What’s is the Best Bluetooth Headset for Jogging?

Asked by Hiromi in Osaka

Hi Hiromi, How’s life in Japan? I’d love to visit one day, but until then, here’s your answer…

It all depends on how much you sweat. Yes, I know that’s a little bit indelicate of me, but unfortunately it happens to be true. I’ve read many, many customer reviews of otherwise fine and good headsets that claim to be designed for joggers, but that conk out the first time they get significantly wet…

Headsets designed for jogging are often created so that they won’t fall out of your ears as you run, with almost no concern placed on how much you may sweat during the run. Some people sweat a lot and some sweat very little. In either instance, your sweat level needs to be a factor in your purchasing decision (and there’s no nicer way to say it than that!)

Then, another factor to consider is how much the headset will isolate you from your surroundings as you run. Noise cancellation headsets might do a superlative job if you’re running past a noisy construction site, but they aren’t going to be much help in the wake of oncoming traffic. Again, it comes down to individual choice. Some runners subscribe to the Linford Christie ‘bullet from a gun’ mentality, whilst others simply enjoy a bit of exercise, but also like to stay aware of what’s going on around them.

It is also misleading to assume that a branded headset from a sportswear manufacturer is in any way superior to one designed by a trusted electronics firm. In many/most instances, the opposite is actually true.

Sadly, even so called ‘sweat resistant’ headsets are often anything but and there isn’t a lot you can actually do to get your money back. Your best bet, if you ask me, is to buy a mid-range headset, use it specifically for jogging/going to the gym and don’t expect it to last for very long. If it performs badly, chalk it up to experience and buy a different headset, if it lasts for a decent period of time, then replace it with a similar model, or else the same one again.

I’ll be honest; every so often I get one of these questions that I find hard to answer, as no amount of research will really help. Type in the name of any ‘Bluetooth Headset for Jogging’ into Amazon (or whatever the Japanese equivalent of Amazon may be) and you’ll read just as many complaints in the reviews as praises.

Due to this, I’m reluctant to name specific models, because they may not actually work for you. I’d hate to say, “Oh, this headset works really well”, only to have you write back “Does it b*llocks!”. I have personally reviewed several pairs of headphones online (which you can view by clicking HERE), but not any Bluetooth headsets (to the best of my recollection), so I’m afraid that’s all the advice I can give you on this one!

Review: AfterShokz’s Bluez 2 Bone Conduction Headset Aces Speech, but Muddles Music

This piece is posted with the strict authorization of headset.co.uk, which is the original website. please get consent from that blog before reposting this article.

 

Aftershokz’s Bluetooth headset does just what claims to, so long as you’re after a robust, lightweight, elegantly designed, handsfree interface for speech-based audio listening or making phone calls.

“Bone conduction technology.” It sounds like a gimmick, something you might file on the shelf next to 3D positional audio, high-res music, gold-plated cables and surround-sound cans. It’s not.

In fact, you’ll find it today in breakthrough medical technology like cochlear implants: tiny, surgically implanted electronic devices that can transmit enough sonic information to the listener that even someone mostly deaf can hear sounds and understand speech. If you’re a talk radio devotee, you’re probably aware that Rush Limbaugh uses the latter.

I mention all that because I’ve been test-driving a pair of $100 open ear wireless headphones from Aftershokz for the past few weeks, the Bluez 2, and that’s their claim to fame: “bone conduction technology,” transmitting vibrations produced by a pair of small speaker-pads (sporting what look like rubber shock absorbers abutting your cheekbones) directly to your cochlea. The cochlea, in case you don’t know or remember, would be that spiraling, snail shell portion of your innermost ear you maybe had fun drawing in elementary school biology, that place in your brainpan where fluid jukes and jives reacting to said vibrations, which then get converted into electrical signals that make their way to your brain via neurotransmitters. Imagine a relatively low cost, external headset that can tap directly into that.

