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The best open ear headphones you can buy

Hear everything, including your music.
By

Published onFebruary 29, 2024

Shokz OpenRun
MSRP: $129.95
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Positives
Leaves ears unoccluded, good for safety
Bluetooth 5.1 and fast charging
IP67 rating
Comfortable and lightweight
Good sound for bone conduction
Multipoint connectivity
No chance of inner-ear infection from use
Negatives
Proprietary charging port
Irritating beep with every button press
No mobile app and limited onboard EQ functionality
Microphone quality
Bose Ultra Open Earbuds
MSRP: $299.99
Check price
Positives
Long battery life
Superior comfort
aptX Adaptive codec
Negatives
Price
No Bluetooth multipoint
No in-ear detection.
The Bottom Line.
The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds are an excellent pair of open ear headphones for those looking for best-in-class features. While the price may be dear for some, users are rewarded with superior comfort, 7.5 hours of battery life, and a loud bass profile. The inclusion of aptX Adaptive is excellent news for Android phone owners, while those using iOS may connect via the AAC codec.Read full review...
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900
MSRP: $179.00
Check price
Positives
Unexpectedly comfortable
Novel (if absurd) tap control method
Negatives
Very little bass
So-so battery life
Automatic volume adjustment is obnoxious
Shokz OpenFit
MSRP: $179.95
Check price
Positives
IP54 rating
Secure over-ear hooks
Microphone
App and EQ
Touch control accuracy
Negatives
Virtually no isolation, which limits case use
Sound quality is okay
Price
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
MSRP: $169.00
Check price
Positives
Bluetooth 5.0; AAC and Samsung scalable codec
Wireless and fast charging (USB-C)
Unique design, stable fit
Updates available on iOS and Android
Microphone quality
Negatives
Just okay noise canceling
Only IPX2 water-resistance
Sound quality
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
MSRP: $195.00
Check price
Positives
H1 chip
Portable
Adaptive EQ (iOS, Android, Windows)
Spatial Audio with head tracking
MagSafe case with wireless charging
IPX4 rating
Negatives
Poor fit, no isolation
Sound quality
Features limited to iOS
Shokz OpenRun Pro
Check price
Positives
Leaves ears unoccluded, good for safety
Bluetooth 5.1 and fast charging
Mobile app support
IP55 rating
Comfortable and lightweight
Good sound for bone conduction
Multipoint connectivity
No chance of inner-ear infection from use
Negatives
Proprietary charging port
IP rating is less impressive than the more affordable OpenRun
Irritating beep with every button press
Microphone quality
The Bottom Line.
The Shokz OpenRun Pro is as premium as bone conduction headphones get. Unlike Shokz' other bone conduction headsets, the OpenRun Pro has app support to better manage the device. With a dust and water-resistant build, you can take this headset just about anywhere without worrying about damaging it. We like the OpenRun Pro for all the same reasons as the more affordable OpenRun and appreciate the premium carrying case that comes with the Pro model.Read full review...
Nothing Ear Stick
MSRP: $99.99
Check price
Positives
App is good
EQ improves the default sound
IP54 rating
Mic is decent
Assignable controls
Negatives
Terrible isolation
Battery life
Fit is very loose
Pinch controls could use refinement

You might think earbuds have to block out the rest of the world, but that is not always true. For many, in-ear buds with silicone ear tips cause fatigue and discomfort when worn over long periods. Consequently, there is a growing demand for buds that do not go in the ear. Thankfully, plenty of headphones and earbuds are available that keep your ear canals unoccluded. For example, bone conduction headphones rest on the cheekbones instead of inside the ear. This helps to retain situational awareness at the expense of sound quality. Nevertheless, the best open ear headphones are excellent for athletes and city dwellers. Whether you need something for bike commuting or dog walking, we have collected the best open ear headphones on the market today.

The Shokz OpenRun are the best open ear headphones for most people

Shokz OpenRunShokz OpenRun
Shokz OpenRun
Leaves ears unoccluded • Fast charging battery • IP67 rating
MSRP: $129.95
One of the best options among bone-conduction headsets.
The Shokz OpenRun bone-conduction headphones leave the ears unoccluded and produce a decent sound. They have an IP67 rating and a fast-charging battery.

