Bose Sport Open headphones

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Erin Lawrence

bose sport open, earbuds, headphones, review, how, sound, fit

I love testing out really new and unconventional technology. In this case, something called open ear headphones. Bose has launched Bose Sport Open earbuds and I had the chance to try them out for myself. I’ll tell you what they are exactly, what they can do, what they work well for and any downsides or limitations.

Review: What are Bose Sport Open headphones?

These wireless headphones are headphones that don’t block or cover your ear holes and the goal is to let you hear your music and your surroundings at the same time. The major upside to an open earbud: it means you don’t need to have anything jammed in your ear canal if you find that uncomfortable.
These come with both a separate charging cradle and a travel case, and I think it’s too bad that it’s not just one unit. The cradle won’t fit in the case so you’ve got two parts to keep tabs on… and more if you count the earbuds.

Why not just get headphones with transparency mode?

You can get Transparency Mode or HearThrough digitally from a lot of headphones and ear buds but the key difference here is that you can hear around you but nothing is physically blocking your ear canal or covering your ear.

You can find some other open earbuds out there, but Bose says they are different and most often use something called bone conduction to get the sound into your ear. Bose claims they are the first to use OpenAudio technology — not bone conduction. This unique approach produces clearer, more consistent sound, without the vibrating sensation bone conduction is known for.

So how has Bose said it’s doing this differently? In essence it’s sending sound out as if it were a tiny speaker parked outside your head and aiming it into your ear canal.

bose sport open, earbuds, headphones, review, how, sound, fitSo can’t everyone hear your music then? Bose’s sales pitch is that the Sport Open ‘minimizes what others can hear’ and reduces sound bleed from the dual 16mm drivers. I’ll get to how well I think that works in a sec.

Why get open earbuds?

Now that we’re clear on what these are and how they work, let’s answer the next question you likely have; who are these for?
Bose is marketing them to runners who want to hear the birds, the bees and the rhythm of their footfalls while also getting Jiggy With it.
They’re also touting them to folks who like to cross-train or work out with a partner so you can carry on conversations. Essentially these could be for anyone who wants to or needs to keep attuned to their surroundings while listening to podcasts, music or calls. They’d work well for work-at-home parents. And of course they are also outstanding to consider if you hate having anything in your ear canal.

bose sport open, earbuds, headphones, review, how, sound, fit

Set up & pairing: Fine initially, troublesome to reconnect

I found these headphones were easy to set up initially. They went into pairing automatically and I was connected quickly.

Reconnecting was a bit of an issue; I’d go to put the buds on, and they wouldn’t connect using Bluetooth via my Bluetooth menu on my phone. Using the Bose app, I’d tap the Connect button and it would go back into initial pairing mode, asking me to push and hold the pairing button… except nothing would happen.

The first time, I figured the battery was dead, but it kept happening. I’d get a push notification from my iPhone saying the headphones were connected, but nothing would play and the app would prompt me to reconnect.

I tried running the buds through a wake up sequence, and similarly, nothing—or only one bud would connect.

I found it necessary to put the buds back on their charging base for a minute, then remove them and either put them on or use the ‘wake up’ (quick push on left earbud button, quick push on right). So overall, set up is ok, reconnecting is finicky.

Fit, feel & comfort: Bose Sport Open

bose sport open, earbuds, headphones, review, how, sound, fit

Let’s dig into the fit and feel and the security of these earbuds, or are they headphones, or earphones, or speakerphones? Music whisperers?

These hook over the top of your ear and rest on the front of your ear, lightly You almost need to feed your ear through the gap to get them to feel secure, but once they’re on they are surprisingly secure and don’t feel like they pinch—at least not at first.

They make no contact with the entrance to your ear or the inner ear.; they kind of hover.

So how about fit security? After all, these look a bit like they’ll fly right off and hook you some sushi for dinner. Bose says “a matte finish provides additional grip” and that they’re They’re sprint tested and burpee approved”. I subjected these to a battery of tests (which you can see in my video) but there was no way I was doing burpees, because everyone hates burpees.

I tried shaking my head, nodding vigorously, bending over to touch my toes yoga style, and even cartwheels. I’m impressed to say the Bose Sport Open didn’t budge.

Short term wear is OK, long wear gets painful

After wearing them for a few minutes, it was easy to forget I was wearing headphones at all; the Bose Sport Open seemed to almost disappear. But after longer wear, I noticed they did start to feel like they were pinching my ears at their narrowest parts. The buds are made of hard plastic and have no cushioning of any kind so they do start to press after a while.

