AfterShokz Bluez 2 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

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Product: AfterShokz Bluez 2 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones
Provided By: AfterShokz
Price: $99.99 MSRP at time of publication

Introduction:

Back at CES 2012, we met with AfterShokz and took a look at their first-generation "Bone-Conduction" headphones. These were pretty cool as we'd never seen anything done like this before and they actually won our "Best of CES" award that year. From a usable standpoint, the sound quality wasn't quite the best, the volume control/battery was pretty clunky and they were wired only - without a microphone. They've released a few different versions over the years that include both wired and wireless versions and today we are taking a look at their latest wireless version - the Bluez 2.


Box of Shokz

They use the same technology, but the Bluez 2 has come a long, long way since the release of their original model. There is no more wire, no clunky volume control and they are a bit squarer and look more modern. The transducers have improved as well and they claim to have a lot better sound that the original. Today, we'll take a look and give you a brief overview as to what to expect and how they perform.

First Look:

As I opened up the Bluez 2 box, I noticed that AfterShokz has really stepped up their game. The presentation of the product is fantastic and as they are geared toward athletes and fitness, the minimalist and professional appearance goes a long way. Inside the box, there is absolutely everything you need to get rolling.

Bluez 2 Box Bundle

The Bluez 2 come complete with a pair of reflective stickers (if you're running in low light), a weatherproof storage pouch, micro-USB charging cable, adjustable tension band for use is you're wearing these doing parkour, and of course a user guide. While they don't include a USB wall-charger, there is a pretty good chance that you've got a dozen of these laying around your house or office. Unlike Nintendo, they do include a cable at least.

While the AfterShokz rely on transducers instead of speakers, there are some holes located next to the cheek-rests that seem to allow some sound to escape. As you can see below, they do look pretty sleek.

Transducer vents Bottom Controls

As you can see in the image above and on the right, the bulk of the controls are located on the one side. There is a single power button that can be used to pair the headset, as well as volume up and down controls. In between these sets of buttons is the micro-USB charging connector and on the same side - on the transducer is the microphone. All of these adds up to one sleek headset that promises quite a lot. On the next page, we'll take a look at the features and specifications before we jump into testing and general usage of the Bluez 2.


Features:

The Bluez 2 are long on features and we have pulled them from the AfterShokz product page and posted them below for your convenience. Please make sure to check out the manufacturer's site if you want all the latest details.

Safe
OpenFit promises ambient sound awareness second to none. That means you can tune in to your music or a call without tuning out the world around you - vital for staying safe and alert as you move through the day.

Comfortable
With nothing ever in, on or covering your ears, these lightweight and secure headphones are designed to wear as if they're barely there - all day, every day.

Bone Conduction Technology
Experience stereo sound via mini vibrations that travel through your cheekbones to your inner ears, bypassing your eardrums completely.

Everyday Strong
Durably built to power through daily sweat sessions and wicked weather. A nanotechnology coating and watertight rubber gaskets repel sweat and moisture from the inside out.

Superior Stereo Sound
It doesn't seem sensible that audio traveling through your bones instead of your ears could be so finely tuned. It wouldn't be possible without our PremiumPitch technology, which assures the finest in bone conduction audio.

Six Hours of Music + Calls
A single charge will reliably deliver six hours of music play and talk time. A quick 15-minute charge provides enough boost to get you through a long workout or marathon call.

Noise Cancelling Microphones
Precisely placed dual noise canceling microphones exclude surrounding noise, effectively enhancing speech.

EQ Presets
Ensure your music always suits your mood with equalization presets that customize bass and vibration on the go.

Intuitive Controls
A multifunction button delivers complete control of music and calls right from the unit, which means your mobile device can remain safely tucked away during use.

Profile

Specifications:

  • Speaker type: bone conduction transducers
  • Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz
  • Sensitivity: 100 ± 3dB
  • Microphone: -40dB ± 3dB
  • Bluetooth version: v3.0+EDR
  • Compatible profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
  • Wireless range: 33 ft (10m)
  • Battery: rechargeable lithium ion
  • Continuous play: 6 hours
  • Standby time: 10 days
  • Charge in: 2 hours
  • Weight: 1.45 oz (41g)
  • Warranty: two years
  • Compatible with: Bluetooth-enabled devices

On the last page we'll cover general use and our thoughts as we test these out.