When people think of the best open ear headphones, the Shokz OpenRun come to mind. These bone conduction headphones work well for any listener thanks to their unoccluded fit and simple design. No matter how you listen to music, the OpenRun are excellent headphones.

Bone conduction headphones like the OpenRun do not interact with your outer ears. Instead, the headphones adorn ear hooks placed on your cheekbones. While bone conduction tech seems scary and sounds like it could be dangerous, it is safe. Rather than send sound down your ear canals like in-ear buds, the headphones transmit vibrations through your skull. This method bypasses the need to interact with your outer and middle ears. Listeners with certain types of hearing aids can wear the OpenRun Pro with the aids.

That said, anyone can take advantage of this technology. During the review period, I appreciated how the OpenRun freed my ears and let me key into my surroundings, which kept me safe and aware. There was also no need to fumble around with ear tips, as these headphones do not enter the ear canal. Although the titanium headband did not always play well with a helmet, I felt safe biking around with the OpenRun. When I was not wearing a helmet or beanie, the OpenRun were comfortable and did not jostle around much.

The IP67 rating ensures that the OpenRun will be safe from dust, sweat, and rain. Their lightweight titanium frame only inhibits movement during things like bench presses. You can twist the frame to fit it into the minimalist carrying pouch.

Shokz’ does not use touch controls for the OpenRun. Instead, you control playback and calls from multifunction and volume buttons. The volume controls are close together, and I found them hard to press, especially with gloves on. Fortunately, the main button on the left earpiece is easy to identify and press. I prefer button controls on workout headphones because it is easier to operate on the fly.

Bone conduction headphones are safe, and the open ear fit keeps you keenly aware of what is going on around you.

The OpenRun sound good for their breed. As with all bone conduction headphones, the bass response is lacking. You might want to increase the volume but do not do that. Sub-bass output from the OpenRun will never compete with standard earbuds. Midrange frequencies come through loud and clear, though. Listeners who enjoy podcasts and audiobooks will like how the OpenRun sound. With PremiumPitch 2.0+, these open ear headphones reduce vibrations and promote louder volumes than older models.

Serviceable microphone quality will get you through most calls, but it is not the best. Further, I wish Shokz used USB-C charging on these headphones. The company’s proprietary two-pin connector is fiddly, and it can be hard to find a replacement cable. Other Shokz open ear bone conduction headphones use USB-C — it is possible.

The durable design built to endure any lifestyle makes the OpenRun the best open ear headphones for most listeners. We appreciate how Shokz improves its bone conduction tech with each headset for a better listening experience. Anyone who wants excellent headphones that put safety first and do not use ear tips will love the OpenRun.

What makes them stand out?

  • Comfortable build that fits most head sizes: The titanium headband flexes to fit any head shape, while the lightweight build keeps the OpenRun comfortable for hours.
  • Decent sound quality: Shokz’ bone conduction technology does a good job reproducing midrange frequencies. In other words, vocals and spoken-word content all sound good.
  • IP67 dust and water-resistant build: The Shokz OpenRun can withstand just about anything you throw at it, making it an excellent option for athletes, hikers, and city slickers.

Best of the rest: Seven other open ear headphones worth considering

  • Bose Ultra Open Earbuds: Bose re-enters the open ear headphones market with the utterly unique Ultra Open Earbuds. These have an excellent bass response and run Bluetooth 5.3 with support for the SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs.
  • Sony LinkBuds (WF-L900): The Sony LinkBuds are a great option for anyone who listens in mono mode. With these, you can enjoy stereo audio playback and hear your surroundings.
  • Shokz OpenFit: These hooked earbuds leave you open to the world around you. We like the dust- and water-resistant build and the mobile app features.
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds Live: These buds’ bean-shaped design stays in your ears. These are the only active noise canceling (ANC) open ear headphones on this list, and they support Samsung 360 Audio.
  • Apple AirPods (3rd generation): Time and time again, the various AirPods prove the most sensical pick for iPhone owners. Listeners can use the earbuds’ unsealed fit and plenty of Apple-exclusive features like the company’s Spatial Audio.
  • Shokz OpenRun Pro: Unlike previous Shokz bone conduction headphones, the OpenRun Pro includes a premium carry case and top-end features in the companion app.
  • Nothing Ear Stick: For another AirPods (3rd generation) alternative, try the Nothing Ear Stick. The Nothing mobile app gives you a few options to customize your listening experience.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds have pleasing bass and a comprehensive feature set

