Bone conducting technology has been around for a few years now and has gained a lot of popularity with cyclists and runners alike. Part of the reason for this is down to the fact that non-bone conducting headphones have been banned in most running and cycling events. Aftershokz were the main brand to step up and offer participants a way to take their music with them during events and to also stay safe when training outdoors. Bone conduction refers to the way that the soundwaves travel through the cheek bones. This method means that you are aware of your surroundings as the earphones don’t go inside of your ear. Traditional earphones dampen outside noise which can lead to cyclists not hearing cars attempting to overtake, or runners not hearing an instruction from a race marshal.
With these caveats in mind, I dipped my toe into the bone conducting headphone market during a Black Friday sale. I had been eyeing up a pair of Aftershokz Trekz for a while, but couldn’t really justify the price. I was doing a lot of my training on the treadmill at the time and didn’t enter enough events for them to be a worthwhile investment. In the end, I managed to get a pair of Vidonn F1s for £35, including postage. I have used this for almost a year and they have served me well. With that being said, I have always been intrigued by Aftershokz as they were the “original” bone conduction headphone brand and the brand which everyone always recommended. To my surprise, I was sent a pair of Aftershokz Aeropex headphones to review. This review will follow the same format as my review for the Vidonn F1s as I was eager to see how they compared.
The Aftershokz Aeropex have a recommended retail price of £149.95.
The headphones arrived in a rather large brown cardboard box. This box was sealed with branded Aftershokz tape, which I thought was a neat touch. Upon opening the first box, I was presented with a smaller cardboard box and two items separate. The first item was a branded running belt bag, and the second was a branded sports towel. I know that a retail purchase of the Aftershokz Aeropex comes with the running belt bag, but I didn’t see any mention of the sports towel.
I opened the second box and was then presented with a black branded box. I opened this to find the reviewer’s guide placed on top; this was a leaflet explaining the development of the brand and products. Underneath this was a small white box containing the headphones themselves, a bag containing a branded buff, and a branded pen. Whilst I was impressed with the buff, I actually really liked the idea of the pen… plus the design was pretty cool too!
After a game of Russian dolls (the one where each doll gets smaller within the last), I eagerly opened the final box containing the headphones. The headphones were snuggly secured on the left side, with the right side containing two USB charging wires, ear plugs and a silicon feeling carry case with a magnetic closure.
Overall, the product was very well packaged and felt premium throughout. The excess packaging did take up a lot of space in my recycling bin, but I was impressed none-the-less! It’s been a while since I opened a product and actually felt impressed before even reaching the product itself, but Aftershokz are onto a winner here.
I had a quick skim through the user manual whilst the Aftershokz Aeropex were on charge, but I didn’t really pay too much attention. Powering the headphones on was the same as my Vidonn F1s; you simply hold the volume up button down for a few seconds. Pairing followed the same process of holding the volume up button down for a second or two longer. My phone instantly picked up the Aftershokz Aeropex and I was paired immediately.
Putting the headphones on was also a simple process. This might seem like a strange thing to say, as surely putting on a pair of headphones is always simple? I have found that other wireless headphones can have issues with the battery pack being a bit heavy and pulling the headphones down at the back, or not sitting properly on the ear. As a glasses wearer I am always a bit worried about how a pair of headphones will sit with my glasses. A lot of headphones can cause some discomfort as the arm of my glasses dig into my ear and side of my head. I didn’t experience any of these issues with the Aftershokz Aeropex.
The one thing which did take a little getting used to was the main button which is used for pausing and skipping songs is located on the left hand side rather than the right as per my Vidonn F1s. This did feel a little awkward as I’m right handed. The volume buttons are located on the right hand side, which is the same as the Vidonn F1s.
Despite the slightly different button layout, the controls were much the same. One push of the main button will pause or un-pause. Two pushes in quick succession will skip to the next song, and three pushes will skip to the previous song. Skipping to a previous song is something which I am unable to do on the Vidonn F1s, and it was a nice thing to have as it can be frustrating to accidentally skip a song you wanted and then not be able to go back.
Another thing that bugged me with the Vidonn F1s is that there is no feedback on the button press. Sometimes I double click to skip a song but I end up just pausing the current song as it doesn’t register the second press. The Aftershokz Aeropex have a much better feedback mechanism. There is a slight audible sound and the button also feels more responsive. I had no issues skipping through my playlist and was really impressed.
