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These $56 earbuds converted me to open-ear headphones (and they're very super comfy)

I never loved the idea of open-ear headphones, but the Baseus Elie Sport 1 have changed my mind.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Baseus Eli Sport 1 open-ear headphones.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Baseus Eli Sport 1 headphones are available now on Amazon for just $55.
  • Even with the open-ear design, the Sport 1 produce rich bass, clear highs, and the right amount of mids to create a clean, smooth sound.
  • The controls for these headphones can be tricky, and if you use them for indoor exercise, you might find sweat collecting in your ears.

Are they earbuds or headphones? Sometimes the distinction can get a bit blurry.

According to Baseus, the Eli Sport 1 are open-ear earbuds, but I would argue that any device that transmits sounds into the ears that do not fit into the ears are headphones. I digress.

Truth be told, I've never been a big fan of open-ear headphones. It wasn't until I tried the Soundcore Aerofit Pro that I saw the benefits of such earphones. Up until then, I relied on bone-conducting headphones for running. The reason for that? Sweat, of which I produce copious amounts.

Also: Sennheiser's new earbuds solve one of my biggest problems as a runner

Over the years, I've ruined at least a dozen earbuds (even those designed for sweaty activities) and had to move away from earbuds for exercising. Bone-conducting headphones were ideal for such situations because they didn't sit inside my ears, where sweat could pool and seep into the buds to destroy them like the oxygen destroyer killed Godzilla.

So, when Baseus sent me a pair of Sport 1 to test, I was far more open to the idea. I strapped them on, went out for a run, and found myself enjoying the beautiful sounds spilling into my ears. I had a few other takeaways, too, as I break down below.

View at Amazon

The tech specs

  • IPX4 waterproof
  • 16.2 mm bio-fiber drivers
  • Directional air conduction to eliminate sound leaks
  • Detachable, adjustable neckband
  • 7.5 hours of play on a single charge with up to 30 hours with the charging case
  • 4 ENC mics used by AI noise cancellation
  • In-app customization for button controls and EQ (as well as locating your headphones)
  • Available in black or white.
  • Price - $55.99 on Amazon

My experience

I'll start by saying I didn't bother with the Baseus app. Why? The default EQ was very impressive, so much so that the sound didn't require any tweaking. I'm also not nearly as picky about sound when I'm running. The Eli Sport 1 sounded much better than any bone-conducting headphones I've ever used and even better than the Soundcore Aerofit. There was plenty of bass, clear highs, and just the right amount of mids to keep the sound from becoming tiresome or tinny. And no matter what genre I listened to, I could hear everything clearly. That's a big plus over bone-conducting headphones because, when running on busy streets music can sometimes be drowned out by the ambient noise.

lso: Why I run with these $80 earbuds instead of bone-conduction headphones

That leads me to the first issue I have: the form factor. Open-ear headphones do not allow nearly as much ambient noise in as bone-conducting headphones. That's fine if you're not running on busy streets. But when I'm pounding pavement alongside cars and cyclists, I like to hear everything going on around me. To do that with the Eli Sport 1, I have to turn down the volume a bit, which means in softer passages, I might miss some music. That's an okay trade-off for my safety.

My next nit to pick is indirectly related to my problem with earbuds and exercise. Unlike bone-conducting headphones, there's nothing preventing air from entering the ears and drying any collected sweat. Although the open-ear design does a far better job than earbuds (and you don't have to worry your sweat will destroy the electronics), I've found sweat can still collect in your ear, but only if you're exercising indoors. Running outside, it's no problem. If you're on any indoor equipment, such as a treadmill or rowing machine, where there's no air to pass through your ears, sweat can collect. 

Finally, let's talk about music control. This is another area where open-ear headphones tend to lag behind bone-conducting headphones. The controls are on the outside edges of each device, so when you tap to control playback, it almost feels as if the headphones might fly off your ear. Because of that, it takes time to get used to controlling your music. I would have much preferred a physical button for this, but that's just my personal quirk. 

Also: Why I ditched my bone conduction headphones for these 'wired' earbuds

One other important point is comfort. I've used these headphones for 10 and seven-mile runs and found them to be very comfortable. There's no fatigue, even after a couple of pavement-pounding hours. That's a big plus for me.

 Case in point, they've become my default headphones for rowing because I can hear everything so clearly (whether I'm on the rowing machine or the treadmill). Of course, for outdoor running, I still default to bone-conducting headphones (so I can better hear traffic). 

ZDNET's buying advice

The Baseus Eli Sport 1 have become my default headphones for exercising (including rowing) because I can hear everything so clearly. Of course, for outdoor running, I still default to bone-conducting headphones so I can better hear traffic. 

But for a penny less than $56, the Baseus Eli Sport 1 headphones are a mega bargain. The sound is rich and clear, the fit is comfortable (and stable), and the battery life can last for over seven hours on a full charge. 

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