Bose's New Ultra Open Earbuds Are Unlike Anything Else We've Tried

Part style accessory, part audio product. They launch today and we’ve been using them for the past week, read on for our review.

Tech & Gadgets
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Bose has announced the latest model in its Ultra line-up of premium consumer audio products — the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds. They’re an unexpected entry into the earbuds market and blur the lines between fashion accessory and tech wearable, providing a unique audio experience owing to their openness. The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds haven’t been designed to replace the more traditional in-ear buds that most of us have, but to compliment them, and for those of us who can find a use case they’re the kind of wearable you didn’t know you needed.

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds are clip-on and, instead of sitting inside your ear canal, they attach to your ear on both sides — like a clip-on earring. The earbuds consist of two main parts connected by a flexible silicone arm, with the cylindrical “battery barrel” sitting against the outside of your ear and the speaker unit resting against your concha, acting like a personal mini soundsystem. Due to their open design, users can still hear the world around them whilst being immersed in their whatever they’re listening to — again, for comparison’s sake, this is like being on transparency mode, if you’re an AirPods user. Given this — if you’ve not already guessed — the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds do not offer noise cancellation, so whilst there are places you will not want to use these (airplane), there are others they’d be perfect for.

But how do they perform? We’ve been using them for the past week and its safe to say they provide a very different experience to other earbuds we’ve tried. For starters, they’re incredibly light and due to their clip-on design we found them to be more comfortable over long use periods; because they don’t sit inside your ear canal, we didn’t experience the subtle but unpleasant sense of pressure that some in-ear noise cancelling earbuds can create. They’re very lightweight and this combined with their design means it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them (especially because you can always hear everything happening around you). The open design also leads to a sense of combined immersion wherein the experience of listening to what’s on the earbuds and the world around you becomes one.

In terms of sound (and, indeed, sound leakage) it was an overall positive experience, with some caveats. The earbuds deliver a nicely balanced sound profile that includes surprising warm lows (good bass) given their open nature. We found that they could sometimes sound tinny, but this was always down to them not being fitted properly — a small adjustment (bringing the speaker unit closer in) fixed this each time. Everybody’s ears are different, so your mileage may vary here. In terms of sound leakage (when others around you can hear what you’re listening to) we found that in close proximity, such as in a car, the earbuds would leak when on their highest sound setting; but, true to Bose’s claims, in most other scenarios leakage was minimal and not noticeable.

Bose Immersive Audio — which launched last year with the introduction of the Ultra range — is present on the Ultra Open Earbuds, and the spatial effect is effect is surprisingly good given that the earbuds sit away from your ear canal. The battery barrel also houses a button (a fully clickable, real button; there is no gesture swiping here) which adds a nice tactile touch, but is easy to press when adjusting the earbuds.

The earbuds come in a choice of Black or White Smoke and users can expect up to 7.5 hours of battery life per charge (with up to 19 hours additional hours stored in the charging case). They feature Snapdragon’s Sound Technology Suite and the latest Qualcomm aptX Adaptive codec for hi-res audio streaming, are Bluetooth 5.3 compatible, and Android users can take advantage of Google Fast Pair.

Bose’s Ultra Open Earbuds are available today via the brand’s website priced at $299 USD / £299 GBP.

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