The Shokz team has made a name for themselves in the bone conduction headphones market over the past few years and they decided to change things up a bit this time around. Today the company announced its new headphones and while it’s still an open-ear design, it’s not bone conduction. THE Shokz OpenFit The Bluetooth headphones ($179.95) are called “air conduction” in a twist on the brand’s bone conduction brethren. Like many open earbuds before them, they’re positioned just outside your ear with an over-the-ear hook to hold them in place. As lifestyle headphones, they work well, keeping your hearing open (to some extent), staying in place when you move, and easy to wear for long periods of time.
The OpenFit seems to bridge the gap between the audio quality of in-ear headphones and the situational awareness of bone conduction. They definitely sound better (including bass) than bone conduction models and still let you hear some of what’s going on around you. Sure, they’re not quite a replacement for in-ear headphones, but that wasn’t really the point. That said, I’ve found they can be hit or miss with dance music, as there’s a problem with handling hard hits on some low frequency sounds.
Externally, these start on the same page as most similarly designed headphones. They come with a charging case, fit over your ear with dolphin arch hooks, and for the passerby, won’t look unusual. They are matte black (or beige), made with a soft silicone exterior and are very lightweight. It’s not weird to tell you could forget you’re wearing them. They’re significantly lighter and more comfortable than the unitary bone conduction models sold by Shokz, and it’s nice not to have a band around your back.
Like many headphones, Shokz has graciously included touch controls, including double-tap and long-press interactions. They respond well to your touches and taps, and you can customize the functionality of iOS or Android apps, though the latter aren’t ready at launch. You can use just one bud if you want and keep the other inside the charging case no problem, although you’re limited to the touch control setting of that choice.
While Shokz’s previous offerings were primarily fitness-focused (apart from the OpenComm series), the OpenFit is touted as more of a lifestyle product. It’s something you can wear through your day without relying on digital transparency modes to hear the world. The headphones themselves are IP54 rated, so you’re good to go if you TO DO work in them, but the charging case is not. You’ll want to try and remember to wipe them down before putting them away to keep everything in good working order.
The OpenFit and its earhook also seem to work well in keeping them in place. I wouldn’t worry about them falling off if you’re running, lifting weights, stretching, or doing physical activities. It may look like they might, since they’re not stuck in your ear, but so far I’ve found them to stay put.
As for the specs, the Shokz OpenFit headphones run Bluetooth 5.2, have a frequency response of 50Hz to 16kHz, support AAC and SBC codecs and there are custom 18 x 11mm dynamic drivers at the back. inside for the exit. The earphones’ battery life is rated at 7 hours of listening on one charge, with the case said to extend that up to 28 hours of playback. As with previous Shokz headsets, you get an hour of juice from just 5 minutes of charging. That’s fine if you notice a low charge before you go for a run with just OpenFit and a smartwatch or phone.
One of the common problems with bone conduction headphones is the lack of bass. Shokz has come a long way to solve the case with their latest Ope Run Pro helmet. The OpenFit isn’t bone conduction, so it was easier for the company to provide an inflated low-end profile.
If you’re a Shokz fan, you’ll probably enjoy them, especially for occasional daily use at lower volumes. They work well for music and speech, and unlike bone conduction models, you’ll be more likely to hear your music if you’re in a busier environment. However, keep in mind that these are still open-ear models, so your listening experience isn’t completely isolated.
I have worn them while going to the store and doing other errands. If you keep listening to music at normal or low volume, you can listen to music while listening and chatting with cashiers and other people around you. while you can take phone calls with a double tap, I chose to drop them with a long press when interacting out of courtesy.
You can even cycle while wearing them and still hear what’s going on around you if you pay attention to the volume. Bone conduction headphones (the Shokz OpenRun Pro specifically) are a more optimized situational awareness headset, and visibly leave both ears open in case local laws have restrictions.
If you’re the type of person who likes to edit your music, there are a few caveats. The overall listening experience delivers rich bass, along with good mids and highs for this form factor. But if you tend to listen to dance music or hip hop, you might notice a problem with the handling of some very low-end kick drums. On some songs, mostly with punchy low-frequency bits, you might notice a crunchiness to these beats. If you have the opportunity to test them first, I would bring something along these lines to verify your experience.
Listening to The Dave Brubeck Quartet”Three to get readywas clear and pleasant, with a natural sound and smooth bass lines. The CMU”Some bad thoughts from Sepakgenerally sounded good with a slight crackle over a specific ultra-low bassline section. Listen to both DITC’s heavy bass”Thick (ecological version)and Ryan Elliot’s 4/4 technoFermi II“both surfaced a bit on the bass drum crunch. “Radiohead”Calculatorwas an enjoyable listen throughout. Obviously, this depends on the music and only seems noticeable on certain percussive and low frequencies.
The app that Shokz released for OpenRun Pro in 2022 will now also work with your OpenFit headphones and that’s relatively essential, as there are touch controls you’ll want to customize. The iOS version will be available at launch, the Android version will arrive at a later date. Using the app, you can select from EQ presets or create your own, customize touch controls, control playback, and view battery levels for each earbud as well as the charging case.
There are two types of touch controls available, namely double tap and tap and hold. You can choose from preset combinations, which seem to cover enough options to satisfy most people. They are a mix of play/pause, previous/next, voice assistant and finally volume control (which is only available for press and hold interaction).
The standard EQ preset seems to be the most common choice for most listening. The vocal and treble boost are similar, while the bass boost simply increases the prevalence of the low end but not necessarily its power. Obviously, you can use the custom option to find your own sweet spot.
Overall, these sound great for the form factor, and Shokz fans who enjoy an open-ear experience may appreciate stepping away from bone conduction for a change. For casual everyday use, the fit and audio experience is much improved, while still providing some degree of situational awareness. The issue with some low frequencies and drumbeats is my only issue with an otherwise solid listening experience.
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