For as long as Shokz has developed bone-conduction headphones, they’ve never really drawn me in. Maybe I was worried about the lack of audio quality, or even the overall comfortability of adjusting to these around my head during day-to-day activities. Enter the OpenFit headphones. Shokz has pivoted in a way, instead choosing to focus on DirectPitch technology for open-ear listening, as opposed to the tried and true bone-conduction technology. And as a result, they might just be onto a winner.
The Shokz OpenFit headphones are almost perfectly well-rounded and incredibly comfortable to wear for almost any activity, be it on the commute to work, out and about for a jog, cycling the streets or even hitting the gym. They also provide decent audio quality with a surprising amount of bass, given none of this sits directly within your ear canal.
Design & Functionality
The first thing to note about the OpenFit headphones is just how easy it is to pair them with your phone or device. Open the charging case, and they should be immediately discoverable. Although you’ll want to download the Shokz app for firmware updates and customisation down the track, you’ll be unboxing these and listing to tunes within the minute. The over-ear hook design is also fantastic, as it hooks around the ear for a snug fit while remaining light and unobtrusive over the ear canal. Sure, open-back headphones will need to wrap behind the head or ears for extra support, but there were times when I simply forgot I was wearing these at all, making them fantastic for longer sessions.
The included IP54 rating also means that you can pretty much take these out in any sort of weather, as they remain protected from dust and splashes of water. Unfortunately, the rating won’t cover any swimming lessons, so keep these out of the pool. The OpenFit headphones also feature press controls on each side, which can accommodate various commands when double-pressed and held for three seconds. As a result, you can answer calls and skip tracks without having to access your device, which is always a nice touch.
The OpenFit headphones also feature Bluetooth 5.2 and cater for both AAC and SBC codecs, the latter of which works better on music played from Apple devices. You’ll also get around 7 hours from a single charge, while the case allows for an additional 21 hours of battery life. While there’s no wireless charging to be found, the Shokz OpenFit headphones provide USB-C charging, meaning you’ll be up and about with a full battery in around an hour.
Another standout feature is the AI Call Noise Cancellation technology. Along with dual microphones, voice quality during calls is clear and concise. I’m usually passing my headphones onto someone else so I can hear them on the other end during phone calls, and I’m happy to say that even in busier and wider environments, most conversations felt crystal clear.
At the end of the day, the OpenFit headphones are well-designed and light and comfortable around the back of the ears, making them a relatively easy choice for long trips and workouts. Being a suitable option on both ends of the spectrum, there’s only really one other thing to consider: the sound quality.
Thankfully, the OpenFit headphones sound great. As I’m new to the whole open-back headphones game, there’s not really much to write about here that probably hasn’t already been said. They provide solid volume levels, and pack in an impressive amount of bass, given my main concern was just how quickly those lower notes would escape into the open air. While it’s not the best bass you’ll hear in a premium-priced set of headphones, it’s still present in most bass-featuring tracks.
The real conversation here is the niche market that it seems to be aiming for. Make no mistake, the OpenFit headphones are lacking any sort of ANC and transparency modes by design, and in turn serve those users who want to get the most out of their audio quality, while hearing the world around them. While this makes perfect sense when you’re cycling and want to pay attention to your surroundings, that’s ultimately the crucial question you should ask yourself before considering these.
As much as the open-back design allows for sound to get in, louder tunes are more likely to leak sound out. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this at face value, but it’s worth noting that the need to block out surrounding noises can only be met with louder volumes, and that’s not necessarily great for your ears in the long run. But while these sound great in most environments, there’s no doubting the relevancy of more traditional in-ear and ANC buds, should you want to isolate that sound.
The Shokz app can be downloaded on both the Google Play and Apple App Store and is thankfully really easy to use. Everything you’ll need is located on a single page, from the battery life indicators of each headphone and the charging case, along with preset EQ settings and customisable touch controls. Bass Boost, Treble Boost, Vocal, and Standard options all feature, while you can easily create and customise your own EQ at any time.
The real value here is not how bare-bones it might look, but how instantly accessible and easy it is to use, free from any marketing ploys or gimmicks that could otherwise interrupt the nature of this experience; to prioritise your audio.
Verdict & Value
For as lightweight and comfortable as the Shokz OpenFit headphone are to wear, they certainly deliver on sound. They’re great for most situations and provide equally suitable battery life, even if much of this review feels circumstantial. The lack of any noise cancelling is by design, but like many things, it goes two ways, and these can also leak sound at louder volumes.
While the market for this exact type of user still feels niche, the Shokz OpenFit headphones feel like a fantastic compromise in many ways; but if you are as invested in quality audio as you are in your surroundings, then this might be the perfect option for you.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Comfortable fit; Great audio quality and deep bass; Accessible software; Decent microphone quality
Lowlights: Open-back design still feels aimed at niche markets; Can leak sound out at times
Review based on unit supplied by Shokz.