Music is becoming more and more important to golfers when they practice and play. Many players are choosing headphones that block outside noise completely, but in this review, I tested out an interesting alternative called Aftershokz. Their headphones use a method called bone conduction, which allows users to listen to their music without covering their ears so they can still hear what is going on around them. If the concept sounds weird, I thought it was too until I tried them out.
While I wouldn't recommend Aftershokz to every golfer, I'll try to highlight who I think might benefit from using them. Their motto summarizes their primary benefit, "hear your music and the world around you." Overall, I found them to be a very interesting concept that could fit in well with golf and other sports-related activities.
What Is Bone Conduction?
To understand what makes Aftershokz different, you should know a little bit about bone conduction. Essentially, the headphones bypass your eardrum by sending vibrations through your bones and skin. It sounds a bit odd, but it works quite well. As you can see from the picture, nothing is covering your ear.
The technology is beneficial for people with hearing loss. Beethoven, who was completely deaf, discovered bone conduction on his own in the 18th century by attaching a rod to his piano and clenching it with his teeth so the sounds would transfer from the piano through his jaw. But enough with bone conduction trivia...
Since the sound quality of bone conduction has improved, companies like Aftershokz have directed it towards people who want to listen to music while they are active. The main benefit is that you can still hear music without missing out on what is going on around you because a headphone does not cover your ears. You are probably wondering why you would want to do that, and I did myself before trying them, but it does have useful applications with several activities, including golf.
Like many of you, when I listen to music, I generally want to have the world drowned out. I've owned Bose wireless noise-canceling headphones for almost four years now, and they're easily one of my favorite products I've ever purchased. Writing articles while infants were screaming in the background was a problem that they solved very well. However, they're so good at making me unaware of what is going on around me; there are certain situations where I would never wear them, like on a golf course or if I'm walking or running on the street.
I've been using the Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones on and off the golf course for almost a month now. I'll try to summarize what I like and don't like about them for you from a golfer's perspective (and beyond).
When I first tried them on, it was a little strange to be able to hear music without having my ears covered, but they work as advertised. I would describe the sound quality as pretty good, but not great. If you're used to listening to music through a higher-quality headphone, you will be slightly disappointed at first, especially if you are an audiophile. If I had to rate the sound quality, it would be somewhere around a B to B+. From what I understand, the quality has dramatically increased from prior models.
If you keep the volume somewhere around a low to medium range, you can hear what's going on around you quite well. I wouldn't recommend having conversations with people around you because you'll be distracted, but if someone was trying to get your attention, or if a car was coming, you could easily hear it. However, if you have the volume cranked up to the highest level, you might not hear everything around you.
How Aftershokz Could Work For Golf
Music is becoming more and more popular for golfers. A growing number of golfers want to listen to their favorite songs when they're practicing or playing.
Recently, I conducted a poll on Twitter, and almost half of the responders said that they listen to music.
I do think Aftershokz can work well in a golf application for certain people. First off, the headphones are very lightweight and comfortable. Once I got used to them on my head, I found them very easy to swing a club with because they stay firmly attached in place. If you are a runner, biker, or do any other kind of activity while listening to music, these are well-designed to stay on your head and deal with sweat (they are IP55 certified, which means water resistant).
In the past, I have not used my noise-canceling headphones during practice sessions because I want to hear my club making contact with the ball. People's opinions might differ on this. I know plenty of golfers want to go into a distraction-free universe with headphones. If that's the case, then I wouldn't recommend this product for you.
However, if you want to have music playing, but still be able to take in your environment around you, then they work well. I found them to be particularly useful working with my swing tempo beats, and it might be my top recommendation on how to practice with the Aftershokz effectively.
One morning when I went out early on the course by myself, I did listen to music while I played. I found it quite pleasant. I could still hear the birds chirping and everything else that was going on around me. If you're someone who does want to listen to music while you play, these could work well for you for a couple of reasons. You can still hear what's going on around you for safety reasons (fore!), and you're still able to interact with playing partners. I'm not sure I would wear them while I played with other people, but that's a personal choice.
Not For Everyone, But I Do Like Them
Aftershokz and bone conduction technology is not a product for everyone. Plenty of people want to listen to their music and not hear anything around them - don't buy them if that's what you want. Also, if you want the highest-quality audio, you will likely be a little disappointed.
However, let's say you frequently run or bike with cars around you. They are a much safer way to listen to music while being aware of your surroundings. Additionally, I usually take phone calls on my Bose headphones, but because they cancel all of the noise around me, I only keep one ear on so I can hear my voice. The Aftershokz was much better with phone conversations because I could listen to myself speak. The microphone works well, and the person on the other end told me they could hear my voice very clearly.
If you want a pair of headphones that you can wear comfortably while you swing a golf club, they will serve that purpose as well. I liked being able to hear music, but not completely drown out the sound of the club making contact with the ball, or even if someone came up to say hello. Additionally, if you want to take them out on the course, I think they serve that application.
All of the Aftershokz wireless headphones are below $150, which make them comparable to many other wireless fitness headphones. You can purchase the Aftershokz Trekz Air here.