If you’re a runner or biker looking for a safer, more stable wearable audio option that won’t fall out on the road, listen up. The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are the latest advancement in open-audio design to keep your beats pumping or your podcast playing, without entirely tuning out the world around you.
These aren’t your traditional earbuds. Instead of suctioning into your ear, they gently nestle over the top to fire in compact sound. The “OpenAudio technology” refers to the tiny space between the 16 mm drivers and your ear canal, allowing for ambient sound to flow through, not to be confused with bone conduction technology (more on that later). You would think this design would heavily impact their sound quality, but come on, it’s Bose we’re talking about, and they know a thing or two about crafting the best-in-class audio.
However, these innovative buds are priced at a whopping $200, which is not a casual chunk of change to throw around on an impulse earbuds purchase. To give you the full rundown on Bose’s newest release, we tested the Sport Open Earbuds, so you can purchase a pair with confidence.
Spoiler alert: they are pretty badass, but they’re not for everyone.
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are precisely angled to serve clear and detailed sound directly into your ear. And they sure as hell live up to the hype. As a skeptic of open-audio headphones in general, I didn’t have the highest hopes for this new release, but I was pleasantly surprised.
With any open-audio design, the bass slightly suffers (I knew this going in). Unlike bone-conduction headphones or the Bose Open Ear Audio Frames, the drivers in the Sport Open Earbuds are close to the actual ear canal, meaning they don’t vibrate sound near the back of your skull. The audio quality and bass in this OpenAir tech blows bone conduction out of the water, but it’s not quite as impressive as noise-cancelling headphones (hey, you can’t win em’ all). I listen to deep house beats and hip hop when I work out, and while the lack of bass was noticeable, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. If you’re a true bass-hunting audiophile though, kindly pass.
It’s a more natural listening experience than you get with any other headphones. Since you can hear ambient noise, it plays a factor when taking phone calls. During my testing period, I took multiple phone calls and only heard loud feedback complaints when I was in a busy area (ah, the sweet sounds of Los Angeles rush-hour traffic). But when conversing on a quieter street, there were absolutely no obnoxious sound distractions on either end of the phone call.
Getting used to the fit of these new earbuds when placing them over the ear can be difficult at first, but with practice, securing them in place becomes second nature. Weighing just over a half pound each, they aren’t something we would consider “virtually weightless,” or “unnoticeable,” but other than a cartilage piercing snag, they didn’t bring on any discomfort, even after extended use. Adding an ear-looped mask did bring on some extra weight though.
Bose chose a rigid plastic design, molded to fit the natural and universal curve of your ear, which means you can’t customize the fit like you can with silicone or rubberized earbuds, but my coworkers that also tested these out had zero quibbles about the fit. I ran, biked, practiced downward dog, and even did a few burpees wearing the Bose Sport Open Earbuds—and they stayed put the entire time. I can’t say the same about my AirPods.
“This is the next logical step for the open ear headphone style, which was pioneered by the excellent AfterShokz models,” says Men’s Health Fitness Editor Brett Williams. “Bose ups the ante here with buds that keep my ears free but are even less obstructive for workouts. They stick in place reliably, even on outdoor runs when I wear a mask also looped around my ears. Impressive design—and even better sound.”
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are made with industrial grade thermoplastic to provide strength, structure, and durability. Coming full circle, the rigid design serves an important purpose. With IPIX4 rating, along with an added acoustic mesh inside that keeps our water and debris, these buds are great for working out in any weather conditions.
The battery claim is 8 hours at a 50% volume level, but as someone who likes consistent loud music, this time shaved off a few hours. However, they quickly charge with a magnetic docking station, outside of the carrying case. The battery life can be tracked and controlled through the Bose Music App—you can even opt for “auto shut off” to save on battery life when the buds are not in use.
The controls on the actual earbuds are minimal and take some practice. You can’t adjust volume, but you can skip a song, take a call, and enable Siri or your Google assistant.
Overall, as an outdoor workout enthusiast who has tested a ton of running headphones, the Bose Open Sport Earbuds are one of my favorite new releases to recommend to my fit fam. The pros of being aware of my surroundings without sacrificing audio quality entirely outweigh any cons. I felt a sense of security working out in these, while staying motivated by loud music. If you’re looking for a safer listening option with an open-ear concept, consider adding these to your collection. Unlike AirPods, you’ll surely notice if they ever fall out, but the chances of that happening are extremely rare.
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