Bose Ultra Open EarbudsBose Ultra Open Earbuds
Bose Ultra Open Earbuds
Comfortable design • Loud bass • aptX Adaptive
MSRP: $299.99
Superior comfort, long battery life, and a loud bass response.
The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds wear a cuff-shaped design that is comfortable and robust. The buds boast an IPX4 water-resistant design, a loud bass profile, and 7.5 hours of battery life. Users can connect with Bluetooth 5.3 over the SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs.

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds wear a design unlike any other on the market. The buds are cuff-shaped with a cylindrical battery chamber and a silicone band to secure themselves around the concha and back of the ear. This leaves the ear canal unoccluded, with the buds using Bose’s proprietary “Open Audio” technology to direct sound toward the ear drum. This was a feature employed by the Bose Frames Tempo in September 2020. While the Ultra Open Earbuds were initially only available exclusively from Kith’s online and physical stores from January 22nd, 2024, they have since launched under Bose’s branding in Black and White Smoke colorways.

The earbuds come packed with high-end features. For example, they host Bluetooth 5.3 and connect wirelessly via the SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive codecs. The latter is a scalable format with a maximum bitrate of 420kbps and 24-bit/ 48kHz audio sampling. It also substantially reduces latency to between 50 and 80 milliseconds depending on the implementation. While this is an excellent connectivity type for Android devices, those running iOS are served best by connecting over AAC. Similarly, those using Android devices may utilize the Google Fast Pair functionality, while Apple fans miss out.

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds have excellent bass, long battery life, and a suite of high-end features. However, fans will pay a high price for the privilege.

Due to their unsealed design, open ear headphones often suffer from substantially quieter bass reproduction than their in-ear counterparts. However, the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds have a surprisingly loud bass response. While the headphones allow environmental noise into your music mix, users will likely be pleased with the quality of the bass. As always, it is worth ensuring the earbuds are fitted properly to get the most out of these buds. Thankfully, Bose includes an instruction video in the Bose Music app to help guide you. Here, users can also activate Bose’s Auto Volume setting. This automatically adjusts the volume of the buds based on your surroundings so that they maintain a constant level.

Gymgoers and sports enthusiasts will enjoy the IPX4 water-resistant rating of the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds. Long sessions are also covered, with the buds boasting over seven hours of continuous music playback on a single charge. However, this drops to roughly four and a half hours when streaming with Immersive Audio. This is Bose’s take on spatial audio, reproducing compatible audio in a surround sound sphere. This feature usually works best while watching movies optimized with Dolby Atmos. Regardless, the charging case provides approximately 19 hours of additional playtime. Likewise, fast charging the buds for 10 minutes profits roughly two hours of listening time. Unfortunately, the charging case does not support wireless charging. However, users can charge the case via USB-C.

Auto-pause is not supported out of the box. Likewise, Bluetooth Multipoint is missing at present. However, these features will likely come to the Ultra Open Earbuds in a future software update.

What makes them stand out?

  • Loud bass response: While not as prominent as in-ear headphones, the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds have excellent bass reproduction for open ear headphones.
  • Comfortable and secure fit: These earbuds make an excellent companion for workout enthusiasts and gymgoers thanks to their cuff-shaped design.
  • Excellent battery life: With roughly 7.5 hours of playtime per charge, users can enjoy longer listening sessions with fewer top-ups. The buds also support fast charging, with a 10-minute boost profiting two hours of music playback.

Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 are the most comfortable open ear headphones with a stable fit

Sony LinkBuds WF-L900Sony LinkBuds WF-L900
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900
Comfortable • Novel tap control method • Unique design
MSRP: $179.00
The most unique earbuds you'll ever wear
If you feel you absolutely need a pair of true wireless earbuds that lets you keep tabs on your surroundings to the utmost degree at all times, you should consider the Sony LinkBuds. If you don't feel as strongly about that, it's probably worth looking elsewhere.

The Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 look and feel like typical earbuds. These doughnut-shaped earbuds rest on your ears and stay in place. While they do not feature ear tips, they do need to be placed between the tragus and concha. However, their unsealed fit allows you to hear background noise along with your music. With the LinkBuds, you can enjoy stereo playback and hear your environment.

You get a lightweight and comfortable fit from these buds. Unlike the famed AirPods and imitators, the LinkBuds include detachable, stabilizing wing tips. We found this design advantageous for athletes as the buds stayed in place during exercise. Due to the IPX4 rating, you do not have to worry about sweating while wearing the earbuds. The buds are impervious to water and sweat splashes.

The LinkBuds’ sound quality is quite good since they sit in front of your ear canals without covering them up. This is because there is less distance between the earbuds’ speakers and your eardrums. However, as with most of the products on our best open ear headphones list, the LinkBuds’ bass response is lacking. You can remedy this in the Sony Headphones Connect app (Android/iOS) and create a custom EQ. With the app, you can customize the controls and even set up direct Spotify access from the earbuds.

These Sony open ear headphones are pretty stealthy and comfortable.

You may want to use the app to customize the controls and disable Wide Area Tap. This unique, silly-looking control method lets you tap in front of the earbuds (on your face) to skip songs or pause playback. While Wide Area Tap helps the LinkBuds stand out, its utility is not too impressive.

Battery life is standard for true wireless earbuds, lasting five hours and 41 minutes on a single charge. The case offers an extra 12 hours of battery life before you need to top it up with the included USB-C cable. This falls shorter than the Shokz OpenRun and Bose Ultra Open Earbuds’ battery life but keeps pace with the rest of our best open ear headphones.

We posit the Sony LinkBuds are the best open ear headphones for listeners who want a typical earbud experience. Sony’s mobile app is feature-rich compared to the competition. We also like how the microphone isolates the speaker’s voice from background noise. For a pair of versatile earbuds that can do anything, pick up the LinkBuds.

What makes them stand out?

  • Comfortable, secure fit: These earbuds do not fall out of place, thanks to Sony’s interchangeable wing tips.
  • Unique control method: Love or hate it, Sony’s Wide Area Tap function separates this open-type earbud from the rest.
  • Decent sound: As far as open ear headphones are concerned, the LinkBuds sound pretty good; the speakers rest closer to your ear canals than other options.

The Shokz OpenFit have a long battery life for true wireless earbuds

Shokz OpenFitShokz OpenFit
Shokz OpenFit
IP54 rating • Secure over-ear hooks • Microphone
MSRP: $179.95
For you safety-minded folks who want to take on the world to your own soundtrack, the Shokz OpenFit lets you hear everything at once with open ears. As unsealed personal audio products go, these sound decent and feel good. The mics are surprisingly good too.

The Shokz OpenFit leave your ear canals unobstructed and last a long time for true wireless earbuds. In SoundGuys’ testing, the battery life measured seven hours and 21 minutes on a single charge — roughly two hours longer than average. The case supplies an extra 21 hours of playtime and recharges via USB-C. We also like how the case can fast charge these buds: five minutes yields one hour of listening.

While the ear hooks keep the buds glued to the top of your ears, they can create discomfort at the two-hour mark. Even so, our team found the earbuds worked for various types of exercise. Like the other best open ear headphones, these buds are durable. You get an IP54 dust- and water-resistant build from these buds. As with the Shokz OpenRun, these headphones do not rest inside the ear.

Though limited, the button controls were easy for us to locate and operate thoughtlessly. You can control playback and take calls with the buttons. The OpenFit + Shokz app works with the buds and gives you control over some commands and the sound quality. The five-band custom EQ targets select frequency ranges, or you can choose from four EQ presets instead.

Shokz' buds are surprisingly comfortable given their large, weighty build.

Much like most models of open headphones, the OpenFit earbuds do not have a loud bass response. They sound better than bone conduction headphones, but that is not saying much. However, microphone quality is surprisingly good even when speaking in noisy environments. I recommend the Shokz OpenFit to listeners who want their headphones to last.

What makes them stand out?

