Aftershokz Bluez 2 Bone Conduction Headphones Review
Aug201419

Many people like to listen to music whilst exercising outdoors but conventional headphones can leave you completely isolated from your surroundings and at risk of harm from traffic and other potential hazards. This is of particular concern to those who exercise in urban environments but modern cars are so quiet that it can equally be an issue on country lanes. Until a few weeks ago, I would never have considered running or cycling on a road whilst listening to music but the Bluez 2 by Aftershokz have sought to solve these problems using some innovative technology.

This product was provided for testing by the manufacturer (see here for my gear review policy).

Bone Conduction Technology

In place of a conventional speaker, Aftershokz headphones rely on a ‘bone conduction plate’ that sits just in front of the ear and vibrates to transmit sound by conducting through your cheek bones and into your ear. This means that your lug holes remain open to the elements so you can listen to music or a podcast whilst still being aware of the sounds created by the world around you.

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The Bluez 2

The Bluez 2 are Aftershokz flagship model offering wireless bluetooth connectivity, a microphone for taking phone calls and multi-function control buttons which allow you to skip tracks, adjust volume, accept  / decline calls and even make voice commands without the need to fiddle around with your MP3 player or Smartphone. They have a built-in battery that is rechargeable via a conventional USB plug and lasts around 6 hours depending on playback volume etc. The design is slick and attractive whilst remaining understated and the build quality feels solid and in keeping with the price.

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How do the Bluez 2 Perform?

Fit & Comfort

The fit of the Bluez 2 is extremely secure, comfortable and generally preferable to the majority of sport headphones I have tried in the past. They are so lightweight that you can pretty much forget that you are wearing them and I have experienced no sore spots or irritation after several weeks of use.

Controls

Although the instruction manual could be a little clearer in places, I soon got the hang of controlling the Bluez 2 and found them easy to use. The volume and on/off buttons (see above) could be a little bit more distinctive to the fingertips as I sometimes find that I need to feel about for them more than I would like whilst on the move. That aside, the control scheme is well thought out and mostly intuitive.

First Impressions

The Aftershokz feel a little strange the first time you use them as the sensation of being able to hear the world around you whilst listening to music at the same time is quite astonishing –  it’s almost as though someone has hard wired into your brain.

Sound Quality

Speech-only audio such as podcasts or talk radio is delivered flawlessly but sound quality whilst listening to music is a little less impressive, especially at bass frequencies where the performance is OK but no match for a similarly priced pair of ‘conventional’ headphones. To me, it would be entirely wrong to be overly critical of the Aftershoks for this as the comparison is not a fair one. The whole point of the Bluez 2 is that they can be used in situations where others could not so it’s a choice between slightly reduced sound quality with the Aftershokz or risking life and limb against the traffic with your standard ear buds.

The Bluez 2 In Use

The main selling point of the aftershoks is their ability to play music whilst allowing the user to hear noise around them and in this regard they do not disappoint. I have used them for cycling and running in a variety of environments, including heavy traffic and I was always able to keep a track of the position of cars etc. That being said, whilst you have the ability to hear other sounds, there is no doubt that the music / audio tends to occupy your attention more than ambient noise so you have to be a bit careful that your brain doesn’t filter things out. High ambient noise levels such as strong wind can occasionally make listening to music more difficult but if it’s too noisy to hear music properly, it’s also too noisy to hear cars!

I haven’t been able to give them a thorough drenching yet but I have used the headphones in light rain and they are holding up fine so far. I will report back on this if I have problems in the future when the inevitable torrential downpours of the Autumn arrive.

Use Whilst Doing Other Stuff

I’ve found myself using the Bluez 2 for a variety of other purposes in addition to exercise such as cleaning the house, shopping, gardening….. basically boring tasks that can be made marginally more interesting by listening to music.  This came as a bit of a surprise as I only expected to wear them whilst exercising and assumed I’d use conventional earphones for other activities but I suppose this is a reflection of how pleased I was with the performance. The headphones also work really well for taking phone calls and I’ve even started using them at work as a sort of hands free kit so that I can continue working whilst speaking to people.

