The best open-ear earbuds and headphones for 2023

It’s hard to beat the convenience of a set of wireless earbuds. Still, these devices all suffer from two major drawbacks: they sit inside your ear, where they can cause discomfort, and they generally block a lot of external sounds, which can be downright hazardous in certain situations.

Open-ear earbuds, and other types of open-ear “headphones,” as they’re often categorized, deal with both of these challenges. Because they don’t sit inside your ear, they’re incredibly comfortable — you can often forget you’re even wearing them. And because they don’t seal off your ear canal (not even a little), you’ll hear the whole world just like you do when you’re not wearing earbuds — without resorting to a transparency mode or removing an earbud.

If it sounds like we’re describing bone-conduction headphones, you’re not far off. Bone-conduction models offer similar benefits, but they’re always based on a neckband design (instead of individual earbuds) and a lot of folks find them uncomfortable after a while. Plus, they just don’t sound as good as open-ear (sometimes called air-conduction) earbuds.

Are open-ear earbuds and headphones perfect? No. It can be a challenge getting great sound quality, they have a hard time coping with noisy locations, and they’re much bigger and bulkier than regular earbuds. But if you like what the open-ear options out there offer, nothing else comes close.

Here are our recommendations for the best open-ear earbuds and headphones. We haven’t reviewed all of them, but we have tried them out, and each is worth considering as you make your buying decision.

oladance ows pro review 00002

Simon Cohen /

Oladance OWS Pro

The best you can get

Pros

  • Comfy and secure
  • Full-range sound
  • Plenty of volume
  • Incredible battery life
  • Bluetooth Multipoint
  • Rechargeable charging case

Cons

  • Not ideal for loud locations
  • Slightly awkward controls
  • No wireless charging
  • Bulky charging case

By far the most expensive open-ear headphones you can currently buy, the Oladance OWS Pro are also some of the most sophisticated. They’re as close as you can get to a set of traditional wireless earbuds from a sound and call-quality point of view, and they’re very sleek and comfortable.

Their included charging case extends their overall battery life to a huge 58 hours, but it’s a large box — the biggest in its class — which means you may want to use the OWS Pro on their own. Thankfully, with 16 hours of battery life, you can do just that on most occasions.

They’re tough enough for basic workouts, and with Bluetooth Multipoint you can keep them connected to two devices at once — handy for any set of earbuds that you’ll likely want to wear all day. We were impressed with the OWS Pro’s Focus Mode — a kind of active noise cancellation (ANC) that targets just a small range of annoying frequencies — it’s the only open-ear ANC of its kind.

It would have been nice if (for the price) Oladance had given the charging case wireless charging, but given how infrequently you’ll need to charge it, this is hardly a deal breaker.

Oladance OWS Pro Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Oladance OWS Pro

The best you can get

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Simon Cohen /

Shokz OpenFit

The most comfortable

Pros

  • Incredibly comfortable and secure
  • Stay fully aware of your surroundings
  • Very good call quality
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Mediocre sound quality
  • Not great for noisy locations
  • No wireless charging

All open-ear earbuds tend to be comfortable, but the Shokz OpenFit are the most comfortable earbuds we’ve ever tried, period. Their ultra-soft silicone and flexible shape easily conforms to anyone’s ears.

They’re also one of the few models on this list that offer both dust and water resistance, making them a good choice for those who find themselves in a variety of conditions.

While they don’t sound quite as good as the OWS Pro, the OpenFit have acceptable sound quality for casual listening. Call quality, however, is very good, making them ideal for phone or computer calls either indoors or outside. Bluetooth Multipoint makes them even better for jumping between devices.

Battery life is on the low side of a set of open-ear earbuds and there’s no wireless charging, but Shokz provides an app for iOS and Android with EQ and control customization options.

Shokz OpenFit earbuds

Shokz OpenFit

The most comfortable

Man wearing Oladance Wearable Stereo open earbuds.

Simon Cohen /

Oladance OWS 2

The best for sound quality

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Great call quality
  • Long battery life
  • Bluetooth Multipoint

Cons

  • Non-rechargeable charging case
  • No wireless charging

They may not have the sleek appearance or the cool Focus Mode of the OWS Pro, but the Oladance OWS 2 have fantastic sound quality that beats all of the other models on this list. Heck, it might even sound a bit better than the OWS Pro.

