In the past three years, the way we work has changed a lot due to Covid but also the “green” topic reducing a lot of budgets allocated to transportation.
As a result, we spend a lot of time online, either on a smart phone or in conferences leveraging great products such as Microsoft teams.
In other words, we pretty much speak and listen for eight hours, and these five days a week.
A few months ago, I decided to investigate a little bit more how I could take care of myself, and especially what I could do to prevent – mid and long-term – ears potential problems.
The idea was for me to investigate which technology could potentially help me to protect my ears. Also, as I collaborate a lot in the handicap community, I wanted also to share my investigations to people already facing challenges, such as half deaf people and also visually impaired ones (who can leverage applications to guide them while they walk in the street)
My home equipment today
I must say that I am very lucky in terms of home equipment. I have a great work environment at home, which includes several devices mostly from Jabra: speakers, headsets, etc…
It gives me an opportunity to leverage all the pros and cons of each of these devices, so take the “best” product depending on my scenario and mood.
But all these devices use my ears the same way: they leverage the Eardrum. This part is one of the potential areas that, year after year, can be damaged, causing health problems with of course, private life bad side effects.
As an example, in a conference call with many people, when the sound is perfect (I mean people have great equipment at home) our ears can cope with the sound, and it is fine. But when the sound is metal (bad mic), or if I have sound “bumps”, then it is becoming a little bit fun and can cause after month some serious damages. Again, nowadays we spend a lot of time on conference calls!
Investigating a bit, the recent innovations, I thought it could be interesting to evaluate bone conduction headset. To be honest they are not really “new”, but mostly presented (by marketing and youtubers) as products for sports. What about health? in the context of conference call?
In such technology you don’t use the Eardrum (there is no speaker), but you can hear the sound via the bones, the headset “vibrates”. No matter where you put it, even on the top of your head, you can “Hear” the sound. Of course, the way you perceive the sound is definitely not as good as a classical headset (Jabra, Bose, Air Plug) but this time you protect your ears.
The other positive aspect of such technology is that when you are “outside”, while walking for example, as your ears are not used, you can continue to “ear” the environment. A car is arriving ? a bicycle is arriving quickly behind you ? With such technology you can keep control of your situational awareness, and can even speak with someone while you are listening to musing. This is a great feature!
Introducing Shokz devices
Shokz is a well-known brand which induced bone conduction technology with many innovations as they released new products year after year. The current devices are in fact the 7th generation of this technology.
So, for my experiment, I decided to go for the “best” product available on the market and checked how it could fit my need and identify my own “pros and cons”.
Even before ordering the device, I of course went through all YouTube videos related to this product. Most of these videos were “reviews” very classical and did not go too far in my reflection regarding health. But this is a very good start to see the product!
I finally decided to order their Open Run Pro device. Looking at the specs it has the best sound quality, a great battery, and mostly designed for Sport. The big question was how a Sport headset can really fit my 8 hours of conference call, from home (no noise) but also outside.
Test 1: So, what about the OpenRun Pro ?
To be clear it’s a great product! Most of the YouTube videos I reviewed clearly presented all the great features, have a look. But as I mentioned in this blog, I have my own evaluation criteria. After a few weeks I can share with you that I have identified some limits, which will make this device Great but not “Perfect” for my usage.
First, this device works absolutely great in-home conference calls, smart phone and teams. So, if you are home working 100% of the time, you definitely can consider this product and will not regret it at all!
But for my own scenario I found some limitations:
- Outside, when there’s a little bit of noise (cars, wind, dog barking) the mute button is definitely not easy to use. You need to press two buttons together, which for me most of the time ended into a “turn off action”. The mute option was mandatory for me, and this device is quite complex.
- The mic is not that great outside. For example, I noticed that a very small wind is heard on the other side like a bigger one. Calling a friend is fine, talking to a customer is not that great for me as it could be perceived as a lack of respect.
So even if the rating is very high, these tiny limitations (only outside) motivated me to test some other Shokz products, more designed for conference calls.
Important: I want to thank the Shokz team : I sent them this feedback by mail, and they took time to listen and advise me to see which product would better fit my needs.
Introducing the new test: The Unified Communication (Versus Sport) OpenComm2 UC.
Test 2: The Open COMM2 UC
After discussing with the engineering team, they advised me to test the Unified Communication headset, which is explicitly designed for my needs and would potentially reach my expectations.
For me, it is all the good things I found with the Open Run Pro, + all the features I wanted !
First of all, you can see that Mic, very small, very light. It totally changes the quality of sound when I am outside, bringing higher quality and filtering disturbing sounds. No more “wind” in the discussion!
Second, if you manually move the Mic up, it will turn the Mute On: it’s super convenient, in half a second to turn the mic off/on. A good example is when you are walking, and you are crossing a truck.
You can also notice that there is a dongle that you can use at home for longer range. The battery will also last longer, and just a 5mn charging gives you an extra hour of usage!
Of course I also sent this feedback to the Shokz team!
Test 3: and the new one, the new Open Fit?
As I had a great relationship with their engineers, they also gave me the opportunity to test their new open-fit product, just recently released.
What is very important to know about this product is that it’s not only a bone conduction device, but it also combines classical speakers, so you have the two technologies used at the same time. Shokz added new innovations to enhance the sound experience. I definitely advise you to look at their website where they explain everything.
After a few weeks, I also like this product a lot, but for me – I mean home working and making a lot of calls outside – this is not the perfect fit, just by design.
First of all because there’s no mute button at all. You need to go on your smart phone to get muted.
And also, it’s not “only” bone conduction, which means that outside when we walk, we lose the benefit of being 100% connected with the surroundings. You may not hear bicycles arriving by their rear for example.
BUT, the good thing is of course that you have better sound quality. Listening to musing is definitely better.
I like the charging case and the quality/design is definitely high, with great interaction with the Shokz Smartphone App : You have different options, for example you can fine tune the different sound frequently to your ears, making sure you can get the best of it no matter if it is Opera or Rap Music
After a few months of testing these Bone Conduction products, the perfect (for conference calls) one is definitely for me the unified communication named Open COMM2 UC.
The extra weight you gain with the Mic is not a problem when doing sports. In my case riding a bicycle is very convenient, maybe you will feel a tiny difference if you’re running.
Looking at Shokz products in general is a great opportunity for you to leverage this bone conduction technology and potentially (as I found no studies from doctors regarding bone conduction) take care of your ears. Test the different products, they are all good and have a similar price, … and make your own choice!