Shokz OpenFit review headphones

Shokz OpenFit review: keep your ears open

8.6

Shokz (FKA AfterShokz) is a company famous for making bone conduction headphones, long loved by athletes, recreational runners, and cyclists. The new OpenFit true wireless headphones are one of the brand’s first significant departures from that model, instead focussing on “DirectPitch open-ear listening”, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s a small speaker that plays just in front of your ear, without blocking or covering your ear, so outside noise can still get in.

I’ve been using Shokz bone conduction headphones as my main cycling headphones for years, so I was really curious to try this new technology. After extensively testing them over several weeks, I can say with confidence that they’re perfect for people who like the idea of bone conduction headphones, but hate the way they feel, as well as people who just don’t like having things in their ears.

Shokz OpenFit first impressions

Setting up the Shokz OpenFit headphones was super easy. I opened the box, paired them with my phone’s Bluetooth, put them on my ears, and I was ready to go out.

The main things that first struck me were how comfortable they are (so very), and how much better they sounded than I expected. Normally I would write here about something unexpected, or bad, but frankly, it was just a really good, frictionless experience that was remarkably unremarkable (which is a good thing).

Shokz OpenFit headphones

However, this is one thing I hate: The controls. I have yet to trigger them deliberately, because they are so unintuitive. You simply tap them to do a variety of things, but you have to tap them really hard, and even then they’ll only follow through with your request if they feel like it, apparently. The controls are the only bad feature, but it is a pretty major one to get wrong.

Shokz OpenFit specifications

Frequency response50Hz-16kHz
Battery lifeUp to 7 hours listening on a single charge, charging case can hold enough for three extra charges (28 hours total)
Standby time of 10 days
Quick charge: 5-minute charge powers an hour of listening to music
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2
DurabilityIP54
Price (RRP)$289
WarrantyTwo years
Official websiteShokz Australia

Performance

The fantastic thing about the OpenFit headphones is just how many people they’d suit. Normally, when I review a pair of headphones, the intended end user is obvious: travellers, commuters, gym goers, business people, gamers, and so on. But the Shokz OpenFit seems suited to a wide variety of people, each with different focuses: runners, cyclists, walkers, parents of young children, businesspeople, and other kinds of outdoor sports enthusiasts. What I’m so impressed by is how well they cater to this diverse group. It’s somehow a jack-of-all-trades, master of basically all.

Comfort

In headphones that are designed to be worn all day, and in all conditions, where audio quality isn’t the main focus, comfort is really the main thing that matters. Here, the OpenFit absolutely shines.

The little counterweight on the ear hook adds extra support and means it stays in place, even on really long rides on difficult terrain. The way the speaker is angled means that it’s easy to forget you’re wearing anything after a little while.

When it comes to bone conduction headphones, the main thing I don’t love about them is the way they kinda vibrate your skull. It feels like getting a gentle, musical concussion at times. The OpenFit is really the perfect antidote to that. You get all the music and the openness without any discomfort.

Shokz OpenFit Open-Ear Ture Wireless Blutooth Headphones with Microphone, Sweat Resistant, Black
  • 【DirectPitch Air Conduction Technology】Instead of using the bone conduction technology that Shokz is popularly known for, OpenFit wireless headphones are powered by DirectPitch technology, another technical method to open-ear listening, which addresses vibration and neckband issues, making OpenFit ideal for everyday scenarios.
  • 【Open-Ear Comfort】Enjoy extreme comfort with the open ear design of the OpenFit true wireless earbuds, which allows for a secure, but non-invasive fit. Weighing only 8.3g per earbud, you’ll hardly notice they’re there. Ultra-thin earhooks ensure a comfortable fit, even when worn together with glasses.
  • 【High-quality Audio】The 18×11mm customized driver ensures acoustic excellence. Exclusive DirectPitch and OpenBass technology for live concert-like listening anytime, anywhere.

A couple of days ago I came back from my ride, paused my music before I went into the car park, and completely forgot to take off the OpenFit when I got home. I didn’t even realise I was still wearing them until I got a phone call an hour later. In the past, I would usually take off my OpenRun Pros when I removed my helmet, just because of how the semi-rigid neckband feels on the back of my neck when I’m not riding.

