Tom's Guide Verdict
The Shokz OpenFit are an ideal pair of open-ear earbuds, offering all-day comfort and ambient awareness without spoiling audio performance. There are some odd trade-offs for earbuds at this price, but the OpenFit manage to make up for it where it matters.
Comfortable for long-term wear
Surprisingly good audio quality
Excellent call quality
Intuitive touch controls
Solid battery life
Some sound leakage
Cumbersome pairing process
No wireless charging
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Price: $179 / £179 / AU$289
Colors: Black, beige
Battery life (rated): 7 hours; 28 hours (charging case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Water resistance: IP54
Size: 1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches (per bud); 1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.29 ounce (per bud); 2.0 ounces (charging case)
Open-ear headphones offer an interesting compromise: accept less-fulfilling audio quality compared to most of the best headphones, in exchange for an experience that lets you stay connected to your surroundings and keep your ear canals clear.
Whether you care about situational awareness or dislike the feeling of plugging your ears with traditional wireless buds, the Shokz OpenFit ($179.95) could be a solution. These hook-shaped earbuds use an air conduction transducer rather than the bone-conduction technology the brand is best known for, leaving the wearer’s ears open for up to 7 hours of straight listening. And while the listening quality might not be quite as satisfying as you’d get for earbuds that cost the same price, the performance is surprisingly punchy.
There’s a lot to like about the Shokz’s first foray into audio without a headband, though the open-ear design might not be the right choice for everyone. Read my full Shokz OpenFit review below to see if they’re the best wireless earbuds for you.
Shokz OpenFit review: Price and availability
Shokz OpenFit review: Design
Unlike the company’s existing bone-conduction headphones, which feature a flexible headband, Shokz OpenFit are a pair of independent wireless earbuds. They secure around the ear with a dolphin ear hook made of flexible memory wire covered in silicone. When I tested the Powerbeats Pro, I found the hook created a secure fit, but at the expense of long-term comfort due to a pesky pinching sensation. I didn’t find the same issue with the OpenFit, even when I wore them at my desk for several hours straight.
What’s more, the open-ear design meant my ears earned a break from having my AirPods Pro 2 shoved in them every day. Given, I don’t have a problem with the fit of my AirPods Pro; but as I discovered, it’s nice to take the pressure off my ears from time to time. The speaker part of the bud sat mainly over my tragus, with the far end tucking just under my antihelix. I should note that I have small ears, in case you’re wondering how my fit might compare to yours.
At 0.29 ounces, the OpenFit buds are a bit heavier than AirPods Pro 2, but the hook offered some balance. The hook also provided security — beyond a quick head shake test, they remained in place when I wore them on my commute and bike rides. They didn’t get tangled in my hair either, which is a problem I’ve had with other earbuds that have protruding parts.
Shokz OpenFit review: Pairing and controls
Pairing the Shokz OpenFit is a breeze the first time you open them out of the box. They automatically entered Bluetooth pairing mode, connecting to my iPhone quickly. But when I wanted to pair them to my computer, I faced a somewhat cumbersome process. Both buds need to be positioned in the case, and the touch pads on each bud need to be pressed simultaneously to trigger pairing.
Once the buds are paired and powered on, the touch pads are used to control music and call playback. A double tap pauses and plays music, or answers and ends phone calls. A long press skips tracks or rejects a call. There are no volume controls directly on the bud, though. You’ll have to make playback louder or quieter directly on your paired Bluetooth device.
Shokz OpenFit review: Sound quality
As you might expect, open-ear headphones won’t sound as strong as most wireless earbuds because the sound isn’t being fed directly into your ear canals. Varying ear shapes and sizes require the kind of tuning technology that isn’t fool-proof. Yet as the first earbuds with air conduction to hit the market, the OpenFit impressed me.
Listening to Milky Chance’s “Stolen Dance”, the verses sounded slightly off-key, exactly as they should in this folk-meets-dance track. The song’s simple bass beat had more depth than I expected, too. The custom 18 x 11mm dynamic drivers seemed to do their job, even on the epic bass drop on Zedd’s “Clarity.” I didn’t feel as immersed as I do when listening to the same song on the Sony LinkBuds S, but that’s kind of the point of open-ear earbuds.
Yet the stereo imaging surprised me. The flirting guitars in the beginning of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” fed into each distinctly, making me feel like I was on stage standing between the band members. I heard strong instrumental separation, especially in the rock genre. The midtones of electronic music sounded far less refined, but pronounced vocals across a variety of music styles provide consistency I came to appreciate from the OpenFit.
Shokz outfitted the OpenFit with what it calls DirectPitch. It’s essentially a technology that positions sound so that only the person wearing the earbuds can hear the audio playback. In other words, it’s meant to prevent sound leakage that can be caused from the open-ear design. I used my desk neighbor at the office to collect feedback, and we found that he heard some noise from my direction when I played music past about 60% volume. At full volume, he could almost name the song playing, but I wouldn’t comfortably listen at that volume under normal circumstances. So, sound leakage isn’t bad, but isn’t nonexistent.
Shokz OpenFit review: Call quality
One of my favorite applications of the OpenFit is taking calls. I’m a talk-and-walk type of person, but find that on most earbuds, the person on the other end complains about how I sound (or about ambient sounds like wind and sirens.)
That wasn’t a problem when I wore the OpenFit. The AI call noise cancelation tech successfully maintained my voice while limiting environmental sounds. For every call I took through the earbuds, my call partner gave my voice quality a thumbs up.
Shokz OpenFit review: Battery life
The Shokz OpenFit are rated for 7 hours of continuous listening, and up to 28 hours of listening total with the charging case. This is pretty standard, with the Sony LinkBuds S getting 6 hours of playtime with 14 hours total from the case, and the AirPods Pro 2 getting 6 hours of playtime with 30 hours total from the charging case.
Either way, I could go a few days between charges. The one time I wanted to use the OpenFit and realized they were out of juice, I charged them for 5 minutes to get an hour of listening. They fully charged in about an hour, too.
It seems like a shame that the charging case doesn’t have wireless charging, though. I’ve adopted a few wireless charging stations throughout my desk and home, but I needed a USB-C cord handy for the OpenFit.
Shokz OpenFit review: Verdict
Open-ear headphones like the Shokz OpenFit let you stay aware of your surroundings while still enjoying your tunes. At the office, my coworkers could easily get my attention when needed, and on walking commutes, I felt assured I would hear anything that might concern my wellbeing. So while they might not be my ideal earbuds for long flights or focusing on a project, the OpenFit have earned a spot in my rotation for situations where it’s beneficial to keep my ears open.
If that sounds like something you’re looking for from your next pair of earbuds, the OpenFit are the clear recommendation for an open-ear model with the convincing sound quality you’d want for a product of its price.
Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.