A slight downside of the design that I noticed during day-to-day use is sound leakage which can be quite considerable at high volume. This presents a potential annoyance to other people so it’s worth remembering this when commuting or in quiet public places.

Conclusion

I’m thoroughly impressed by the Bluez 2. They almost entirely solve the safety issues of listening to music whilst exercising close to traffic and I also really like the way you can use them whilst going about your daily tasks without feeling separated from your environment. At a price of around £90 they aren’t cheap but I feel this is good value for money when you consider the unique benefits of the design and large number of features.

I don’t like writing gushing reviews unless a product really deserves it and the Aftershokz are not without minor flaws but the design is so ingenious that I can’t help but sing their praises. I would definitely recommend giving them a try

Update June 2015

Having continued to absolutely love using the Bluez 2, unfortunately mine developed a fault where they started to cut out whenever I got sweaty during running (and I’d describe my sweat levels as average). Aftershokz warranty department provided a great service and replaced them quickly but now to my dismay I’ve had the same problem with the second pair. I’ve searched around a bit and I can’t seem to find widespread evidence of other users having the same problem but I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has? Please leave a comment below.

Where to Find Them (Affiliates)

The Bluez 2 are available from Millet Sports and Amazon (link below)

I make every effort to ensure these reviews are as objective and honest as possible to help you decide if a product is right for you. This takes me a lot of time and effort and if you are interested in a product I have reviewed, you can help me keep the site going by placing purchases through the links and adverts at no extra cost to yourself. Thanks for your support.

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Got a comment or question about the Bluez 2? Please share your thoughts below!

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6 comments

  1. Hi, Great review of the Bluez 2, I completely agree with all your points. Sadly this includes them cutting out when i’m sweaty, or the multifunction button doesn’t work properly.
    I’m currently on a weight loss plan and run HIIT sprints 5 days a week and I need my music, tech issues more often than not result in me surrendering.
    I am going to write to Aftershockz but seeing that your 2nd pair had the same issue I’m not hopeful. Especially as Yurbuds who I swore by before now offer a wireless headset option…

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I had positive experience with Aftershokz from a customer service perspective and again, I love the product but it’s a real shame about this sweat resistance issue. Before shelling out on something else, I would encourage you to do a bit of digging for genuine user reviews as it seems like this is quite a common problem for bluetooth headphones

      Good luck

      Andrew

  2. KR says:

    Found this review after googling ‘Bluez 2 cutting out’
    Same issue here. Was absolutely fine for a while, used on lots of long runs where I must have got fairly sweaty.

    Now they disconnect and cut out every time after a few mins. Once cut out they will not enter pairing mode, and when switching on will not say ‘Welcome to Bluez 2′ even though the blue light is on.

    Left overnight they will connect again and enter pairing mode, but same issue after a while. I’ve sent mine back, bit concerned it sounds like a known issue.

    Can you confirm these symptoms are the same as yours please? Thanks

  3. KR says:

    Interesting review comment on amazon:
    Update: Finally received a replacement after about 6 weeks. That unit died the same way as the first. I replied to my RMA email chain and was told that this was probably due to sweat (duh). They asked if I would be willing to try out the latest version which uses a nano-coating. I said yes, and they sent me a USPS prepaid label to return the defective unit. I received the second replacement in less than 2 weeks. At this point, overnight would have been better, but 2 was better than 6. The new (third and counting) one arrived on Black Friday. So far, so good, but the 90 degree days of summer are gone. I do ride year round, but it will be a while before this one gets as wet as the first 2 did. I’m bumping my rating up to 2 since Aftershokz paid shipping both ways on this return.

    • Andrew says:

      To be fair to Aftershokz, I’ve read a few similar accounts and it seems they are good at sending replacements. I’d also reiterate that after doing a bit of reading around, it seems this is a pretty common issue with Bluetooth headsets from other brands and a lot of people just end up buying a pair of £10 headphones for sport and using them until they die and then replacing them with another pair. That being said, it would be brilliant if this problem could be corrected, either that or they perhaps need to look at their marketing because they are clearly targeted as a sport product. They must be shelling out a lot of money attending to warranty claims by the looks of things

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