When you’re in a quiet environment, these open-ear headphones can deliver a listening experience that rivals some open-back wired headphones, with an airiness that you can only get when speakers aren’t jammed up against your ear canals. The Oladance app’s built-in equalizer helps fine-tune this experience with several presets and full manual control.

Speaking of manual control, you can change up all of the touch controls to suit your preferences, including volume control — something you may find absent on other models on this list. The OWS 2 are very comfy and come with small silicone sleeves to keep them from sliding around while running or working out, something the original OWS lacked.

The call quality is superb both indoors and outside, and Bluetooth Multipoint makes them ideal for moving between devices. Their 19-hour battery life is tied with the OpenRock Pro for the longest on the list.

Unfortunately, 19 hours is all you get: The charging case for the OWS is just that — it will charge the earbuds when connected to power (via USB-C) but it has no battery of its own.

Oladance OWS2

Oladance OWS 2

The best for sound quality

Sivga SO1.

Sivga

Sivga SO1

Big physical buttons and wireless charging

Pros

  • Good sound quality
  • Adjustable earhooks
  • Excellent battery life
  • Wireless charging

Cons

  • No Bluetooth Multipoint
  • No companion app

Most of the models on this list use touch controls, which some folks just don’t like. They can be inaccurate and they’re impossible to use with gloved hands. The Sivga SO1 (“ess-oh-one” for Sport Open, not “ess-zero-one”) are an affordable way to go open-ear, with very acceptable sound quality, and their large, physical buttons make operation a little easier for those who struggle with touch controls.

There’s no companion app to change how the buttons work or to modify the EQ, and no Bluetooth Multipoint, but they have good protection from water, excellent battery life (9 hours/46 hours total), and their case supports wireless charging — a rare feature even on the priciest models. It even has a digital readout that displays the exact amount of battery life remaining.

SIVGA SO1 Open Ear Headphones

Sivga SO1

Big physical buttons and wireless charging

Cleer Audio Arc II Sport.

Cleer Audio

Cleer Audio Arc II Sport

For sporty, hi-tech germaphobes

Pros

  • Tons of features
  • Snapdragon Sound
  • UV antibacterial charging case
  • Bluetooth Multipoint

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a set of open-ear earbuds with as many features as the Cleer Arc II Sport. These things are packed with hi-tech options, like a germ-killing UV system inside the charging case, a built-in step counter function, and even head-based gestures that can be used for accepting calls and changing tracks for those times when your hands are busy doing other things.

They’re also loaded with the latest Bluetooth audio formats, including Bluetooth LE Audio and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound for both hi-res and CD-quality lossless wireless audio.

The Arc II Sport use a spring-loaded hinge to keep themselves securely in place, so you’ll have no trouble using them for any kind of workout, something their IPX5 rating helps with too.

Sound quality and call quality are both very good on regular iPhones and Android phones, but if you happen to have an Android phone that supports Snapdragon Sound, you should get slightly better audio, and considerably better transmission of your voice on calls thanks to aptX Voice.

The Cleer+ app gives you a lot of control over the earbuds: preset and custom EQ, modification of the touch controls, the ability to turn on a reminder when you haven’t moved in a while, and another reminder if you accidentally leave your buds behind.

All of that, plus very good battery life (8 hours/35 hours total) and Bluetooth Multipoint makes the Cleer Arc II an extraordinary value for the money. About the only thing that’s missing is wireless charging.

Cleer Audio ARC II Sport

Cleer Audio Arc II Sport

For sporty, hi-tech germaphobes

1More Fit with wirelessly-charging case.

1More

1More Fit S50

Waterproof wonder

Pros

  • Fully waterproof
  • Excellent battery life
  • Wireless charging
  • Bluetooth Multipoint

If you need a set of open-ear earbuds that can survive full immersion in water, the 1More Fit S50 is your best (and only) option, with an IPX7 rating. Of course, it’s also a great pick for sound and call quality, though it falls just short of the Oladance OWS 2 and OWS Pro in both of these categories.

Still, it has a wireless charging case, which the Oladance models can’t match, and very clever silicone “sound loops” — small guides that position the earbuds in the ideal location for sound quality — another unique feature.