The Bluez 2 reminds me a little of an old Sony AM/FM radio headset I used back in the late 1990s — a clunky-looking thing that perched above each of my ears and looped around the back of my head like a wobbly boomerang. Sony’s headset had speakers that rested directly over your earholes and drew its architectural stability from that connective band — all one piece, with no wires or pendulous protuberances. And it took a licking, which is all that mattered to me in that hazy, pre-MP3 era, before the shift from low-fi, functionally minimalist portable audio gear to dragging around microcomputers into which most people I see out running or at the gym still plug headphones today, whether dangling or coiled inside an arm band.

Wireless headsets are a dime ten-dozen nowadays, and bone conduction technology’s not new, but when Aftershokz’s Bluez 2 headset arrived unbidden, looking just enough like that old Sony headset to draw my eye, I decided to give it a shot. I’ve worn it most of each day for the past two weeks and used it as the primary interface to my iPhone 5: listening to audiobooks and music while running outside, and chatting on the phone both indoors and out as well as in the car.

For a Bluetooth device that gets about six hours to a charge and has to generate haptic feedback, my initial reaction putting it on was “Man, is this thing light.” Weighing just 41 grams, it rests almost unnoticeably on your ears, its narrow, glossy black band wrapping behind your head without touching it (Aftershokz includes a reflective sticker you can optionally place on the neck band). If I cared about aesthetics as much as functionality, I’d probably use it in a sentence with words like streamlined and elegant. It doesn’t look half-bad on your noggin, either, though when I wore it out grocery shopping a few weeks ago, someone stopped me to ask if it was Google Glass. (Insert quip about eyes in the back of your head here.)

Let’s talk about the bone conduction angle, since that’s the buzziest buzzword in the mix. Imagine a pair of haptic gamepads strapped to either side of your head like Princess Leia’s cinnamon buns and the vibration-feedback mechanisms in said gamepads jackhammering away. The Bluez 2′s vibrations feel nothing like that, thank goodness, though there’s a slight buzzing sensation that pulses as audio’s conveyed through the audio pads. On my head, the pads align with my temporomandibular joint (the place your lower jaw connects to your skull — it’s right in front of your ear), and that’s where I suspect most are going to feel it. To be clear, it’s strictly vibration-based and not electrical, but it feels a little weird, a bit like someone holding the end of a sonic toothbrush against your cheeks, and that takes some getting used to.

But the benefits are considerable, especially if you’re listening to speech, whether talking on the phone or devouring an audio book. The headset’s speakers are physically positioned in front of your ears, which looks like it can’t possibly work properly, until you realize the sounds are being transmitted and augmented by the vibrating pads, up your cheekbones and through your ear canals. I have narrow ear canals and weird-shaped ears, meaning most earbuds (even with sizing tips) tend to fall out. The upside of Bluez 2′s headset is that it’s one-size-fits-all, and all-fits-comfortably — no fussing with sizers or trying to adjust the speakers to your earhole. And they’re perfectly comfortable for extended sessions, even if placed over a pair of glasses (so long as the temple pieces aren’t too thick). As a glasses-wearer, that’s more than I can say for any other pair of over-the-ear headphones I’ve used.

The other benefit — and I noticed this most while running outdoors in moderately noisy environments (traffic, mostly) — is that speech came through clearly at all times, even while battling a strong headwind. I wound up listening to several hours of the audiobook version of that old 1988 PBS documentary The Power of Myth while testing the Bluez 2, and both Joe Campbell and Bill Moyers came through clearer and more consistently than they ever had using a pair of wired headphones. The same held true when I summoned TuneIn to catch Internet-streamed cable news or local radio. If listening to speech-related audio is your thing, from audiobooks to talk radio to news, Aftershokz’s headset really excels.

I’m sad to say I had the opposite reaction to the Bluez 2′s music playback quality. Paired with my iPhone 5 and the volume set to maximum, XTC’s Skylarking sounded washed together and hollow, as did Elbow’s The Take Off and Landing of Everything, Elton John’s The Diving Board and Janelle Monáe’s The ArchAndroid. And I had difficulty getting the Bluez 2 to play loud enough in even modestly noisy environments. This, despite a product bullet point that boasts of a patented feature Aftershokz calls “PremiumPitch,” which uses dual transducers to “guarantee the finest bone conduction audio.”

