AfterShokz is a brand that needs no introduction in the world of headsets — Bluetooth or otherwise. The company’s offerings have often been at or near the top when it comes to aftermarket accessories. But our review of its latest offering, AfterShokz OpenComm proves above all else that it’s still not a company to ignore either. Put simply, this is still a company to really watch for those interested in the audio wearable market.
In terms of battery life, audio quality, accessories, ease-of-use, charging, and mics, AfterShokz OpenComm is a true winner. And it’s going to be a challenge to find anything better for the money. Especially with consideration for the price-point at just $159.95 and the fact that it outperforms many headsets that are much more expensive.
Bearing all of that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at what sets AfterShokz OpenComm apart from the others.
AfterShokz shaped OpenComm for comfort and ease-of-use
Aesthetically, OpenComm stood apart from other headsets I’ve reviewed because it’s slimmer, lighter, and sleeker. Upon opening the included leather-like carrying case for review, those are aspects that stood out for AfterShokz OpenComm. But those aren’t the only things that make the hardware here unique or noteworthy.
Not least of all, the above-mentioned carry case has a molded slot for storing the headset. AfterShokz gave the mesh-lined pocket a secondary pocket in the lining itself, contrary to what’s often included with these products. That pocket is expressly for the charging cable. So there’s more carry room here for accessories and better organization options than is typically the case.
Once I started using these, the design itself became even more endearing. Primarily because this is the first headset — at least among those that I’ve used — which felt comfortable to wear and even listen to all day long. Not only did I not experience any fatigue. I even forgot they were even being worn, from time to time.
Looking past those aspects of the hardware, OpenComm is also more smoothly operating than many competing devices that I’ve used. That’s with regard to the mic boom. And that boom showed no give at all when twisted too far in or out. So it’s high-quality hardware we’re looking at here. Made all the more poignant by AfterShokz claimed titanium frame and core.
The buttons — two for volume and another multi-purpose button — are easy to use. Both in the sense that it’s easy to turn on or off the headset, access voice assistants, play, pause, or otherwise control playback, and that they’re satisfyingly clicky. That’s as opposed to the squishy buttons often seen in headsets.
And, continuing on that trend, the charging cable seats firmly into place when connected. So I never had to worry about it slipping off because of odd placements or tension when I charged it.
Battery life from AfterShokz OpenComm is great and charging is fast
AfterShokz claims that its OpenComm headset should get up to 16-hours of talk time and up to 8-hours of listening to music. There’s no charging case here, so that’s the upper limit in terms of length of use between charges. And, for the most part, that seems to be accurate. In fact, I only noticed a dip in longevity when I stepped more than 25-feet from the source device and had the volume turned up to its maximum.
With that said, battery life is subjective. It always has been and always will be. So users should expect AfterShokz OpenComm to not last any longer than advertised either.
Charging, conversely, was spot on as AfterShokz advertised during my review of OpenComm. It took just five minutes of charging to see well over two hours of use on the calling front. And a full charge took just short of an hour.
The sole caveat on the battery front is the charging cable itself. While it’s undoubtedly central to achieving the claimed charging rates, it’s also proprietary. That means that no standard charging cable is going to work except the magnetic dual-pin cable sent with the device.
If that gets lost, it’s no easy fix to just pop down to the store and buy another cord. Retailers simply aren’t likely to be carrying this particular cable or a cable with the same connector. It also means that users will need to carry the device’s cable around with them. Especially if, through mixed-use, they can’t get a full day out of the battery as I did.
AfterShokz geared audio toward conversation but this still works for everything else
Now, it’s important to note that AfterShokz is a headset first and foremost, and that was fairly easy to see under review. The implications of that are probably obvious. Especially since that’s as opposed to headphones for listening to music. But summarily, this headset does not provide great audio for listening to those mediums. Or at least not great compared to dedicated cans or earbuds.
That’s not to say that listening to music on OpenComm is bad. The audio is still clear and the tones are well-balanced. All frequencies, in-so-far as I could tell, are still represented. But those are represented with a heavy leaning toward the mids- and treble-side of the equation.
Bass frequencies, conversely, lack the punch and boom seen with expensive traditional headphones. However, this headset still works incredibly well for media consumption across the board. From games to movies.
All of that comes down to design. Since OpenComm is bone-conductive, the audio is delivered to the bone just in front of the ear instead of to it. The idea, which we’ll cover momentarily, is to keep users’ ears free and empower conversations. And they do that exceptionally well. In fact, not only does voice audio come through loud and clear without blocking out ambient noise. It’s loud and clear enough that it’s not difficult to hear the person on the other end, even in louder environments.
On the other end, the mics on AfterShokz OpenComm performed brilliantly under review. Although the bendable apparatus was never less than 3-inches from my mouth, it didn’t present a speakerphone effect. Or at least not as much as what I’ve seen with other headsets. Instead, my voice carried through clearly, only lacking in crispness ever-so-slightly.
The mic also didn’t pick up the noisy fan that I had placed just feet away from my head at all — according to those I placed calls to.
Connectivity here is top-notch
On the connectivity and features front, AfterShokz OpenComm was a step ahead of much of the competition in several ways during my review. Not least of all, this headset allows for NFC pairing and those connections work via Bluetooth 5.0. As a result, all users need to do is turn both sensors on in their phones or other gadgets. Then, holding OpenComm up to the source devices’ NFC point will connect the two devices.
Better still, multi-point connections are possible with OpenComm. So there’s no need to keep unpairing or turning off Bluetooth on one device to connect to another. Although with some devices, though not even half of those I tested, I did need to prompt the source to connect before it switched.
Of course, the company says that the maximum ‘reliable distance’ between devices is just 33-feet. And that could potentially cause problems for more mobile users. But that shouldn’t be an issue or present much of an obstacle to most users either. In fact, I tested AfterShokz OpenComm at up to 35-feet from my source device — within line-of-sight — and it just kept on working. So mileage may vary on that front.
AfterShokz OpenComm is effectively the final word in its category
If all-day comfort and battery aren’t enough to convince you, then other aspects discussed during this review of OpenComm from AfterShokz really should. Not only does this headset eliminate the overwhelming majority of the speakerphone effect seen in competitors. The sound comes through clearly and balanced. With a clean representation of all audible frequencies — albeit not the most powerful on bass.
Multi-point pairing, near-lossless Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC for faster pairing are simply icing on the cake. As is the open-ear design, smooth aesthetic, and fast charging. Each of which serves well to offset the caveats of proprietary charging and lacking low-end oomph. But none of those are really issues with consideration for the category this headset finds itself in.
If you’re looking for a headset that’s solidly-built, great for voice chats and communications, and comfortable, AfterShokz OpenComm is almost certainly what you need. All for well under a $200 price tag. And without the many caveats that plague some other wearables in its price bracket.