I’ve been an avid user of bone-conduction headphones for years and can attest to the lackluster low-end in this form factor. Luckily, things are improving. Along with recently changing its name to Shokz (formerly Aftershokz), the company has delivered on this long-desired feature upgrade to its line of bone-conduction headphones. The new product is called OpenRun Pro ($179.95) and there is a significant boost in bass with this Bluetooth 5.1 headset. In addition, Shokz is renaming its existing product line to tie things together with Aeropex becoming OpenRun and Xtrainerz now called OpenSwim.
For those new to bone-conduction headphones, let me clarify a few things. These still don’t quite measure up to over-ear or in-ear models, since they have an open-ear design. The transducers rest against your cheeks in front of your ears and deliver sound to your inner ear via the bone. It’s a different delivery system for sound that leaves your ears open to the world, which can be a double-edged sword. They’re not great on the subway or in generally noisy environments. Don’t be disheartened, though, as this same design lets you walk, run or bike around and listen to music while still being able to hear the world around you. And with the upgrades we're seeing, the audio experience is better than ever.
Until now, diminished low-end has long been a problem for this form factor. The OpenRun (Aeropex) have good volume levels and a decent frequency response compared to previous models. But now that I’ve tested the OpenRun pro, there’s been a noticeable improvement in the low-end spectrum. I don’t mean that they’re so loud they’re literally bouncing off your cheeks (like the old Titanium model did). These deliver a good sub-frequency to give your tunes more depth without excessive tactile reverberation. My standard listening is techno and electronic music (like this) and it holds up pretty well. The decibel and frequency response specs are the same as before, but acoustic tweaks have born fruit. For bone conduction headphones, the OpenRun Pro sounds great.
Other desirable enhancements in this new model include the fit and charging capability. The over-the-ear curve is more rounded and the side enclosures are 20-percent smaller than before. This makes them feel light and comfortable. The battery life has been bumped up from 8 to 10 hours of listening and you can charge fully in one hour (a whole hour less than before). On top of that, we’re told you can get 1.5 hours worth of listening in five minutes of charging. A great feature when you’re settling in for a workout and hear the headset exclaim “charge me”.
If you’ve just gotten Aeropex headphones over the holidays, don’t fret. I’ve been using these for a long while and have enjoyed the experience. I even feel that while there’s not as much bass, these could be a touch louder in the mid to high range than the new model.
On top of that, the OpenRun Pro has traded complete waterproofing for better sound. A fine mesh grate covers two vents in front of and below the cheek-based delivery system, changing it to IP55 water-resistant (still more than adequate). The OpenRun (Aeropex) retains its IP67 rating due to its sealed enclosure. If you want to wear these in the shower, then you’re in a good place (but maybe consider OpenSwim if this is a habit).
As of today, the entire line is available for purchase including the new OpenRun Pro ($179.95) with a few new colors (although only available in black at launch). The fully-waterproof OpenSwim is still $149.95, while the OpenRun ($129.95) will continue to be available at its recently lowered price.
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