Bone conduction is a hit or miss depending on the user. Some love the idea of having their ears completely free to the open world around them, while others prefer to hide behind noise suppressing or canceling headphones that cover the ear. For those that do like it, they swear by it. Assuming they found a brand they like that actually offers what it promises. A brand like Shokz (formerly Aftershokz).
The company recently went through a total rebrand, with a new name as well as some models that took on new names as well (ie, Shokz OpenRun, which used to be the Aftershokz Aeropex). It’s still the same company and still the same products and quality it has always offered.
Today, we get to talk about the company’s headset solution (the Shokz OpenComm Headset). Something built around phone conversations more so than anything else. Let it be someone looking for a professional solution or something personal. It connects to whatever device you want via Bluetooth like any other headset or headphones while offering the benefits of bone conduction.
Bone conduction is an alternative to normal headphones as it gives you the best of both worlds. You don’t have heavy cans covering your ears, but you also don’t have buds shoved inside (which some people find to be incredibly uncomfortable). InteInsteadad, you get a lightweight solution similar to buds, but without anything covering or sticking into your ears.
OpenComm features a similar design to some of the other models it has, with the exception of the boom mic sticking out of the left side. Appropriately looking like a common headset, while maintaining a unique design that is both cool and professional.
It offers a smooth rubberized coating throughout and an insane amount of flexibility to make sure it is comfortable no matter the size of the head. It is also relatively light in weight, which makes it comfortable to wear. No less than a pair of glasses, which means you may (at times) forget that they are there. Of course, it helps that your ears are completely exposed.
Connectivity and Controls
As mentioned, it connects via Bluetooth like any other headset. The first time you turn the headset on, it will immediatly go into pairing mode. If you need to trigger it manually, then you simply hold the volume up button to turn the headset on and continue pressing it until it follows up with pairing.
Controls are simple as you only have three buttons to work with. You have a multi-functioning button on the side of the right module (module feels like the right word to use here) that sits in front of your ear. This button covers a lot of things, such as answering a call, disconnecting a call, ignoring a call, play/pause of a track, previous/next track, and triggering your voice assistant. It all depends on how many times you click the button or how long you hold it down.
Then you have the volume controls that are also on the right side located on the bottom side of the module that sits behind your ear. This module (both sides) is likely where the internal battery is stored as well. But these buttons are also multi-functioning.
They control volume (obviously), but they also control power on/off, mute, battery status, and EQ.
The backside of that same rear module contains the contact points where the magnetic cable attaches for charging.
The headset can be found in two different colors, including black and gray. The black is an all-black design while the gray offers a colored multi-function button and a slight two-tone to the gray. Both of which look pretty slick.
This is where we get to dig into the things we like or do not like about the headset. Starting with comfort. This headset is incredibly comfortable to wear. It isn’t distracting since your ears are exposed and it is light enough to (mostly) forget about them. The texture running throughout the outer shell of the headset is soft to the skin and grips well so they don’t really move around on you.
Battery life is also great, as you get up to 16 hours’ worth of talk time. This gets you through any workday and can then still ride on your head as you leave work for the gym or anywhere else. It also only takes around an hour to re-charge. So the ratio is quite balanced in your favor.
The sound quality during phone calls is perfect. Like any good pair of headphones or buds, the person you are talking to comes in clearly (assuming they have a clear connection themselves and a decent phone/mic). This is important as you won’t be using the headset for much else.
I say you won’t be using it for much else because this leads us into the things we don’t like. Thankfully, there are only a few things to touch on. Which speaks pretty well for the product.
For one, the sound quality doesn’t offer anything amazing for music. Unless you plan to listen to vocal, full-body, acoustic, or classical tracks. Anything else just doesn’t sound right. The range covers mostly your highs and mid-highs (more like higher-mid-highs). Trying to listen to rock or anything else with a full body results in a tinny performance with pretty much all frequencies below 1K being gone (I’m roughly guessing there). So unless you don’t care about sound quality and having your ears exposed is more important, you likely won’t be using these for music.
Another thing we do not like so much is that the charger is proprietary. It’s nice that it is a magnetic charger, but using a proprietary connecting means you have another cable hanging about. Not as nice if you are trying to reduce cable clutter between all of your devices. We like to see universal connections and USB-C would have been nice. That being said, this likely has a lot to do with how they waterproofed it? Maybe? However, we have come across so many headphones that are completely waterproof (vs semi-waterproof) that offer a normal USB connection.
You do get a really nice semi-hard case to store them in, along with the (proprietary) charging cable, and anything else you want to slide into the pouch section to the left (you can easily fit the instructional booklet as well). The case has a nice brushed-looking design to the material and feels good in the hands.
This headset offers the perfect performance when it comes to phone calls and bone conduction. Not so much with music though, which makes the price a little high in our opinion. This knocked it back a little in the score. The proprietary cable did as well, but only ever-so-slightly. This is absolutely targeted toward those looking to spend a lot of time on the phone making phone calls though. If this is you, then this is a fantastic option to consider.
Having your ears exposed to the world is an incredible bonus when things like safety are at play. I remember some years ago when we had a decent-sized booth at one of the shows, the supervisor in charge of the crew building the booth swore by his (at the time Aftershokz) headphones. He was constantly on the phone with one of our team, one of his, or other contacts from the show (logistics, electricians, etc). While at the same time, he could hear anyone call out to him, or the sound of moving equipment such as forklifts and other things moving around. This makes perfect sense, showing just one scenario where these would excel at their duties.
Certain office environments can benefit from bone conduction as well since you can hear your co-workers in case someone wants your attention while you are on a call or listening to some (simple) music. Not me though, as I prefer the active noise-canceling of my own favorite headphones as I pretend not to hear anyone calling out for me. To each their own! I do like these though and could easily see myself using them in certain situations.
|Available from the following retailers:
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| Our Rating
| Average Price*
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- Back-a-track: Yes
- Battery life: 16 Hours of Talk Time
- Battery type: Lithium Polymer Battery
- Charge time: 1 hour
- Charger: Magnetic Induction Cable
- Command controls: Yes
- Compatible codecs: SBC
- Compatible profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
- Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz
- Mic sensitivity: -38dB +/- 3dB
- Microphone: DSP Noise-Canceling Boom Mic
- Microphone sensitivity: -38dB +/- 3dB
- Moisture detector: Yes
- Multi-Point Pairing: Yes
- Multipoint pairing: Yes
- Sensitivity: 96 +/- 3dB
- Standby time: Up to 14 Days
- Titanium band: Full-Wraparound
- Titanium frame: Full-Wraparound
- Type: Bluetooth 5.1
- Warranty: 2 Years
- Water resistance: IP55 (Water-resistant)
- Weight: 33 g
- Wireless range: 33 feet
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.
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