Monday, November 27, 2023

Shokz OpenComm : Unboxing and Review

I got back from returning the Shokz OpenFit to NoveMarketing at their office and it was a hard device to say good bye to. Those of you that has been reading and following my write up and updates on IG will know the OpenFit is a mini-speaker which rest just outside the ear canal, and stream high definition sound no way any other bone conduction can. Read about it here. I am now back using my OpenPro Run exclusively and it recently followed me to London for my Workerja trip.

Because I enjoy writing review, NoveMarketing has requested I give the OpenComm a review. And here we are.

Shokz OpenComm HeadSet

Here is the unboxing video on my YouTube channel. Give me a follow as I am trying to build my portfolio and all support encourages me to keep posting more videos like these.

   The high resolution video is here Unboxing Shokz OpenComm

Items you get in this box consist of

  • The OpenComm
  • Charging cable
  • Premium Case with side pocket
  • Manual and warranty card

Nice side pocket to store other stuff
The Shokz OpenComm specification (that is important to know):
  • 33 grams - 4grams more than OpenRun Pro
  • Fully titanium, including the swivel microphone boom
  • IP55 protection - water resistance (meaning, do not immerse in water), sweat proof, splash proof
  • 16hours of battery life with Quick Charge (1hour to fully charge) - 5mins charge allow 120mins usage
  • 7th generation Bone Conduction technology with PremiumPitch™) allowing mid to high-pitch to be heard clearly similar to human voice
  • 2 Years Warranty
Full specification: Here

Before we go on, here is a plug, use TRISTUPE15 on check out at NoveMarketing site and you get 15% off and of the Shokz product (except OpenFit, sorry). This OpenComm retail for RM799, and 15% discount gives you a really nice savings

Let's Talk
The OpenComm is specifically designed for communication. It is a Bluetooth 5.0 enabled headset that utilises bone conduction to deliver and stream the conversation while still allowing you to be fully aware of your surrounding.
Only in black 
I been using the past week in all my calls and really appreciate how clear the conversation has been. In fact, because of the OpenComm, I realized just how loud I been talking using my covered headset, or occasional in-ear headset (when I travel and need it be as light as I can) and how my kids appreciate me not streaming my conversation on a speakerphone working at home. 

I have yet to use it for running even if it is IP55 (sweat proof and able to withstand low pressure water from all direction) and function exactly like the OpenRun series, and there is a reason for it if you continue to read my review. In short, this OpenComm is superior when it comes to replacing those hot-in-ear headphone or mini-headset with sponge that disintegrate over a few months and need replacement.

The star of this device is the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) Noise-Cancelling Titanium microphone boom.

Never been more excited about a microphone, ever, really.
Getting To Know The Parts
The OpenComm is very user friendly. If you are used to the Shokz (or Aftershokz aka old branding), this will be a very quick get-to-know-you and you are ready to go even without reading the manual. The OpenComm is titanium band, including the mic boom, encapsulated in silicon rubber smooth finishing, same as OpenRun Pro.

However, compared to the OpenRun Pro which I am using, there are some minor differences.

To start with the multifunction button (circled below) is on the right side. It is a physical tactile button which gives good feedback when you press on it. Like the multifunction button in the Open series, it controls to play, pause, skip, activate voice assistant and answer calls. It has a brushed metal look, so if aesthetic matters...

Multifunction button that looked sexy
The second differences is that the bone conduction unit is not as advance as the Pro version. As mentioned, it is the 7th generation, which meant it lack a few vents that makes the TurboPitch comes alive and drives stronger bass and near to hi-fi streaming possible from bone conduction.
No air-vents
Here is the Pro as comparison
OpenRun Pro
The third differences is the volume button. The Pro has a more flushed look versus the Comm which is raised, and for a good reason. The button being easily "felt" will help you to be more productive to find them to increase or decrease the volume.
raised and easier to "feel"
This is good as compared to the specific for sports use, you do not adjust the volume as much as you would when talking on a call - because there is differences in streaming (source) quality of your counterpart on the other end, and the volume can differ from person to person. Ability to quickly adjust is great for overall user experience.
Same-same for both of them is the charging cable and charging port. USB-A to the magnetic two-pin charging point. So if you already have an Open series, you can use them without any issue. I charged this using the Pro cable and it charges as fast as I expected it to be.
Same charging port
The OpenComm also comes with moisture detection ability where it will beep if you charge it when the points are damp/wet. Yes, they do not take the possibility of someone taking this to exercise, sweat and still be in a call. I can't for company policy doesn't allow us to physically be moving if we are in a call for safety reason - no matter how "open-ear" the headset is. Yes, I asked. 
NFC symbol
The other differences is that the OpenComm allow pairing using NFC technology. Another alternative if Bluetooth ain't your jam or if you are more android user in nature. Having said that, newer iOS devices has NFC as well. I noticed the size of the battery to be about 10% bigger than the Pro - which is logical as that lend the additional 6-hours of talktime when compared to the OpenRun Pro 10hours, which is already long by it's size and standard.
The last major differences is of course the microphone that can swivel 250 degrees.
At fully retracted mode aka tucked over the ear

as we move...

Getting there

At service position
Here is the close up of the mic boom - two vents - one on the top and the other at the bottom.
Image from Shokz website - as I can't capture the details using my outdated phone
I supposed the top vent is to capture ambient sound to process, and the bottom vent is to aid in noise cancelling as the pick-up is receeded into the unit. With DSP, your caller will hear you crystal clear no matter what the ambient condition is. I've tested it with full blast fan blowing into the mic while talking. No distortion on the other end and I've had my dogs barking in the background and the caller did not hear them on their end. Truly functional.

The Comm comes with Bluetooth V5.0 and allow Multipoint pairing. I have the unit paired to my Garmin FR965, Fenix7ProSolar, iPhone12 and my work laptop. You can link up to two devices at any one time. It however require activation of Multipoint connection. The instruction is here and same as OpenRun Pro.

Straight forward with a few steps to follow

Using it with Multipoint meant I have the freedom to switch between two devices without needing to disconnect from other devices. At work, I switch between phone (for Spotify) and laptop (for meeting/calls). With 16 hours of battery life and ability to work up to 2 hours on 5-minutes charging, using this at any time or purpose of the day isn't an issue. But if you are expecting a heavier day in virtual meeting, it doesn't hurt to leave it to charge for an hour at the end of your day.
Pairing is straight-forward with the laptop and similarly with the phone and other devices. As usual, do expect limitation of function when paired to laptop as both headset and headphone
  • Headset - allow full usage for both voice (usage of the mic on Shokz) and music/playback (anything streamed from the laptop)
  • Headphone - only music/playback
The separation meant the playback as headset is biased to vocal. This meant the music streaming will be subpar and sound not as good as you think. As the Comm is designed specifically for communication, playback other than from phone sources is sub-par.
OpenComm in action in a virtual call
Just like the other Shokz Open-Ear headset, the OpenComm unit hook over your ears, it clasps lightly over the top of your ear with the driver unit sitting on your face, parallel to the ear canal on this area called the Auricle. Once placed in position, you hardly will notice it weigh wise, but you know it's there due to the light pressure the titanium band holds it against your face. Here is how it looked with Mic Boom extended.

Pretty comfortable and it gives a very professional look as it legitly tells others that you are on a call when the mic boom is extended. 
I have tested OpenMove (most basic), OpenRun, OpenRun Pro and OpenFit. All four comes with different bone conduction and open-ear technology. The music/sound quality definitely was different between the three of them - very obvious when you shift between Move and Pro where the "noise" become "music", and even more obvious when you move from Pro to Fit, where the mini speaker really brings the music to live a different notch.

The OpenComm is equipped with the 7th Generation Bone Conduction which is similar to OpenMove. So the playback will be less impressive than the 8th or 9th generation of the OpenRun and OpenRun Pro. Bear in mind that the OpenComm is designed for vocal, and just like the OpenMove, it has PremiumPitch which enhances mid and high pitch, perfect for human conversation. Having said that, the sound is still good, just not "Pro" or "Fit" great. 

Sound quality wise, the best would be streaming from phone or laptop/computer BUT must be using the HEADPHONE function (see above), followed by from my Garmin and lastly from the computer/laptop as HEADSET function. 

Storage case include a recessed area for the mic boom because it's the Queen

This is because the quality is significantly impacted by the sound codec of your device and limited by what Shokz can process. In this case, OpenComm uses sub-band codec or SBC which allow up to 300kbps transfer rate. This is also the most general codec compatible with all Bluetooth transmission, at the expense of quality. 

The Shokz is compatible with profiles such as A2DP (high quality audio signals profile), AVRCP (remote control profile for sending command such as play, skip, pause etc), HSP (Headset profile aka to be used for communication) and HFP (handsfree profile).

If there is one wish for functionality, I hope Shokz will make calls auto answer or auto end when you flip the mic-boom to the front or retract it to the back respectively. Current control is by the multifunction button.