  • Secure ear hook design: This design may not draw the most eyes, but it keeps the earbuds in place during all activities.
  • Better sound than bone conduction headphones: The OpenFit reproduce upper midrange and treble frequencies well.
  • Good microphone quality: The OpenFit mics make your voice sound good even when speaking from a noisy environment.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are the best open ear headphones for Samsung phones

Samsung Galaxy Buds LiveSamsung Galaxy Buds Live
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Great connectivity • Fast charging • Excellent microphone
MSRP: $169.00
Keep aware of your surroundings
The Galaxy Buds Live sound good and feature an excellent microphone. Active noise canceling is efficient, and the open-ear design lets you keep aware of your surroundings.

Water is wet, and even the best open ear headphones are… weird. Bone conduction, doughnut holes, and other quirks may not be for you. But do not fret; there are the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live if the rest are too eccentric. You can usually find these active noise canceling earbuds for around $99, making them a feature-packed bargain.

You may wonder how Samsung created noise canceling earbuds that do not seal to your ear canals. Well, the ANC only works to a minor degree. Still, the fact that ANC works at all with an unsealed fit is astounding. Samsung aimed to target distracting, unimportant background noise while tuning you into alarming sounds. It works, but I do not recommend these for your next flight. In that instance, grab a pair of noise canceling earbuds or headphones with ANC.

Samsung’s bean-shaped earbuds caught the attention and ire of many reviewers. Like the Sony LinkBuds, the Galaxy Buds Live work more like traditional earphones. The beany buds cover your ear canals but do not seal them from the outside world with ear tips. Samsung even provides small, interchangeable wing tips for a secure fit. Although the fit was not confidence-inspiring, the buds never fell while I ran, skateboarded, and cycled. These buds only have an IPX2 rating, which does little to protect them from events like rain.

The Galaxy Buds Live are our favorite open ear headphones with noise canceling.

Controlling the earbuds requires a combination of taps and touches. Within the Galaxy Wearable app, listeners can customize the controls and choose from a handful of EQ presets. When paired to a Samsung Galaxy device, the buds support “Hey Bixby” voice access. Pressing and holding one of the buds’ touch panels allows the use of other assistant features.

Samsung’s microphone system will not fool anyone into thinking they are using a professional setup, but it works better than most open ear headphones. When speaking in a quiet environment, the microphone relayed my voice clearly. When I took a call in loud or windy spaces, the mics isolated my voice slightly, but background noise still came through during the call.

The Galaxy Buds Live battery lasts five hours and 15 minutes on a single charge with ANC activated. The case provides an extra two and a half battery cycles with noise canceling enabled. Samsung’s case supports Wireless PowerShare, allowing cordless charging when rested atop a compatible Samsung device. It also supports standard Qi charging mats and USB-C.

Samsung Galaxy phone owners will reap the greatest reward from the Galaxy Buds Live. Samsung-exclusive features include Samsung Scalable Codec support and automatic device switching. You even get access to Samsung 360 Audio with compatible video content. Non-Samsung Android phone owners will still get plenty out of these feature-rich earbuds. Anyone who appreciates a unique design and wants to give noise canceling a spin can appreciate Samsung’s most interesting Galaxy Buds.

What makes them stand out?

  • Looks and functions more like a standard set of earbuds: You could mistake these beans for your standard sealed earphones, making them a discreet option.
  • Stable, secure fit: Samsung’s mini wing tips give the Galaxy Buds Live a secure fit, even if they do not always feel that way.
  • Good microphone for the category: Few of the best open ear headphones have a decent microphone system, but you can still take calls with these in windy conditions.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) are the best open ear headphones for iPhone users

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
H1 chip • Easy for iPhones • Deep Apple integration
MSRP: $195.00
These work with Android, but iPhone users will see the best results
The Apple AirPods (3rd gen) are just a slight upgrade over the second-generation models, but iPhone users will be quite happy with the deep integration and ease of use these earbuds provide.

Although we often harp on the AirPods for their unsealed fit, they shine on this list. iPhone owners who want the best open ear headphones, the AirPods (3rd generation) are for you. These earbuds integrate into Apple’s ecosystem and have plenty of Apple-exclusive features.

