AfterShokz OpenComm Wireless Stereo Bone Conduction Bluetooth Headset with Noise-Canceling Boom Microphone and 16-hour talk time disappears while wearing it and performs admirably. There is nothing in the ear because the pad-like bone conduction conductor pads send sound to the ears through the jaw from in front of the ears. Neat!
Throw out everything you know or have experienced in a Bluetooth stereo headset, because there is nothing like bone conduction. This headset not only leaves your ears free to hear what is going on around you, it is also all-day comfortable with a fair bit of ambient noise rejection from its boom mic. OpenComm is also twisty-flexible with a rubber-like coating and IP55 water resistance against sweat and rain. As I wrote, these are different, and modern, with Bluetooth 5.0 and a clever magnetic-contact, breakaway charging cable, similar in concept to Apple’s lauded MagSafe minimal contact chargers on older MacBooks and on the newest iMac. It’s trip-proof!
AfterShokz, the company, has made a name for itself with a portfolio of bone conduction headsets. This model is the first and only one with a boom mic. OpenComm targets commuters, job site workers and office/home workers, really anyone interested in four key differentiators – all-day comfort, open ear design, long talk time and DSP (Digital Signal Processing) noise-canceling boom microphone. Noise canceling refers to canceling noise sent to the other end of a conversation and not the noise heard by the wearer.
Its twisty flexible design allows for easy on and easy off, a requirement because of its unconventional mount and fit. A band joining each side is worn behind the head, not over the head. Your hair will not be mussed while wearing this headset! Each side has an over-the-ear loop with a projection terminating in conductor pads. Unlike conventional headsets, those pads do not go IN the ear, but, rather, in front of the ears, in front of those little protruding tips (on a normal ear) called the tragus. Users may be tempted to put the pads into the ear, but should not, as this is not the way bone conduction sound works.
This is also a good time to put an asterisk on the technology and products using it. Bone conduction technology is a godsend to some users experiencing certain levels of hearing impairment as determined by a hearing professional. Bone conduction technology is best purposed for receiving voice. While listening to music is possible, the technology fails to deliver audiophile quality from music sources. As with so many other products and technologies, few are perfect. The tradeoff here are the other benefits listed above.
Instead of plugging the ear canal, this headset allows ambient sounds to be heard while maintaining privacy by sending sounds by bone conduction. No one nearby will hear the sound from your OpenComm headset.
**WHAT’S IN THE BOX**
- AfterShokz OpenComm
- Magnetic charging cable
- Custom molded case
- User Guide, 2-year warranty documentation
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Unbox! These headsets are shipped with a 50% charge, so they can be set up without the requirement for an initial charge. When charging is needed, connect the proprietary OpenComm Magnetic Charging Cable, one end of which is standard USB-A. The other end is a magnetically-attracted dual-pin contact mechanism. A full charge is reached in about an hour. In a pinch, five minutes on a charger provides about two hours of use.
A charger is not included. Most users will have a charger of some kind sitting around. AfterShokz recommends against high-speed chargers for their headsets. This headset does not need or benefit from that technology and it might decrease battery life, so just don’t do it! If a charger is needed, here is a good, basic, reliable Anker brand dual device charger for $20 that will do the job for this headset and for one more device. Be sure to read about what it will charge and will not charge.
Equipped with the latest Bluetooth version, 5.0, OpenComm working range will be up to about 30 feet from the connected device.
Putting the devices that are to be paired with OpenComm in pairing mode, turn on the headset and put it into pairing mode by pressing and holding the power/volume+ button for 3-5 seconds. Your AfterShokz assistant, Audrey, will greet you with a friendly, “Welcome to AfterShokz.” Continue holding the volume+ button for an additional 2-3 seconds. The LED will flash red and blue, indicating that pairing mode is engaged.
The rest is the same for any other BT devices. Read the linked User Manual for the rest of the settings details and all the capabilities.
NFC pairing is also inside OpenComm headsets. NFC, or Near Field Communication, can be used to pair with compatible Android phones with just a tap. NFC passes along its pairing to the phone’s Bluetooth radio in fewer steps than traditional BT pairing. I did not try this.
Users can do with OpenComm what is done with other headsets. Answer and end calls with one button, summon a virtual assistant, get verbal battery state-of-charge, pause and play music and other audio files, play next track, adjust volume, and more. OpenComm can be paired with two devices but only one can be active at a time. This is called MultiPoint pairing. Here is an informative YouTube video.
OpenComm features long life per charge of up to 16 hours in its lightweight 33 g frame. It’s barely there. Water resistance? YES, to the IP55 standard so they are OK to wear while working out and sweating all over them, as well as in light rain. Just don’t blast them with water under pressure. The magnetic charger attachment allows the unit to be sealed against the elements while still allowing them to be charged. This is a smart design.
There is even a Moisture Detection Alarm function that kicks in if moisture is present on the charging port while being charged. There will be a perceptible vibration and an audible “beep” warning of the presence of moisture.
**PUT TO THE TEST**
Please listen to this voicemail
I left for myself using this OpenComm headset. Of particular note is that I was in the midst of a lot of background noise and none of it came through on the call.
There is slight inward pressure on both sides of the head where the conductor pads rest in front of the ears. I did not find them to be uncomfortable even with all day wear.
After wearing them for several months, day after day, all day while at my computer and roaming around here at Gadget Central, I’m a fan. Podcasts and calls come through clearly. Recognizing the limitations while playing music, I have learned to accept these limitations in exchange for the convenience of wearing ONE comfortable, lightweight headset with all-day battery and then some that can everything I need. And at an affordable price.
On occasion, I have worn this headset while driving, even on three- and four-hour drives. With my ear canals wide open, I can still hear ambient sound for safety’s sake and still be available for calls. My callers did not find the blowing air conditioning to be obtrusive and I was still able to hear my phone’s navigational instructions loud and clear.
I’ve worn OpenComm while on neighborhood walks and brushed off the odd stares I have received. Let’s face it. The OpenComm headset has an unconventional look. My mission has been to use this headset in as many scenarios as possible.
The noise cancellation is not as good as with some more expensive headsets, but no other headset offers greater capabilities with the same literal and figurative flexibility as these.
I know of no other headset of this size that offers such long talk time on a single charge. Standby time is specified at up to 14 days! Mine is plugged in to charge nightly while winding down for the day, then disconnected when I see the solid red charging light change to solid blue, indicating fully charged.
Unlike earbuds and ear-covering “cans” AfterShokz OpenComm are not the go-to air or ground travel companion where true noise cancellation and outside sound rejection are required. That said, for their intended purpose in their intended environment, they are a good choice.
AfterShokz OpenComm perform with excellence in an unconventional package. Highly recommended! Buy from Amazon for $160.
AfterShokz OpenComm Wireless Stereo Bone Conduction Bluetooth Headset with Noise-Canceling Boom Microphone comes with the manufacturer’s 2-year warranty.