CES 2016 Day 3 - Hands On with the AfterShokz Gamez

If you have not heard of AfterShokz before, I would not be too dismayed. This young company only opened its doors in 2011, and officially launched four years ago here at CES, starting with wired bone conduction headsets. However, a year later, they introduced the Bluez, a Bluetooth bone conduction headset, which was first of its kind at the time. They went with bone conduction because of the advantages of being able to hear the surrounding environment while listening to music. This would also allow users to drive with these headsets on, since they do not cover the ears. Since then they have gone through several different models and today we have the AfterShokz Gamez, a wireless bone conduction headset targeted at mobile gamers. Thankfully, AfterShokz was kind enough to provide us with a review sample to try it out for a few nights.

The box generally looks clean with the headset displayed on the front. As this is called the Gamez, it is intended for mobile gamers. As a result, International Sales Manager Sean Chi has noted the Gamez should produce more bass from the other headsets, while creating more vibrations in the headset. Otherwise, let's take a closer look at the headset itself

Looking at the Gamez is similar to looking at other AfterShokz headsets, because they are generally designed in a similar fashion, with small features to differentiate between each model. The Gamez only comes in the metallic green, but Sean Chi did say they would be open to looking into other colors too. It is overall a very light headset, but big enough to go around all heads. The two pads at the end are the conduction pads, and they sit near your cheekbones. The band rests on the back of your head. I will say AfterShokz has said their headsets should work with glasses, but your mileage may vary, depending on your head and the glasses you wear. Personally I had a few issues, but it was not too bad once I put the headset on. AfterShokz does mention to put on the headset first, and then sliding on your glasses for a better fit.

As for buttons, the AfterShokz Gamez has four buttons, but only three are visible in this picture. Starting at the most right, this is a volume rocker button, allowing you to vary the volume. A micro USB input is covered by a flap beside the rocker, and this is how you will charge the headset. According to AfterShokz, a full charge takes two hours, but the headset will last up to six hours on every full charge. The final button is a power button, but it also controls syncing the Bluetooth, depending on how long you hold the button down. The button missing from the shot is located on the right side pad, which is a multipurpose button. You can play and pause music, or pick up and hang up calls with it. Overall, the layout is easy to use, but I will say it takes some time to get used to knowing where the buttons are.

For APH Networks, we take our audio reviews very seriously. We generally want to give a lot of time and testing before we provide information. However, as this is just a hands on, I will just provide some first impressions. For one, I think bone conduction technology is pretty neat in itself. To be able to provide decent sound while not blocking the ear canal is a pretty innovative idea. However, I will say quality is not necessarily audiophile grade yet. It is not like these headphones are terrible, but they could use some work in various areas, including clarity, and balancing of the three frequency regions. Bass could also be increased further, but this is also just my opinion. In addition, a few annoyances came up such as the fact the audio quality based on the movement of your jaw. This means activities such as talking or eating will affect the perceived sound from the headset. This also means the fitting of the bone conduction headphones is crucial to the perceived quality.

Even with all this in mind, I have to say I am quite pleased with the AfterShokz Gamez upon first impressions. The suggested retail price for the Gamez is $99. Overall though, this is definitely a novel idea, and I cannot way too see AfterShokz make even bigger waves in the industry. Special thanks to AfterShokz for providing APH Networks with the review sample.