Shokz OpenRun review | Tom’s Guide
Shokz OpenRun: Specifications
Price: $129 / £129 / AU$219
Colours: Blue, Black, Grey, Red
Battery life (rated): 8 times
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Processor: Qualcomm QCC3024
Size: 1.7 x 4.3 x 5.1 inches
Weight: 0.9 oz
The Shokz OpenRun, originally called AfterShokz Aeropex, is a great pair of bone conduction headphones. For those unfamiliar with the concept, bone conduction headphones play sound by sending vibrations into your cheeks, intentionally leaving your ears open so you can have a conversation or listen to sounds like traffic. Therefore, they are well suited for runners and people who go to the gym, as well as people with hearing loss.
The biggest disadvantage of the bone conduction approach is that the sound quality is not on par with the best wireless headphones. However, not only does the Shokz sound surprisingly reasonable, but its secure, waterproof fit and long battery life could be enough to convert fitness fans.
Keep reading our Shokz OpenRun review to find out why it’s one of the best sports headphones you can buy. And be sure to check out our Shokz OpenRun Pro review for the low-down on a newer bone conduction option with 10 hours of battery life and boosted bass.
Shokz OpenRun review: Price and availability
The Shokz OpenRun is a specialized pair of headphones, but not an overly expensive one: it costs $159, about the same as the cheapest Apple AirPods model.
Shokz OpenRun review: Design and comfort
The design is quite similar to that of the AfterShokz Air, with the vibration drivers on the ends of the over-ear hooks that connect to each other through a thin but rigid yoke. However, the Aeropex is a bit more compact than the Air, especially around the drivers and electronics housing modules at the bottom of each hook. As a result, the Aeropex is also about 0.2 ounces lighter.
Thanks in part to this barely there weight, the Aeropex sits perfectly between comfort and the kind of secure fit you’d expect from a set of sports headphones. I couldn’t shake the Aeropex off, or even loose, but it never felt like the drivers were tightening down on my head. I could wear these for hours without complaint — and I do.
Still, it’s worth noting that you can’t adjust the Aeropex in any way. You can get a smaller “Mini” version for the same price, which AfterShokz recommends if the distance between the backs of your ears is less than 9.3 inches, although you’re completely dependent on the flexibility of the model with this and the standard model. yoke
Not that the Aeropex is made shoddily. If anything, the opposite is true: The whole thing has a pleasant soft-touch finish, and is IP67 rated for dustproofing and waterproofing. Although AfterShokz say you shouldn’t take the Aeropex swimming, it will survive full immersion in up to 1 meter of fresh water for up to 30 minutes.
Shokz OpenRun review: Controls and digital assistant
The Aeropex uses physical buttons, which makes sense; Touch sensors rarely play well with sweat and water. A single multi-function button sits on the left driver housing, and a volume rocker (which integrates the power button) is on the underside of the rectangular section behind the right ear hooks.
The selection of controls is basic but functional. Besides the obvious volume adjustment, the MF button can pause or play with a single tap, or skip ahead with a double tap. While that might be too much for earbud owners who can tap and swipe to make additional inputs, it’s enough for normal playback, and I didn’t have to repeatedly try to input like if the buttons were stiff finicky sensors.
Besides, there is one more use for the MF button. Holding it down will activate Google Assistant or Siri, depending on your phone, and the onboard microphone will have no trouble picking up voice commands. It all works effortlessly and seamlessly.
Shokz OpenRun review: Sound quality
If you haven’t tried a pair of bone conduction headphones before, I wouldn’t blame you if you find the Aeropex flat and dumb. Compared to even the best headphones, there’s a lack of definition that headphones and earphones can easily avoid by piping music directly into your eardrums.
However, this is an intrinsic limitation of bone conduction technology. And when you consider how the Aeropex sounds within those limits, and next to similar bone conduction headphones, it exceeds expectations.
Electronic parts seem particularly compatible with being shot through a skeleton. The main synth riff in The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” didn’t hold back, and La Roux’s “Bulletproof” was super fun. Vocals are also usually nice and clear, and enough detail is delivered that all the layers of “Bohemian Rhapsody” can be picked out.
Heavy guitar tracks can be hit or miss; there’s plenty of low end for enjoyable renditions of Biffy Clyro’s epic “Mountains” or the dynamic, swinging “Rope” by Foo Fighters. Some effects can sound scratchy, however, and the deep bass does not go real, powerful.
Whether this is a dealbreaker all depends on what exactly you want from your headphones. If you want something versatile, with some exercise capability on the side, there are plenty of better sounding alternatives. If, however, you want a pair that won’t compromise your spatial awareness when you’re out on bikes or on bike tours, the Aeropex looks good enough to seriously compete with mid-range models – there are like the Bose Sport Open Earbuds.
Shokz OpenRun review: Features
There is no companion app for the Aeropex, and frankly it doesn’t really have any bonus features other than waterproof support and a digital assistant.
However, the effectiveness of its water, sweat and dust protection is worth repeating. Even expensive earbuds struggle to match Aeropex’s IP67 rating; the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro comes close to IPX7, but that means it doesn’t have any kind of certified protection against dust, dirt and sand. AfterShokz’s effort is a much harder, outdoor-ready alternative in that sense.
The Aeropex also provides a “Moisture Detect Alert”: When connected to the charging cable, the Aeropex can sense if there is any moisture around the cable connectors. If you haven’t dried it properly, the Aeropex will simultaneously beep, flash a red and blue warning LED and vibrate continuously. It’s a thoughtful touch, and could help prevent accidental damage down the line.
Shokz OpenRun review: Battery life
AfterShokz rates the Aeropex for 8 hours of music and calls, but I got nearly 14 hours of pure music playback on a single charge.
There’s no charging case, so you’ll always need to recharge using the included USB cable, but this longevity beats most wireless headphones on a per-charge basis. Even the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC, one of the longest we’ve tested, can’t match it – but in fairness it has the added drain of active noise cancellation.
Shokz OpenRun review: Call quality and connectivity
Call quality for the Aeropex is second to none. Apparently it seemed blurry compared to my handset and the traditional headphones I usually use for calls, and loud background noise was also a common complaint.
On the bright side, the Bluetooth 5.0 connection has always been rock-steady. There was no drop-off or degradation around or even beyond the “official” range of 33 feet; this could be handy if you’re at the gym and want to leave your phone safe in a locker.
Shokz OpenRun review: Verdict
An Editors’ Choice award winner, the AfterShokz Aeropex is admittedly unusual—but unless you specifically want a pair of open-back headphones, it’s not something we’d recommend. It’s all too easy to get better sound quality from a pair of wireless headphones.
But if you want to keep your ability to hear ambient sounds, there aren’t many better options. Remember, by the standards of bone-conduction headphones specifically, the Aeropex sounds really good, and its durability and fit are nearly perfect for running and workouts. Check it out if you want something more specialized to stand up to your everyday headphones during exercise sessions.
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