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Home / Tips and Tricks / AfterShokz Aeropex Mini Review: Quite a big deal for something so small – Review Geek

AfterShokz Aeropex Mini Review: Quite a big deal for something so small – Review Geek



Review:
9/10
?

  • 1 – Absolutely hot waste
  • 2 – Sorta lukewarm waste
  • 3 – Severely flawed design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not best in class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute design Nirvana

Price: $ 160

The Aftershokz Aeropex Mini on a desk with a phone in the foreground and Leatherface Pop in the background
Cameron Summerson

Exactly a lifetime ago, in July 2019, I declared my love for the AfterShokz Air bone conduction headphones. Since then I have been using them in almost all workouts – indoors or outdoors. Well, until now. The newer, more modern, and (best of all) smaller Aeropex Mini, originally announced at CES 2020, has been on my mind for the past few weeks. And I love them even more.

Here’s what we like

  • Excellent bone conduction sound quality
  • Great battery life
  • Smaller fit
  • IP67 rated

And what we don’t

  • Own charger
  • Ambiguous EQ settings
  • Only available in black

What is this “mini” company?

If you’ve done the last bit of research on bone conduction headphones, you’ve probably heard of AfterShokz’s Aeropex. Those are the de facto standard for the best bone conduction headphones since they hit the market about a year and a half ago. The Aeropex Mini are the same headphones, only smaller.

Well the band is smaller. Like, that’s it – just half an inch shorter tire. The headphones themselves are the same size. But the smaller band has a bigger impact on the overall fit than you may realize. I’m a bald guy so I don’t have any hair to fill up the extra space my AfterShokz Air leaves behind, which makes the Aeropex Mini an excellent choice for me. The fit is much “tighter”.

Aeroepex vs Aeropex Mini size comparison
AfterShokz

Of course, you may be wondering what size to buy. Good news: AfterShokz has a guide to help you figure that out. If you have a big, thick head or a lot of hair, you probably want the full size. But if you have a smaller head, not much hair, are a kid, or want a snug fit, the Mini is the jam.

Oh, there is one more difference: the Aeropex Mini is only available in black. The regular Aeropex is available in red, gray, blue and black. That’s a shame if you like colors and have a small head, but hey, you can’t win them all.

Otherwise, you get a standard and familiar layout here: multi-function button (play / pause, answer / hang up, open Google Assistant and more) on the left pad, volume +/- and charging port on the right behind the ear hook. That is it. Unlike most of the other AfterShokz, which are charged via USB, the Aeropex uses its own magnetic charger. I guess they went this way to get a better seal and a higher IP rating (IP67), but it could be a pain for some. Just don’t lose the cable!

Cool, so … Bone conduction?

Aeropex Mini is worn to show where the guiding pad rests
Kori Summerson

While our sister site How-to Geek has an excellent explanation of how bone conduction technology works, I’ll give you the quick and dirty. In effect, they bypass the outer ear to pump sound directly into the inner ear. How? Through your cheekbone. Almost like using them bones to behaviour the sound.

It’s a cool, one-of-a-kind experience, but it’s not shocking. It is not getting used to. But using bone conduction headphones is also different from using other types of headphones that don’t fit on or in your ear. This has a number of advantages, but it usually does not block your hearing, so you are completely environmentally aware.

A close-up of the toad
The pad that rests on your cheekbone. Cameron Summerson

That makes them great when you just want to know what’s going on around you, like cycling or running. Or another activity where you want music or a podcast but still need to be able to hear it.

I generally compare using bone conduction headphones to being in the same room with a TV playing. When you watch it, it has your attention and you focus on the audio from the TV, but you can still hear other things. When someone starts talking to you, the TV sound fades into the background so you can focus on that person’s voice. Bone conduction headphones basically do the same thing. It’s unbelievable.

But Cam, what is the sound quality like?

I’m going to tell you a little secret: bone conduction headphones don’t sound as good as earbuds or headphones. But that doesn’t mean they sound bad either. And the Aeropex (Mini) sounds better than any other bone conduction headphones I’ve ever heard.