Battery life, at 11 hours per charge and 38 hours with the case is excellent, and Bluetooth Multipoint makes them a solid choice for all-day use when switching between devices.
1More has always offered great app support for its earbuds and the Fit S50 are no exception. You get EQ presets (though no manual EQ) and the ability to customize the touch controls.

Speaking of the touch controls, this is the S50’s one weakness. You only get four gestures: double and triple taps on each earbud, which isn’t enough if you want to control playback, calling, volume level, and voice assistant access — you’ll have to decide which of these is most important and use your phone for the others.

1MORE Fit Open Earbuds S50

1More Fit S50

Waterproof wonder

Woman wearing 1More Fit SE S30.

1More

1More Fit SE S30

Sound quality for those on a budget

Pros

  • Affordably priced
  • Very good sound quality
  • Good call quality
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • No Bluetooth Multipoint
  • No wireless charging
  • Limited touch controls

Maybe you’re not sure if open-ear earbuds are right for you, or you simply want to spend as little as possible while still getting a quality product. Either way, the 1More Fit SE S30 are a good choice. It’s tempting to compare them to the 1More Fit S50, but other than the fact they’re both made by 1More and they’re both open-ear designs, these earbuds are very different from one another.

The S30 don’t have sound loops, they’re only IPX5 water resistant, they don’t support Bluetooth Multipoint, and their case won’t recharge wirelessly. But they do have very good battery life (10 hours per charge, with two full recharges in the case) and they sound just fine. You still get the 1More Music app for making EQ and control modifications, though again, with the same limitations as the S50, you’ll be making some choices over what you want to control.

1MORE Fit SE S30 Open Ear Headphones

1More Fit SE S30

Sound quality for those on a budget

Soundpeats RunFree.

Soundpeats

Soundpeats RunFree

Ultra-affordable neckband model

Pros

  • Price is right
  • Neckband design
  • All-day battery
  • Bluetooth Multipoint

Cons

  • May not fit smaller heads

Soundpeats’ RunFree Open-ear Sports Headphones, as they’re officially called, won’t win any awards for sound quality, but they’re an absolute bargain at $50 and they use a neckband design, which some folks will prefer.

They’ll withstand sweat and rain with IPX4 water resistance and their internal battery has a claimed 14-hour life — so while you’ll likely want to plug them in every night, they’ll easily last all day. Thanks to the neckband design, Soundpeat was able to offer Bluetooth Multipoint (it’s easier and cheaper to do it when the earbuds share a single Bluetooth radio), and their physical buttons are simple to operate.

One thing to keep in mind: The neckband is one-size-fits-all. This could mean that those with smaller heads will have the neckband drop further down their necks. This might be les comfortable, but the biggest drawback is that it will tilt the earbuds away from an optimal position on your ears and sound quality will likely suffer as a result.

SoundPEATS RunFree

Soundpeats RunFree

Ultra-affordable neckband model

sony linkbuds review 00008

Simon Cohen /

Sony LinkBuds

The best for a traditional earbud experience

Pros

  • Unique, sound-permeable design
  • Very good “open” sound quality
  • Excellent for voice and video calls
  • Wide Area Tap feature
  • Wear sensors
  • EQ and control customization
  • IPX4 water resistance

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Not good for noisy environments
  • Not very secure and may not fit some ears
  • No wireless charging
  • No Bluetooth Multipoint

Let’s say you love almost everything about wireless earbuds except the way they block sound. The Sony LinkBuds might be for you.

Unlike the rest of our picks, the Linkbuds sit inside your concha like regular earbuds. But unlike regular earbuds, the LinkBuds have circular, donut-like speakers that let external sound in.

They’re superb for calling, and they have some of the best sound quality you can get in a set of open-ear earbuds, plus they pack some features you won’t find on any other open-ear models like Amazon Alexa Built-in/Google Assistant hands-free, Google Fast Pair/Microsoft Swift Pair, a speak-to-chat options that turns down the volume of your media when you speak, plus a innovative wide-area-tap option that lets you tap your cheek instead of the earbuds for controls. Sony’s Headphones app is excellent, with tons of customization options including EQ and gestures.

On the down side, they have the shortest battery life of the group at 5.5 hours per charge/17.5 hours total, they don’t support wireless charging, and they don’t fit as securely as models that use a behind-the-ear hook design.

