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AfterShokz Air Review

A good choice for those that really want to listen to music while leaving their ears uncovered
AfterShokz Air
Credit: AfterShokz
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Price:   $120 List | $119.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Complete awareness or surroundings, secure fit, lightweight
Cons:  Expensive, subpar sound quality
Manufacturer:   AfterShokz
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Oct 29, 2018
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54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 14
  • Sound Quality - 30% 3
  • Comfort - 20% 5
  • Athletic Performance - 20% 8
  • Battery Life - 15% 7
  • Portability - 10% 5
  • Ease of Use - 5% 6

Our Verdict

There are certain activities that call for your ears remaining uncovered, cycling being chief amongst them. In fact, cycling was the one athletic endeavor we felt a bit reluctant to take part in with earbuds shoved in our ears. While the AfterShokz Air isn't a cure-all (listening to music while riding is still a distraction), the fact that your ears remain uncovered (thanks to the bone conduction audio technology) means you're more likely to hear sounds around you when listening to music on the Air than when listening to music on something like the Jabra Elite 65t, which creates quite a tight seal in your ear. Bottom line, we personally felt more confident riding bikes with our ears uncovered than covered. Also, according to AfterShokz, "Our headphones are open ear headphones which provide a safer ride which allows you to hear your surroundings, our headphones are also legal in all 50 states [for bike riding] because they are open ear."

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Pros Complete awareness or surroundings, secure fit, lightweightFantastic sound quality, great battery lifeGreat price for high performance, good sound quality, portability, charging caseGood for working out, low profile design, relatively inexpensiveInexpensive for a truly wireless pair, fairly portable
Cons Expensive, subpar sound qualityComfort is quite hit or miss, athletic performance also hit or missBulky, uncomfortable for long periodsMay not fit large ears well, average sound quality and comfort, not true wireless, no charging caseNot comfortable for extended wear, insecure when used for athletic endeavors
Bottom Line A good choice for those that really want to listen to music while leaving their ears uncoveredFantastic if they fit well, but very uncomfortable if they don'tA quality, high-scoring product with a price tag that won't break the bankDecent performance at a mid range price, this model is likely to have most appeal among athletes who don't mind the wireInexpensive earbuds that work well for light use
Rating Categories AfterShokz Air Jabra Elite 75t Amazon Echo Buds (2... JBL Reflect Mini 2 Anker Soundcore Lib...
Sound Quality (30%)
3.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
Comfort (20%)
5.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
4.0
Athletic Performance (20%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
3.0
Battery Life (15%)
7.0
7.0
6.0
9.0
4.0
Portability (10%)
5.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
Ease Of Use (5%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Specs AfterShokz Air Jabra Elite 75t Amazon Echo Buds (2... JBL Reflect Mini 2 Anker Soundcore Lib...
Weight (oz) 1.06 0.4 0.47 0.54 0.4
Waterproof Rating IP55 IP55 IPX4 IPX5 IPX5
Measured Battery Life (hours) 7.5 7 5 11.5 3.5
Claimed Battery Life (hours) 6 7.5 5 10 3.5
Carrying Case? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charging Carrying Case? No Yes Yes No Yes
Wireless Charging Option? No Yes Yes No No
Microphone? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The AfterShokz Air uses bone conductive technology to literally vibrate sound through your cheekbones and into your ears. This leaves your ears uncovered, which is more comfortable and preferable in many situations, particularly when cycling. However, this does result in a drop in audio quality compared to traditional earbuds.

Performance Comparison


With its open-ear design, the AfterShokz Trekz Air is our favorite...
With its open-ear design, the AfterShokz Trekz Air is our favorite model for cycling.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Sound Quality


This is the one area where the Air fell short.


That's not to say these headphones sound terrible. We were still able to generally enjoy most genres of music we listened to, and podcasts were just as engaging as ever. However, the sound lacks some low end, resulting in a very thin soundscape, and higher notes can become a bit distorted and sound tinny. Bottom line, you buy these headphones because you want to listen to things on the go while leaving your ears uncovered, not because you're looking for a refined listening experience.

