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Shokz OpenFit Earbuds Aren't Bone-Conduction Headphones -- and They're Better for It

Shokz' first true-wireless earbuds, the OpenFit, eschew the company's trademark bone-conduction technology.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
4 min read
The Shokz OpenFit are Shokz first true-wireless earbuds

The Shokz OpenFit come in black or beige for $180.

Shokz/CNET

Shokz, the company formerly known as AfterShokz, has been the leader in bone-conduction headphones. Models like the OpenRun Pro, which deliver sound to your ear through your cheekbones, are popular with runners and bikers who like to leave their ears open for safety reasons. But Shokz's new OpenFit model is the company's first true-wireless earbuds. They have an open design that fire sound into your ears using custom speaker drivers, which Shokz dubs "air conduction" technology. The OpenFit earbuds are available for order now in beige and black for $180 at Shokz.com and Amazon.

I've been using the new buds for a couple of weeks and have been impressed by how lightweight (8.3 grams) and comfortable they are -- they have one of the best ear-hook designs I've tried (Shokz calls it a Dolphin Arc ear hook). It's soft and offers just the right amount of flexibility to conform to the shape of your ear, with "dual-layered liquid silicone that provides a pliable fit," according to Shokz. The earbuds also sound quite good for open earbuds, though not quite as good as Cleer's new Arc 2 Open Ear Sport earbuds ($190) that also have an ear-hook design.

Read more: Best Open Wireless Earbuds for 2023

The Shokz OpenFit are Shokz first true-wireless earbuds

The earbuds are designed to sit on top of your ears.

Shokz

One of the big issues with bone-conduction headphones technology is that it just doesn't work all that well for music listening because bone-conduction headphones just can't deliver truly full sound with enough bass, though Shokz has done its best to improve performance on the low end. In moving to this type of open design with more traditional speaker technology, albeit the kind that Shokz says is patented, you're now able to get a much less compromised listening experience. Shokz says the OpenFit uses DirectPitch technology along with Shokz OpenBass, the company's proprietary low-frequency enhancement algorithm, "to carry low-frequency vibrations directly toward your ear without covering it."

You do get significantly fuller sound compared to bone-conduction headphones. Bass performance still doesn't quite measure up to what you get from even a good set of $50 noise-isolation earbuds with ear tips that seal off your ears. And despite all the fancy digital processing, I encountered some bad distortion when I played Depeche Mode's Behind the Wheel track on both Spotify and Qobuz, which was a little weird. (I did have an early review sample, so I suspect we'll see some firmware upgrades.)

The Shokz' bone-conduction headphones I've tested previously have typically performed well for making cell phone calls with good noise reduction. The OpenFit also delivers on that front. I made some calls in the noisy streets of New York and the earbuds did a good job reducing background noise, though I should note that -- because they're open earbuds -- if you're in a noisy environment, they let sound into your ears so it can be harder for you to hear callers. The same goes for listening to music and other audio -- outside noise competes with what you're listening to and makes it harder to hear. Also, these do leak sound, so people can hear what you're listening to in quieter environments like an open office. And finally, there's no multipoint Bluetooth pairing that would allow you to pair two devices simultaneously to the buds and easily switch audio between the devices. Other Shokz headphones have multipoint Bluetooth pairing.    

The Shokz OpenFit are Shokz first true-wireless earbuds

The OpenFit in beige.

Shokz/CNET

As I said, I've been generally impressed with these new Shokz buds and they've been a pleasure to wear and can be used as everyday earbuds as well as sports buds. I ran with them without a problem -- they stayed on my ears well -- and they're IP54 dust and water-resistant (meaning they're splashproof). I also thought the touch controls worked pretty well (though there are no volume controls on the buds) and the case was nicely designed. It's bigger than many earbuds cases but relatively compact for sports earbuds with integrated ear hooks. It's much slimmer than the case for the Beats Powerbeats Pro, for example. 

The Cleer Arc 2 Sport buds offer a little better clarity and fuller bass but the Shokz OpenFit are more comfortable to wear. Both models are pretty pricey, but these types of open earbuds continue to improve, particularly in the sound department. Bose was one of the first to produce a premium set of open ear-hook style earbuds with its Open Sport Earbuds, but they were discontinued earlier this year. In many ways, the Shokz OpenFit are what the Bose Open Sport should have been, as Bose prides itself on creating comfortable headphones. The Open Sport Earbuds fell short there but these Shokz don't. 

OpenFit Open-Ear true wireless earbuds specs, according to Shokz

  • Ear cushion core is engineered with a dual-layered liquid silicone that gives a pliable fit for every ear shape
  • 18x11mm customized dynamic driver unit that is built with an ultralight composite diaphragm comprised of two parts. The inner dome-shaped cap is made of a high-strength, ultralight carbon fiber
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery life: 7 hours of listening time on a single charge and three extra charges in charging case
  • Charge time: Charge the earbuds with the charging case: 60 minutes; empty case with charging cable: 120 minutes
  • Quick charge: 5 minutes' charging provides an hour of listening time
  • Weight: 8.3 grams per earbud (charging case weighs 57 grams) 
  • IP rating: IP54 water-resistant (charging case is not waterproof)
  • AI call noise cancellation technology to ensure call quality
  • Touch controls
  • Use the Shokz App to select your favorite EQ modes and button functions 
  • Available in beige and black for $180 at Shokz.com and Amazon