Shokz OpenFit review in a nutshell: the latest offering from the brand mainly known for their bone-conduction headphones, Shokz's OpenFit are affordable open-ear headphones with decent sound offering oodles of spatial awareness.
Open-ear headphones are having a moment, with a lot of companies rolling out their own take on the concept. I was very impressed with the Cleer ARC II Sport recently and had been playing around with the Huawei FreeBuds 5 for a couple of weeks now, so when I was offered to test the first non-bone-conduction headphones from Shokz, I wasn't too surprised.
The main benefit of open-ear headphones over standard in-ear earbuds is that they provide more spatial awareness, thanks to them leaving the ear canal exposed to ambient sound. This, combined with the ear hook design, often make them the go-to music-listening devices for runners and cyclists. Shokz have extensive knowledge and experience in producing headphones for runners, but the OpenFit is their first product which doesn't make sound by resonating with the cheekbones. Are the new headphones any good? Let's find out.
[First reviewed Aug 2023]
Shokz OpenFit review: price and availbility
The Shokz OpenFit open-ear headphones were announced in July 2023 and are available to buy now directly from Shokz US, Shokz UK and Shokz AU for the recommended retail price of $179.95/ £179/ AU$ 289. They come in two colours, Black and the interestingly-named Beige, which is more of a cream colour, based on the pictures. I tested the Black colourway.
Shokz OpenFit review: specification
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
- Range: 10m wireless range
- Battery life: 7 hours of listening or up to 28 hours using the charging case
- Charging: via USB-C, 5-minute quick charge for 1 hour of listening
- Water rating: IP54 water resistance
- Microphone: Dual noise-cancelling microphone
- Weight: earbuds 8.3g, magnetic charging case 57g
Shokz OpenFit review: design and build quality
The Shokz OpenFit feels rather comfortable on the ears. It has a soft, double-layered silicone design that is said to mould gently to the contours of your ears. The section that loops around the top of the ears is narrower than the bit behind the ear, which helps keep the headphones in place and balanced. Shokz calls this the Dolphin Arc Ear Hook design. I'm not 100% sure why – it certainly doesn't make you look like a dolphin – but it sounds catchy.
The speakers sit at the top of the ear canal, as opposed to, let's say, the aforementioned Huawei FreeBuds 5, allowing ambient sound to enter the ear. The sound-making part of the headphones is actually pretty small, making the buds feel very lightweight on the ears (the Shokz OpenFit weigh only 8.3 grams per bud).
Of course, the ear hooks make the Shokz OpenFit less optimal for people who wear glasses than other in-ear performance earbuds, such as the Jabra Elite 7 Active and the Beats Fit Pro. That said, the soft and flexible arms of the Shokz OpenFit make it less of an issue than it might sound.
Shokz OpenFit review: sound quality and performance
Although the headphones' fit differs from what we're used to from Shokz, the most significant update can be found in the sound department.
Using what Shokz calls the DirectPitch technology, the OpenFit headphones produce sound using an 18 x 11mm customised dynamic driver unit built with an ultra-light composite diaphragm crafted from carbon fibre and a polymer surround. The inner dome-shaped cap is made of a high-strength, ultra-lightweight carbon fibre that is said to be 20 times stronger than steel.
Shokz claims their proprietary low-frequency enhancement algorithm (called OpenBass) carries low-frequency vibrations directly toward your ear without covering it. And while this is true, the bass isn't as impactful as some closed-back models.
The soundstage and imaging aren't as precise as closed-back headphones, either. The open-ear design inherently reduces the accuracy of sound localisation, which can be a drawback for gamers and audiophiles who prioritise pinpoint audio positioning. Admittedly, the Shokz OpenFit headphones weren't designed for these folks.
The open-ear design can also lead to sound leakage, which lets external noise interfere with the listening experience. This makes the headphones less suitable for use in noisy environments, in the sense that it can be challenging to immerse oneself fully in the audio content without distractions.
That said, the same open-ear concept ensures greater situational awareness while enjoying music or taking calls, which is precisely what you need when exercising outside. Better still, the overall sound signature is engaging and quite enjoyable, making the Shokz OpenFit an excellent choice for outdoor activities or people who prioritise safety and awareness over supreme audio fidelity.
It is possible to tweak the sound profile using the EQ profiles in the Shokz app (currently only available for iOS; the Android app coming in 'late 2023'). You can also customise touch controls via the app. Interestingly, only two interactions are available, double tap and press and hold, which means you have to choose between being able to turn the volume up using the headphones or skipping tracks forward and backwards. Strange.
Shokz OpenFit review: verdict
The Shokz OpenFit open-back headphones provide an intriguing listening experience. The open-back design allows for excellent ambient sound transparency, perfect for runners and cyclists who must be aware of their surroundings. However, the lack of noise isolation and sound leakage may be drawbacks for those seeking a personal listening environment. Overall, the Shokz OpenFit open-back headphones are recommended to active people who prefer to know what's happening around them and don't mind sacrificing some privacy or care much about noise isolation.
Shokz OpenFit review: also consider
Sennheiser came very close to creating the perfect running headphones in the form of the SPORT True Wireless. The open/closed ear tips system has its flaws but offers more versatility than standard true wireless or open-ear-only headphones. Buy these buds if you need secure-fitting, well-sounding buds for exercise and running. Read my full Sennheiser SPORT True Wireless review.
Any workout headphones with Transparency mode could also be considered an alternative to the Shokz OpenFit. These include LG's TONE Free fit UTF8, featuring a Conversation mode, which allows external noise to be fed into the headphones on demand. And unlike the Shokz OpenFit, LG's offering also features active noise cancellation. Read my full LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review.