  • Absolute gold star when used for telecon and virtual meetings, calls and as a handfree that you can wear whole day long.
  • Because of open ear concept, you can hear your surroundings and still able to have a conversation while working in a warehouse or area that requires you to have both communicaton and situational awareness (factory as an example). Needless to say, suitable for running or cycling or in the gym. 
  • Less potential for in-ear infection or impacted ear-wax as it does not go into the ear. No sweat or heating/hot issue as the unit doesn't sit in the ear canal or has the earpad covering like the traditional headphones.
  • Comfortable fit, doesn't fall out. Difficult to lose as it is secured in a band-construction
  • Suitable for those with medical or auditory condition. Those with ringing ear (tinnitus) condition may be able to enjoy music better as it does not rely on the eardrums to transmit sound vibration. Works well with hearing aid as the vibration helps amplify the sound picked up by the bone conduction.
  • Lower sound quality. While the frequency response is between 20hz to 20khz, in reality it is mid-heavy with bass coming in from amplified vibration feel
  • Pricier than most work headset or wired headset
  • Sound leakage if you bump the sound too high. If you are in a quiet environment or taking a confidential call/privacy matters, it is best to lower the volume or find a more secure place.
  • Can potentially cause hearing loss much like traditional headphone/earphone due to exposure to loud noises for much longer hours.
Personally, the OpenComm is a good compromise between value and function if your work require you to be on call, phone or in communication most if not all the time. The ability NOT to have the headset clamped around the ear whole day long is liberating.

Usage for sports in this case for this unit with IP55, is a bonus.

This unit of Shokz OpenComm is on loan to me under the Shokz Malaysia and Nove Marketing. The unit retail for RM799.00 and comes with 2-years warranty. To purchase, please click this link and use code tristupe15 for 15% discount on check out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Brooks Ghost Max : Unboxing and Review

 The Return of Maximalist

Looking for more cushioning, stable but yet light and responsive? Brooks may just score a big one with Ghost Max

I was sure excited
2023 has seen me worn-out 4 shoes from Brooks, thanks to Sports Paragon. The Hyperion Tempo, the Hyperion Max, the Hyperion Elite 2, and the Ghost 14. 

I've received the ever-proven Cascadia (version 16) and has clocked pretty decent 150km on it in and out of trails. Lets not forget the Peak UP3.0 version 2 which is really underrated (and I owe you all a write up on this)

As replacement for the retired shoes above, I received another Tempo, another Max and another Elite 3 (in Pink!), so I could very well run to 2024.

In event that I do not get my ambassadorship renewed in 2024 with Sports Paragon, I am pretty set for the next 1000km of training and racing (aka 4 months worth of mileage). So thank you Sports Paragon, for being my biggest supporter and I am Running Happy no doubt.
Legit Brooks-ed (but spot the imposter)

As I write this, the replacement shoes has very well went past it's 150km (Tempo black colorway), 380km (Hyperion Max Green colorway), which leaves me with two units of Elite 3 yet to seen any mileage. In between I've reviewed (long term) another competitor cushioned shoe, which provided a very solid segue to my review of the Ghost Max today.

Hello Ghost Max that has stopped ghosting me
The Unboxing
Where do I start. There is a lot to unpack with this iteration. Brooks could had called it Ghost 16, but that would meant it gives impression that is the same shoe from Ghost 13, 14 and 15. In reality, having worn out Ghost 14 with it's 12mm drop and expected ride, I am hoping (and was told by the Sports Paragon team) that this is a totally different shoe altogether. 

To start with, the shoe looked stacked. Maybe because it is. And this colorway is what Brooks call as Surf The Web/Peacock/Sulphur which I am still trying to wrap my head around the description of what is dark blue with tinge of yellow and whitish label.
Well, Hello there
The Ghost Max is a Neutral trainer, coming in at 39mm-33mm stack, it technically right below the 40mm limit to be "race-legal" for any sanctioned running and triathlon races. Likely the highest stacked with lowest drop (6mm) trainers I've ever owned in the past 2-years. 
(For the record: The plated Elite 2 and 3 is 37-29 @ 8mm drop; Tempo is 31-23 @ 8mm; HMax 36-28 @ 8mm; Peak UP3.0 37-31 @ 6mm; Cascadia16 29-21 @ 8mm; GRR11 38-32 @ 6mm)

I obtained the US11.5 sizing (i wear 45 sometimes 46) which comes in at 330grams. The US9 Male size was rated at 283grams, so the weight vs size was appropriate for the additional volume of the shoe. At this weight, it was similar to the GRR11 that I reviewed (US11 @ 313grams). So indeed, the heaviest trainer I have worn in the past 2 years, not just the highest stacked with lowest drop.
Despite the bulk, it doesn't look big
While the Hyperion Max comes with RapidRoll which is a highly rockered profile, the Ghost Max has GlideRoll, which gives the first impression on smoothness of the transition on toe-off. The Ghost Max comes with a full length DNA Loft Version 2, which was available in Ghost15 as well. So one can expect a plush ride. LoftV2 is a blend of EVA foam, rubber, and air, which makes it lighter and more responsive than DNA or DNA Loft. 
Full length rubber with a channel in the middle
When looking at the sole, i realized how it is wide on the bottom which will offer stability. The middle channel is interesting and something I've noticed in all the Hyperion range - this channel allows the heel and near mid-sole to splay on contact, further allowing more contact patch while offering stability, and save weights.

