Thursday, October 17, 2013

Listen Up! Part 2: AfterShokz and Denon Exercise Freak Review and Giveaway!

Hey...  welcome to Part II of my Listen Up reviews on earphones and ear buds.  Part II you say? When was Part I?  Well, you have to go way way back to June 2012 when I reviewed the One Good Earphone from Far End Gear.  Just click HERE to go back in time and check it out.

So... what's up in this review?  Two really cool products from Denon and AfterShokz. 
I am not really one to run with headphones.  Most of my runs are on the trail or road and I like to be able to hear what is going on around me, and I don't necessarily need music to accompany my runs.

The exceptions would be the time I spend running on the treadmill (dead of winter only), or when running laps at the school track next door.  And during those times, it's not always music, but often podcasts as well.

That being said, I do really love music, so I was happy to have an opportunity to check these products out.  So if you love music, and love running with music, check out the reviews below, and of course take a moment to enter to win :-)

First up is a really cool product from AfterShokz.   The model I tested out was the Sportz M2 with mic.  So, what makes these uber cool?  Bone Conduction Technology...  that's right.... these headphones use military special ops technology to transmit sound directly through your temporal bone (skull) to your ear drum!

Ok... this isn't only just wicked cool, it also allows you to keep your ears unplugged and available to hear your surroundings.  This was a huge plus for me, as the sound restriction is a big reason why I don't run with ear buds.

It was a little weird at first, but after wearing these for a bit, it was really cool to be able to hear your music, and also hear what is going on around you.  The best I can compare it to would be like running with someone carrying a speaker behind you playing your music.  If you have it up loud, it may be harder to hear your surroundings, but certainly better than with plugs in your ears.

I did several runs with these and I was really happy with the comfortable over the ear fit, and they way they stayed put.  As for sound quality?  You certainly can't compare it to ear buds, especially the noise reduction ones, but I found the quality to be decent and well worth the trade off for being a bit safer and more comfortable.  I also found that if I shifted them around just a little bit I could find the right spot on my jaw to get the best sound.  And of course, without any holes etc, they proved to be extremely sweat proof.

The headphones are rechargeable via a USB connector and the control base clips easily to a shirt collar or hydration pack strap.  The controls include an on/off, volume, and a mic button.  Yes, these also serve as a headset for your mobile phone.  I don't have a smart phone, so this wasn't a feature I required, so I didn't give the mic portion a test.  As I noted, the over the ear fit was very comfortable and easy to run in.

Bottom line... terrific product with awesome technology. If you love to run with tunes, but want to be a little safer, this would be a great way to go!  The Sportz M2 with mic retails for $79.95 and the Sportz model without mic at $69.95.  I believe you can also find these at Office Depot.  BUT.. of course, stick around, click a few things below and enter to win a pair from the great folks at AfterShokz!

Ok... next up is the wireless Exercise Freak from Denon.  First of all, the Denon name is well known for high-end audiophile equipment.  I know that back in my college days, Denon amps were sought after for their clean powerful performance.  How long ago was that?  Let's just say that at the time MTV played music videos.. yeah, I'm that old.

What makes these cool?  Well, they are wireless (via bluetooth), function as a phone headset/mic, and of course they put out some really great sound (as would be expected).  Again, the trade-off for me is the blocking of outside sounds, so I use these primarily for track, treadmill, and riding lawnmower action.

The ear buds come with a handy little case, with 4 sizes of ear buds, and a USB charging cord. Also the behind the head wire has a reflective finish which is a great safety feature.   I did test these out running (on the track), as well as just listening while working, and of course while riding my classic 1986 Dynamark 18 HP 42" cut riding lawnmower...   yeah, that's right.. I know you are jealous.. I'm going to have to put up a full review for other tractor nerds that like mowing the back 40.. or back 1 :-)

But, I am getting sidetracked.  Back to the Exercise Freak AH-W150.   In addition to my testing, I also loaned these out to my sister-in-law to try out on a business trip.  She's a marathoner that runs with tunes and a smart phone, so I thought she could put it to a good test.  Here are her unedited bullet points on these:

-used them on a 10 mile run in SF in the middle of August; it was sunny and pretty humid
-super easy to set up the blue-tooth with my phone
-good sound; humidity/sweat did not seem to have an impact
-they did cut out at random intervals when I had my phone in my pocket...about 3/4 way through the run I started holding my phone and that seemed to help
-they were comfortable, and lightweight
-it was really annoying when the sound cut out, but otherwise they were great .

