Oladance OWS Pro
“In the open-ear world, the OWS Pro are the best you can get.”
- Comfy and secure
- Full-range sound
- Plenty of volume
- Incredible battery life
- Bluetooth Multipoint
- Rechargeable charging case
- Not ideal for loud locations
- Slightly awkward controls
- No wireless charging
- Bulky charging case
Oladance is not messing around. This company, which we hadn’t even heard of prior to 2022, has made it its mission to dominate the relatively new world of open-ear earbuds. In less than 18 months it has released three products, including its most recent effort, the $230 Oladance OWS Pro, a sleek set of earbuds that manage to look both futuristic and fashionable. They also appear to address some of the few critiques we had of the company’s first product, the Oladance Wearable Stereo (OWS).
In many ways, the stakes are high for Oladance. Bose — the company that single-handedly created the open-ear category with its Sport Open earbuds — may have abandoned the field, but we’re beginning to see a lot of other brands rush in to fill that vacuum. Some, like Cleer Audio, JVC, OneOdio, Soundpeats, and Shokz, have an established audience, while newcomers like France’s Attitud and Japan’s NWM are hoping to make a name for themselves. I know of at least one other major brand that has its eyes on this space too.
To maintain its lead, Oladance brings its unique style to the OWS Pro, as well as some in-demand tech like a case that can recharge the earbuds (a feature none of the first-gen open-ear products offered), Bluetooth multipoint, and a novel form of noise-canceling designed specifically for open-ear applications. Is this enough to justify its sky-high $230 price — a $50 premium over the Shokz OpenFit? Let’s see if they’re worth it.
Oladance OWS Pro: open, semi-open, or closed?
Table of Contents
First, a quick recap: If you’re an open-ear expert, skip to the next section. Open-ear earbuds aren’t like other wireless earbuds, which can best be described as fully closed (Apple AirPods Pro first and second gen) or semi-open (Apple AirPods first, second, and third-gen). Both styles cover the opening of your ear canals, with semi-open buds sitting in front of that opening and fully closed sealing the opening with a silicone eartip.
Open-ear earbuds, by contrast, don’t cover that opening at all. Instead, their speakers perch on the outside of your ears and attempt to project sound into your ear canals. This approach typically yields much better comfort (there’s nothing stuck in your ear to cause itchiness or pressure) and an unobstructed ability to hear the outside world. Having a conversation with someone in the room is identical with or without a set of open-ear earbuds. Unfortunately, that same openness is their biggest drawback: Almost any competing sounds can all but drown out your music, calls, or podcasts. Most open-ear models struggle to deliver the kind of full-frequency sound that even a modestly priced set of fully closed earbuds can produce.
Open-ear earbuds — especially those with an integrated neckband — look a lot like bone-conduction headphones because both designs leave your ears open. However, the open design offers much better audio quality and fidelity at the cost of durability and stability. (Bone-conduction models usually are fully water and dustproof and sit very snugly on your head.)
Oladance OWS Pro: sci-fi styling
The OWS Pro, in terms of their shape, are very similar to the Shokz OpenFit, with an ergonomic loop that fits around the top of your ear, and an elongated battery section that doubles as a counterweight for the speaker pod that sits up front. But where the OpenFit are swaddled almost entirely in a comfy, but understated soft matte-finish silicone, the OWS Pro are blinged out in your choice of five metallic finishes including black, white, green, pink, and the chrome-like finish of our review unit.
That color choice extends to the OWS Pro charging case, where it can be both a fashion statement and sometimes a liability. My review unit’s case was covered in fingerprints within seconds of leaving its package. It resembles an oversized makeup compact, with a curved bottom and lid. Those curves make it nice to hold despite its size. Unfortunately, a curved bottom also means no wireless charging — you’ll have to use the included USB-A to USB-C charging cable instead.
The earbuds pop in and out of their charging sockets easily, and a four-LED indicator on the front edge gives you a readout on the case’s remaining battery life.
Oladance OWS Pro: all-day comfort
I really liked the fit of the, and the OWS Pro kick it up a notch. They feel lighter, better balanced, and more secure. Using these headphones at the gym or while running will feel very natural for most folks, and with an IPX4 rating for water and sweat, as long as you wipe them clean after a workout, they should be able to stand up to most active lifestyles.
Like the Shokz OpenFit, they’re very comfortable. You’ll quickly forget you’re wearing the OWS Pro, which can lead to some amusing moments. My wife is very accustomed to seeing me wandering around the house with earbuds in, so she knows to check to see if I can hear her before she starts talking to me: “hey, can you hear me?” she asked last week. “Yeah, why?” She gave me a medium-sized eye-roll, pointed to the OWS Pro on my ears, and said, “because.”
You may get that a lot when wearing the OWS Pro — they definitely don’t look like earbuds that let you hear the whole world.
Even though the OWS Pro, much like every other set of open-ear earbuds, are technically one-size-fits-all, bigger-eared folks will likely find a better fit. My daughter, whose tiny ears are a nightmare for most earbuds, found they didn’t stay securely anchored. A bendable join between the front and rear sections would help, but the OWS Pro are flexible, not bendable — they can’t be reshaped to conform to your specific ear shape.
It’s worth noting that if you wear glasses, the Pro have a shorter, thicker connection between the front and back modules than other open-ear models — this may interfere a little with your glasses’ limbs, depending on their shape. You may need to compromise depending on what matters more: Putting the OWS Pro on first will give you better sound while putting your glasses on first will keep your glasses feeling more comfortable.
Another thing to be aware of with any open-ear earbuds is that they will leak some sound. How much will depend on how loud you like to keep the volume. It’s unlikely everyone on the bus will be shooting eye lasers at you, but it’s a fair bet that a person sitting next to you will soon develop a sense of your musical tastes.
