My favorite pair of running headphones is the Trekz Air because I can enjoy music while still being aware of my surroundings. The bone conduction technology works well at providing good quality music at reasonable volumes.
Swimming is the one area I want to do more of, but haven't traditionally spent a lot of time with due to the limitations of where I live. My daughter recently joined a gym with a pool so I've been visiting to try the gym out and may soon be a regular swimmer. Swimming for long periods of time so that the activity could actually count as a workout has been hard for me, but the new AfterShokz Xtrainerz (pronounced "cross trainers") may have changed my perspective.
For this review, I spent time at the gym and in hotel pools swimming laps. Enjoying music through the headphones was fantastic and motivated me to keep swimming through a number of songs, but they aren't yet perfect.
AfterShokz Xtrainerz specifications
The retail package includes a zippered case, USB charging dock, earplugs, and the Xtrainerz headset.
- Speaker type: Bone conduction transducers
- Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz
- Sensitivity: 98 ± 3dB
- Waterproof rating: IP68 for up to 2 meters submersion
- Compatible music types: MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, FLAC
- Storage capacity: 4GB for up to 1,200 songs
- Battery life: Up to eight hours playback
- Battery capacity: 183 mAh
- Weight: 30 grams
Loading music on the headphones
At first I thought the Xtrainerz were Bluetooth phones so thought maybe I could wear an Apple Watch to stream music. However, there is no wireless capability and from what I understand Bluetooth doesn't work that well in the water.
There is 4GB of storage capacity to hold up to 1,200 songs on the headset. I grabbed my Surface Pro 6, put the Xtrainerz into the charging dock, and then connected the USB-A end to my computer. The headset appeared as an external drive.
I found a bunch of MP3 music files that I bought years ago on Amazon and then copied these songs onto the drive of the headset. It would be nice to have a music transfer system for people who are not that familiar with drive management, but then again these same folks may not have MP3 files since people tend to use subscription services today.
Swimming with the headphones
The AfterShokz Xtrainerz headset is available now for $149.95. Loaded up with music, I turned on the Xtrainerz, put them on my head, and then jumped in the pool with the music in shuffle mode.
There is a mode button on the back of the right side piece mounted just behind your ear. On the bottom of this piece you will find the volume down, multi-function, and volume up buttons. They are well spaced and easy to find and press while in the pool.
The multi-function button is used for play/pause and power on/off with either a press or press and hold action.
The mode button lets you switch between normal, repeat, and shuffle with Audrey vocally responding to the button press actions. To switch equalizer settings, just press and hold the mode button to toggle between general and swimming modes. General mode is for listening above the water, such as when you are running or cycling. Swimming mode changes the pitch and you can actually hear the music better while underwater. Use the included earplugs for even better sound under the water.
The volume buttons can also be used to jump to the next or previous song with a two-second press and hold. You can also use button combinations to navigate music stored in folders on the headphones.
What could be improved?
The playback, volume, ability to stay put on my head, and long battery life are all excellent features of the Xtrainerz. They could be improved with the following:
- Subscription music support: People commonly pay for subscription music so if AfterShokz could get Spotify support integrated for offline music support then that would make these headphones an easy recommend.
- Bluetooth support: While Bluetooth wouldn't be used for swimming, without music subscription support it would be nice to be able to connect your watch or smartphone to take these headphones running or cycling. You can certainly do that now, but have to own MP3 music and work through a clunky transfer process to get music onto the headset.
The Xtrainerz headphones performed much better than I anticipated and may be even more important to motivate me to swim than headphones do for running. When I run I get to see a lot of changing scenery, but for pool swimming there are just lane lines and lights to occupy my mind as I stroke through the water. It's been great to enjoy music while swimming and I recommend these headphones.