Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Aftershokz OpenMove Bone Conducting Headphones Review
*Please note this post contains affiliate links
For a good five years now I’ve had frequent and uncomfortable ear infections and reluctantly I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t wear in-ear headphones anymore. A lot of the time it’s too painful to put in my in-ears (currently Jaybird X3s) and I’m not convinced it’s a good idea to have anything blocking my ears anymore. So I was faced with a stark choice, find another option or no more music when I run. I accept that with a forest to run in, it’s not like I get bored but even so, it’s nice to have music to run with and it gives me that extra energy at the start of the day. Over-ear headphones aren’t really an option on account of looking stupid and so I decided to look at bone conduction headphones.
What are Bone Conduction Headphones?
Bone conduction headphones sit just in front of your ears over your cheekbones and transmit the vibrations directly into your skull. It sounds very weird but the net effect when wearing them is simply that you hear the music just as if it came in via your ears.
I was concerned about the price when I first looked. The top of the line Aeropex retail at around £150 which is more than I am going to pay for running headphones, however, recently they released the OpenMove which offer similar quality levels in terms of sound but for around £80.
What is the Difference Between the Aftersokz OpenMove and Aeropex?
The key areas of difference between the OpenMove and the Aeropex are in terms of construction and battery life. The Aeropex is made entirely of titanium whereas the OpenMove has polycarbonate ear hooks which have a comfort implication and equates to 3g in weight difference. The Aeropex also have 2 hours more battery life. Another difference is the IP rating. The IP or ingress protection defines how the device behaves in dusty or wet environments. The OpenMove are IP55 which means dust can get in but not break it and they’re water resistant but not waterproof. The Aeropex are IP 67 which is totally protected against dust and waterproof up to 1m. In real terms for my environment, this means the OpenMove are sufficient. IP67 isn’t sufficient for surfing and IP55 is fine for running. All this meant that the OpenMove was right for my needs and substantially cheaper, so then it seemed I could afford a set.
What are Bone Conduction Headphones Like?
The chief complaint about bone conduction headphones seems to be a perceived lack of sound quality but in all honesty that has not been my experience. They are not super bassy but they aren’t so weak on bass that bass-driven music (metal, drum and bass) sounds rubbish. I have actually noticed things in music that I had not heard before. To be clear, it’s not a requirement for me to have 100% fidelity in a running headphone but I did not feel compromised at all in this area.
Comfort, however, is a big deal. A lot of reviews said that the polycarbonate ear hook made the OpenMoves intolerably uncomfortable. I think if this were the case I would find out with my generously proportioned ears but it’s not my experience. I came in from a run and kept them on while doing some strength workouts and in all, I had them on for about 2 hours. I found them very comfortable.
Another thing I liked is how easy they are to put on. In ears can be a faff as I hate it when they are not fully in, OpenMoves simply slip on and it’s not hard at all to get them in the right place. Conversely, though I did find they move slightly when doing exercise that causes my head to dip. It’s not the end of the world but it does change the sound as my head moves and it annoyed me a bit. That being said it’s not stopped me from using the phones when doing calisthenics.
A big positive when running is the ability to use my ears normally which makes crossing the road and indeed, running in general, much safer. I don’t use headphones to block out the world when running, just to add music in there, so more situational awareness is a good thing. I can even have conversations when close but it’s harder at a distance.
The controls of the headphones are a mixed bag. There is a multifunction button to stop, start and take and end calls on the outside of one side. That is perfect and super easy to find. The volume up and down buttons which are also used for skipping tracks are very fiddly to get to.
Another annoyance and this is minor, is that you have to press a button to hear the battery life. The set has a 6-hour life, which is fine for me, but I would prefer it if I got a battery readout on startup like on my old X3s. This was a handy reminder to charge on returning from a run. With the OpenMove I have to remember to check, which is not the end of the world but it’s not convenient either. There’s also only ‘high, medium, and low’ in terms of charge reading as opposed to a percentage and there is no audible warning when you drop from ‘high’ charge to ‘low’. All these features were on my X3s which means I feel the lack of them on the OpenMove.
AfterShokz OpenMove Review the Verdict
Those niggles aside though, I’m really happy with the Aftershokz. The sound is good, the fit and comfort are great and the 6-hour battery life is more than enough for my needs. There are a couple of minor annoyances but I would buy these again in a heartbeat. I also think that for price vs performance these are the best choice in terms of Aftershokz model. The only other choice for me would be the waterproof and MP3 capable Xtrainers if I did a lot of swimming, they have similar sound quality to the OpenMove but include onboard mp3 storage.
The OpenMove do have phone capability which is handy for me, but not a deal-breaker. I tested it out and the quality was fine. I would not use these as a primary phone device but it means I can take a call on my morning run without getting my phone out of my running vest. This is just a nice to have for me though if the OpenMove did not have phone capability it would not affect my review, but it would if the capability was there but poorly implemented.
I would recommend the OpenMoves, not just if you have bad ears or a need to hear around you but also because they are comfortable, convenient and you get good sound quality. For context, the cost is the same as my last pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones.