Review: earSHOTS headphones don't really rock, despite neat design and great back story

How do the NZ headphones stand up to two hours of pounding heavy metal music?
How do the NZ headphones stand up to two hours of pounding heavy metal music? Photo credit: Newshub

Up until relatively recently I've been searching for the perfect answer to the issue of what kind of headphones or earbuds are the best when I'm pounding the streets of Auckland.

My AfterShokz Trekz Air bone conduction headphones were my big favourites until I bought a set of AirPods Pro. The original AirPods fell out of my ears, giving the Trekz Air the gold medal - but the Apple's Pro versions fit snugly in my ear, don't move and deliver fantastic audio quality.

But neither can claim to have been inspired by an adventure race at Tongariro National Park in Aotearoa.

While training for the T42 race, founder James Bell-Booth got fed up with his headphones needing re-adjusting and falling off, so he came up with the idea of using magnets to keep headphones attached to his ears.

And thus the earSHOTS came to be, claiming five years of research and development, a perfected cushioning system and made of flexible materials to mould to the shape of your ears. What's not to like, right?

I've been using the earSHOTS for a few days now and completed this year's World Metal Run 21km around Helensville at the weekend wearing them. Here are my thoughts.

The good

From the very first minute of opening the courier parcel I was impressed - eco-friendly packaging with no extraneous materials or piles of instruction booklets is something most tech companies could learn from. 

Instead there was a handy link to an online video on how to fit them properly along with a beautiful looking case, slightly larger and flatter than a glasses case, and a charging cable.

Review: earSHOTS headphones don't really rock, despite neat design and great back story
Photo credit: Newshub

The case is sturdy and easy to charge, and definitely keeps the headphones safe when thrown into a backpack or trail running vest - with the added ability to extend their usage from the four-hour listening time with up to four full charges.

I had always planned to use the earSHOTS during this year's World Metal Run having been convinced to sign up as an honorary member of the Montrose Metalheads Running Club in my native Scotland. 

The 21km run wasn't going to push the four-hour battery time, but it was a good test of how they showcase the very loud music on my specially curated playlist. Listening to the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and Iron Maiden, I need headphone performance good enough to transport my mind away from the pain of running such a long distance.

With their devilishly black and red colour scheme, the earSHOTS couldn't look more perfect for the job. They were practically begging me to throw up the devil's horn hand sign seen at heavy metal gigs as I unboxed them.

After a quick check of the video and an effortless pairing with my iPhone I was ready to try them out ahead of the big test. Unfortunately that's when things started to go wrong.

More on that in a second, but first I want to give earSHOTS kudos for doing two of the things they are designed to do brilliantly.

earSHOTS earphones
Photo credit: Newshub

They were incredibly comfortable to wear - ear irritation has been a common complaint of mine and when you throw sweat into the mix it can leave you wishing you'd left them at home. Not so here - the soft materials didn't cause as much as a red mark and my earholes were unscathed.

And, thanks to the proprietary magnetic clip that keeps them attached to your ears, they never moved during the entire two hour 19 min and 11 seconds it took to reach my goal. There are not many headphones on the market that can make that claim, in my experience.

The bad

I like to think I'm not a man who gets frustrated often when it comes to technology.

For as long as I can remember I've answered questions from all and sundry about how to make something electronic work again, particularly from older people, so I'm used to having patience.

That said, after a couple of minutes trying to fit these headphones into my ears, I felt my blood pressure rising and a grimace on my face. First it was the left one that wouldn't fit with the right one in place. And then, for some bizarre reason, the next time it was the other way around.

And breathe...

Finally fitted after wondering aloud what must be so wrong with my ears to necessitate such annoyances, it was time to listen to some music.

And it was disappointingly underwhelming.

earSHOTS earphones
Photo credit: Newshub

During the first beats of 'Iron Man' it became clear this audio experience wasn't so much Black Sabbath as it was Grey Monday. The sound was, to my ears, tinny and lacked depth, even compared to my bone conduction Trekz Airs. They aren't even in the same ballpark as the AirPods Pro, I'm afraid.

So these definitely aren't headphones that you're going to wear around the house - or even for a morning wander before work - because you're going to miss quite a bit of what makes music special. But then they're not really designed for that, are they?

It was with that level of trepidation I set out on my run, after another struggle to fit my left earphone. And it was with that first step that something weird happened and the earSHOTS redemption began.

No longer was music the most important thing. It faded slightly to the background as I concentrated on my steps, my pace and avoiding the utes and speed racers that inhabit my neighbourhood.

And that's where they came into their own. They allowed enough ambient noise in to ensure that no car was going to sneak up on me while giving my brain something to concentrate on that wasn't 'why the hell am I trying to run a half marathon on a Sunday morning without training properly?'.

They performed admirably until, and I'm not joking here, Ozzy Osbourne started singing 'Crazy Train' and my phone started playing random weird songs followed by interspersed clips of the Prince of Darkness maniacally laughing. I guess it was fitting, really.

For the last couple of kilometres I had to turn them off and I missed that imperfect audio. Suddenly I was thinking about everything that was sore and the last 13 minutes or so became tough and a little sad.

It was unthinkable when I first heard a wailing electric guitar through them that I could miss these earphones, yet that's exactly what happened.

Review: earSHOTS headphones don't really rock, despite neat design and great back story
Photo credit: Mike Kilpatrick

The verdict

The earSHOTS work great once fitted and the test phone call worked just fine, even though I know I'll never use that feature in the wilds.

The IPX4 water resistance wasn't fully tested as the weather held fine, but my sweat didn't cause any issues and the way they sit in my ears leads me to believe even Auckland's rain won't be a problem.

If you're in the market for a set of headphones that have a great story, won't budge when it's important they don't and won't break the bank - they're on sale for $169 - then earSHOTS may just be what you're looking for.

But when I'm next faced with a long run and the two other choices I already have? I'm afraid they're going to struggle into the bronze medal position.


Newshub was supplied a pair of earSHOTS for this review.