Meet my new running companion: the Aftershokz Open Move
My jogging route follows the edge of the Greifensee. The water, mountains and chirping birds keep me company, both visually and acoustically. I’ve tried running with headphones a few times. The idea was to train my my mind while training my body. After all, there are plenty of podcasts that interest me. For example, I love «Servus. Grüezi. Hallo.» by the Zeit publishing group.
But over-ear headphones are out of the question by default. The mere thought of them makes me sweat. Instead, I gave the Airpods Pro a go. They fit my ear really well, so I wasn’t scared of losing them during my jog. And Transparancy mode could allow me to enjoy my podcast while letting in ambient sound. That was the plan, at least. In reality, it didn’t quite work out as I had hoped. I couldn’t hear my surroundings well enough for my taste, and I simply found the Airpods to be uncomfortable when jogging. On the other hand, the Airpods are absolutely amazing for everyday commuting, which is usually not so physically exerting.
I hear it through my bones
Aftershokz’s PR agency seems to have read my mind. They ask if our editorial department would like to test the Open Move. Why, yes, I would. What’s so special about these headphones? Bone conduction technology. It promises to leave my ears totally unobstructed, so I can hear what’s going on around me. Dominik has already explained the ins and outs of bone conduction headphones in a 2017 article.
In case that’s too long and too detailed for you, here’s the most important information in a nutshell:
- The earpieces go in front of your ears, not inside them.
- The Open Move doesn’t send sound into the ear. Instead, it sends vibrations to the inner ear and eardrum via your cheekbones.
- The whole concept sounds a tad unusual, but it actually works.
I received the latest generation of Open Move headphones to review.
You can find the specs in the product description. In my experience, the battery does actually last six hours. I had no issues pairing the headphones with my iPhone.
Now, on to my experience using them on my nature jogs. This is where the futuristic headphones really shine. I get exactly what I want: I can listen to podcasts and still feel like I'm part of my surroundings. Whether it’s a friendly retired couple greeting me or a pissed-off cyclist trying to ring me out of the way, I hear everything – and I can greet them back or respond with a curse.
In preparation for my first run with the Open Move, I created a podcast playlist with a duration that matched how long I planned to run for. As a habitual denier of manuals, I hadn't realised that Aftershokz had clever controls built in. So, I only found out afterwards that I could have jumped to the next track by pressing the multifunction button twice, and gone back to the previous track by pressing it three times.
So, the second time around, I skipped wildly through my playlists. I tested the sound quality not only listening to different podcasts, but also to music. This is where the Open Move's weakness lies. The Open Move just can’t compete with the clear highs and rich lows you get with similarly priced «normal» headphones – whether in-ear, on-ear or over-ear. There are three equaliser modes I can choose by simultaneously pressing the two volume buttons on the headphone band. However, the sound barely changes. The vocals remain thin, the instruments not very powerful. There’s just no fullness to the sound. There’s no question that the Open Move headphones are best at playing back spoken material.
Equipped for urgent phone calls
You can even make phone calls with the Open Move, provided you have your smartphone with you. The microphone is built into the right earpiece and provides acceptable voice quality. It's certainly adequate for taking an urgent call during your run. You can answer the call by pressing the multifunction button once. To reject it, simply press the button twice.
If no one calls you, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing the Open Move on – sorry, in front of – your ears. Made of titanium and plastic, the Open Move weighs just 29 grammes. For comparison, a pair of Airpods Pro weighs about 11 grammes, while the Bose Sound Sport come in at 23 grammes. The band that goes around the neck doesn’t get in the way, either. Even during a sprint interval, the Open Move sits so well that it doesn't slip or wobble in time with your footsteps. While I place functionality above looks, my wife’s quite critical of the band’s cyborg look. Oh well, I’m willing to turn a blind eye to that. After all, I'm running on a track, not walking on a runway.
Verdict: works for me
The Open Move headphones won me over because they give me exactly what I need. They allow me to listen to podcasts or music while jogging and leave my ears free to take in my surroundings. Their sound quality is nothing to write home about, but the headphones are comfortable to wear. The Open Move shall stay on as my routine running companion.