Gamez Wireless Headphones
There’s a plethora of wireless/bluetooth headphones out in the world, but these new ones from AfterShokz are designed with gamers in mind, incorporating some interesting technology. Come inside to read my thoughts on the Gamez headphones!
More and more, a good set of headphones are becoming an integral part of the experience. While I've checked out a pair of regular (albeit incredibly high end) headphones from V-MODA, this time around, I'm checking out something that's quite a bit different. For one, this is a wireless set that connects via Bluetooth, but what really makes it unique is the fact that it doesn't actually go on your ears. Rather, it uses bone conduction to transmit the sound. Color me intrigued.
Bone conduction may sound like some sort of witchcraft, but it's not. Rather than having something sit on top of your ears and send out sound, these AfterShokz ones wrap around your ears with a band behind your head (coming with a swanky adjusting strap if needed). The crucial parts sit on top of your cheek bones, and essentially uses those as conductors for the sound, sending audio directly to your cochlea.
The whole idea behind this is so that you can listen to music, games, or whatever you'd like to while still being able to listen for other things going on around you. This may seem a little counterintuitive, considering so many other headphones out there are all about their noise-cancelling effectiveness, and keeping people immersed in the media of their choice. I think it's a great idea, but I'll talk about why here in a bit.
The box comes with the headphones themselves, a charging cable, instruction booklet, adjusting strap, and a little bag to carry everything and keep the headphones neatly tucked away in. All the controls are on the right side of the headphones, from which you can sync it to your phone (or tablet), control the volume, answer calls, or even use voice controls. Yes, that means there are a pair of microphones up front, but are designed to keep exterior noise, things that aren't YOUR voice, blocked out.
It's got a decent range of about 30 feet, though I don't know any reason why you'd be that far away from your paired device and using it. The battery is designed to last for a solid 6 hours of continuous use (and I didn't see anything to contradict that in my experience), or ten hours on standby. Since it's built more around mobile gaming and uses, that's more than enough life span to last you through a few sessions.
All in all, there's a lot of tech packed into this more compact headset, and it's smooth design makes it look far sleeker than many other bulky looking bluetooth devices out there. It looks good, and despite seeming so small, it doesn't feel fragile either. It's pretty solid, and can easily be used for working out or just sitting around. They are pretty sturdy and it's wrap around design makes them pretty comfortable and easy to wear for extended periods of time (though they get a little annoying if you wear glasses as well).
Why It Works
AfterShokz is marketing the Gamez headphones to be specifically for gamers; but more specifically for gamers using mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc). While many gamers look to their headphones as another source of becoming immersed in their play time, Gamez takes a different approach, by making it so you can hear what's going on around you, while still keeping all the sound from your game confined to the headphones.
This is great for the awareness factor. Think about where you personally, play the most games on your phone or tablet. It could be while going back and forth to work/school, during breaks or even hanging out at the park. Those are times when you might want to hear your game, but can't do to the area you're in. The Gamez headphones makes that happen, but doesn't deafen you to your surroundings. Afterall, it would suck to miss out on your bus stop because you didn't hear your drop off point coming up.
Say you're at the park with your kiddos, letting them run around and have fun (mine are older and able to play on their own). You may want to kill some time on the park bench playing, and these headphones allow you to still listen for your kids and hear what's going on. As a parent, this is what makes these headphones so great to me. While most of my gaming is still done at home, I can sit and play on my tablet (most recently is't been KOTOR on the Amazon Fire HD), get all the sounds from the game, and STILL be able to hear what's going on in the house. So if the kids need something, or my girlfriend is asking for help somewhere in the house I'm not deaf to the world, or seem like I'm ignoring them. It allows me to game with the volume up, without disturbing anyone, but doesn't cut me off from everything else.
Even if you're not a parent, the technology has some good uses. After all, if you want to go running/workout outside with your music playing (or listening to a movie as I do), it's not a bad idea to be able to still hear what's going on around you. It's a safety thing that can keep you out of harm's way, especially these days. Whether it's traffic, or someone waiting to sneak up on you, it's a good way to have your music and be able to stay aware of your surroundings.
I have some minor issues with the Gamez headphones, the biggest of which have to deal with the buttons on the side. You have volume and power on there, with another button on the side to answer calls or activate the voice control options on your phones. Since that button is mounted on the side of the device, near the ear, that wasn’t an issue at all.
The issue, is that they’re small and when mounted on your head, really difficult to figure out which is which. Many times I turned the volume the wrong way, and missed the power button entirely. Since I have big hands, I hit the wrong button more often than not, and I found it easier to just take it off my head and do what I need, then place it back in spot. It’s a minor thing, to be sure, but was kind of annoying to have to fiddle with time and time again.
My next issue, probably won’t be much of a problem for others, and it’s something I’ve had to deal with frequently, regardless of the headphones. Wearing them with glasses isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. Since they don’t cover the ear entirely, they’re actually MORE comfortable than most headphones worn with glasses, but after an extended period of time, they started bugging me. Again, it’s not a huge issue and something not everyone will encounter, but something I noticed.
Lastly, while the Gamez headphones are fairly small, they seem a little awkward for traveling with them. They’re one solid band that wraps around your head. They don’t fold up, and unlike ear buds, they don’t wrap around for easy storage. While they come in that nice carry bag, you might be loath to throw them in your backpack or laptop bag for fear of snapping them. They’re pretty solid, but I imagine if squished in with a bunch of other stuff, they could snap like anything else. Minor, but something to think about.
Bone conduction may seem odd, but I love the ability to play my games without disturbing people, while still being able to listen to the outside world and be aware of my surroundings. As a parent, it’s a wonderful tool, and something I’m sure to be using a lot of in the future.