Sendero Group Travel Blog

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Bone conduction headphones and more by Mike May

As we all know, hearing audio in a mobile environment can be a challenge, either for using a phone or an audible GPS device. One of the best solutions is to have a Braille display device. Some people don't mind a wired speaker. It is also possible to use an external Bluetooth speaker placed on a shoulder strap on top of your shoulder. Sendero has recommended and even carried a few of these speakers over the years, starting with a Radio Shack model back in our GPS-Talk laptop days. Then there was that cute little unit called the Party Speaker. We also carried the OrbitSound T3, which hung around your neck. Both were wired.

I am always testing small speakers and headphones and thought I'd share my latest findings with you.

Sendero currently sells the Airdrives, which are the best low-cost earphones that don't cover your ears. They are great in medium to low level sound environments. You can't hear with them if there is very loud traffic however.

Bone conduction seemed like a logical way to transmit sound without covering one's ears. I have tried several models using this technique over the years. They required an amplifier and were in the $200 range until now.

The brand new After Shokz bone conduction headphones sell for $59 for the headphones only model or $69 if they include a microphone. Note that Shokz is spelled S H O K Z. They loop over your ears and have a neck band. They are wired of course and have a pack-of-gum sized amp on the cord with two buttons. They charge using an adapter on the eighth inch audio plug.

They work great either with a PDA or with a phone. They go really loud if you want. You control the sound from your device. No volume controls on the headphones.

The drivers sit right in front of your ears in the same way as the Airdrives do. They do apply a bit of pressure. This is one way they transmit sound. They wouldn't be as comfortable to wear as the Airdrives over a long period of time. I find that I take them off my head and leave them on my neck when I am not actively using them.

The sound quality is mediocre. They are fine for music but not meant to be high fidelity. They are excellent for a mobile environment and are plenty loud.

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