The Lowdown:
I definitely love my music, but with all the active stuff I do, I’ve really never taken to the idea of not being able to hear my surroundings. While tele-skiing, snowboarding, biking (road and mountain), or running, I always wanted to be able to hear what was happening around me; traffic, dirt/snow conditions, potential bike/ski/board problems. I never used to listen to music while recreating, but I had to give it a try when the AfterShokz Sportz M2 showed up.

   - Listen to music while still hearing your surroundings
   - Connect to any mobile device
   - Water/sweat resistant
   - Able to take calls when connected to your cell
   - Built-in volume control
   - $79.95

I try to charge when I’m out on the trails/snow/roads; that’s not saying I succeed, but darn it, do I ever try. With that, I also try to be careful as well; which means keeping an ear out. The ability to do the jig to your favorite tunes as well as be aware of what’s going on under your boards/tires/shoes is the perfect combination to my way of thinking.

Something to note is that I only tested these on my bikes, so keep that in mind with some of my ‘gripes’. I’ll start with what I find as some ‘thumbs down’ qualities of the Sportz M2. In the time where just about everyone has at least one mobile device to keep charged or track of, the thought of having to keep another toy charged seems like a hassle. Luckily, for those non-iDevice users, the M2 uses micro-USB, so you don’t have to use yet another charger.

For the Apple crowd, I don’t know what to say, maybe just keep it in your gear bin. Another “knock” would be the clutter on the sides of your dome with a bike helmet and sunglasses. I didn’t try the fit with a snow-helmet and goggles, but I would imagine that things would sit well and actually be held in place with ear-flaps. I found that while riding my mountain bike, the headset would slowly slide back, toward my ears which increased the volume. In most cases, this wouldn’t be an issue, but again, I want to be able to hear what’s happening around me. I don’t know if this was because I have a large melon, or that the riding position mixed with the jostling of rough trails caused the move. The times I was on my road bike, this didn’t seem to happen as much.

One other thing I noticed, actually others noticed, was the “2nd hand sound” that emanates from these things. Since they’re not IN your ears and there is no type of insulation around them, there is a bit of a spill-over from your favorite beat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like you’re stuck at a light with the booming-system guy next to you; it’s slight, much more discreet. In most scenarios, this won’t be an issue, but if you were to use these in the office or library or any other place that requires noise sensitivity, just make sure you check your volume.

Now onto a more positive note- these beauties undeniably enhance your active experience. Even though the sound isn’t “concert-hall” quality, remember that’s not the goal here. Marrying the safety of spatial awareness and your favorite tunes is what they set out to do, and I think the folks at AfterShokz did a great job at that.

I put Bassnectar, Deadmau5, Red House Painters, Macklemore, Ghostland Observatory, The Misfits, and multiple others through them and felt they performed well with each and every one of them. You’re not going to get low bass, or super high treble, but you know what song you’re hearing, and I felt that it was great background sound for my rides. I found that while turning PR’s on my local trails, they definitely helped keep the rhythm of my cadence good and high.

They’re also super light; to the point where you almost forget you have them on. If you just so happen to have to take a call while out and about, the mic feature works well, at least according to my test callers. I was able to keep moving, despite slowing down, but able to hold a conversation with no issues on either end.

One skeptical question I seemed to encounter was how do you know the sound is actually transmitted through your bone/tissue? I simply stuck my fingers in my ears and could still hear the music loud and clear; bone-conduction at work. The extra volume control was a nice feature, but I found that I just dialed it in on the first ride or 2 and never really had to touch it. Since I was already getting the music picked out on the phone, fine-tuning the volume there was much more convenient.

Another quirk to note is that I found a slight syncing issue when powering them up after being plugged in to a device. It appeared that they had to be switched on prior to plugging them in to get sound from them. Otherwise, the sound just came from my phone; nothing critical, just something you’ll want to remember when setting up for a ride.

The Aftertaste:
Ultimately, I found these headphones to be a great addition to my gear-bin. I love music, and especially while I’m out on dirt, pavement, or snow. I also like to be aware of my surroundings, so the AfterShokz do a great job at allowing both of these to happen together. The ‘knocks’ I mentioned above were never bad enough to deter me from wanting to use them. The battery holds a good charge; I got probably around 5 rides out of one full charge (roughly 8 hours of play time). The movement during liberal activity was never anything that a split-second push couldn’t take care of. I didn’t/don’t have 2nd hand sound issues, and once I got all set up for my rides, the ‘clutter’ around my ears was quickly forgotten. I would definitely suggest these to my riding buddies, and look forward to whatever else the folks at AfterShokz come up with next.