When using the AirPods (3rd generation) with an iPhone, you get hands-free Siri access and automatic device switching. The latter is great if you often switch between your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple Spatial Audio works with the AirPods (3rd generation), in addition to head tracking. There is even something for the eco-conscious; Apple supports battery life optimization. With this enabled, the case will not charge the AirPods beyond 80% until you are about to use them. Those prone to losing their headphones can use Apple’s Find My network to locate the buds and case.

Apple redesigned the shape of the third-gen AirPods. While the buds stay in place better than their predecessor, this comes at the cost of inner-ear comfort for some. The buds host large tips that can place pressure on smaller ears. This can cause discomfort after an hour or two. The buds also wear a more conventional build than other open ear headphones on this list, like the Shokz OpenRun. However, listeners with average-sized ears should not experience any issues here.

Sound quality is good for unsealed earbuds, though the AirPods will not win awards here. Bass sounds loud, but the sub-bass is quiet, while the mids and highs come through well. Apple’s Adaptive EQ ensures consistent sound quality by adjusting the volume of low and midrange frequencies in real time. This works on iOS, Android, and Windows.

The AirPods (3rd generation) have advanced features like spatial audio with head tracking.

The AirPods’ microphone quality is the best on this list. We subjected the mics to street, windy, and ideal conditions in our standardized testing. No matter what, the speaker’s voice was audible among the background noise. Like the buds’ microphone quality, battery life performs above average. The AirPods (3rd generation) last six hours and 21 minutes. Apple’s wireless MagSafe charging case accepts a Lightning cable and supplies an extra 14 hours of battery.

We recommend the AirPods (3rd generation) for iPhone owners. However, there are plenty of other earbuds for Android users to choose. Apple’s IPX4-rated earbuds are versatile and come with plenty of features. You will pay a pretty penny for these buds, but that is because of the Apple Tax.

What makes them stand out?

  • Decent bass output for unsealed earphones: The AirPods (3rd generation) have a healthy amount of bass for unsealed earbuds. Apple’s Adaptive EQ is the best in the business and keeps the sound consistent.
  • Spatial audio and automatic device switching: iPhone owners can use Apple’s Spatial Audio with head tracking for immersive media playback. Listeners who own many Apple devices can switch between them with little effort.
  • Access to Apple’s Find My network: Apple’s Find My system offers multiple ways to locate the AirPods or the case.

The Shokz OpenRun Pro are for those who want premium features and a case

Shokz OpenRun ProShokz OpenRun Pro
Shokz OpenRun Pro
Unoccluded ears • Secure fit • IP55 rating
A hard-to-beat bone conduction headset.
The Shokz OpenRun Pro is a premium bone-conduction headset. It sounds great, stays in place firmly, and features Vocal EQ with an IP55 rating.

While we recommend the more affordable Shokz OpenRun for most people, the company’s updated Shokz OpenRun Pro provide a broader list of features out of the box. This includes EQ customization in the companion app and a premium hardshell, zippered carrying case.

The OpenRun Pro supports Bluetooth 5.1 with the SBC codec. Bluetooth Multipoint is also present, alongside Standard and Vocal EQ presets. These flexible titanium headphones come in four colorways: pink, black, blue, and beige. The headband is also sturdy and lightweight enough to avoid causing tension headaches, and the buds boast a rubberized coating to keep the headphones gripped to your cheekbones. Like most Shokz headphones, the OpenRun Pro leaves the ear canal completely unocluded. Their IP55 dust and water-resistant rating also does an excellent job of keeping the buds safe from chalky hands and sweaty workouts.

The Shokz OpenRun Pro provide higher-end features, including a premium carrying case.

Like most bone conduction headphones, the Shokz OpenRun Pro lack a strong bass response. However, they perform better than their predecessors. Sound quality is also vastly improved, with more intelligible audio reproduction while chewing. Somewhat frustratingly, the OpenRun Pro boasts indistinguishable volume up/ down controls. In fact, these headphones are difficult to operate when wearing winter garments, such as gloves or wooly hats. Gym-goers may also find that the OpenRun Pro lacks enough grip to stay in place while bench pressing.