The outsole is from green rubber aka recycled materials. Sustainability in mind, and it is generously thick at 5mm, similar to Tempo and Hyperion Max. I reckon for a trainer, this will last as far as the other Brooks has been serving me, close to 1000km at least. 

One other thing I noticed as well is the Ghost Max mid to toe section outsole is continuous and do not have the two parts flex-grooves like the Ghost14.
Ghost14 after 150km. The two grooves are the black portion running across the sole
What this meant and noticeably when i took them for a run was the forefoot of Ghost Max felt stiffer and flexes less; and add that with the GlideRoll, it gives you an easy feet turn-over with very little effort. 
Not aggressively rockered but it's there. Note the elevated heel counter at the Ghost Max name
Another feature than lend stability on the Ghost Max is the wide heel counter which will help you to control your feet movement. There is also a rubber section at the heel, which was unlike other Brooks. Wearing them, I believe this rubber section at heel, with elevated side height help to stabilize the heel even further - sort of a GTS (Go-To-Support) GuideRail without the actual GTS GuideRail.
Heel counter extend/flare beyond the upper profile. Note the rubber blue heel part

Now compare this to the Hyperion Max
And for the record, the Hyperion Max is already a wider sole shoes which is already considered stacked and stable. The Ghost Max literally took it a step or two wider/stable-r (is there such a word?)
Closer look of the Ghost Max upper and mid-sole
What we know of the midsole
  • Stacked 39-33, 6mm drop feeling grounded, stable despite the height
  • Full DNA Loft V2 providing cushy cushioned feel from heel to toe
  • Heavy on scale but not on foot thanks to the GlideRoll rocker transitioning on every steps
  • Responsive when compared to older Ghost versions
The Top - Fitting
The top is a comfortable, plush engineered mesh and breathable despite the heavy knitted look. The fit is true to size (i took half a size bigger as the Ghost14 I took was just nice). If you have wide feet like me (men dress shoe E-wide), there is no issue even on this D-width.
Clean simple no overlay, one piece 3D mesh that both sock-like and comfortable

The tongue and heel collar is padded and provide a comfortable fit with or without socks. There is no hotspot felt and the inner is smooth. The tongue is not gusseted, and I did find it moving to the (outer) side if I do not tie down the shoe firmly. 
Padded Heel-counter and tongue

Approximate thickness of the tongue
There is the lace loop running vertically from the top to almost the bottom of the tongue. I decided to lace-through them the first time as I wanted to show the GHOST MAX name - and it turned out to be a good decision as the tongue stay up even when I wasn't wearing the shoe. 
Stretchable round laces with nice orange tip
The laces that came with this shoe is round and stretchy, which takes a bit of trying to get the lock down on your feet. There wasn't any need for a runner's loop as heel slip was not present even if i were to tie the laces less than firmly.
No budge on the toe/bunion (if any) despite D-width
Despite the D-width, there wasn't any issue in the toebox as it allowed for my toes to splay out and yet provide a lot of comfort. No hot spot despite running sockless, which I do 95% of the time. The heel lock was solid, no movement that may cause hot spot at the ankle/heel area, and it is also padded for comfort. 
Inside of the Ghost Max showing the mesh and smooth upper

Breathability is not an issue so far, as I've ran in them over the past 10 days in cooler (London) temperature and the overcast skies at home. You may noticed in the photo above, there is toe-guard to keep the shape and to protect against minor bumps (the far end white portion)
Perforation on the front and tongue to help with breathability
The insole of the Ghost Max is generous. As in Generously thick. It is the thickest Brooks insole that I had experienced. I believe if i were to remove this insole, I may get a 2mm or 4mm drop if I replace with a fully thin Hyperion Tempo insole. The insole is basic, but sufficient

Not kidding about the thick insole. This is the heel section
The thick insole lend to more cushioning. Very similar approach as Skechers GRR11 which I reviewed. However the material is different and if you are not aware, the insole of the GRR11 shrunk by 30% at least after 200km. Something I don't believe will happen (or not happened) to any Brooks I've used (or any other Skechers I've experienced). I believe that was likely due to the rubbery foam material (ArchFit as they called it). For me, the issue with Brooks insole is bunching up - particularly for the thinner insole for Tempo and Max. I've provided feedback to Brooks Running Malaysia, and hope to see improvements in the near future.

