Aftershokz’s Aeropex are refined bone conduction headphones with most of the same snags
It’s not the best of both worlds, but it’s better than I thought it would be As someone who swears by over-ear noise-canceling headphones, I like Aftershokz’s new Aeropex more than I thought I would. These are bone conduction headphones, meaning you don’t put them in your ears. Instead, the Aeropex rely on fingertip-sized transducers to push sound through the left and right sides of your cheek bones. The transducers vibrate as music plays, much like a driver inside of an earbud does, except this vibration makes its way to your inner ear by taking an alternate route through your skin and bones. This design is either the headphones’ biggest perk or biggest flaw, depending on your needs. These are a great fit for people who want to remain present, whether that’s to stay safe while cycling down the street or just to be able to hear someone call out to you in the office. Compared to being completely immersed in my over-ear Sony 1000X M3 noise-canceling headphones, the Aeropex don’t make me feel like I’m stepping out of a sensory deprivation chamber when I need to talk with people. These are also purportedly useful for people who have lost some hearing. Since they work by circumventing your eardrum, they may allow you to hear your music more clearly than other headphone models that you place in or around your ears. Bone conduction headphones are nothing new, and though this is Aftershokz’s first new product since 2017, the Aeropex have many of the same flaws as the Trekz Titanium that we tested three years ago. I find it nearly impossible to concentrate at work while I’m wearing them. At the gym, I can hear my music, but I can also perfectly pick out the sounds of weights slamming down, people grunting as they workout, and the energetic mix that plays over the gym’s speakers. These headphones weren’t made to block out noise, so none of this comes as any surprise. Wearing earplugs is a decent but imperfect solution for this issue. Aftershokz claims that the new transducers have better sound quality than its predecessors, though I’ve only once sampled the Trekz Titanium. Since it was in a busy trade show room, I couldn’t give it a fair analysis. Listening to music with the Aeropex generally sounds hollow and flat compared to traditional earbuds, which have the advantage of a tight seal, and minimal distance between the speaker and the eardrum. Still, I’m surprised with the sound quality here. There is some depth in the mids and highs, so rock and pop music as well as other genres that typically place more emphasis on those frequencies, sound passable. But, if you need a thumping beat in your music to keep you motivated, these simply aren’t the headphones for you. The Aeropex transducers that produce the vibrations are more compact than in previous models, and Aftershokz claims that they vibrate less and leak less sound, too. After wearing them for about five days, I’ve only had a few moments when the vibration got to be a little too much. It was either an issue of the volume being up too high, which is almost necessary if you want to hear your music in a loud room, or listening to a podcast filled with some deep voices. It’s tough not to notice the vibration at first, but the effect disappeared as I spent more time with them. Sound leakage, on the other hand, does seem to have been improved. I can’t hear them at medium-high volume from three feet away, and none of my office mates have commented on my strange music taste (unless they’re all talking about it in a secret Slack channel). Touching on some of the other changes, these bone conduction headphones tout a refined look that, compared to the Trekz Titanium, is more in line with Beats Powerbeats Pro. A few other things have changed from that model, like the switch from micro USB to a proprietary cable that magnetically latches to water-sensing charging pins. Another big improvement is that these are IP67-rated and can handle being submerged for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. Cleverly, they’ll vibrate and let out a beep if you try to charge them while the charging port’s contact points are wet. You can pair two devices to these headphones, and they can seamlessly switch between them. That’s always a welcome feature, one that allows you to, for instance, listen to music on an iPad, then pick up a call on your phone without toggling with Bluetooth settings. I’m happy with the battery life, which Aftershokz claims to be eight hours. I’ve been using these for around five hours (with music, podcasts, and phone calls mixed in) and they’re have about 50 percent battery remaining. There’s a time and place for the kind of experience that Aeropex provides. Most people can carve out when and where something like this might come in handy. For me, those times are too infrequent, though if you’re able to get a lot of use out of these, their $159 price tag will be far easier to swallow. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.