The Aftershokz Openmove is the latest offering from the bone conduction headphone specialist. Bone conduction headphones leave your ears open, delivering sound through your cheekbones, so you can still hear what’s going on around you. They’re perfect for running, cycling and jobs around the house.
The main disadvantage has always been sound quality, although their top-end Aeropex headphones I reviewed a while back actually sounded pretty good. But they also came with a fairly hefty price tag. These new headphones are around half the price at £80 or $99 and are more of an upgrade to their Titanium model. They are now lighter, have USB-C charging, Bluetooth 5.0, a more up to date chip, an additional EQ mode and most importantly they’re meant to sound better.
I’ll run through their features before comparing them to the slightly cheaper Titaniums and also the more expensive Aeropex’s. So let’s take a closer look.
Inside the box you get the headphones themselves, a soft pouch, an Aftershokz branded USB-C charging cable, a set of earplugs and an instruction manual. You don’t get the Aeropex’s more premium packaging or silicon storage case.
The headphones weigh just 29g, noticeably lighter than the Titaniums at 36g and only 3g heavier than the Aeropex’s. Like the Titaniums they have a titanium neckband and plastic ear hooks, not the all titanium build of the Aeropex’s, although all three headphones feel premium. They’re not quite as sleek as the Aeropex’s but look more elegant than their rather chunky predecessors.
The neck band has a lot of flex but doesn’t feel like it will break easily.
They have an IP55 sweat resistant rating like the Titaniums, not the IP67 waterproof rating of the Aeropex’s.
I’m testing the Slate Grey version, but they’re also available in white, blue and pink.
The right ear hook houses the USB-C charging port underneath a rubber flap and the combined power button and volume up button and the volume down button. Behind the charging port is the status LED. It’s the same setup as on the Titaniums except with a welcome USB-C charging port rather than the older micro USB port. The Aeropex’s proprietary magnetic charging port is more convenient so long as you have the cable with you, but it makes sense to move to the standardised USB-C. I’d really like to have seen wireless charging too.
It’s a small detail, but I would have preferred an open USB-C port which can still be waterproof. Having to use your fingernail to open the flap seems an unnecessary step. And whilst on small details, I’d prefer the charging port to be above the volume controls like on the Aeropex’s. I find it easier to quickly locate the volume buttons with my thumb whilst running – with my thumb feeling the volume up button right next to my ear.
The right earphone has the dual noise cancelling microphones for voice calls.
The left earphone has a slightly hidden multi-function button which I’m pleased to see is larger and easier to press than on the Aeropex’s. A single press to play | pause your music or answer | end a phone call, a double and triple press to skip forward and back a track respectively, and a 2 second press to activate your voice assistant.
Charging the headphone’s integrated 135mAh battery takes around 2 hours from flat at around 0.1A. The LED is red while charging and turns blue when fully charged.
When you turn the headphones on for the first time with a 2 second press of the combined Volume+ | Power button the LED will flash red and blue indicating pairing mode. Connect to Openmove by Aftershokz in your Bluetooth device settings. Audio prompts and beeps accompany turning the headphones on and off, Bluetooth pairing, volume changes and can inform you of the battery status when you press the volume up or down button with music paused. You can’t disable these prompts.
A 3 second press turns the headphones off. If you want to pair to another device, press and hold the Power button for 3 seconds until you hear “pairing” and the LED again flashes red and blue.
You can connect to two devices simultaneously if you enable “multipoint” mode. With the headphones off, again enter pairing mode with a long press of the power button. Then hold the multifunction button and the power button for 3 seconds until you hear “multipoint enabled”.
Connect to your first device. Turn the headphones off and then re-enter pairing mode again and connect to your second device. When you turn the headphones off and on again, they’ll be connected to both devices. To disable multipoint mode you need to again go into pairing mode and this time hold down the multifunction button and the Volume- for 3 seconds.
One frustration I found with multipoint mode is the headphones will beep every few seconds for a few minutes if they lose connection to one of the two devices. So if you’re paired to a phone and tablet and leave the house playing music off your phone, you’ll get these beeps as soon as it loses the connection to the tablet. I did notice this with the Aeropex’s too and hoped there would be an option to disable this.
If you want to start again and reset all your pairings, or have any issues, you can factory reset the headphones. Go into the pairing mode as before, then press the multifunction button, and both the Volume+ and Volume- buttons simultaneously for 3-5 seconds until you hear two beeps and feel the vibration. Turn the headphones off and then you can start again.
If you’re somewhere where you do want to block out external noise, you can use the supplied earplugs. You can adjust the EQ settings in this situation to reduce the resulting overpowering bass by holding the Volume+ and Volume- buttons down together for 3 seconds while music is playing. A voice prompt cycles between Standard mode, Vocal Booster mode and then Earplug mode. I’m pleased to see the additional Vocal Booster mode I’ll discuss shortly and that the announcements state which mode you’re in. In previous models it just said “EQ changed” so you had to work out which mode you were in depending on how it sounded.
Disappointingly as with the entire range, there’s currently no accompanying app to create custom EQ settings for the headphones or even update the firmware down the line.
Comfort and fit
The headphones are very quick to hook over your ears and sit comfortably, resting on your cheekbones. They’re more comfortable than the Titaniums which aren’t bad themselves. But with their lighter weight and slimmer design you barely notice them – they’re not far off the Aeropex’s.
