I’ve been an avid user of Shokz (formerly AfterShokz) bone conduction headphones for nearly a decade, since I won a pair of Titaniums as a giveaway at a conference. They weren’t on my radar before that, but I tried them out and was immediately hooked. The sound quality of those early models had some compromises, but thankfully the Aeropex (now OpenRun and OpenRun Pro) models released a few years later were a massive improvement on that front, in addition to being even lighter and more comfortable.
My two main use cases for these headphones are listening to podcasts while cycling (so I can also pay attention to traffic) and using them on conference calls at my desk (I really don’t like using headphones that block out the sound of my own voice). I also have AirPods Pro and use those for most other situations requiring headphones, but even with how good transparency mode is, the bone conduction headphones are a much better fit for these two uses.
Given how revolutionary I’ve found their bone conduction headphones and how long I’ve used them, when Shokz announced their latest new product, I was pretty excited to try it out. The OpenFit doesn’t use bone conduction, instead it’s some sort of localized directional speaker that focuses soundwaves into your ear canal.
Some first impressions:
- They’re very light, even compared to the OpenRuns. They do fit over your ear canal which takes some getting used to, but except for where they make contact there, they really feel like wearing almost nothing at all.
- They sound pretty good. Not as tinny and with better frequency response than the OpenRuns. Not as good as my AirPods Pro.
- They don’t block out all ambient noise, but they do block out a lot more than the OpenRuns (which is very little). As expected, I don’t think I’d feel safe wearing them when cycling. As a point of comparison, when listening to music, I can hear my air conditioner with the OpenRuns but can’t with these.
- It seems to be that they automatically turn on and connect when they’re taken out of the charging case. I haven’t experimented with this yet or checked the manual, but there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to turn them off without putting them back in the case. It’s very nice to finally have standard usb-c charging, but that comes at the expense of having to deal with a charging case. The case is pretty nice, but significantly larger than that of the AirPods Pro. I don’t think I’d want to carry this around in my pocket all day.
- I don’t have anyone else here to check at the moment, but if I take them out of my ears, they’re not very audible a short distance away.
- My initial impression is that their sweet spot is that they’re probably super comfortable to wear for long periods of time because they don’t go in your ears directly, but they seem like they’re in a weird middle ground where they don’t have the ambient awareness of the OpenRuns but don’t sound as good as in-ear headphones. I’ll have to try them on a zoom call next week. This might be great for that, or it might be “eh, no real advantage over the OpenRuns”. If it’s the latter, I’ll probably send them back.
My initial conclusion — they are definitely nice, but I’m not sure they’re for me. Their improvements are real, but they come with some compromises, and as yet I’m not sure they solve any problem I actually have.
[Update: I did decide that they weren’t for me and I ended up returning them.]
I’ve included some Amazon links above, if you use one of those, I get a small commission. Or you can order them directly from https://shokz.com/.