As I said before, I wore the AfterShokz Air almost every time I was on the bike for over a year. The sound quality is fine – after all, I’m more interested in just music for my workouts than the best sound quality – but the Aeropex (Mini) is on a different level. Where the air can sound a bit muddy or muffled, the Aeropex sounds alive – clear and crisp. Articulate.

Of course you have to keep your expectations under control here – you don’t get a defined low end from a set of bone conduction, for example. They tend to be heavier in the mid range, providing the widest frequency coverage. You know, most “bang for your buck” so to speak.

A close-up of the multi-function button
The multifunction button Cameron Summerson

That said, each set of AfterShokz also comes with a pair of earbuds, which drastically changes the overall audio experience. As a result, the Aeropex Mini has two EQ settings: the standard profile is designed for open-ear use, so it pumps in as much bass as they can handle. However, with earplugs it sounds like pure mud. Switching to the other EQ profile by holding both volume buttons for three seconds drastically reduces the bass so they sound better. But in reality, you can use both EQs whenever you want. It’s about what sounds better to you.

But that also brings up my main problem with the Aeropex (and Air, for that matter): when you toggle between the two settings, the voice response says “EQ changed” without indicating which profile you’re on. I passed this on to the Air over a year ago, but I thought AfterShokz had definitely fixed this on the newer models. No. I wish it at least responded with “EQ 1” and “EQ 2”. In fact, this is exactly how it works on the OpenMove – they have three audio profiles, and it announces each (default, vocal booster, earplug mode) when they are activated).

A close-up of its own charger and volume buttons, Leatherface Pop and Google Nest Hub in the background
Its own charger and volume buttons Cameron Summerson

But honestly, I always use my AfterShokz as open-ear headphones, so I literally never change audio profiles. But that’s me – maybe you want one pair of headphones for all uses and you think it’s a good idea to pair earplugs with bone conduction. In that case, the OpenMove power be a better choice for you. Keep in mind that these are ‘lifestyle’ headphones, so they are not that robust (IP55 vs. IP67) and don’t last as long (6 hours vs. 8 hours of battery life).

Finally, I would like to talk about call and communication quality. I recently did a four and a half hour indoor cycling event using TrainerRoad’s group workout feature (which supports video and audio), and the Aeropex Mini was great. They sounded great and everyone could hear me perfectly. That’s a huge win for anyone looking for a way to talk on the phone without plugging their ears.

However, if your main concern is phone calls and voice chats, you may be more interested in OpenComm, which is similar to Aerpoex, but it has a boom mic for better call quality.

Conclusion: the best bone conduction experience, only smaller

The AfterShokz Aeropex Mini with a focus on the pads
Cameron Summerson

The whole time I had the Air I only used them on the bike. But since I tested the Aeropex Mini, I’ve found myself reaching for it quite regularly – both on the bike and off it. I carry them around the house. I wear them while I am working. I carry them to the store. I wore them as I walked downtown to take pictures for the iPhone 12 Mini review.

Sure, earbuds or regular headphones sound better. But the advantages of the Aeropex Mini outweigh the (very few) disadvantages. They’re light, last all day, are incredibly comfortable, and stay out of the way. They are quickly becoming my headphone of choice for almost all uses.

That said, I also realize that there is a $ 160 entrance fee (they retail for $ 125 at the time of writing) to get a set of Aeropex or Aeropex Mini on your dome. If you are looking for something to train in and want them to last all day, this is your best bet. And between the Aeropex or smaller Aeropex Mini, they are available for a range of head sizes. But if you’re still not completely sold on the utility for a lifetime, something like the more affordable OpenMove might be a better choice, despite only being available in one size.

Here’s what we like

  • Excellent bone conduction sound quality
  • Great battery life
  • Smaller fit
  • IP67 rated

And what we don’t

  • Own charger
  • Ambiguous EQ settings
  • Only available in black




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