As with the Aeropex’s they make excellent headphones for running. They are pretty much fit and forget. You don’t have to be concerned they’ll fall out like with true wireless earbuds and as I’ll come back to, you can still hear your surroundings. Plus you can easily pull them down around your neck out of the way if need be.
They also work for cycling up to a point. They’re not loud enough with surrounding traffic noise or travelling at faster speeds because of wind noise, which makes them frustrating for podcasts.
But they do fit well – at least with my helmet and glasses combination. I haven’t tried them with a time trial or full face helmet.
I also like using them on the cycling turbo trainer which is often too sweaty for over ear and even in-ear earphones.
The neckband can get in the way if you’re wearing a coat or hoodie or lying on your back doing stretches for example.
None of the current Aftershokz range have any optical sensor to pause music when you remove the headphones.
Audio quality and performance
Audio quality is always a tricky area when discussing bone conduction headphones. If you’re expecting these to sound like a pair of headphones or earbuds even a quarter of the price you’ll probably be disappointed. But the technology has moved on and I was pleasantly surprised by the Aeropex’s when I reviewed them.
The Openmoves use Aftershokz’s PremiumPitch 2.0 and sound better than the Titaniums for music. They don’t sound quite as good as the Aeropex’s Premium Pitch 2.0+ but the difference isn’t huge.
They have more clarity than the Titaniums and running and cycling with them you mostly forget you’re listening to bone conduction headphones. There isn’t much bass but mids and highs sound ok. I’ve used them a lot for listening to podcasts and they’re much better for spoken audio generally.
Unsurprisingly they don’t have support for any higher quality codecs like aptX or AAC – but it’s unlikely you’d hear any difference anyway.
As with the Aeropexs and Titaniums I still get the buzzing sensation at higher volumes from the headphones vibrating, but you don’t notice it running and cycling and around the house you can turn the volume down.
There’s one feature the Openmoves have that the rest of the range don’t have, and that’s a new Vocal Booster EQ mode. It doesn’t make a dramatic difference but it does boost the highs a small amount. I still found myself leaving them in the Standard EQ setting most of the time with its wider range.
There’s almost no audio sync delay watching YouTube on both iOS and Android which can sometimes be an issue with wireless headphones.
One of the main reasons you’d buy a pair of bone conduction headphones is to be able to hear your surroundings and that’s where they excel.
You lose very little awareness if you don’t have the volume too high and even compared to AirPods Pros which have a very good transparency mode to relay ambient sounds, the Openmoves work much better since you’re not covering your ears at all. They’re still the only brand allowed by England Athletics for events with roads open to traffic.
Together with their completely secure fit and light weight I would grab these or any bone conduction headphones nine times out of ten going for a run, especially if listening to podcasts.
Sound leakage is a factor with these headphones. These are similar to the Titaniums even though they’re a bit louder, but they still have less leakage than the Aeropex’s at maximum volume. But then the Aeropex’s are a little louder again than the Openmoves. I still wouldn’t have them above 60% volume on public transport or in a shared office.
As I mentioned briefly in the previous section, bone conduction headphones aren’t really loud enough to use in noisy environments. But you do get the included earplugs and the earplug EQ mode for these situations. And it does mean you can use them for DIY or construction work where ear protection is necessary – I use them with banded ear plugs using woodworking machinery.
These headphones use the latest Bluetooth 5.0 which is an upgrade to the Titaniums Bluetooth 4.1 and the range was good, easily making it to the next room of my brick built house. I didn’t get any interference issues either.
The headphones sounded ok both making and receiving phone calls, even with background noise, with their dual noise cancelling microphones. No where near the quality of AirPods Pros but the open ear design feels far more natural than using in-ear earbuds.
The quoted battery life is only 6 hours – the same as the Titaniums but 2 hours less than the Aeropex’s. At around 75% playback volume, I’d say this is about right.
It’s a little less than I’d like, and they don’t turn off automatically. They do have 10 days of standby time but it’s still worth remembering to turn them off – and there’s no power status LED to remind you they’re on. At least you can top them up easily with their USB-C charging port.
The Aftershokz Openmoves are a good upgrade from the Titaniums. They sound better with more detail and are lighter and more comfortable.
They’re still quite expensive at their retail price, but are a lot cheaper than the Aeropex’s. And whilst they don’t sound quite as good as the Aeropex’s, they’re not far off. Plus they have the ubiquitous USB-C charging which is arguably more convenient, and the new Vocal Booster EQ mode.
If you want the best sound quality and longer battery life you might want to look at the more expensive model. But I’d have no trouble recommending the Openmoves to anybody wanting to try bone conduction headphones for the first time. For running – and cycling to a degree, bone conduction headphones are hard to beat.
And even for general use around the house when you still want to hear your surroundings they’re a good option. Plus I find them useful for DIY where you need to use ear protection.
There are a few true wireless earbuds now that have a transparency mode to hear your surroundings, and a fairly secure fit for running, like the LG Tonefree FN6 and FN4’s I reviewed recently. These are a similar price to the Openmoves and have far superior sound. And I’ve reviewed plenty of budget wireless earbuds that still sound better than the Openmoves and also have a secure enough fit for running, although they don’t have a transparency mode.
But if you do a lot of running or cycling and like to listen to music and podcasts, I’d give these headphones some serious consideration.
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