The unique open-ear design doesn't produce the greatest sound...
The unique open-ear design doesn't produce the greatest sound quality but does leave your ears unobstructed.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

That being said, the conductive audio technology does present a few more sound quality variables than other earbuds, namely anatomy. Different sizes and shapes of cheekbones are going to produce slightly different sounds. Because of this, we had a larger number of people listen to these headphones in our testing, and while responses varied a bit, all thought that traditional in-ear buds sounded better. In fact, it was a unanimous opinion that the Anker SoundBuds, which are just 1/5th the price, sound better than the Air.

AfterShockz includes a pair of earplugs in the box with these headphones. Putting those earplugs in does provide a surprising bump up in audio quality, filling out the low end and relieving much of the tinniness at higher frequencies. However, using these headphones with earplugs kind of defeats their whole purpose of leaving your ears uncovered. Additionally, these headphones do produce a sound that is often audible to the people around you, so if you put in those earplugs to blissfully listen to music on a long plane ride, there is a good chance you'll get some annoyed sideways glances from the people next to you.

Comfort


The Air are very comfortable to wear. The rubber coating keeps them in place but doesn't tug uncomfortably at your skin. The over-ear design is sturdy and keeps them from wiggling around, and they are light enough that you quickly forget they are there. We also had zero issues with the audio drivers making good contact with cheekbones, even with multiple people with different face shapes and sizes trying them on.


So why didn't these headphones earn a top score in our comfort metric? Solely because you can actually feel the sound vibrating through your cheekbones and into your ears. For some, this odd sensation blended into the background and was barely noticeable after a few minutes, while others found it just too odd of a sensation to handle. So if you want to give these headphones a try we strongly suggest you buy them from a reputable dealer with a good return policy, just in case you fall into the latter camp.

Athletic Performance


Here again the Air was near the top of the scoreboard, earning a score of 8 out of 10.


While the Air is relatively heavy at 1.1 oz (compare that to the 0.4 oz Jabra Elite 65t), the over-ear style offers a level of stability that makes that extra weight almost inconsequential. Yes, we could feel some tugs on our ears when we hit big bumps on a mountain bike ride, but otherwise we barely noticed the headphones were on. The rubber coating also keeps everything in place no matter how much you sweat, and the IPX5 water resistant rating means no amount of sweat is going to damage the internal electronics.

The AfterShokz Trekz Air was far and away our favorite model for...
The AfterShokz Trekz Air was far and away our favorite model for cycling, as we much preferred having our ears uncovered.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The one complaint we have with the Air's athletic performance is the fact that the over-ear style can sometimes get in the way of sunglasses, and that some helmet straps could interfere with the headphones as well. We generally were able to figure out a workaround with most helmet/sunglass combos, usually by putting sunglass temples over the helmet straps, but be aware you may have to do some tinkering to get these headphones to work well with your cycling rig.

Battery Life


The Air's battery produced a fairly impressive 7.5 hours of audio playback in our testing. Considering our favorite use for these headphones is cycling, and we rarely cycle 7.5 hours straight, that felt like plenty of battery.


Portability


The Air earned an average score in our portability testing. They are relatively small and come with a cloth carrying case, but are also slightly on the heavy side at 1.1 oz. The semi-rigid design also means these headphones don't pack down as small as traditional earbuds.

Credit: Jenna Ammerman

You certainly won't find these headphones cumbersome, but they're not quite as slick or packable as the charging cases of the Apple AirPods and Jabra Elite 65t.


Value


The Air is only worth the money if you really want to listen to music on the go while keeping your ears uncovered. If you don't mind putting actual earbuds in your ears you can get better sound quality for much less with the Anker SoundBuds, or get top-notch sound quality for a similar price from the Jabra Elite 65t.

The AfterShokz Trekz Air and its carrying case.
The AfterShokz Trekz Air and its carrying case.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


While you don't get a particularly refined listening experience, the AfterShokz Air is a good way we've found to listen to music on a bike whilst leaving your ears uncovered.

Max Mutter and Steven Tata