Review: AfterShokz Sportz M2

by Brian Mullin on March 19, 2013

The
AfterShokz Sportz M2 is an open ear sport headphones, which are
lightweight, sweat and water resistant. The design uses bone conduction
technology, which allows the user to listen to music, and still safely
hear the external ambient noise.

Headphones and earbuds block out
most of the exterior noise from the world, which is fine when you are in
a safe environment and just want to immerse yourself in your music. In
the world of sports, whether it’s running, hiking, walking, or biking,
you need to pick up the ambient sounds and spatial cues in the world
around you. For safety reasons, you want to be fully cognizant of your
surroundings, so you can hear cars, traffic, dogs, wild animals, and
other trail and road users.
The AfterShokz system uses bone conduction
technology to transmit sound through the listener’s cheekbones to the
inner ear, bypassing the eardrum completely. The concept was initially
developed for military special operations and law enforcement by Voxtech
back in 2001, and AfterShokz has brought this technology to the
consumer market. The sound is passed through to the bone via the systems
orange colored transducer pads.

They have three models of the AfterShoxz (updated versions since M2 was reviewed): the tested Sportz M3 ($49.95),  the Sportz 3($39.95), and the Bluetooth Bleuz 2($99.95).

The
main system is comprised of the neck band with its attached
transducers, a long cable with a 3.5mm connector and the in-line
controller. The kit also includes a nice carrying case, a USB charger,
an extension connector and a user manual.

The
battery powered in-line controller has a charging port, power switch,
buttons for volume control, a microphone, an LED indicator and a call
button. It’s the main operational unit that dictates everything that you
receive through the sound transducers.

You
hook the headphones over your ears and place the transducers on your
cheekbone, just in front of your ear. You then clip the in-line
controller to a shirt or hydration pack, turn on the power, plug the
cable into your music device and start up your tunes.

The music
comes through loud and clear from the orange rubberized transducer pads,
and the fidelity is more than adequate, though obviously not on par
with high-end headphones or earbuds. I was surprised at the decent
volume level and clarity of the music, and because of the design, I
could easily hold a conversation with someone, and hear my bike tires
grinding along the trail and birds chirping in the background. The
treble and bass were fine, though one odd sensation was that on some
bass notes it would vibrate on your cheekbone, but I got over that
feeling pretty quickly and rarely noticed it much. They sounded the best
while listening at moderate volumes. On some occasions when I craned my
head back I could feel the neck band poke me on the shoulders, but it
was a minor annoyance. I wondered if the transducers were maybe just
acting like mini-speakers, so I stuck my fingers in my ears, and the
sound didn’t change much except for a slight loss of the treble, showing
that the bone conduction technology was doing its job.

The system
does require the in-line controller as a power source, and won’t work
directly from your media player. The battery lasted me for over 10
hours, and I ended up charging it before it completely died, but it’s
supposed to have around 12-15 hours of playback, depending on load. The
charging took around 2-3 hours for a full charge using the included USB
connector. I didn’t find the controller that large or heavy, and since
it was clipped to my hydration pack, it stayed in the perfect spot for
usage, without getting in the way. I used my iPhone for my media player,
and I could take a couple of phones without any issues, and the
conversation was decent for this type of interface. When a call comes
in, you hit the call button on the controller to answer it, and when
done, just hit the button again and the music starts back up.

Bottom Line
The AfterShokz Sportz M2 is an excellent open ear headphone for a sport
oriented user, and it utilizes the unique bone conductor technology, so
you can hear the spatial cues and ambient noise of the external world
and still enjoy listening to your music through your media player. The
system has a nice rechargeable in-line controller, which operates the
power, volume levels and allows you to answer phone calls. The sound is
transmitted through your cheekbones via the transducer pads, which are
soft, comfortable, and water and sweat resistant. I didn’t have any
issues with wearing the headphones when using a bike helmet, even for
long periods of time.

I really liked this set of headphones,
especially for biking, since they’re comfy, let me listen to music while
banging along the trail, and still converse with people and hear the
birds chirp. Just don’t expect super high fidelity when your music is
being boned to you!

Strengths

  • Good fidelity and adequate volume level
  • In-line controller has long battery life
  • Fully aware of outside noises – excellent safety feature
  • Transducers are soft, comfortable and sweat resistant
  • Great bone conduction technology
  • Easy to answer calls when using smartphone

Weaknesses

  • Vibrations from bass notes and higher volumes might annoy some people
  • In-line controller is required as a power source
  • Not quite high-end sound

Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Sportz M2 Specs:

  • MSRP: $69.95 – 79.95
  • Speaker Type:  Dual Suspension Bone Conduction
  • Sensitivity:  100 ± 3dB
  • Microphone:  -41dB ± 3dB
  • Frequency Response:  20Hz – 20KHz
  • Battery:  Rechargeable Lithium Ion
  • Playback Time:  Up to 12 Hours at low volume*
  • Charge Time:  3 Hours (with USB charger)
  • Cable Length:  130cm / 51.2 inches
  • Weight:  45g/1.6 ounces
  • Color:  Black with orange pads
  • Warranty: 2-Year

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