The Bose Sport Open are wireless earphones that sit over the ears, instead of inside them, providing unimpaired hearing and situational awareness for running, hiking, backpacking, and even biking.
The earphones are essentially curved plastic that wraps around the back of the ear, with two 16mm drivers embedded. These sit just above the ear canal, firing audio directly inside but never actually block the entrance. Each earphone is fully wireless and has a single button on each that is used pausing, playing audio, answering calls or triggering a digital assistant. They have an IPX4 water resistance rating, good enough for rain and sweat, have an 8 hour rated battery life, include a lightweight travel case and a dedicated podium charger. The earbuds themselves weigh just 1 ounce for the pair, or about 3.4 ounces when placed inside the travel case. They retail for $200.
What I liked
The first thing I noticed is of course how good the audio quality was with these. To preface, I’m no stranger to headphones and audio in general, with audio being a long running hobby of mine for about two decades now. Buying and trading headphones is something I do for fun, just so I can hear them all. Now, I have owned many pair of open style headphones and generally these are my preference due to how big and real they can sound, with the music sounding more like it is coming from around, and less from the inside of my skull. What I didn’t expect based on my previous experience with the Bose brand was the imaging and spaciousness the Sport Open can provide. The music can at times sound environmental, with tones bouncing and jumping around with clear direction and position. The audio comes in loud and clear, with a warm, almost dark sound profile that is mostly delightful to listen to. The bass is very present and provides some punch (although this will vary based on how your ears are shaped I assume) with the mids being pushed out front and emphasized to a degree. The treble, while clear and fairly reactive, is somewhat muted with symbols and snares sitting in the background just a bit, which I honestly prefer. Sub-bass is lacking a bit, but the headphones still come across as sounding very full, rich and complete when taken as a whole. Having the drivers floating above the ear, I really didn’t expect the warmth and punch these provide (nor the maximum audio output they can provide) as these types are often sharp or tinny as the struggle to provide volume. Thankfully, none of these issues are present here.
Using the headphones is easy enough. A press of the single button on the right earphone turns them on. A long press from a powered down state will launch them into pairing mode instead. Once they’re on, a single press will play or pause, and another long press will shut them back down. The left button is exclusively used to launch the assistant which can be triggered via a two second hold (defaulting to Bixby for me, which I hope to be able to change in the future) or a quick press to hear the battery level. The left button seems customizable based on the app, but currently I just have the one “option” to launch the assistant despite having a “customize shortcut” slider that can be toggled on and off. Setup does require the Bose app, which is somewhat irritating but in the end does provide additional functionality, so I’ll tolerate it.
Being able to hear what is going on around me is the primary reason I picked these up, and in this aspect they do not disappoint. At moderate to low volumes, I was able to hear every leaf under my food, the chipmunks in the bushes, quiet chatter in the office, and even the gentle grind of gravel as notoriously sneaky bikes cruise up and around me on my local trails (not that I let that happen, of course). The confidence they provide while in use over traditional in-ear headphones, even those with ambient modes, simply cannot be understated. These even provide better clarity than my bone conduction headphones, probably due to the way bone conduction tends to vibrate the inner canal and bones surrounding it. As a bonus, people around me generally can’t hear the music I’m listening to even at medium volume unless it is in a very quiet environment.
The carry case is fairly compact and feels great in the hand. It is basically a magnetized clamshell that clamps shut with a satisfying “clunk”. The earphones stay in place, with only a slight jiggle if you really shake them about, and the locking force of the magnet makes it nearly impossible for it to come open accidentally. The inside is lined with a soft, scratch free felt which does a great job of protecting the material from scuffs, but it does attract lint something fierce. The exterior has a nice rubbery texture that I very much appreciate as it prevents slips and drops, and keeps it in place on surfaces and in packs. It will fit in a pocket, but due to the shape of the earphones themselves, it is a little larger than many more traditional in earbuds when inside the case. This is not a charging case, but doing away with a second battery results in a lower weight and more compact, narrow shape, which can be viewed as a positive.
