The AfterShokz Sport range of headphones are designed to enable sporty types to exercise in comfort and safety, whilst listening to music or using their smartphone. There are two models, the basic AfterShokz Sport Headphones, and the AfterShokz Mobile that we tested, which adds an in-line mic for use with a smartphone, as well as MP3 player, or tablet. (UPDATE: see also: AfterShokz Sports M2 review.)
The AfterShokz Mobile are lightweight (45g), and their plastic construction seems quite durable - important for headphones designed to be used in a sporting context. The cord is typically thin and flimsy, however. They come with a nice pouch for the headphones and their accessories, which include a small extention cord, a USB dongle for charging the headphones, and a decent user instruction guide. See also: Group test - what are the best headphones?
AfterShokz Mobile: controller
The AfterShokz Mobile are permanently attached to a controller that has the power on/off switch as well as a phone button that lets you take a call if you are using them with a smartphone via the industry standard 3.5mm jack. The controller is plastic, and boxy, like a squashed down matchbox or 9v battery.
A belt clip lets you attach the AfterShokz headphones to your clothing via the controller, so use when you're on the run is well catered for. The Mic is part of the controller, however, so you'll want to pin it near your head to use with a phone. We found it worked well, and there's about 90cm of cord to play with below the controller (plus the 10cm extender) so you shouldn't feel restricted in where you can store your smartphone or player as you exercise. The cord in total is 130cm long.
The AfterShokz Mobile controller: boxy
The controller/mic requires charging, via USB. It takes around three hours to fully charge, and is then good for 15 hours or so of use. If you don't use the AfterShokz Mobile for 15 minutes they will power down to save charge.
As we mentioned in our introduction, the AfterShokz Sport headphones are meant for sports and outdoor activities, where you want to hear the music you are listeining to, but remain aware of your surroundings. As a consequence, the headphones don't sit inside or on top of your ears, but rather just in front of your ears, attached via a band that hooks over your ears and runs around the back of your head. The manufacturers say these speakers use shock waves to deliver sound into your inner ear without having to block out ambient noise. The Bone Conducter Speakers have a sensitivity of 100+-3dB, and a frequency response of 20Hz-20KHz.
Using the AfterShokz Mobile
Our first thoughts on using the AfterShokz Mobile headset were that the sound was not great - especially the bass which was almost not present. You need to fit the headset very well around your head and make sure that the phones are just in front of your ears to get decent audio, and although light jogging was possible with these staying on the lack of adjustment was a problem, as we found it difficult to get the headphones to stay in position. We have a comparitively small head, but this is an issue.
We found that if we held the phones tightly in place, the audio was okay, but it's still a little like listening through a thin wall, with no real definition to the sound. Also in our tests these headphones perhaps unsurprisingly leaked sound, so you might find others giving you a strange look at the gym, when you are blasting Lana Del Rey in their direction.
Of course, that is to judge the AfterShokz Mobile by the standards of headphones designed for listening to in environments other than pounding the streets or cycling to work. In order to hear ambient noise, you're obviously going to lose some quality of the audio you are listening to. We think that the idea behind the AfterShokz Sport Headphones is good, but that the execution needs a bit of work.
Still, if you just want background music for when you hit the gym or go for a jog then, for the price of £58, the AfterShokz Mobile (and AfterShokz Sport) Headphones are robust and full featured, and offer a decent solution for a specific requirement. But you will want other headphones for listening to music when you don't want to be able to hear what is going on around you - and you could just lower the volume on your existing phones or listen through one ear if you wanted to achieve a similar effect.