The technology is ever-evolving, and when it comes to earbuds, the competition is fierce. But, Shokz, a renowned name in bone conduction headphones, has taken a bold step into the future with its latest offering – the Shokz OpenFit. Designed to marry the benefits of bone conduction headphones (comfort and environmental awareness) with the high-quality audio of traditional wireless earbuds, the Shokz OpenFit aims to overcome the common drawbacks of mediocre audio quality associated with bone conduction technology.
The Shokz OpenFit is not just another pair of earbuds; it is a revolutionary product designed to redefine the way we experience sound. The brand, known for its top-of-the-line workout headphones like the Shokz OpenRun, has ventured into the realm of air conduction headphones, taking on rivals like the Cleer Audio ARC II Sport and oladance OWS 2 headphones. The result? A successful attempt that not only outperforms bone conduction headphones in terms of sound quality but also ensures you remain aware of your surroundings.
Design and Comfort
The design of the Shokz OpenFit is distinct and innovative. Unlike the band design of Shokz’s bone conduction headphones that hook over your ears, the OpenFit buds are individual units that hook over the top of your ear, allowing the speaker to rest near the ear canal without blocking it. This design ensures sound delivery without obstructing the ears, a feature not found in bone conduction headphones, which rely on vibrating pads resting on the cheekbones.
Comfort is a priority with the OpenFit. Made from super-soft silicone, the earbuds are smoother than skin, eliminating pressure points, rubbing, or chafing. The battery compartment, located behind the ear, acts as a natural counterweight to the driver unit positioned above the ear canal. Each earpiece weighs a mere 8.3 grams and comes with a 0.7-mm flexible memory wire that can be adjusted to fit your natural ear shape perfectly.
Shokz employs its DirectPitch technology, similar to air conduction, to optimize the distance and angle between the earbud and your ear, directing more sound pressure at your ear and less elsewhere. This, combined with the 18 X 11mm dynamic drivers, ensures the delivery of crisp, quality sound, even when the earbuds are near your ear and not inside it.
The dolphin arc ear hook design of the buds consists of a main bulk that hangs next to your ear canal, held in place by a hook that slides behind your ear. The hook, made from dual-layered liquid silicone with a flexible memory wire inside, makes the earbud pliable and adaptable to your ear shape. Additionally, the soft silicone finish on the exterior makes them incredibly comfortable and almost velvety to the touch.
Moreover, the OpenFit earbuds have an IP54 water resistance rating, which, although not as impressive as the IP55 rating of the Shokz Open Run Pro, is still better than many true wireless earbuds. This rating ensures that the OpenFit can withstand even the sweatiest of workouts, but it’s not recommended for swimming.
The OpenFit introduces Shokz’s DirectPitch technology for audio, resulting in a fuller, more powerful sound profile compared to the brand’s bone conduction buds. This makes listening to a wide variety of music an enjoyable experience. The customizable EQ in the app includes a bass boost option, delivering booming bass, as much as open headphones can offer.
Despite being loud enough for running or cycling on busy roads, the OpenFit does not provide the same level of environmental awareness as bone conduction headphones. It sits between in-ear and bone conduction buds in this aspect. However, the OpenFit lacks active noise cancelation (ANC) due to the limitations of directional speaker design and the fact that it does not seal off the ear canals. This means it’s not ideal for blocking out noises in busy offices, trains, or gyms. However, if you prefer to be aware of your surroundings, the OpenFit is certainly usable in those environments, just without a background of silence.
The Shokz OpenFit is accompanied by a portable case which doubles as a charger, ensuring a cumulative battery life of 28 hours. The earpieces themselves can retain power for seven hours, whereas the case provides an extra 21 hours of battery life. Moreover, a brief charge of five minutes results in an hour of audio playback. Nevertheless, the actual duration of the battery life can fluctuate based on the nature of the audio and the equalizer settings applied.
Given that the OpenFit requires a high volume for optimal music enjoyment due to the lack of passive noise cancellation, I conducted a battery life test at 80% of the maximum volume. Under these conditions, the headphones managed to function for 6 hours and 26 minutes prior to shutting down, which is nearly identical to the seven-hour battery life asserted by the manufacturer from China. It’s worth noting that the necessity for higher volume levels arises from the distance of the transducers from the ear canal, which mandates louder playback for a satisfactory musical experience.
The Verdict: Should You Buy the Shokz OpenFit?
The Shokz OpenFit is a groundbreaking product that successfully combines the benefits of environmental awareness and impressive sound quality, as long as your surroundings are not too noisy. It is supremely comfortable and boasts a design with greater mainstream appeal than its headband-style bone-conduction counterparts.
However, its use cases remain niche, and traditional in-ear options may be a better choice for general-purpose listening.
Overall, the Shokz OpenFit is ideal for those who prioritize unobstructed ears and environmental awareness. However, it’s advisable to have a pair of backup buds for noisier situations.
Shokz’s OpenFit is a unique product that offers safety and comfort for users wishing to remain aware of their surroundings while enjoying better bass and treble reproduction than bone-conduction models. However, its lack of passive isolation makes it less suitable for noisy environments or public transport.
|Positive Points||Negative Points|
|Innovative and comfortable design||Not suitable for noisy environments|
|Impressive sound quality||Lack of active noise cancellation|
|Environmental awareness||Slightly unsatisfactory docking system|
|IP54 water resistance rating||Expensive compared to competitors|
Price and availability
Available in 2 colors (black and beige), the OpenFit is available at a recommended retail price of $179.95 USD, on shokz.com.
The Shokz OpenFit is a commendable attempt at bridging the gap between bone conduction and traditional wireless earbuds. It offers a unique combination of features that make it a worthy consideration for those seeking a balance between environmental awareness, comfort, and sound quality.
© Photos: Shokz
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