I now keep the OpenFit on all day when I’m working just for calls (I still keep my music on my speakers, because these would not be my first choice of audio experience when not riding, but that’s for another section). In terms of comfort, the OpenFit is a 9.8 out of 10.

Phone Calls

Here’s how a phone call with my wife goes when I’m wearing headphones:

Me: Hi Karma, how are you?
Karma: Are you wearing headphones right now? I can barely hear you.

But, with the OpenFit, she didn’t even notice that I wasn’t holding my phone to my ear. The microphone and call experience is that clear. This has almost never happened before.

This is why I think the OpenFit is so well suited to businesspeople and parents of young children. It’s a hands-free calling solution, that doesn’t close you off from what’s going on in the office or with the kids, that I find to be better than even the Bluetooth earpieces of old.

The other person’s voice comes across crystal clear, and the microphone is far better than even the most premium AirPods. The call experience gets a solid 9.5 out of 10.

Audio Quality

This is a somewhat difficult thing to judge, because normally for these sections I would try to compare apples to apples on what the audio experience is like across similar technologies. But I don’t have any other headphones like this. I’m not sure there are even any similar reputable models available in the Australian market. I’ve been collecting and reviewing headphones for a long time, and I only have a vague recollection of ever encountering anything even vaguely similar.

To get the obvious out of the way – the OpenFit does not sound as full or as good as standard headphones. It is technically impossible to reach that level of audio quality with this kind of setup.

But I am stunned by how crisp and clear they are. The OpenFit sounds really good. There’s nothing obviously missing unless you deliberately look for it, like how the bass is often obviously missing from the non-premium models of bone conduction headphones.

They sound surprisingly good across all genres I tested: classical, pop, folk, hard rock, brass instrumental, electronic, and metal. The bass is muddy and distorted, but it’s there, and when you’re just trying to push with all your might up at final hill, or subtly listen to a podcast at work, that’s really all you need.

Are they the ideal headset for listening to a new release album to really experience it as the artist intended? No. These aren’t designed for that. They are tiny speakers suspended a few centimetres from my ear canal.

Comparison to Bone Conduction Headphones for Sports

In terms of audio quality (and even microphone quality), there is no contest between the OpenFit and the OpenRun Shokz headphones. The OpenFit wins every time. The comfort and adaptability are also much better on the OpenFit than the OpenRun.

The one area where the OpenRun wins is that my ears aren’t covered at all because of the bone conduction, and I do notice that I can’t hear quite as much outside noise when wearing OpenFits. I can hear the important stuff, like car horns, trams and people talking (even quietly), but I can tell that there are possibly a few more subtle sounds that I’m missing out on. It’s possible to have a conversation when the music is down low, but it’s not as clear an experience as with the OpenRun. This does depend a bit on the volume, but it is noticeable when moving from one to the other.

It’s not a huge difference, but it’s enough that I would probably stick to the OpenRun for city riding and use the OpenFit more for trails and suburban riding. For walking it probably wouldn’t make any difference either way.

But, also, the vibration feeling from the bone conduction can also be a little distracting for some people, and a lot of this depends on the shape of your ear, so your mileage may vary. It’s worth going to your local bike or electronics shop and trying them both out to see which works best for you.

Who is the Shokz OpenFit For?

The Shokz OpenFit is for anyone who wants to be able to listen to music and take calls using headphones that don’t block their ears without the complications of bone conduction.

With the exception of the controls, they are significantly better than they have any right to be, and while $279 does feel a little steep, they definitely prove their worth. OpenFit has definitely joined my regular rotation of headphones. I’m planning on buying a pair for my mum to use for her early morning walks, so she can still stay safe while listening to her podcasts.

I very strongly recommend the Shokz OpenFit to anyone who thinks that they might benefit from this feature set.

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Shokz OpenFit
The Shokz OpenFit is a pair of excellent true wireless headphones designed for people who want to listen to music and take calls without blocking their ears or compromising on quality too much.
Features
8
Value for money
8
Performance
9
Ease of use
9
Design
9
Positives
Comfortable
Sound good
Long battery life
Excellent call quality
Negatives
Blocks out slightly more outside noise than bone conduction models
IP54 waterproof rating isn’t enough for swimming or riding in heavy rain
Can only pair one device at a time
Controls suck
8.6