Why I ditched my bone conduction headphones for these ‘wired’ earbuds

The Soundcore Aerofit Pro headphones clipped to the adjustable headband.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Anker Soundcore Aerofit Pro headphones are available now on Amazon for $169.99.
  • Outstanding sound, comfortable fit, and long battery life are the highlights of the latest audio product.
  • I just wish the control buttons weren’t as tricky to manage.

For years, bone-conducting headphones have been my go-to for running. The primary reason I opt for them is because I sweat a lot and I’ve ruined numerous makes and models that claim to be resistant to copious amounts of skin juice. I’d say I’ve easily destroyed nearly twenty different pairs of earbuds over the years, simply because they were no match for my Xenomorphic sweat. 

Bone-conducting headphones don’t have that problem because they aren’t inserted into my ears, where sweat collects and soaks into any opening it can reach. The other advantage is that I can hear my surroundings, so I don’t get plowed over by a car, cyclist, or anything that could otherwise take me down.

But, bone-conducting headphones have one major flaw: Sound quality. I’d pretty much given up on trying to find a pair of bone-conducting headphones that live up to my rather impossible standards. Nor do I believe I’ll ever find that magical pair.

However, I was recently sent a pair of Soundcore AeroFit Pro headphones that outdo any pair of bone-conducting headphones I’ve tried to date.

View at Amazon

The specs

  • 16.2 mm titanium-coated dome drivers
  • IPX5 water resistance and Sweat Guard
  • 14H on a single charge, 46H with the charging case, and 5.5H on a 10 minute fast charge
  • Open-ear design
  • 0.7mm aerospace-grade titanium wire for a bendable snug fit
  • Detachable, adjustable neckband
  • LDAC technology for 3X^3 more data transmission than standard Bluetooth
  • 4 beamforming mics for phone call clarity
  • Multipoint connectivity
  • App for enhanced EQ, customized buttons, and Spatial Audio Activation
  • Price $169.99 on Amazon

My experience

Traditionally, I’ve not been a big fan of over-the-ear type earbuds (although I do prefer over-the-ear headphones for sound clarity). The Soundcore Aerofit Pro have made a convert in me. As soon as I clipped these into the neckband and cranked up the tunes, I knew, instantly, that these would easily outperform even my best bone-conducting headphones, while still giving me the same level of benefits. 

Also: My favorite bone conduction headphones have 3 invaluable safety features

The biggest surprise to me was that the default EQ (Soundcore Signature) actually sounded better than the Custom option. Whatever Anker has done with this EQ is outstanding. It took me a while, but I was able to achieve an improved sound with the Custom EQ. This, of course, will be personal, and, again, I will reiterate that these will not produce sound quality that will win over an audiophile, but given their purpose, the sound I was able to eke out of these headphones was impressive.

The Soundcore Aerofit Pro headphones by Anker.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

As far as soundstage is concerned (the space between instruments and voices that makes it easier to not only discern the different sounds but place them), it’s pretty narrow. You’re not going to close your eyes and be able to envision where the musicians are standing as they serenade you. Even so, for an over-the-ear earbud, the Soundcore AeroFit Pro are impressive. 

I put these headphones through the usual test, starting with Rush’s “Signals” album, and found them to far outperform my go-to exercise headphones (the Mojawa Run Plus) by a long shot. For the first time, mid-run, I could discern Geddy Lee’s bass as it was meant to be heard (instead of the muddy, muted sound I’d grown accustomed to with bone-conducting headphones).

One of the more fascinating pieces of music on my playlist is Ministry’s “TV 5/4 Chan.” This piece of music shifts between channels in an almost violent fashion and the AeroFit Pro headphones delivered it to the point where I had to skip through the track.

Coal Chamber’s “Rowboat” had the deep punch it required and made me want to bang my head as I hit the halfway point of my run. Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” (from the Live: O2 Arena show) no longer sounded as flat as it had been with my previous bone-conducting headphones. In other words, music came to life for me on my runs, something I haven’t experienced in some time. 

The one caveat

The only nit I can pick with the AeroFit Pro headphones is that the buttons are placed in such a way that my ears prevent me from easily pressing them. This, of course, will be personal because the shape of your ear will differ from mine. But when I’m running, I need to be able to easily access those buttons so I can pause, skip, or repeat a track. With a playlist of over 1,000 songs, there’s a lot of track skipping when you’re running over ten miles, so that can be a problem with these.

ZDNET’s buying advice

If you live a very active lifestyle and produce copious amounts of sweat, the traditional earbud really isn’t an option. And if you can’t get used to bone-conducting headphones (or you find the sound they produce to be sub-standard), the Anker Soundcore AeroFit Pro headphones are a great option. Not only do they fit well, but they also sound great. 

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