First, let me start by saying I’m not exactly an audiophile. My needs are simple – I just want to listen to music during dog walks and when outside without getting all tangled up in cords. And I wanted to be safe and still be able to hear traffic and other sounds around me. And I wanted to be able to answer and make phone calls through a headphone and have it sound nice to both people speaking.
First I tried the Apple AirPods Pro. They are definitely nice. The sound is beautiful. But there were a couple of things which bothered me. One is that in the store, even in transparency mode, I couldn’t hear what the salesman was saying. And while it seemed to be the most comfortable of ear buds I have tried, I wouldn’t say they were really comfortable. I wasn’t confident about them staying in either. Version 2 are an improvement over the first version though. The stem is shorter, so you don’t stand out like some alien with them on.
There were a couple of others recommended by people on social networks. So I visited Akihabara last week and dropped by an earphone speciality shop on Chuo Dori.
First I tried the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds. All the Jabra earbuds have a great reputation, and people in forums highly praised these. However I found them to be (1) uncomfortable and (2) the surrounding sound blockage was too much even with the open mode. Still, they are high quality earbuds for people who don’t mind earbuds. If things in your ear don’t bother you, I think they can be recommended.
Another highly recommended model was the ADV Model Y – it doesn’t have active noise cancelation, and is a lot less expensive. But again, I found them uncomfortable. Still if you are looking for something very economical, and don’t mind earbuds, you might consider those as well.
I guess I’m really just not a stick-something-in-my-ear person.
But I didn’t want to carry around a bulky, heavy over-the-head, full headset for dog walks. I wanted something light and small and easy to just slip on and use. Something easier even than my Apple default earbuds (which seem to automatically tangle their own cords). And something safe to use while walking around.
While in the earphone shop I also tried another recommended headset, the AfterShokz Aeropex and wow! It was my first time to try bone conducting earphones. I was amazed.
First, the music I listened to sounded beautiful. If you look at true audiophile reviews they will caution that the music quality isn’t nearly as good as true professional headsets. Some recommend it for things like calls while driving and audio books. I get that. As I said, I’m not a real audiophile. If the bass is turned up I usually think music sounds great. So take my music impression with a grain of salt. They sound better than the standard Apple earbuds though for sure.
Unlike all the earbuds I tried, I could safely hear surrounding sounds.
While in the shop I tested with a phone call to a friend and we both heard each other perfectly. So I got them!
I’ve also since tested with FaceTime calls to my sister (Cathy is awake 24 hours a day for this kind of tech support) and making phone calls and leaving myself phone messages to hear what they sound like. When on a FaceTime call with my sister it was like she was sitting here.
They are light – just 26 grams – and fit very comfortably, even with me wearing glasses and a mask. One huge improvement over AirPods is they have an 8 hours use time with a 10 day standby. I’ve only charged them one time since getting them, and currently when I turn them on the headphones say, “Power on. Charge medium.”
They charge with a USB connection, so I believe on a very long airplane flight it would be easy to recharge. AfterShokz provides two special charging cables. On the headphone side the connection is magnetic so it’s super easy to connect.
The controls are also very simple for things like pause, skip ahead, answer calls, change volume, pairing, etc.
This part was almost dreamlike. On dog walks not only do I barely notice they are there, but when I listen to music it’s like I’m in a movie and it’s my background music. The feeling is one of calmness and a certain elation. Almost like feeling high (in a Colorado Rocky Mountain High sense). I’m discovering more music lately as well with my three month trial Amazon Music Unlimited subscription.
Other specs are: dual noise-canceling mics for clear calls (I’m amazed how well those work, considering how far away they are from my mouth); IP67 Waterproof Rating – Completely sweat and waterproof earphones for workouts, fitness and running. I even saw some videos on YouTube of people dropping them in water.
Anyway, as I said, I’m not an audiophile. What I am is a typical daily user, dog walker, and somebody who wanted to make more use of music on my iPhone while out and about. I wanted something lightweight, without cords, unobtrusive, that wouldn’t fall out, wasn’t outrageously expensive, and something I didn’t have to stick in my ears.
I find the AfterShokz Aeropex great for that. Maybe for very long international plane flights I’ll consider something over-the-ear with extremely long battery life later (it’s a 14 hour flight from Narita to Boston), but for day to day use I find these great so far.
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