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These funky open-ear headphones sound far better than they look

If you're looking for a pair of headphones that live somewhere between the standard earbuds and bone-conducting type, these are it.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Oldance OWS2 Open Ear headphones modeled on my ear.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

For the longest time, I've used bone-conduction headphones for when I run. The best part of those headphones is that I never have to worry about sweat. The second pro is that, because they don't completely dig into your ears, I can still hear things around me. So if an errant car or cyclist were to come up on me, I would hear it before it was too late (hopefully). 

Also: Why these bone conduction headphones are my go-to for outdoor listening

The caveat to using bone-conducting headphones is the sound quality. Sure, I've found the Mojawa Run Plus headphones to produce a sound that isn't nearly as bad as some of the other brands I've tried. Even so, it's not exactly an audiophile's dream come true (but then…what is?).

So, when I was sent a pair of Oladance OWS2 Open Ear Headphones, my curiosity was piqued. These are open-ear headphones, which means they sort of cover your ears like a traditional pair of headphones, but not completely. 

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The headphones are in a "C" shape and the larger section (you'll see the speaker grill) is placed over your ear holes. They don't press into your ears, so they're comfortable and allow just enough ambient noise to leak through (which is a good thing when you're zipping through city streets on foot).

The specs

Before we get into the actual review, let's talk specs, which look like this:

  • Completely open-ear design.
  • Dual 16.5mm dynamic, bio-diaphragm drivers for a rich and consistent listening experience at any volume
  • Bluetooth 5.3 and multipoint connection technology
  • 160mAh large capacity battery provides up to 19 hours of continuous playback per charge or up to 10 hours of continuous calls.
  • No sound leakage (under 74dB)
  • Powerful bass accomplished with the Oladance bass 2.0 algorithm.
  • Audio coding - SBC
  • IPX4 waterproof level
  • Dimensions - 2.28 x 1.57 x 0.79 inches
  • Music control and call answer/hang-up via smart touch control.
  • Color options - Interstellar Blue, Space Silver, Martian Orange, and Cloud White.

The only piece of information I cannot locate is the frequency range (more on this in a bit).

The experience

First off, the Oladance OWS 2 surprised me on two very important points. First was the sound. I've grown so used to my sports headphones sounding far inferior to what I'm used to hearing that when I connected the headphones to my Pixel 7 Pro and cranked up a little Band-Maid, I was taken aback by how good they sounded. There was a bass! There was treble! And the midrange wasn't too in my face.

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

These could easily usurp my current bone-conducting headphones for my runs.

But only if they can remain on my ears. You see, that was my one big concern with these headphones…will they stay in place? But after one run (and other vigorous movement tests), I was surprised at how well the Oladance OWS 2 remained in place. Of course, your mileage may vary, depending on the size and shape of your ears, but I found these to be remarkably stable. After a 7-mile run, I didn't have a single instance where I thought I'd lose one to gravity.

The Oladance OWS2 headphones in their charging case.

The OWS2 case doubles as a charging station and protective carrying option.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

But the truth is, the most impressive thing about these headphones is the sound. It's far richer than I expected it to be. There is an app you can install on your phone (which offers an EQ feature) but out of the box, I didn't feel it was necessary. Besides, I regularly warn users to not install apps they don't need, so I would forgo the Oladance app. 

Also: I replaced my Shokz with these bone conduction headphones for one key reason

Chances are good you'll fire these babies up and will find they sound good enough to not worry about changing the EQ settings, creating a profile, or customizing the button taps. The company pretty much nailed these settings out of the gate. Pairing them is just a matter of taking them out of the case, opening your connection settings, and pairing them (how this works will depend on the device to which you are connecting the headphones).

ZDNET's buying advice

For years, I've been looking for the perfect pair of headphones for exercising. I'm not saying the OWS 2 Open Ear headphones are perfect, but they certainly are a vast improvement over the sound produced by my bone-conducting headphones. 

The only question I have regarding the Oladance headphones is that of longevity. I've had bone-conducting headphones last me for years. If these can pull off such a feat, I will gladly say I've found "the pair."

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