Getting the Shokz On:

I was pretty interested to take a look and a listen to the new Bluez 2 as it was a few years since I'd first used the original AfterShokz. While the original version worked well enough, I was really looking forward to headset features as well as wireless freedom. Within an hour the battery on the Bluez 2 was fully charged and I was ready to pair.

Pairing was as simple as holding down the power button and the voice prompts let you know what is going on so you don't have to remove them to see an LED indicator or anything. They paired quickly and I was off to the races.

The first thing I did was to try and raise and lower the volume level using the built in controls. Without any audio being pumped from my device, the volume up button told me "battery level is high". That's good - and a nice touch to know how full your battery is before you head out. Once I started playing music on my phone, I could raise and lower the volume on the AfterShokz independently of my Bluetooth volume on my Android device. I've seen some headsets that actually controlled the volume of your device - not the volume of the headset itself. This really doesn't make a difference to me, but if you notice that the volume of these seem to be low, check the volume on your device as well.

Listening:

The thing that makes the AfterShokz stand out is the "Bone Conduction" technology. They Bluez 2 don't fit in your ears - or over your ears. They sit in front of your ears - on your cheekbones and then conduct the sound (vibrations) generated by the transducers inside your head - while leaving your ears open. The beauty is that you can not only listen to music, movies, audiobooks, podcasts and phone calls, you can also still hear the world around you.

It's an odd feeling the first time you turn on the music and hear the sound inside your head. It is a different experience that using headphones or earphones - and it can take a bit to get used to. What take the most time to get used to is that while you are listening to your content, you can still hear people talking, traffic and more. It's not normal as people are used to shutting out the world when they pop in their earphones.

The benefit of course is awareness. AfterShokz Bluez 2 give you awareness for running and driving that headphones and earphones simply can't. This is what sets them apart and makes them special.

What isn't quite as special is the audio quality. They have come a long way from their early models, but the sound quality isn't up to par with most earphones. If you turn up the volume and listen to bass-heavy tracks, you'll also feel the vibration of the transducers and it can tickle your ears a bit as it shakes around the inside of your head. Even with the music volume loud, you can still hear people around you.

One thing I noticed that is pretty awesome is that if you plug your ears when listening to the Bluez 2, the volume increases dramatically as does the sound quality. It appears that with the bone conduction tech going on, some of the sound appears to be "leaking out" your ears! Of course if you plug your ears, it makes running awkward and once again you are oblivious to traffic. Still, it's an interesting concept and one that actually broadens the application of the AfterShokz.

 

Battery, Range and Final Thoughts:

The battery life on the Bluez 2 is nothing short of incredible. The sleek design doesn't really allow for a large battery anywhere on them, but they manage to squeeze out 6+ hours of actual listening or talk time and up to 10 days of standby time. When testing these out, I got as much as 8 hours of battery life as I was listening to an audiobook and was able to complete it on a single charge. Granted, it was a short book, but between the book, standby time and a couple of phone calls I made during this time, I am impressed.

The range on the Bluez 2 is great. AfterShokz claims 33 feet and they get all of that - and a little more if you have good line of sight. Even if you are in a different room of your home or office, you won't drop a call, lose signal or skip music. They worked very well in the situations we tested.

 

The dual-microphones do an admirable job of cutting out background noise, but if you are jogging in the wind, there is still a bit of whistle that can make it difficult for the other party to pick up what you are saying. Microphones and noise-cancelling algorithms have come a long way though and for most uses - the setup works very, very well.

At the end of the day, the AfterShokz Bluez 2 is a fantastic upgrade and great evolution of the product line and I look forward to using these as the days get warmer. The fact that you have situational awareness while at the same time enjoying your content is a thing of beauty. While AfterShokz isn't the only company doing "bone conduction" audio these days, at this point they are the best we've seen and the Bluez 2 are what is taking them to the top.

Pros:

  • Wireless
  • Good noise-cancelling microphones
  • Comfortable
  • Long battery life
  • Weatherproof
  • Can hear surroundings while you enjoy your media

 

Cons:

  • Audio quality is not what people are used to
  • Not geared for big heads

 

While we can't expect the audio quality to be on par with other headphones, this is the drawback of all bone conduction products. AfterShokz does it better than anyone we've heard, but it will still be a point of contention with consumers. The flip-side of course is the fact that you can still hear the world around you! This is key for many people that run beside busy streets. The Bluez 2 provide safety, quality and comfort and while they fall short of "Gold", they still earn a solid silver here at BCCHardware.


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I'd like to thank AfterShokz for setting us up with this review sample. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them here.