Unlike the Shokz OpenMove, the OpenRun Pro ditched the prospect of a USB-C charging port in favor of its proprietary 2-pin connector. While this helps maintain a lightweight form factor, it diminishes the legitimacy of a future-proof product. Nevertheless, the Shokz OpenRun Pro pack 10 hours of battery life on a single charge. Fast charging is also supported, providing 90 minutes of playtime from just 5 minutes of charge.

We recommend the Shokz OpenRun Pro for those who want the best bone conduction headphones. While the original OpenRun boast a more robust IP rating, the OpenRun Pro provide more battery life and a premium carrying case.

What makes them stand out?

  • Premium carrying case: When forking out upwards of $150, it is comforting for your precious earbuds to be protected. The Shokz OpenRun Pro’s premium carrying case does just that.
  • Battery life: At 10 hours, the OpenRun Pro boast double the average battery life of most wireless earbuds on the market.
  • More intelligible audio: Bone conduction headphones struggle to reproduce intelligible audio while chewing. The OpenRun Pro appears to have mostly fixed this problem.

Nothing Ear Stick are great value for less than $100

Nothing Ear StickNothing Ear Stick
Nothing Ear Stick
Open earbud design • Environmental awareness • Powerful drivers
MSRP: $99.99
True wireless earbuds designed to prevent the feeling of clogged ears
The Nothing Ear (Stick) is a pair of true wireless earbuds with an open-design that emphasizes environmental awareness and reduces the feeling of clogged ears. They are well equipped with 12.6mm drivers, USB-C charging, and 7 hours of battery life (29 hours with the case.)

If the Nothing Ear 1 rival the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), then the Nothing Ear Stick rival the AirPods (3rd generation). These buds come in a striking cosmetics-inspired case and boast the same color scheme as the Ear 1. These extremely durable, IP54-rated earbuds offer plenty of handy features for a reasonable $99.

Nothing’s controls mimic that of the AirPods. Rather than administer taps and swipes to the buds, the stems register squeezes. We prefer this control method to your standard taps because it more accurately registers commands. That said, the controls are not for everyone, as it can be hard to coordinate this kind of movement for some.

While the open design yields poor bass output, the Nothing Ear Stick sound pretty good. Equipped with a 12.6mm dynamic driver, each earbud pumps out bass, but it is still limited. Nothing’s “bass lock” algorithm is not as good as Apple’s Adaptive EQ, but that makes sense given the price difference. Treble output is loud by default, so you may want to play around with the custom EQ in the Nothing X app (Android/iOS.)

Microphone quality is surprisingly good for these affordable earbuds.

Microphone quality is surprisingly good for the price. Noise suppression isolates the speaker’s voice from any background distractions. While not ideal, you can take calls from a windy outdoor setting or the office.

The earbuds lasted four hours and 29 minutes on a single charge in our testing. The case does not support wireless charging but does provide three extra charge cycles. You should be able to get about 13 hours and 30 minutes of total playtime before recharging with the USB-C cable.

Designed as if you smashed the Nothing Ear 1 with the AirPods, the Nothing Ear Stick are unique earbuds. While the buds rest between the tragus and concha, they are comfortable and do not require ear tips. The semi-transparent look will turn heads, while the microphone quality will impress anyone. Nothing’s mobile app is a great addition,  adding functionality to the already good earbuds. We like that the Ear Stick work equally well with any operating system.

What makes them stand out?

  • High-value product: For less than $100, you get access to a handy mobile app, charming design, and durable build.
  • Durable build: These earbuds merit an IP54 rating, allowing them to resist dust and water more than most.
  • App with custom EQ: You can customize the sound to your preferences with the in-app EQ.

The best open ear headphones: Honorable mentions

That is our list of the best open ear headphones you can buy. We also want to give an honorable mention to the following products:

  • Apple AirPods (2nd generation) ($79.99 at Amazon): The AirPods (2nd generation) do not have many bespoke features, like Spatial Audio, that the third-generation AirPods have. However, they are just as easy to use with an iPhone while being cheaper.
  • Microsoft Surface Earbuds ($129.99 at Amazon): While these buds lack some basic features such as remappable controls, they are comfortable, host the aptX Bluetooth codec, and integrate well with Windows and Android phones.
  • Urbanista Lisbon ($39 at Amazon): If you refuse to spend more than $50, the Lisbon are the best open ear headphones. You get plenty of fun colors, a comfortable fit, and surprisingly good bass output.

