Shokz OpenRun Pro review

I didn’t believe in bone-conduction headphones until I replaced my AirPods Pro with AfterShokz Aeropex for running. The secure fit and open-air listening experience complemented my workout needs, even if the audio quality paled compared to the best sport headphones worn inside or over your ears.

Enter the $179 Shokz OpenRun Pro, a step up from AfterShokz Aeropex (which have been rebranded to OpenRun) and the first launch since the company’s rebrand. The Pro version promises stronger bass, improved microphone quality, larger buttons and longer battery life.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Price and availability
The Shokz OpenRun Pro cost $179, which is $50 more than the Shokz OpenRun, but still competitive with the best headphones. The OpenRun Pro cost the same as the Apple AirPods 3, for example.

You can preorder Shokz OpenRun Pro now, though release timing hasn’t been confirmed. The OpenRun Pro headphones only come in black at launch, with more colors coming later this year.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Design and comfort
The design of Shokz OpenRun Pro is very similar to the standard OpenRuns. If my OpenRun headset wasn’t blue, I’d have a difficult time distinguishing the two at a glance. Though the OpenRun Pro dons the new “Shokz” logo, dropping the “After.”

A pair of vibration drivers are built into the ends of over-ear hooks that connect to each other via a thin yoke. The band is designed to snake behind your head, almost reaching your neck. For me, that means wearing Shokz OpenRun Pro under my hair or below a ponytail. The yoke doesn’t offer any flexibility, so I couldn’t adjust the size to fit my head snug as I’d like, but I’d trade that off for barely-there feel any day. The OpenRun Pro weighs just about an ounce. Sometimes I’d forget I was still wearing them long after I finished a workout.

No matter how much I moved, I couldn’t shake the OpenRun Pro off. The reason I ditched AirPods Pro for running is because the noise-cancelling buds kept falling out of my ears at the track. As was my experience with the regular OpenRun headphones, the OpenRun Pro didn’t budge during my runs.

Since Shokz OpenRun Pro is rated IP55 sweat-proof, the headphones are safe for most kinds of workouts, even if you get caught in a little rain. The rating doesn’t cover swimming, but Shokz OpenSwim (formerly AfterShokz Xtrainerz) offer a fully-waterproof alternative.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Controls and voice assistants
The Shokz OpenRun Pro uses the same physical buttons for controls as the standard OpenRun. A single multifunction button sits on the left driver housing facing out, while the volume rocker (which integrates the power button) is on the underside of the rectangular section behind the right ear hook. The OpenRun Pro’s rocker is almost twice as large as the Open Run’s rocker, solving my biggest complaint concerning the OpenRun’s usability.

As for the MF button controls, a single tap means pause or play while a double tap skips to the next track. Holding down the MF button summons a voice assistant — either Google Assistant or Siri, depending on your paired smartphone — for queries or additional controls. I had no trouble waking Siri to respond to a text during my workout. Some more full-featured headphones can alert you to notifications via your voice assistant, but I don’t care for that, especially while I’m in the middle of listening to my running playlist’s power jams.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Sound quality
Wireless bone-conduction headphones don’t sound as strong as most wireless headphones. Compared to even the best cheap earbuds, there’s a certain degree of definition lost when music isn’t fed directly into your ears. But the Shokz OpenRun Pro come the closest of any bone conduction headphones I’ve tested (including the Bose Frames) to delivering all-encompassing sound.

Shokz OpenRun Pro excelled with electronic synth riffs, maintaining precision and sophistication throughout Van Halen’s “Jump.” Rihanna’s “We Found Love” sounded sexy, yet still punchy. Vocals aren’t as pronounced as I usually like, though the witty verses of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us” held their own against the soaring piano line.

Now let’s talk about bass. Shokz says the OpenRun Pro gained two bass enhancers compared to the regular OpenRun headphones, so I expected a better thump. The improvement is actually quite subtle. I only noticed deeper levels in true bass-heavy tracks like Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids,” though the OpenRun Pro can’t match the song’s complexities carried through over-ear headphones.

Yet I’m hesitant to truly compare bone conduction headphones to over-ear or in-ear headphones. The use-cases are different, with bone conduction catering specifically to those who want to be able to hear what’s happening around them. While the best noise cancelling earbuds block noise, bone conduction lets it all in. I don’t want that in the gym, but when I’m outside running, being able to hear people and vehicles is crucial to safety. Even during a dog walk, being a female in a busy city forces me to pay attention to my surroundings at all times.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Call quality
The basic OpenRun Pro headphones struggled with call quality, creating a noticeable echo and picking up on far too many ambient noises. Shokz answered by adding a dual noise-cancelling microphone to OpenRun Pro.

I ran several call tests (some unintentionally, forgetting I had the OpenRun Pro on) and each time the receiver could tell I wasn’t speaking through my smartphone’s microphone. While some detected a faint echo, or the voice of a loud passerby picked up during a walk, the general consensus gave the OpenRun Pro a thumbs-up on call quality.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Battery life
Another notable upgrade the OpenRun Pro has over the OpenRun is battery life. The OpenRun Pro is rated for 10 hours rather than 8 hours, offering more listening time between charges. Better yet, the battery can last up to 10 days when the headphones are turned off. With a couple of workouts lasting about an hour, the OpenRun Pro I tested needed juice after one week, with the built-in assistant reminding me of the battery level every time I turned the headphones on.

I wish the headphones would automatically turn off when I wasn’t listening to music for an extended period of time because, again, I forgot I was wearing the OpenRun Pro often. Fortunately, a 5-minute quick charge gave me about 1.5 hours of listening time in case I realized OpenRun Pro was dead when getting ready to workout. The case is protective, but it doesn’t have built-in charging like AirPods, Powerbeats or Galaxy Buds cases.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Verdict
Different styles of headphones serve different purposes, and the Shokz OpenRun Pro’s purpose is important enough to earn the headphones a spot in my rotation of audio hardware. While I like the regular OpenRun model for outdoor runs, the OpenRun Pro’s improvements to call quality and battery life make it a stronger champion for bone conduction technology.

Whether for ear health or spatial awareness, bone conduction is becoming a capable alternative to headphones that blast sound directly into your ears. In situations where it’s important to hear what’s happening around me, it’s bone conduction or bust.

 

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