a comfortable chair. I imagine wearing a jacket or clothing with a hood could be an issue as well.
But they are otherwise very comfortable.
The Trekz Titanium also have some additional features that keep it in line with the latest generation of wireless headphones. They feature dual microphones for taking phone calls, volume controls, and buttons to pause/play audio and answer phone calls.
This feature is great for people with partial hearing loss, especially if you have difficulty hearing the other person when you hold a phone to your ear. By transmitting the sound directly to the inner ear, you are more likely to be able to hear the conversation clearly.
And call quality is great through the headphones, though on the other end, it’s not perfect. My wife Megan said that it sounded like I was on speaker phone. Despite this, she could still hear me clearly.
Setting it all up is very easy too. Pairing the Bluetooth was a breeze on both my Samsung Galaxy s8 and Macbook Pro. There is a multi-pairing feature as well that allows you to connect it to multiple devices at once, which nice bonus!
The headphones are also completely sweat and weatherproof (though not waterproof), and the battery lasts about 6 hours on a single charge.
During exercise, I found that I had to make minor adjustments somewhat regularly to keep the contact points set in the right position. Also, sound leakage is an issue at higher volumes. In other words, people can hear what you’re listening to.
One other minor gripe is that when you wear them with glasses, it can affect audio quality slightly and make it more difficult to keep the audio transducers in the right place on your cheeks.
All in all, I have to say I’m impressed, and I would definitely recommend them.
It’s not what I was looking for in a daily set of headphones, but I can see how it could be a fantastic piece of tech for anyone with hearing loss.
It was also an interesting new way to mask the sound of my tinnitus. Because many headphones block out external sounds, it can make tinnitus sound a bit louder.
But with the Trekz Titanium, I could mask the sound of my tinnitus without covering my ears, much like playing music on a speaker. I could see this as an effective tinnitus masking solution for people working in an office setting.
All in all, it’s a completely different audio experience than what you’re used to, but again, that’s not a bad thing.
In a lot of situations, I found it quite nice to be able to hear what was going on around me.
And the price is entirely reasonable. The wireless version I reviewed here is only $100 on Amazon, and considering these are the best of the best when it comes to bone conduction music, that’s a steal.
Though Aftershokz also offers a wired version (Image below) for as little as $60 if you want to give it a try.
I hope you enjoyed my review!
If you have experience with bone conduction headphones, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!