Oladance OWS Pro: a little less noise
Because open-ear earbuds don’t create a seal with your ear canal, active noise cancellation (ANC) is really tough to do. ANC works on the principle that if the headphones can create a set of soundwaves that are the exact opposite in terms of frequency and amplitude of the ones that are coming in from the outside, the two will cancel each other out. But without a strong seal, there’s little chance the headphones can match the amplitude of those outside sounds.
And yet, the OWS Pro’s focus mode does just that. It’s not the same magical hush as ANC systems from Apple, Sony, and Bose — it can’t be. Instead, focus mode kills a very specific band of higher-pitched frequencies when indoors. They’re the frequencies we tend to find most distracting, thus the name. And it really works.
Noisy fans are among the most annoying background sounds for me, especially the ones that emit a machine-like whine. Focus mode manages to deaden the exact part of the sound that sets my nerves on edge. Turning it on took the edge off.
Don’t expect it to do any good at all when outside — it’s not great at separating these frequencies when there are a lot of other sounds — but indoors, it works really well.
Oladance OWS Pro: the best sound (for open-ear earbuds)
Though they’re very close to, the OWS Pro are the best-sounding open-ear earbuds you can get right now. They’re powerful, which is essential for overcoming competing sounds when outdoors or in busy indoor environments, and they don’t scrimp on low-end bass response which is typically where open-ear earbuds suffer the most.
The soundstage is delightfully wide, and when you’re at home they offer one of the most unique listening experiences — the sensation of having stereo sound coming from a set of nearby speakers. There’s a natural, low-effort quality to it that reminds me (unsurprisingly) of what it’s like when I’m using open-back headphones.
The midrange has very good detail and transients are snappy — jazz standards like Dave Brubeck’s Take Five sound surprisingly good on the OWS Pro.
Clarity is excellent, though depending on the track, the high frequencies can get harsh at times. I’ve found that there are two ways to tweak the sound. The most important is to adjust the earpieces. Unlike fully-closed earbuds, there’s nothing anchoring the OWS Pro with precision. Minor variations in angle as well as front-to-back alignment can make a big difference to the sound. Once you’re sure this is as good as it gets, you can jump into the Oladance app to try the EQ settings. Don’t expect miracles here — even the manual, eight-band equalizer only offers small tweaks.
Plus — and I’m sorry if I’m belaboring a point — the OWS Pro won’t deliver the same sound performance when outdoors or in noisy conditions (no open-ear earbuds can).
Oladance OWS Pro: controls
For the OWS Pro, Oladance has traded in the OWS’ touch controls for something akin to the pressure-sensitive pinch controls on the stems of the Apple AirPods Pro. Using your index finger, you press a slender bar that sits atop the speaker module by placing your thumb under the module for grip. It’s an actual physical button — pressing down creates a click and so does releasing your squeeze — which is great for tactile feedback. It’s also touch-sensitive: you can also use a swiping gesture for things like volume.
While the click-click of the bar is helpful, actually pressing the bar can be tricky. The speaker module is angled inward to project the sound accurately, but this means you’re squeezing at an angle too. Combine that with the bar’s relatively small sweet spot — which is near the front, not the middle — and, well, it takes some getting used to. A bigger issue is that sometimes presses simply don’t register and you need to repeat them.
On the bright side, if a particular gesture is easier for you than another, you can assign your most-needed function accordingly. The Oladance app lets you configure up to four gestures (single-, double-, triple-tap, and slide), which covers all of the major features, though surprisingly, focus mode isn’t one of them.
Oladance OWS Pro: Multipoint
You can use each earbud independently and, should you ever want to, you can mix and match earbuds from two different sets of OWS Pro into a new stereo pair. You get Bluetooth Multipoint support, which is one reason why you might want to pick them over the Shokz OpenFit, which can only handle one Bluetooth connection at a time.
Multipoint works well — I was able to switch seamlessly between my Mac and my iPhone for music as well as phone calls. I did encounter some weirdness when using Teams on the Mac, including random disconnects, but I’m not sure I can blame the OWS Pro for that — Teams has given me Bluetooth headaches (toothaches?) since the day I started using it.
Oladance OWS Pro: calling
Speaking of Teams, calling on the OWS Pro is very clear, with excellent voice pickup when indoors. Like all open-ear earbuds, you hear your own voice perfectly, making for the most natural calling experience you can get with earbuds or headphones. Outside, things aren’t quite as impressive; background sounds and wind will introduce wobbliness and compression. That’s not unusual — most earbuds struggle when dealing with competing sounds — but for this price, if outside calling matters to you, better performance can be achieved with a Jabra Elite 7 Pro for less money.
Oladance OWS Pro: battery life
Oladance has always been amazing for battery life, and the OWS Pro are no exception. With a claimed 16 hours of playtime on a single charge and a total of 58 hours when you include the charging case, these are some of the only open-ear earbuds you can buy that will give you a full day’s worth of use. Should you actually run them dry, a 15-minute rapid charge will buy you an extra six hours. The Pro also have tiny, hidden power buttons on each earbud that let you shut them down if you leave the case at home. And given how many times I’ve accidentally walked out of the house while still wearing them, you might need this feature more than you’d expect.
The open-ear earbuds category is still relatively new and I don’t think that any brand has delivered a no-compromises experience yet, but no product comes closer at the moment than the Olandance OWS Pro. I’m not wild about their controls and I’m surprised at the lack of wireless charging — especially at this price — but that semi-ANC focus mode is undeniably clever and their comfort, sound quality, battery life, and call quality are all best-in-class.