Sony LinkBuds

Sony LinkBuds

The best for a traditional earbud experience

One Odio OpenRock Pro.

One Odio

OneOdio OpenRock Pro

Biggest battery

Pros

  • Good sound quality
  • Great for calls
  • Huge battery life
  • Physical buttons

Cons

  • No app support
  • No wireless charging
  • No Bluetooth Multipoint

If battery life is your chief concern, the OneOdio OpenRock Pro are the endurance champs of the open-ear category with a huge 19-hour per charge claim, and 46 hours of total playtime. Sound quality is decent, and call quality is very good, though there’s no support for Bluetooth Multipoint. We like that they use physical buttons, but there’s no app for customization or EQ adjustments.

The OpenRock Pro offer IPX5 water resistance, and they’re available in three colors. Their charging case provides excellent protection for the earbuds, but it doesn’t support wireless charging and it’s a bit on the bulky side.

OpenRock Pro Open Ear Headphones

OneOdio OpenRock Pro

Biggest battery

Sanag Z50S Pro Max.

Sanag

Sanag Z50S Pro Max

For folks with glasses

Pros

  • Great for those who wear glasses
  • Sub-$50 price
  • Very good battery life
  • App support with EQ and control customization

Cons

  • No Bluetooth Multipoint
  • Mediocre sound
  • Slightly awkward controls

I wear glasses and I’ve had very few problems when wearing them with traditional earhook-based open-ear earbuds, but perhaps you feel differently. If so, you may want to check out the Sanag Z50S Pro Max.

The Z50S use an “ear clip” design that wraps around the side of your ear instead of the top. It looks awkward, but it works — they’re surprisingly stable and comfortable. The tricky part is using the touch controls which are located on the portion of the earbud that sits behind your ear.

As you might expect at this price, sound and call quality are both serviceable — these buds won’t win awards in either category. They’ve got very good battery life at 8 hours per charge and 48 hours total when you include the case, and there’s even an app with a few EQ presets and touch control customization. An IPX5 rating gives them good protection against water and sweat, and Sanag sells the Z50S in four colors, giving you the opportunity to make a statement with these unusual-looking open-ear earbuds.

Sanag Earring Wireless Earbuds

Sanag Z50S Pro Max

For folks with glasses

Frequently Asked Questions

Are open-ear earbuds better than regular earbuds?

It depends. For sound quality and noise cancellation, regular earbuds are typically a better choice. But in areas like comfort, secure fit, battery life, and staying aware of your surroundings, open-ear earbuds have a distinct advantage.

Do open-ear earbuds have active noise cancellation (ANC)?

No. ANC attempts to silence the outside world, whereas open-ear earbuds are designed to provide as small a barrier as possible between you and the world around you while still letting you hear your music. One minor exception is the Oladance OWS Pro, which has a version of ANC called Focus Mode. Unlike ANC on wireless earbuds, Focus Mode only attempts to cancel a very narrow section of high-frequency sounds that some people may find annoying. It is not a replacement for true ANC.

Are open-ear earbuds good for running and sports?

Yes. Open-ear earbuds are perfect for activities where you want to hear music while still being able to pay attention to the world around you. Runners, cyclists, and even those who workout indoors with a trainer can benefit from the design of open-ear earbuds.

Are open-ear earbuds good for phone calls and video meetings?

Yes. Because open-ear earbuds let you hear your own voice as clearly as if you weren’t wearing earbuds at all, making calls less tiring. The only disadvantage is that if you’re conducting these calls in noisy environments, it might be harder to hear your callers.

Are open-ear earbuds water and dustproof?

Like regular wireless earbuds, some open-ear earbuds have excellent protection against water and dust, while other models have little to no protection. To be sure, check the IP rating on each model.

Can I wear open-ear earbuds with glasses?

Most open-ear earbuds use an earhook design, which could interfere with glasses. However, this isn’t usually a big problem, and doesn’t affect comfort or performance. If you’re very concerned, some models like the Sony LinkBuds and the Sanag Z50S Pro Max avoid the earhook design entirely.

Will people be able to hear my music with open-ear earbuds?

If you play your music at very loud volume levels, there’s a good chance that sound will leak out and others around you will hear what you’re listening to. But at medium volumes (50% to 60%), very little sound will be heard. This will vary from one model to another.






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