Shokz’s OpenFit open-ear headphones make a foray into air-conducting technology. The headphones lack the sophistication of their bone-conducting predecessors.
In recent years, Shokz has positioned itself as the manufacturer of open-ear headphones. For this, it could rely on its now refined bone-conducting technology. You can find that technique on the OpenRun Pros of the brand. However, with the OpenFits – Shokz’s first fully wireless earphones – it moves away from that for what Shokz calls ‘air-conducting.’
It is nothing more than firing sound waves toward your ear canal. According to Shokz, earphones mainly meet the demand for more comfortable open-ear headphones. That is also one of the most common complaints with previous Shokz open-ear models. The pressure on your skull for bone-conducting is simply uncomfortable over time. With the OpenFit, you will not be bothered by this: they do not clamp in any way – they only rest with an arc around your ear canal.
Powerbeats Pro copy
The design of the Shokz OpenFit immediately reminded us of Apple’s Powerbeats Pro. Like those ears, the OpenFits come with a hook around your ears. Unlike the Powerbeats Pro – so-called in-ear headphones – the Shokz are, therefore, open-ear. That ensures that all the weight and stability of the earphones depend on those hooks.
With our big ears – and without long hair – that didn’t immediately become a problem. They always stayed in place, even if we had to run a bit. Fellow editor Arthur, however, was not exactly convinced by the hook system. Because of his longer hair, it seemed almost impossible to wear the earphones properly. We can also imagine that the earphones are not exactly suitable for those with smaller ears; the weight that sticks behind your earlobe is quite large, possibly even too large for them.
For the average user, the wearing experience is very good. After a few hours, we no longer realized we were wearing the earbuds over our ears. They are, therefore, relatively light: each earpiece weighs only 8.3 grams. Yes, that’s heavier than many in-ear headphones, but the weight spreads over your ears this time, making a real difference. The soft rubber of the earpieces also ensures that they stay in place as you start walking without rubbing against your skin.
We do wonder how that material ages. Certain types of rubber become very greasy over time if they come into contact with (skin) oil. Time will tell. The other parts are always made of hard plastic. The whole feels solid, with materials we are used to at this price point.
The design also fits well with its price point. Of course, there is no arguing about taste, but Shokz has given the OpenFit its face. No one will confuse them with other earphones. That’s both a nice compliment and a quirk of the earphones. As much as we want to praise Shokz for the design, they sometimes stand out too much. It also always seems you are wearing the ears wrong because they protrude forward.
Operation is limited
We didn’t even realize they support touch controls when using the earbuds for the first time. So that is the case. However, what you can control is quite limited; the earphones do not have many options. By default, you can only pause your music by tapping twice and skip songs by holding the earphones for three seconds.
You can adjust the touch actions via the OpenFit app for Android and iOS. For example, you can switch from skipping tracks to tapping twice while the other action controls the volume or your voice assistant. You always have access to two actions per earpiece. Besides the limited selection for promotions, that’s just a shame. Other earphones in this price range offer (many) more control options, especially more types of touch per earpiece.
What also bothered us was that the service was not always registered. Sometimes the controls didn’t work on the left or right earpiece. Shokz may be able to resolve such issues through software updates. However, you cannot immediately rely on that. The first firmware update we received, version V_10, did not solve the problem.
Open-ear sound experience
We are already used to other Shokz open-ear products. However, as the introduction indicates, OpenFit is of a completely different caliber. Not only because the sound comes to you differently – not through your bones, but simply through your ear canal – but also mainly because of its sound reproduction. That reproduction puts the bass in the center. As a seasoned house, pop and hip-hop listeners, we could appreciate that at first sight. In some songs, however, it is too much, and the bass masks other details.
We also notice that some high notes feel ‘muddy.’ Music sometimes lacks sparkle, which we notice with in-ear headphones in this price range. At the same time, we must say that Shokz is making a remarkably good first step for a new segment. Music can sometimes sound more sparkling, and the bass is sometimes overwhelming. However, this does not mean that they sound wrong or bad. For everyday listening sessions or when exercising, they sound more than fine.
‘I do not hear anything?’
It is precisely the environment where you are or the activity you perform that may impact the sound more than Shokz itself can have. In that respect, OpenFit is also 0-1 behind its main competitors, such as the OpenRun Pro. After all, we noticed that we could no longer hear the music when there was a lot of ambient noise. Even if there is a lot of wind (or you are cycling) you can safely put the earphones on silent because you hardly hear the music.
With bone-conducting earphones, we could always hear something. That’s a problem Shokz can’t change. It is good to be aware of this before you buy these earphones. The biggest advantage of the technology is that you can always hear your surroundings. Does a car drive in your area, or does someone cycle past: you get it all. Nowadays, you have an ambient sound mode for that on many earphones. However, that never works as effectively as earphones, where you get sound from your environment directly into your ears without the intervention of a computer.
Others hear (too) much
Air-conducting sound is ideal when you’re outdoors. However, once you put on the earphones indoors, at the office, or elsewhere with many people around you, you see people frowning. They are not exactly ‘silent’ ears. In other words: other people can easily listen in when you listen to music.
Unless you have your closed workplace – or everyone around you wears headphones – we do not recommend the OpenFit for the office. They are also not exactly ideal ears on the train unless you like to listen to the annoyances of fellow travelers. At home, the open-fit could appeal to us. Yes, others can listen in, but that never really turned out to be a problem. At the same time, we could hear the doorbell from the study. Over-ear headphones could never have done that.
Shokz surprised us again with a new class of open-ear headphones. We do note that the ears did not immediately hit the right note. They sound good (enough), the battery lasts long enough, and they feel sturdy. At the same time, quite a bit of sound leaks out, we are sure that they do not sit well with everyone, and the touch control is not yet what it should be.
We would personally prefer the OpenRun Pros over the OpenFit earphones. Those that enjoy the advantage of bone-conducting are more likely to sit well and still leak less sound to their surroundings. The OpenRun series has also been slightly further developed.
Maybe Shokz will manage to surprise us with the next generation of OpenFit. Then feel free to leave them in development a little longer, just like the OpenRun Pro.
+Good battery life
-Sound is sometimes ‘muddy’
-App is limited