Best open-ear earbuds 2024

Open-ear earbuds can be great tools! They may be a solid option for you on outdoor runs, or for that open office co-working space, or if you work in a warehouse and need your ears to be unobstructed by a silicon or memory foam ear tip lodged inside your ear canal. My issue with them has always been a phenomenon called “auditory masking.” Simply put, when listening to a pair in a quiet environment, they may sound great but as soon as you introduce city traffic noise, or indoor cafe/restaurant noise, those new sounds tend to drown out the music. Bass response all but goes away. Vocals become hard to hear. Traditionally, those have been the trade-offs for having nothing sitting in your ear canal.

With the release of the new Bose Ultra Open Earbuds, I decided to revisit the product category. And, WOAH I’m glad I did! In this collection are the best open-ear earbuds in this category, each for different reasons. There was one which stood out from the rest for a number of reasons. And there was even a close runner-up which made me seriously consider which one I’d give the title of “best overall” to. I’ll tell you about those later on, but first, check out all the best picks to consider!

Meet the best open-ear earbuds

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Open-ear, auditory masking, picking what works for you

Auditory masking is the biggest issue you’ll encounter when deciding which open-ear style earbuds you’re going to rock with. To test this collection of earbuds, not only did I wear them in my daily walks through the city, or at a block party style flea market event I went to, but I also sat in front of my home speakers with 75dB of city street urban noise blasting at me from YouTube. I used a dB meter to confirm that number. You’re going to be listening to these earbuds at lower volumes so that you don’t dull your situational awareness so it’s important that they perform well under those conditions. 

1MORE’s Fit S50 and Soundcore’s AeroFit Pro’s performed admirably under these circumstances because of how they’re positioned over your ear canal. I had to crank the Bose Ultra a bit more when I was at the flea market because there was competing music being played at that event. Those conditions weren’t really “fair” though because I doubt most users will be wearing these at an event where music is blaring, as they’re also trying to listen to music through the ‘buds. For my city traffic test, Bose Ultra held up equally well to the previously mentioned units, as did the Shokz OpenFit which I didn’t have at the flea market block party.

I think that what sets Bose apart in terms of situational awareness is that they don’t cover your ear canal at all, allowing for the most unobstructed environmental sound. Since open-ear style ‘buds are so niche, I think the primary consideration in choosing a pair is likely going to be battery life. Since 11 to 14 hours is far more than you’re going to get out of any active noise canceling ‘buds, some shoppers may look at those with battery life comparable to the best ANC earbuds and ask, “What’s the point?”. A fair question.

Though Bose had the shortest battery life with Immersive Audio turned on, I still gave them Best Overall because with it off, they get seven and a half (depending on listening conditions), and only 10 minutes in the case gets you two more hours of playback. So, even at four and a half hours with Immersive Audio on, 20 minutes of case time gets you four more hours, getting you through an eight-hour workday. If you don’t want to fuss with that though, you have my insights and battery stat info to power your purchasing position.

Tshaka Armstrong

Tshaka Armstrong is a nerd. Co-Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization, Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets, and film industry tech for Rotten Tomatoes. In addition to writing for Android Central, he’s a video contributor for Android Central and posts everything else to his own YouTube channel and socials. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

  • ballzley
    Thanks for doing the research. But the real question stands: which one is best for quiet ASMR conversations?