I guess that means the finest still has a ways to go: Switching to a pair of low-end, wired Sony MDR-AS20J headphones with loop hangars, the quality upgrade when listening to that same music was startling.

My sense is that where bone conduction technology excels at bulldogging basic audio — especially speech — through your brainpan in noisy environments, it’s comparably poor at conveying even moderate details produced by higher fidelity audio sources. If not being able to listen to music at even moderate quality and volume levels is a deal-breaker, I’d steer clear of this headset, if not bone conduction technology in general. At this point, music and bone conduction feel like a mismatch.

If you’re just looking for something to use as a handsfree headset for voice calls, on the other hand, the Bluez 2 sports dual microphones that worked ably enough in both low and high noise environments. Switching between the headset and Apple’s default iPhone earbuds, the people I called said the audio improved a bit with the earbuds and noted that the Bluez 2′s audio sounded slightly muffled by comparison, but was otherwise fine. I suspect the latter has something to do with noise-cancellation algorithms, the flip side being that in noisier environments, those algorithms helped capture and convey what I was saying more dependably.

Music aside, I’m pretty happy with the Bluez 2 as-is. I wasn’t expecting a revelatory music listening experience (and to be fair, no one’s offering that over Bluetooth at this point), and it does do what it claims to if you’re just after a robust, lightweight, elegantly designed, handsfree interface for speech-based audio listening or making phone calls. $100 feels about right if the latter’s what you’re after, and that includes an adjustable tension band, a micro-USB charge cable and a smartly designed “breathable” storage pouch with one side mesh to let the headset dry if you’ve soaked it during a workout.

 

How did people communicate with each other 100 years ago?

Asked by Barbara from Basingstoke

 

Hi Barbara from Basingstoke (I like that, it has a nice ring to it), 

I presume you mean to ask me how people communicated over long distances, because otherwise the answer would simply be ‘they talked to each other, just as they do today’. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but please be more specific in future! (Kidding!)

OK, so 100 years ago, in 1914, the telephone was still in its infancy, relatively speaking. 99 years ago, Thomas Watson made the first coast-to-coast phone call in America, so that should give you some idea of where the telephone was, development wise.

However, the invention had been patented since 1876 and 1877 had seen the first long-distance phone call placed. But by and large, telephones were not an overly common part of people’s lives the way they are now.

More common was the telegraph, which had been knocking around for a while by then. People in official positions tended to use that, but it wouldn’t have been a fixture of regular people’s houses.

Far more common than telephone or telegraph was the postal service. In 1914, if you wanted to contact a friend, relative, or loved one, you wrote to them. The working classes were better educated than at any other time in history (up to that point) and literacy was improving (although it certainly wasn’t at the near-ubiquitous level of today). Letters took a long time to arrive by today’s standards, so they tended to be longer and more absorbing than, say, a Facebook chat is today. In fact, intellectuals, authors and politicians would often engage themselves in long-winded and exhaustive intellectual contests via thorough, essay-length correspondences.

Another option would have been to speak via mutual acquaintances. Literature of the period frequently involves friends using a mutual friend in order to carry on a long-distance discussion and it is my understanding that this was quite a common practice. Interestingly, this may very well have shaped the development of certain customs in society (such as ‘good manners’ vs. ‘bad manners’ regarding correspondence etiquette). With our communication methods of today being so vastly different, it remains to be seen how our society will come to reflect this. 

How Noise-canceling Headsets Work?

There are two main methods of noise cancellation (although a third shall also be detailed a bit later on) with regards to headsets, earphones and other portable devices. Here’s a bit about them and how they work… 

The first type of noise cancellation basically occurs whenever anything obstructs the inner ear; this has the effect of dulling our ability to hear whatever’s going on around us. If you put your hands over your ears right now, or you stick your fingers in your ears, the background noise will diminish. This, in a very real sense, is a form of noise cancellation. In this regard, any set of headphones that cover the ear, or even the types that sit inside the ear, effectively cancel out background noise and are therefore ‘noise cancelling’.