Build quality is rather excellent. The earphones themselves are basically all plastic aside from the internals (magnets, drivers and charging contacts), but have an appreciable texture, excellent consistency and is impressively sturdy. The plastic can scuff up with enough drops, but has so far resisted anything that really stands out after a few falls. The carry case is especially well built and is completely devoid of flex, which is reassuring to something who fully intends to chuck these into a variety of packs filled with heavy gear. The charging base follows the same base basic trends, but features a soft but sturdy USB cable and a solid feel overall.
The Sport Open looks quite nice. They slip around the ear in a decidedly modern fashion, with an aesthetic that is present, but not actually presenting or gaudy. They blend in with their surrounds in a way that equally makes them come across as professional and sporty, with the muted logo and modest coloring. They have a distinctly matte finish that doesn’t fingerprint or show dirt and grime easily too, which is ideal.
Call and even microphone quality, as I keep hearing, is especially good. Indoors and out, I keep receiving compliments on how loud and clear voice is projected, even when talking quietly or in windy conditions. For me, someone who chronically works and plays with headphones at the helm, being able to take a call at any time is vital, so this is something that really has benefited me. I’ve even been using them during my online meetings with great success.
Battery life is good, providing a solid 8 hours in warmer temperatures. This is long enough to get most people through a long day and they charge very quickly on the dedicated dock. Just a few minutes provides hours, and two hours seems to be enough for a full charge. It is again worth noting that the case has no charging capability, but with the battery getting me through the day routinely, I can’t say I miss it or the extra weight it would have brought along.
What I didn’t like
The headphones have no actual volume controls, instead relying on the phone’s audio controls for adjustments. For me, someone who generally keeps their phone tucked away in a backpack when using these, I find this very inconvenient. I have found that I can summon my digital assistant via a long press of the left earpieces button and change the volume with my voice, which is something, but I would much rather just be able to configure this button to adjust volume instead. In my mind, a single press to adjust the volume up, a hold of the button down to adjust the volume it down, and a quick double press launching the assistant sounds ideal. Hopefully this is customizable in the future via a software update.
The buttons on the earphones are small, somewhat hard to press, and tend to press on my ears in an uncomfortable way when used. They also require the entire hand with two fingers holding the earphones in place and the thumb actually pressing the button.
They do not, for me, seem to play well with glasses or sunglasses. I find the plastic on plastic experience distracting, and they kick my sunglasses into a bit of a forward position, which I find uncomfortable.
Comfort seems to be a mix. I like how light-weight the headphones are, and I can at times forget that I’m wearing them, but after a while they can also make my ears a bit sore as they somewhat flex the cartilage outwards. They can also grind up against the softer parts of my ears in some situations, but they do stay in place, even while running. I do notice that they are notably more comfortable on my left ear than my right, despite as far as I can tell, my ears being basically identical, so there will clearly be some variance. I feel like they would be a bit better, but probably a bit less secure, if the wings were thinner, somewhat flexible, and longer. I’m still adjusting to them so perhaps this will improve for me over time, but for now it seems like it will come down to the wearer and how exactly the headphones jive with their natural ear shape. I have certainly used far more comfortable clip on headphones, but they’re not bad overall.
I found myself overall impressed with the Sport Open. They’re light-weight, have a great sound, and provide good enough battery to get me through long hikes, bike rides, and even a work day. The ability to hear everything around me while also enjoying my music was the point of attraction for me as I can take them hiking, running, biking, or just use them while working out at home without completely blocking out everything around me. I also am not much of a fan of in-ear headphones, so having them float above the canal was another perk. The open design is not only a safety feature, but also one that puts my mind at ease as I am never comfortable with being unaware of my surroundings. I always like to keep a check on what is going on around me, just in case. The comfort and usability of the earphones are both a bit of a mixed bag. How well they fit and the comfort they provide will certainly come down to the shape of the ear they’re resting on. I would greatly appreciate the ability to customize that left button to control my volume in some way, even if was a bit clunky to do so. Still, aside from some minor complaints, they’re excellent headphones that seek to offer something truly useful, and are by far the best sounding offerings in the wireless, open category, making them easy to recommend.
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I purchased these for personal use and had no obligation or negotiation to review them.
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