The Ghost Max is certified Carbon Neutral. The top is made from 98% recycled material, and that include their dye-ing technology too. This is one way that Brooks is hoping to help with the climate change issue. Infact to say that Brooks is just doing it is unfair, they have a whole sustainability agenda and it is pretty impressive. Read about them here. The Ghost 15 series and now this Ghost Max has achieved this status of being Carbon Neutral, which include buying of carbon credit to offset the Green House Gas (GHG) involved in the end-to-end process.
Scope 3 reduction
If that is nice to hear, you be happy to know that the Ghost Max has been certified by the American Podiatry Medical Association (APMA) as products that promote good foot health. There are to date, a total of 16 products by Brooks that has this APMA seal, so you are definitely getting a product that help protect your feet as you move.
Upper - Insole - Outsole - Certification
  • Engineered mesh that is breathable, true to size, no hotspot
  • Padded heel and tongue providing additional comfort
  • Stretchable laces may be a bit tricky to secure
  • Thicker insole lending more cushioning effect
  • 5mm thick outsole rubber from recycled materials potentially providing higher mileage
  • Carbon Neutral production for the environmentalist in you
  • APMA certified knowing you won't need to spend more for podiatry-certified shoes/insole
Running in Ghost Max
Ghost Max is my birthday shoe from Brooks Running Malaysia. To-date I have used it for the past 10-days in my latest work travel to London. I travel light and that meant the Ghost Max is not just my running companion, but my travelling, walking and commuting good friends. 
5 Walks, 10 runs. 
On the walk, this shoe is perfect. It is often hard to find a shoe that does both and still allow your legs to be not tired having to stand or moving whole day long. As evidence, these are my steps when I was in London, cumulative of running, walking and commuting! I clocked on average 20k steps over the period of Nov 12 to Nov 18. 
After close to 90km as of writing today, I can give the Ghost Max feedback as follow:
  • Secure feel with lacing as expected need a bit of work to get pressure right
  • Socks-like inner and zero hotspot
  • Heel cup perfect and I hardly noticed the thicker padding on the collar or the tongue
  • I felt tall, stacked, I finally know what 5 feet 10 felt like.
  • Very stable with minimal lateral (side to side) movement
  • Due to stack height, the DNA LoftV2 felt super plush when compared to Cascadia16 and definitely more cushioned than the already stacked Hyperion Max
  • Stiffer mid-toe but GlideRoll made the transition and take off effortless. Good for easy, tempo and even up-tempo day
  • It looked heavier than it actually felt. Bulk of weight is on upper but the midsole and outsole felt light
  • Responsive - something I won't ever say in older Ghost
  • Good for Marathon and I dare say anything above 50km as well due to the cushioning
  • Cushioned. Stable. Responsive.
  • 6mm drop is awesome, been a while since i wore a low-drop shoes
  • GlideRoll rocker moves you forward fast without feeling the weight
  • Secure heel and no hotspot
  • Able to run easy, uptempo and even interval, despite the stack profile.
  • If there is one is the stretchable laces - easy fix is to replace them
  • I can't find anything else to "hate" it, but if I am pressed for it, slightly lighter to sub 280grams for US11.5 would be great!
The Ghost Max is available in all Sports Paragon and Brooks store in Malaysia. It retail for RM650. However, you can own it by buying it online at and use my code EEVANOFF25 for 25% off, which net off at RM487.50. 

More Discount??? You Want Cheap?
As part of my sponsorship with Paragon Vests under the Team Sports Paragon, I have a few discount codes you can use to purchase your next Brooks shoes if you want. Older models at higher discount is available in website. Sizing can be a challenge, which explained the better discount. If you want newer and better sizing, head over to and score a few newer models.

I have the full discount codes and brands that support me in 2023. But if you are lazy to click, here they are...

Promo Code: SPEV02
Footwear: 55%
Apparels: 50%
Sandals: 40%
Accessories: 50%

Promo Code: EEVANOFF25
25% OFF of all items ( exclude sale items )

Promo Code: ZOOTEEVAN20
20% OFF Zoot website Non promo items
10% OFF Zoot website Promotion items

Keep Showing Up
Here are more photos of the Ghost Max to keep you wanting. by the way, I've seen more colorway coming and some are lets just say... bright and colorful. I can't share them but I can tell you I be wearing this off as soon as I can so I can request for a replacement in another colorway!