The second type of noise cancellation is a little bit more complicated. Typically, these headphones cost more money, but they offset this cost by being rather clever and also very effective. The second type of headphones are those that generate a low-level of white noise around the vicinity of the speaker. The white noise, largely inaudible to the Human ear, creates a sort of ‘sound vacuum’ that eliminates all background noise, allowing you to focus purely on whatever you are listening to.

There is also one more type of noise-cancelling headset, which is the bone-conduction headset (sometimes known as ‘bonephones’), these headphones actually bypass your outer ear entirely and go instead to vibrate the tiny bones in your inner ear. Your brain still understands this every bit as much as it would if you were listening through your outer ear (or pinna) but you now have the added option of chucking good old fashioned ear plugs into the equation, whilst at the same time still continuing to use your headphones.

With gadgets like tablet computers, smartphones and MP3 players becoming more and more prevalent in modern society, headphones and earpieces are becoming increasingly commonplace. People are now trying to have conversations, listen to music or even hold video conferences in traditionally loud places.

From busy streets to crowded trains, it has never been more important for people to be able to hear content clearly and easily whilst they are ‘on the go’ – it is for this reason that noise cancelling headsets have become such a popular consumer item in the early 21st century. 

How does an aeroplane’s ‘black box’ work?

After doing a little research, I can now tell you (basically) everything you ever wanted to know about black boxes…

In the average commercial aircraft, you’ll find the presence of multiple (usually four) microphones in the cockpit at any given time. They are located in the pilot and co-pilot’s headsets, as well as in the cockpit itself. Not only do these microphones record conversations between the pilots and cabin crew, they also record any ambient noise (such as switches being thrown or sounds generated by technical issues). The microphones all connect to the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), a master unit that stores the last 30 minutes of sound. The tape operates on a loop, essentially erasing itself every half hour. Continue reading »

Truly Communication? The Modern Communication : A Normative Critique.