The sound quality is really impressive, especially considering the headphones look so small. I mean, they are never going to be audiophile quality so if you are used to wearing £150+ open back headphones, then you may be disappointed. It is, however, important to remember why you would purchase the Aftershokz Aeropex anyway, and that is to be alert to your surroundings.
With regards to volume levels I had no issues. I found that I had a wider volume range than on the Vidonn F1s. The Aftershokz Aeropex are capable of cranking out the volume, if that’s what you need. The Vidonn F1s do suffer with a little more sound leakage than I feel comfortable with. I’d feel a bit conscious about wearing them on the bus as I wouldn’t want people to have to listen to my music. This seems to be less of an issue with the Aftershokz Aeropex. There is still some leakage at higher volumes, but that is unavoidable with this style of headphone, just the same as open back headphones have the same issue.
One thing that I did notice whilst running is that I don’t have the same “air blowing” noise in the Aftershokz Aeropex. The Vidonn F1s tend to pick up a bit of drag; when you run you can hear the wind blowing against the headphones and it creates a strange sound throughout. It’s not a massive thing, but it can be a bit distracting. Again, I’m not sure if this is down to the design, but the Aftershokz Aeropex doesn’t have this issue.
One thing that I haven’t tested on the Vidonn F1s is the call feature. Both headphones are capable of answering phone calls, as long as they are paired with your mobile. This wasn’t planned but my nan called me during my second venture out with the Aftershokz Aeropex. It has been a few years since I have used headphones to answer a call, and that had never been a great experience I was curious to see how they would handle a phone call and if my nan would be able to hear me clearly so I answered the call. To my surprise, the sound clarity was really good and my nan had no issues hearing me. Granted I didn’t have high expectations, but I would definitely have no qualms in using them to take phone calls, especially when I’m out walking or running to save me from having to run holding my phone.
As I have previously mentioned, my only other experience with bone conducting headphones comes from my Vidonn F1s. in comparison, the Aftershokz Aeropex definitely take the crown for comfort. Don’t get me wrong, the Vidonn F1s are fine, however you do start to feel them on your cheek and top of your ears after a few hours. They are also heavier (38g vs 26g) and you definitely feel it after prolonged usage. The Aftershokz Aeropex, on the other hand, are much lighter and even when I stopped my music for 40 minutes or so I didn’t feel the urge to quickly take them back off.
For prolonged use the Vidonn F1s also tended to slip a little. This wasn’t a major issue but could be a bit distracting when you are running, especially if you are going for a personal best in an event. I always seem to find myself fiddling with them slightly to try and adjust them after having them on for anything over an hour. I wasn’t sure if this was down to the weight of them, the fact that I wear glasses, or because I have a small head. Since trying out the Aftershokz Aeropex I have found my answer… it must be a weight thing. Or, the Aftershokz Aeropex just fit my head a bit better as I don’t notice any slipping or movement in them, even after wearing them for over 2 and a half hours.
One of the boasted improvements over previous Aftershokz models is the extended battery life. The Aftershokz Aeropex has an advertised battery life of 8 hours.
Upon unboxing them, I put the headphones on charge for around an hour until the orange LED turned blue to indicate that they were fully charged. I then used them for two 30 minute walks to ensure they felt comfortable enough to test out during my next half marathon. On the day of my half marathon I wore them for around 2:35. I have worn them for another 2 hours since and haven’t had to charge them yet, so the 8 hour battery life seems like a realistic expectation.
Okay, I have to admit, this was quite tough for me. Part of me didn’t really want to like the Aftershokz Aeropex due their price point being almost 3 times higher than the Vidonn F1s which have served me well. With that being said, they did really surprise me! From the moment I unboxed them I was impressed. They feel extremely well designed and like a premium product. Setting them up took a few seconds and the sound quality was flawless. Even the call quality was stellar. They are probably the most comfortable pair of headphones that I have ever worn as I usually struggle with headphones due to wearing glasses. The battery life seems to match up with the 8 hour guideline given and that in itself is a super upgrade from the 5 hours that my Vidonn F1s have (advertised as 6 hours). The price may seem high, but you get a well-designed product which looks and feels a lot more durable than the Vidonn F1s, great sound quality, outstanding battery life and a whole lot of comfort!