Long term readers of my site might remember that last year, I tested the Aftershokz Blues 2 Bone Conducting headphones and I absolutely loved them. Unfortunately a few months later I started to have problems with them cutting out and eventually dying due to an ingress of sweat. The company responded quickly and efficiently in providing a replacement but then sadly, the same thing happened to the second pair.
I’m a complete convert to bone conducting headphones so since then, I’ve been keeping my eye on various brands to see if there was something else out there that might solve the issue but I’m yet to find a competitor product that offers such a neat and elegant design so I resigned myself to waiting to see if Aftershokz would release an update….. and now I’m very pleased to say that it has arrived with the new Bluez 2S.
This product was provided for testing by the manufacturer (see here for my gear review policy).
Bone Conduction headphones feature a plate that sits just in front of your ear and vibrates to transmit sound into your head via your cheek bones, leaving your ears open so that ambient noise is still audible. This might sound strange at first but the technology is actually not that new and has been utilised by the military for communication devices for several years. The main advantage of this is that it makes it much easier to hear traffic and other potential threats if you are exercising outdoors. I also find that it makes me feel less isolated from my surroundings and a bit more ‘connected’ to the environment in comparison to conventional ear buds.
The most significant update since the Bluez 2 is the introduction of improved IP55 water resistance to reduce the chances of sweat / rain related problems. The new ‘S’ also claim to provide improved bass response and reduced sound leakage which were both a bit of an issue with the originals. More on this below….
Everything I loved about the Bluez 2 is still all here. They are light, easy to operate I think they look good but most of all, I just really like the experience of using them in comparison to conventional headphones. There are occasions when it’s nice to shut everything out and really focus on whatever you are listening to but most of the time, I much prefer the way that bone conducting headphones allow you to stay in touch with your surroundings, regardless of the safety advantages etc.
Whilst on the subject of safety, just like I said in my previous review, the Blues 2 S do allow you to hear traffic noise much more easily than ear buds whilst out and about BUT just like when you are having a conversation with someone in a crowded room, your brain will still tend to hone in on one particular noise and filter other things out. This means that you will inevitably end up focusing on your music, podcast or whatever and it’s still possible to miss that car which is thundering up behind you. The Bluez 2 S are undoubtably safer than ear buds but you still have to consciously pay attention to other sounds. Just because you can hear ambient noise, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.
There is a noticeable improvement in sound quality with the Blues 2S in comparison to the original model. They still won’t quite match some comparatively priced ‘conventional’ headphones in terms of bass response but the gap has gotten smaller and the Bone Conduction design provides a whole different set of advantages which mean that in my opinion it isn’t really fair to do a direct comparison. I think most music lovers will own the Bluez as an alternative to a decent set of ear buds rather than a replacement and select which one they want to use dependant on the circumstances. Sound leakage is also a bit better since the original model and I also noticed that the vibration of the bone conduction plates is less noticeable on your cheeks at high volumes.
The one time when they do start to falter is when ambient noise levels are high. For example, I’ve tried to use them whilst flying a few times recently and they really struggled to compete with noise of the engine. This can be a problem when cycling quickly as wind noise can become very sound but I haven’t found it to be an issue when running. I guess this is always going to be the case when the whole point of the product is that they allow you to hear your surroundings.
Another thing that I really like about the Blues 2 S is that they have changed the shape of the volume / power buttons which makes them easier to feel and operate with your fingertips without looking at them. They now have a clearly defined edge which is a big improvement over the rounded buttons on the original.
Given that the Blues 2 S are so clearly aimed at the sports market, sweat and water resistance is absolutely essential and I have been crossing my fingers that they have fixed the problems with the previous version of the product. I’ve gone to considerable lengths during testing to get my sweat levels up such as running on an indoor treadmill (urghhh), wearing extra clothing to increase my body temperature and a couple of runs in the rain. I’m pleased to say that so far, they have performed flawlessly with no problems at all. That being said, it took quite a while for the problems to start to appear last time but I am still optimistic, mostly due to the fact that the testing required to receive an IP55 rating is actually pretty vigorous as I’ve detailed below (thanks Wikipedia!).
|Water projected by a nozzle (6.3 mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.||Test duration: at least 3 minutes
Water volume: 12.5 litres per minute
Pressure: 30 kPa at distance of 3 m
So to wrap-up, I’m pleased to say that one of my favourite ever gadgets has undergone several improvements with the main issue of water / sweat resistance being put to bed (so far so good anyway). Rest assured that just like with the original review,I will update the post immediately if I have any problems but at this stage I feel that it is unlikely. In the meantime I can wholeheartedly recommend Blues 2 S.
The Bluez 2 S are currently only available from the Aftershokz website but I’m sure they will start to pop up in other places soon
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Have you used the Bluez 2 S? Got a comment or question? Please share your thoughts below!