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Friday, January 17, 2020

Xtrainerz Waterproof Bone Conduction headphones: A Flop or a Victory for AfterShokz?

The new AfterShokz Xtrainerz headphones are designed for swimmers and triathletes who spend time in the water in mind, but these earphones can be used for so much more. 

We will admit that we are huge fans of the brand AfterShokz.  It’s the one brand that has met all of our expectations for quality of sound, battery life, safety and fit.  Traditionally we have used Treks Titanium by Aftershokz for all of our running, cycling and traveling.  And We are DELIGHTED to review these Xtainerz.

Although true wireless earbuds have been hogging the limelight over the last few years, there’s another type of specialized wireless earphones that are relatively unknown: bone conduction headphones. While they may give you the impression that they are strange, bone conduction headphones have deep-seated roots in the hearing aid industry.  Maybe you have seen things like the AfteShokz Trekz Titanium on big box store shelves, there are some who consider it to be a gimmick while others find them to be invaluable.

How do bone conducting headphones work?

Bone conducting headphones deliver sound by sending vibrations of sound through the bone just in front of your ear and bypass the eardrum. Through the bone the vibrations are processed by the structures in the inner ear just as they would be if they were coming through the eardrum.  The little ear pads on the front of bone conducting headphones are what sit in front of your ear and send the vibrations to the inner ear. The vibrations from the bone conduction bee-lines for the cochlea.

Due to the lack of eardrum involvement, this technology may be good for people with hearing deficiencies, as the bone conduction vibration acts as in lieu of the eardrum.  For people who face the difficulty in the middle ear or in the external ear, these devices are very useful. As by using these devices the sound is direct passes to the inner ear without coming in contact with the inner ear or external ear and helps the people to hear the sound.

We feel strongly that the technology is important for athletes training or individuals walking on the streets for safety reasons  Being aware of your surroundings during outdoor workouts or on busy streets is a necessity for everyone. Since these don’t seal around or even touch the ear canal, they allow you to hear other pedestrians, passing cars, and any other potential hazards.

RXTip:  With compatible wireless headphones or earbuds (yes and most AfterShokz headphones), most phones allow you to move sound to one ear or the other allowing you to leave one ear available to hear necessary sounds.  Go to>Audio/Visual>Balance to adjust the audio volume balance between the right and left channels.

What’s more, if you’re hard of hearing or use hearing aids, bone conduction headphones are a viable option. While conventional earbuds and headphones may interfere with or jostle hearing aids, bone conduction headphones bypass this. Additionally, listeners who are deaf in one ear may enjoy stereo sound that can’t be heard with traditional in-ears. Bone conduction headphones give certain listeners a sense of hearing that may otherwise be unavailable to them.

On a plane sometimes they are better than actual earbuds or Noise Canceling Headphones!  Put in earplugs to reduce ambient sounds.  And when you are ready to sleep on a flight you don’t have these bulky noise canceling headphones to worry about and you already have earplugs in place!

So what makes Xtrainerz different than other bone conducting headphones?

The X trainers have 4 GB of internal storage which equates to about 1000 songs.  This built in storage means do not need to have a phone with you. Of course you wouldn’t be carrying a phone if you're doing something like swimming or in a very wet or rainy environment while traveling. Or perhaps you just don’t want to carry your phone with you when cycling outside or running.

Have I said we are big fans of aftershocks headphones?  We find them to be extremely lightweight, and very comfortable for whenever we use headphones.  Even on a plane, the headphones will lay on the back of our necks and we don't even know they are on.  When we first viewed the Xtrainerz our first impression is how lightweight and comfortable they are and even more streamlined than our usual Treks Titanium.

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In the box you will receive:

  • Xtrainerz headphones  
  • Silicone storage pouch which has practical holes on the backside.  Since the Xtrainerz are meant to be used in wet environments, it is good to have a pouch with air circulation and drainage.
  • Proprietary charging cradle, which is necessary because of these being waterproof.  Don’t lose the charger or you will have buy a replacement.  This cable will be what you use to transfer music and podcasts to your headphones.  There is a little silicone protector for the usb end and you may not want to lose this to keep it dry in the pouch.
  • Set of swimming earplugs which you can wear because these are not ear buds.  We prefer Mack's moldable silicone earplugs for swimming and often for travel.  
  • User manual

The Pros:

  • The first thing we noticed is how lightweight, streamlined and comfortable these are.
  • It is easy it is to add music or podcasts.  Immediately when you plug in the usb end to your computer the device is recognized as a drive and you can drag and drop or cut and paste to the device. 
  • Surprisingly great the sound quality. Even under water the sound is clear with a bit of splashing noticeable when turning for a lap.  Perhaps different earplugs may help with that- we actually like to use moldable silicone earplugs when swimming and sometimes when traveling.
  • Use with or without a swim cap and with or without goggles. There is no need to attach these to your goggles like with some other headphones used for swimming.  We found it most comfortable put the headphones on first, followed by the swim cap and Lastly goggles.
  • Xtrainerz can be submerged in water up to 35 feet, they can be used in moving water and they can be used in fresh or salt water conditions.
  • These can be used for more than just swimming
  • Two Year Warranty

We just got back from attending the open water swim event called the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim which is a 3.1 mile open water swim across Tampa Bay in January of every year, and was nominated as a 2019 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.  The Frogman Swim Series benefits the Navy SEAL Foundation and has swims in Tampa, Boston, San Francisco and soon to be NYC. There are many participants in this event that put in hours of training both in the pool as well as lakes and even the ocean, and these headphones would be perfect for somebody undergoing a training schedule like that.

Let’s talk about the controls a second.  There are two equalizing Modes: one regular and one for swimming.  Quite honestly we can’t detect a difference in sound but maybe a slight amount of decreased bass in the swim mode.  There is a play button and a volume up and down button.

Personally we recommend just putting your playlist together and don’t plan on doing a bunch of navigation but it is possible and the instructions to do that are in the user manual.  There are settings for normal, repeat, and shuffle using the Mode button if you want it for your playlist.

The Cons:

  • Proprietary charging cable - don’t lose it!
  • No Bluetooth option - maybe we’ll see that in the future!  However, bluetooth connectivity is unreliable in water and that technology is just not ready yet! MP3 is almost becoming outdated with the advent of streaming of things like Spotify!
  • 8 hour battery life -- While some may find this short, for most events that will be that long such as an Ironman triathlon- headphones are illegal to use.  Of course, there are plenty of events or training sessions longer than 8 hours so we will leave that preference up to you.
Compliments of Joseph Kelley Photography

If you are interested in purchasing the Xtrainerz, please click the photo below to find them and Amazon and support our blog!  At Amazon a swim cap is included with your purchase. Thank you so much for your support!

Bottom Line:

Our overall impression is that we love the low profile on these!  The sound quality is amazing, especially compared to the Treks Titanium we traditionally use for running, cycling and traveling with 4 GB of storage capacity for music, podcasts or audiobooks in .MP3 formats.  The fact Xtrainerz are low profile AND that you can wear these by themselves, with or without a swim cap or goggles is very important to us.   And you can DEFINITELY use these for more than just swimming!  Now we have another option in our travel bags for Meaningful and Healthy travel!

Remember, if you have questions related to your health, always consult your doctor or medical professional. The information presented here is informative only and is not medical advice.

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