I thought the sound and sweat resistance were excellent as well.  I did get the same issue with it cutting out a few times while I had my iPod in my pocket.  So, it could be that if you bury your phone, or it is too far away, you could experience this issue.  Again, it was very brief, but could prove to be annoying.  When I had my iPpod in my hand or in my handheld, I didn't experience that issue.

The only other thing for me was that it took me a bit to find the right earbud size, and to get them situated on my ear in such a way that they were comfortable.  It seemed to take a little work, but maybe I have weird ears... probably.  My sister-in-law found them to be comfortable.. and her ears look pretty normal :-)

Currently the AH-W150 is selling for $149 on the Denon website (normally $179) and I've seen them on Amazon for as low as $109.  Besides black, they come in pink, yellow and blue as well.  A little pricey in my mind, but if you are looking for ear buds that are blue-tooth, sweat proof, and function as a headset for your smart phone, these are probably worth the investment.

Well.. there you have it. For those of you that run with tunes, I hope this helped shed some light on some great products.  But first and foremost, run safe! And, if you are interested in the scoop on even more ear buds, check out this post from Paleo Runners by clicking HERE.

Ok, as promised, I am happy to announce that AfterShokz would like to provide one of my lucky readers with a pair of M2's..   if you want to win some, you know the drill...   see the Rafflecopter entry form below!  I will run this contest until 10pm MST, Thursday October 24th, 2013.  Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada... good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Happy Trails!



bookgirl said...

I always listen to music, it helps entertain me. :D
I still haven't found a good set of earphones to use yet.

Lisa said...

I love to run with my music because I need some sort of entertainment while on my run.

Jacob Paul said...

I run with music when its simple road running. Because all ya gotta do is put one foot in front of the other...boring. ;)

Caity McCardell said...

Great review! As a podcaster, I love listening to other podcasts to get to know others' styles, get insights, be entertained, etc. So I'm often using headphones, but I also often wonder how much of the outside world is being blocked out.

Tiffany said...

Okay let's not put labels on things, I remember MTV playing only videos! Also I love to listen to music while running, but since I can't hear what is going on around me I tend to not listen or listen with one ear in one ear out at a low level these would help fix that problem. Good find Jeff!

patrick voo said...

i've not run with music in a long time, partly because i enjoy the silence and i also wanted to pay attention to particular physiological feedback (e.g. breathing rate and stride cadence). but i used to love running with music and would definitely try it again!

Cecil Vermule said...

I do listen to music. If I'm running with someone I tend to only listen for the cues of my running app and such, but if I'm alone I use the music to help pace myself at times. Otherwise, I just like to be able to listen to music in general.

stridingtowardslife said...

I run with music, everywhere except on the bike trails; I have some favorite songs that give me a "bump" right when I need it, and some playlists designed to help with pacing - one of my biggest issues.

Desi said...

I do everything with music!

Jeff Gallup said...

well, lets just say I started college when MTV launched :-)

Jeff Gallup said...

Thanks Caity! Your podcast is one I always listen to... love the interviews!

Tracey said...

I don't normally run with music because I like to be aware of what's going on around me....this sounds like a great way to do both!!!!

Lori Beneteau said...

I usually run with music, but with only one earbud in so I can hear what is going on around me.

Kris said...

usually, either to music or books... have been running "naked" lately tho which is just as awesome

James said...

I like the blue tooth that is a neat peace of kit really love it

TuckermanPaws said...

I listen to music constantly when I am hiking or exercising. I usually leave an ear bud out to hear whatever, but having both open while listening to music sounds great!

Debbie Harris said...

I listen to audiobooks while I run. I love my books. If it's a good one, I want to run & run & run.

Jennifer said...

I always run with music,it just helps put me in the zone and pass the time.

Chad Helberg said...

I just about always run with music- Podcast listening mostly though to keep in touch or learn more on the go.

Kyle said...

I like to listen to music when I run. Plus I use the 'Zombies, Run' app.

Scott Loonan said...

I have been using the Yurbuds Inspire Pro but would love to try the AfterShokz with the bone conduction tech.

Lauren S said...

I used to always run with music but most of my marathon training without it so now it depends.

Bryan K said...

Great stuff Jeff. Nice to see you branching out.

Patent Attorney said...

Thanks for the review! It certainly sounds like they're worth the investment