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One of my favorite open-ear headphones just got better (and somehow cheaper)

Shokz' new OpenFit Air earbuds improve on the previous model with a lower price, new colors, and a comfortable, lightweight design.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Shokz OpenFit Air earbuds are available for $119.95 in black, white, and pink.
  • They're a comfortable pair of open-ear buds with fantastic audio quality at a modest price.
  • The six hour battery life is a bit lower than the previous OpenFit earbuds model.

When I go running, I typically prefer using bone conduction headsets. They tend to stay in place better, while also keeping your ears clear to maintain situational awareness.

However, last year I tried out the Shokz OpenFit earbuds and was impressed with their DirectPitch air conduction, which offers a unique alternative to bone conduction but still allows for an open-ear design. Following up with a new product, Shokz just revealed the OpenFit Air wireless earbuds designed to fit a wider range of head sizes, improved comfort, and more accessible at $60 less.

Also: The best earbuds you can buy: Expert tested

I've been wearing the Shokz OpenFit Air for more than a week while indoor rowing, running, biking, and commuting on a train. I never had any problems with the fit of the OpenFit earbuds, but these are a bit more comfortable. The new design repositions the center of gravity closer to your ear, with the battery moved from the end up into the main body of each earbud.

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Moving the battery makes the end hooks lighter with an open loop design for comfort and flexibility to fit more ear forms. An ultra-fine 0.75mm flexible alloy wire is surrounded by soft-touch material to ensure a great fit and stable security of each earbud.

The new OpenFit Air earbuds also have less soft-touch covering and more glossy plastic material on the outer part of the main body. In my opinion, this actually gives the earbuds a bit more stylish look over the industrial plain black texture on the OpenFit earbuds.


Shokz OpenFit (left) and OpenFit Air (right)

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Shokz will continue to sell the OpenFit model because it does have a slightly longer battery life and a lighter weight of 8.3 grams compared to the 8.7 grams for each OpenFit Air earbud. Both models sport IP54 water and sweat resistance, Bluetooth 5.2, fast charging, multipoint pairing, and no wireless charging with the case.

Users should definitely install the Shokz smartphone application that supports four equalizer modes, multipoint pairing toggle, customization of tap controls on the earbuds, and quick battery status indicators for each earbud and the case. The app is also used to initiate firmware updates of the earbuds.

The Shokz DirectPitch air conduction technology uses reverse sound waves to alter the audio field, resulting in overall outstanding audio quality without having to put a device in your ear. While I personally enjoy bone conduction, some people are bothered by the vibrations sent through your cheekbone to the inner ear that sometimes accompanies this technology. If you're one of those people, the OpenFit Air is a perfect alternative option. 

While the Shokz OpenFit Air is primarily designed to play music while working out, each earbud has two adaptive beamforming mics so you can make calls, record voice notes, or use your voice assistant while wearing the earbuds. Shokz states that background noise is reduced by 96.5% and in my testing, callers said I sounded great.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

If you want even more awareness of your surroundings, you can also wear just one OpenFit Air earbud at a time. Shokz supports single earbud use with both the right and left earbud. Tap controls are limited with one earbud, but I enjoy this approach while listening to podcasts and commuting on the train or riding my bike as it lets you be even more situationally aware. 

I tested the Shokz OpenFit Air with an iPhone, Android phone, a MacBook Pro, a Garmin watch, and an Apple Watch Ultra 2. The earbuds worked very well with all of these devices with flawless playback. If you're interested in keeping your ears open while working out and don't like bone-conduction headsets, I highly recommend the OpenFit Air, even over the OpenFit model with the $60 savings and very limited compromises made to achieve that lower price.

Also: These open-ear headphones ditch the bone conduction tech for something shockingly better

Shokz also announced the new OpenSwim Pro and I have a pair under evaluation. With the warmer weather I will soon be testing them in local lakes, so stay tuned for the review in the coming weeks.

ZDNET's buying advice

Maintaining awareness while working out can be very important for runners, cyclists, walkers, and other athletes. If bone conduction isn't your thing, the Shokz OpenFit Air earbuds provide outstanding audio performance through its air conduction technology. Additionally, the $120 price makes them a compelling option when it comes to design, battery life, performance, and features. 

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