Communication is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior. It is the meaningful exchange of information between two or more living creatures.
One definition of communication is “any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or non-linguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes.”
Communication requires a sender, a message, and a recipient, although the receiver doesn’t have to be present or aware of the sender’s intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. Communication requires that the communicating parties share an area of communicative commonality. The communication process is complete once the receiver understands the sender’s message.
Communicating with others involves three primary steps:
Thought: First, information exists in the mind of the sender. This can be a concept, idea, information, or feelings.
Encoding: Next, a message is sent to a receiver in words or other symbols.
Decoding: Lastly, the receiver translates the words or symbols into a concept or information that a person can understand.
There are a variety of verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. These include body language, eye contact, sign language, haptic communication,and chronemics. Other examples are media content such as pictures, graphics, sound, and writing. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also defines the communication to include the display of text, Braille, tactile communication, large print, accessible multimedia, as well as written and plain language, human-reader, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, including accessible information and communication technology. Feedback is a critical component of effective communication.
Verbal communication
Human spoken and pictorial languages can be described as a system of symbols and the grammars by which the symbols are manipulated. The word “language” also refers to common properties of languages. Language learning normally occurs most intensively during human childhood. Most of the thousands of human languages use patterns of sound or gesture for symbols which enable communication with others around them. Languages seem to share certain properties although many of these include exceptions. There is no defined line between a language and a dialect. Constructed languages such as Esperanto, programming languages, and various mathematical formalisms are not necessarily restricted to the properties shared by human languages. Communication is the flow or exchange of information within people or a group of people.
Nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication describes the process of conveying meaning in the form of non-word messages. Some forms of non verbal communication include chronemics, haptics, gesture, body language or posture, facial expression and eye contact, object communication such as clothing, hairstyles, architecture, symbols, infographics, and tone of voice, as well as through an aggregate of the above. Speech also contains nonverbal elements known as paralanguage. These include voice lesson quality, emotion and speaking style as well as prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation and stress. Research has shown that up to 55% of human communication may occur through non verbal facial expressions, and a further 38% through paralanguage. Likewise, written texts include nonverbal elements such as handwriting style, spatial arrangement of words and the use of emoticons to convey emotional expressions in pictorial form.
Oral communication
Oral communication, while primarily referring to spoken verbal communication, can also employ visual aids and non-verbal elements to support the conveyance of meaning. Oral communication includes speeches, presentations, discussions, and aspects of interpersonal communication. As a type of face-to-face communication, body language and choice tonality play a significant role, and may have a greater impact upon the listener than informational content. This type of communication also garners immediate feedback.
Business communication
A business can flourish only when all objectives of the organization are achieved effectively. For efficiency in an organization, all the people of the organization must be able to convey their message properly.
Written communication and its historical development
Over time the forms of and ideas about communication have evolved through the continuing progression of technology. Advances include communications psychology and media psychology, an emerging field of study.
The progression of written communication can be divided into three “information communication revolutions”:
# Written communication first emerged through the use of pictographs. The pictograms were made in stone, hence written communication was not yet mobile.
# The next step occurred when writing began to appear on paper, papyrus, clay, wax, etc. with common alphabets. Communication became mobile.
# The final stage is characterized by the transfer of information through controlled waves of electromagnetic radiation and other electronic signals.
Communication is thus a process by which meaning is assigned and conveyed in an attempt to create shared understanding. This process, which requires a vast repertoire of skills in interpersonal processing, listening, observing, speaking, questioning, analyzing, gestures, and evaluating enables collaboration and cooperation.
Misunderstandings can be anticipated and solved through formulations, questions and answers, paraphrasing, examples, and stories of strategic talk. Written communication can be clarified by planning follow-up talks on critical written communication as part of the every-day way of doing business. A few minutes spent talking in the present will save valuable time later by avoiding misunderstandings in advance. A frequent method for this purpose is reiterating what one heard in one’s own words and asking the other person if that really was what was meant.
Effective communication
Effective communication occurs when a desired effect is the result of intentional or unintentional information sharing, which is interpreted between multiple entities and acted on in a desired way. This effect also ensures the messages are not distorted during the communication process. Effective communication should generate the desired effect and maintain the effect, with the potential to increase the effect of the message. Therefore, effective communication serves the purpose for which it was planned or designed. Possible purposes might be to elicit change, generate action, create understanding, inform or communicate a certain idea or point of view. When the desired effect is not achieved, factors such as barriers to communication are explored, with the intention being to discover how the communication has been ineffective.
Barriers to effective human communication
Barriers to effective communication can retard or distort the message and intention of the message being conveyed which may result in failure of the communication process or an effect that is undesirable. These include filtering, selective perception, information overload, emotions, language, silence, communication apprehension, gender differences and political correctness
This also includes a lack of expressing “knowledge-appropriate” communication, which occurs when a person uses ambiguous or complex legal words, medical jargon, or descriptions of a situation or environment that is not understood by the recipient. Continue reading »

How does a virtual reality headset work?

Virtual reality, which I’m going to define as ‘the creation of a computerized 3D environment that can be interacted with and manipulated in much the same was as the real world can’, is a pretty multi-faceted concept. There are quite a few ways to allow interaction with a virtual environment (VE), but the headset is perhaps the best known.

So, the key thing that a VR headset needs to be able to do is track the movements of the user’s head (and, where possible, their eyes) in order to allow for better interaction with the VE. After all, if I tilt my head from where I’m sitting and look at the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage action figure that stands on my desk, the positioning of my eye line will change my perspective of the figure. So VR, in order to be convincing, needs to work on the same principle. Continue reading »

How to improve your hearing

In recent times, when I was at my younger brother’s birthday party, my Dad made a indication to developing tinnitus (basically a low-level ringing in the ears) and I informed him that I’d made a gag about tinnitus in a recent article (for those interested, the gag was that it made things sound ‘a bit tinny’ – Not amongst my better japes, I admit, but whatever…). He looked at me like I’d just farted in church while I hastily changed the topic. Continue reading »