What to look for in the best open ear headphones

Shopping for open ear headphones can be a confusing process. Most importantly, it is worth considering which features matter to you and which are irrelevant. The main selling point of open ear headphones is that they leave you aware of your surroundings while keeping you tuned into your music. They also usually sit on or outside the ear instead of inside the ear canal like conventional wireless earbuds. This benefits those who do not enjoy the feeling of silicone ear tips or find in-ear buds uncomfortable. Beyond that, there are many things to consider, like what features you need, how long the battery lasts, and more. Take a moment to consider the points below before purchasing your next earbuds.

What makes earbuds and headphones comfortable?

Nothing Ear Stick bud next to Nothing Ear (1) bud, outer side
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

At this point, we have determined that open-ear headphones do not seal off your ear canals. While this is universally true, many ways exist to wear the best open ear headphones. For example, bone conduction headphones sit on your cheekbones while other earbuds will dangle off your ear. Further, many unsealed earbuds, like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, will sit in your ears like regular buds. The main takeaway is that open ear headphones do not use silicone or foam ear tips to seal the inner ear from the outside world.

Comfort is subjective to a degree, sure. We can tell you that any options with wing tips will fit better than those without. Additionally, bone conduction headphones are only comfortable if you are not wearing a hat or helmet with them. We recommend something like the Nothing Ear Stick or Sony LinkBuds if you want a standard fit.

What phone do you use, and what features do you want?

Google Pixel 7 Pro in white and Pixel Buds Pro on an orange background, with Android stickers next to them
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Some headphone and earbud manufacturers limit features to certain handsets. For example, you cannot access most AirPods features from an Android phone. Likewise, those with iPhones will miss some Galaxy Buds Live features. Another thing to consider is that not every pair of earbuds has an app. So it goes.

Simply providing a mobile app is not always enough, either. Does the app provide helpful features or only send firmware updates? Given the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds are the only headphones on our list with ample bass reproduction, a custom EQ may be a priority. Sony and Nothing let you create custom EQs. Meanwhile, other companies give you a menu of presets to choose from. Some companies do not give you any way to affect the sound.

You may also consider whether customizable controls or advanced features like spatial audio are necessary. For example, you need the handset to match the earbuds to take advantage of personalized spatial audio.

How long should your open ear headphones’ battery last?

A picture of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live noise cancelling true wireless earbuds case on a black surface.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

Most wireless earbuds and open ear headphones last about four or five hours on a single charge. Anything above that is impressive, and anything below that is generally disappointing. When purchasing wireless earbuds with an open-type fit, you will want the case to provide a few extra charge cycles. On average, most cases should provide two or three extra cycles.

Only some earbud cases support wireless charging. Typically, you will not find wireless charging on audio products that cost less than $100. However, some open ear headphones, like the Shokz OpenRun and Bose Sport Open Earbuds, do not provide charging cases. This may not be great for on-the-go listening, but it does preserve battery life in the long run.

Do you need good microphone quality?

With more and more of us working from home, microphone quality is increasingly important. For professional microphone quality, you will need a dedicated microphone. Fortunately, most open ear headphones have serviceable mics to get you through a quick call.


Top open ear headphone questions and answers

Besides keeping you more aware of your surroundings, open ear headphones provide some health benefits too. Firstly, the absence of ear tips deep inside the ear canal makes it much less likely that you will suffer an ear infection with plentiful use. Likewise, bone conduction headphones protect your hearing by sending vibrations through your skull instead of sending audio directly to your ear drum.

Yes, open ear headphones are safe, though be sure to follow best practices when using headphones and keep the volume to a low, comfortable level.

The term “open ear” refers to earbuds that do not fully seal your ear canal. For example, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) are open ear headphones. Bone conduction headphones, such as the Shokz OpenRun, are earbuds that transmit audio via vibrations to the skull instead of directing sound at your eardrums. This technology requires no contact between the headset and your inner ear.

The most notable side effect of bone conduction headphones is the sensation of vibration on the skull. However, the technology is safe and is a healthier option for consuming music than in-ear buds by minimizing the chances of noise-induced hearing loss.

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