For me, the jury is out on overall comfort; they were good for short term wear of about 30-40 minutes, but more than that and they started to hurt my ears.

bose sport open, earbuds, headphones, review, how, sound, fit

Sound quality: Bose Sport Open headphones

Time to talk sound. I was really, really impressed with these headphones for a couple reasons; the audio quality is outstanding, the bass is great and the Bose Sport Open also have a neat effect whereby it feels like you‘re wearing over-ear headphones, not earbuds.

Unlike a lot of earbuds, with the Bose Sport Open, the soundstage feels big and round outside your ears; imagine if you cupped a mixing bowl around your ear and had the music rolling around in there; the sound feels bigger than it is, and it’s a cool, cool effect. Definitely feels more like you’re wearing big over ear cans, not tiny earbuds.

The sound is outstanding: the bass is actually killer, and despite the fact these don’t have contact with your ear canals, nor an enclosed space around them, the bass resonates really well.

I played a variety of audio to test these out; music, podcasts, videos and phone calls. You can review my test playlist on Spotify, which is linked up here.

Voices on podcasts sounded great, and phone calls were clear; I’d call phone call quality about average.
Overall the audio is clear, crisp and very well balanced and I’d say these are some of the best sounding headphones I’ve had a chance to review lately.

bose sport open, earbuds, headphones, review, how, sound, fit

Can’t others hear your music? Annoying sound bleed?

The key questions I had when I started researching these is, would everyone around me be able to hear my tunes and would all the outside noise bleed in and distract me?

The truth is even on about 75% volume, which was plenty loud in my ears, people around me couldn’t really hear the music.

I had my husband try them on and listened for music bleeding out and there was a barely perceptible whisper, though I was standing within a foot of him.

When I was listening, with the volume at about 60%, it was difficult to hear other people speaking, so I feel like Bose’s touted use case of being able to work out with a buddy and still hold a conversation isn’t that accurate. You’d really need to have the music on quite low to chitchat, and indeed at about 30-40% volume it was far easier to talk and listen.

Will phone stay connected? Connectivity & dropouts

As long as you’re within 30 ft (9 m) of your device, Bose says you’ll stay connected. I was able to get 30-40 feet away, and through three rooms of my house and not a blip or a dropout.
The Bose Music App will give you some additional control options and info. You can view battery life percentage for each bud. You can adjust volume, and change your music source. Beyond that, there’s no options for adjusting sound preferences or EQ, so the app isn’t much to write home about.

Bose Sport Open are water resistant

Bose Sport Open Earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant and the company says they have specially designed acoustic mesh in the ports helps keep out water and debris. As these were on loan to me I didn’t subject them to wet testing.

bose sport open, earbuds, headphones, review, how, sound, fit

Battery life & charging

The battery life on these is pretty good I suppose. You get 8 hours of playtime on a single charge, but since there’s no charging case, there’s no option to extend your listening time while on the go; you’d need to get the cradle plugged in somewhere. Like I said, I think Bose missed the boat on not creating a dual purpose charging and storage case foe these to streamline the whole kit.

The headphones recharge in 2 hours with the included charging cradle, or use the quick charge and get up to 3 hours of play from a 30-minute charge.

One last note on battery. I left the headphones out and possibly still connected to my phone overnight. The next morning they were totally dead. You’ll want to ensure you power off and/or disconnect these or they may continue to drain.

bose sport open, earbuds, headphones, review, how, sound, fitOverall review: Bose Sport Open headphones

Overall, there’s a certain kind of person these earbuds will appeal to: you have to want the sound-feel of an over-ear headphone, but not want the bulk, you have to like the size and portability of an earbud, but not want anything in your ear canal.

On the pro side the sound quality is amazing and checks all the boxes. Bose has also done an amazing job at keeping the sound directed only into your ears with almost no noise bleed, while still making it feel like you’re listening to a larger soundstage.

On the con side, I had some finicky issues when connecting and reconnecting, and I think some folks would really find the V-hook & hover design painful on long listening sessions. It may depend entirely on your ear size and shape. I also wish there was a portable charging case for these.

I also think Bose’s promise about being able to talk to someone while listening isn’t quite as cut and dried as that; you need to have the music on quite low to be able to hear outside conversations clearly, and that may be fine, but you won’t be rocking out to loud tunes and chitchatting to Steve, your spotter while you’re benching.

Overall I can recommend Bose Sport Open earbuds if you’re looking for great sound quality and an alternate fit and don’t mind potentially finicky connections and no charging on the go.

Bose Sport Open earbuds sell for about $199USD/$249CAD and you can get them from Bose or other retailers.

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