Product Review Aftershokz Sportz 2
The Afterhokz headphones look like regular headphones but you don´t wear them directly on your ears. You place them just in front of the ears (see above picture) and the sound is transferred by vibration to your cheak bones and then transferred to the ear. The tech is called "bone conduction". The advantages should be as follows:
- You can still hear all sounds and noises from the environment. So you are not cut off from the "Umwelt". You hear on two levels, with your ears as usual and additionally through the bone conduction.
- there is nothing physically in your ears which may feel uncomfortable for some people.
- Its more comfortable to wear especially during sports and you dont have to worry whether the ear plugs are always fully inside your ears
Result: I was very curious about this product and couldnt wait to get my Aftershokz. I bought it online on Taobao here in China. Immediately after I received my set on a saturday morning I un-boxed it and tried it out.
- Yes, its comfortable to wear, even when being active and moving around
- I find the sound quality not very good. The sound is very metallic to say the least. It lacks any bass. Playing music did not feel very pleasant to me.
- I used the Aftershokz for about an hour just to get a better feel for it. After several minutes I felt some kind of sensation in my head. Difficult to describe but I imagine this is what it might feel like, when you use a smartphone for 2 hours without interruption. It did NOT feel good, a kind of "stress" emerged. I wondered whether it is only me and asked my wife and later on, my kids, to also give it a try. I didnt tell them about my feelings and just ask the for their opinions. All three reported the same experience. It didnt feel good and the sound quality was worse than expected.
I am still very interested in the concept of "open ear" headphones or "open hearing". Taking out the environment may be desirable when you are on an airplane (Lufthansa airlines has quite good Bose headphones for example) but other than that I would prefer to hear the music from a player AND still be able to hear the environment. That would be ideal. Just like we did when we were younger, listening to loud music in the car and opening the windows and having the feel, smell and sounds from the environment. That would be perfect!
Here by Doppler Labs
I read about "Here by Doppler labs" earbuds on the Business Insider and this item might just be what I am looking for. Here are a pair of separate earbuds, connected via Bluetooth and the user is supposed to be able to control the amount of ambient real world sound/noise which can pass through the earbuds while at the same time, hearing whats comin from your player. They state: "Here allows you to instantly control real world audio so you can hear what you want to hear and be fully immersed in your audio environment." I am not sure they are for sale at this date.
If you have tried "Here" I would be happy to "hear" from you in the comments. 😉
Today I came across a new Kickstarter campaign which actually also just today surpassed its funding goal of US$ 150.000. Batband on Kickstarter. The concept seems to be similar as Aftershokz: Sound is also transferrred by bone conduction. The Batband doesnt really look like ordinary headphones, more like a clip on the head. It promises similar advantages as I mentioned about Aftershokz further above. They might have a better or more advanced bone conduction technolgy.
As for me: I didnt fund this project at this time. I am still a bit disappointed after the Aftershokz experience and will just wait out for the first reviews someone else may write about the Batband.
Summary: I still believe there is a huge market for a device that allows you to hear the environment AND the music or text coming from your device. And this doesn´t have to be for a target market of "young joggers". The bigger market may be seniors taking a walk on the weekend while listening to classical music or hikers listening to an eBook about the environment they are just passing through. Or think museum or tourist city bus.
I am not sure whether bone conduction will be the best and final solution though.
I also dont think that earbuds wil be the final solution, even if they filter or allow ambient sounds to pass through. Too many people, myself included, don´t feel comfortable wearing ear buds for a longer time. This is also a question of "fit" since every ear is shaped differently. (BTW: There is a company called "Nrmal" making traditional hearing devices printed to fit each ear (scanning ears and 3D printing the buds).
So I guess the best solution is still out there to be made. I assume this device might not even be sitting on your head but maybe on your shoulder. Directional speakers might come into play, allowing only the person within a certain angle to hear the sounds. We will see. What ever it may look like: I ll be among the first ones to fund or buy such product once it emerges!
Do you know of any other "open hearing" product I might have missed ? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below and maybe like or share this post.