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5 Best Open-Ear Headphones for Unrestricted Listening (2024)

Last updated: 7 months ago
12 min read

We tested 193 headphones. Plus, 8 open-ear headphones for this guide.

We can confidently say these 5 are the best on the market. In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • The best open-ear headphones and earbuds that let you fully hear your surroundings.
  • What to look for in the best open-ear headphones?
  • Why pick bone conduction over open-air headphones?

We test and evaluate headphones using a standardized 9-point methodology. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Amazon rating Price Battery Water protection Sound quality rating (1-5) Comfort & fit rating (1-5) More info
TOZO OpenReal Best overall
TOZO OpenReal small image
4.3
Under $50
12 hours (proprietary charger)
IPX8
4.5
4.5
Mojawa Run Plus Best bone conduction
Mojawa Run Plus small image
4.1
Under $130
8 hours (proprietary charger)
IP68
4.0
4.0
SoundPEATS RunFree Runner-up
SoundPEATS RunFree small image
4.3
Under $50
12.5 hours (USB-C)
IPX4
4.0
4.5
3.8
Under $30
20 hours (USB-C)
IPX4
3.5
5.0
TOZO OpenBuds Best true wireless
TOZO OpenBuds small image
4.7
Under $70
7.5h + 30h in case (USB-C)
IPX6
3.0
5.0

How did we measure the main criteria to decide the best open-ear headphones?

Open-ear headphones are made for active users who want to listen to music while working out and maintain awareness of their surroundings.

Consequently, the best open-ear headphones must perform well in these 4 categories:

Let’s quickly explain what we look for in these 4 categories.

Comfort

When taking headphones on a workout, you will use them for multiple hours straight. Therefore, headphones must be comfortable and lightweight enough not to bother you or cause pain or headaches.

TOZO OpenBuds bulky fit
TOZO OpenBuds are one of the comfiest open-ear headphones we’ve tested, as they have a gentler grip and avoid pressuring against your ears.

Sound quality

You’re using headphones mainly to listen to music, so they should produce satisfying audio quality.

Unlike in other headphones, we don’t look for audiophile-grade quality. Instead, we expect the sound to be punchy to give you energy and rhythm during a workout. Any other audio improvements (better clarity, details) are a pleasant bonus.

Durability

Headphones must have at least an IPX4 rating, preferably IPX5. The first ensures full sweat resistance, while the second means you can also use them in rainy conditions.

Mojawa Mojo2 waterproof
To soak your headphones this much, they should have at least IPX5 or higher.

Furthermore, headphones must be flexible. You don’t want to bend them when stretching them over your head.

Ease of use

During sports activities, your hands are busy doing other things, such as lifting weights, holding bicycle bars, maintaining balance when running, etc. So, you don’t have time to control playback via smartphone.

That’s why onboard controls must be intuitive, easily located with your fingers, and provide feedback (an auditory beep or a distinct click after pressing the button).

Mojawa Run Plus volume controls
Mojawa Run Plus’s volume control is in an awkward place, which is hard to reach.

We haven’t mentioned “stability” or “battery life”. We expect stability from all open-ear headphones by default, while the battery life is typically higher than 8 hours, which is already more than enough for 2-3 workout sessions.

We made practical tests like taking headphones on a bike ride or outdoor run to test the criteria above. That’s how we get a bigger picture of how headphones perform “in the wild”.

Furthermore, we have experience testing other types of headphones. So, we have high standards of what we consider worthy of a recommendation.

CONTENTS (show more)

    Best Open-Ear Headphones in 2024

    1. TOZO OpenReal

    1st-place Overall Best Open-Ear Headphones
    • Comfort: Overall very comfortable for most head shapes.
    • Sound: Surprisingly clear and airy sound performance.
    • Durability: Headphones are fully waterproof.
    • Easy of use: Buttons are easy to use and locate, but there’s a frustrating proprietary charger.
    TOZO OpenReal on head

    TOZO OpenReal tick all the boxes for the best open-ear headphones, providing good sound, comfort, durability, and a long battery life with only one weak feature. Find out below or in the TOZO OpenReal review.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
    Driver size icon Driver size: 16.2mm dynamic
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: Air-conduction | Battery life: 12 hours | Wireless range: 65 feet (20 meters) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: Quick charge – Proprietary charger | Mic & Controls: Yes (physical & touch) | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IPX8 | Features: Custom EQ
    • Incredibly natural tuning, especially after EQ
    • Ergonomic design for rock-solid stability
    • Comfortable to wear & compatible with bike helmets
    • Good battery duration of 12 hours per charge
    • Exceptional Bluetooth indoor range of 65 feet
    • Annoying proprietary charger with weak magnets
    • No support for Bluetooth multipoint or Game mode

    TOZO OpenReal are one of the biggest surprises in this category of headphones as they deliver incredibly natural sound.

    While still lacking bass extension, the music sounds full and lush, with good extension in the treble. That makes them suitable for any music genre except the ones that rely fully on bass (hip-hop).

    To achieve such a good sound, you must use the TOZO app. Speaking of the app, it primarily offers sound customizations and more accurate battery percentages.

    You get 12 hours of battery life on a single charge at 50% volume. Since headphones are loud, you’ll probably use them at a lower volume, which increases the battery duration.

    OpenReal are one of the few open-air headphones with an IPX8 rating. This means you can wash them in water without the fear of inflicting damage. Sadly, they lack a multi-point connection and a Game mode, making them less ideal for multitasking and gaming.

    2. Mojawa Run Plus

    trophy Best Bone-Conduction Open-Ear Headphones
    • Comfort: Lightweight build & barely noticeable, but the vibrating transducers emit a tingly sensation.
    • Sound: Surprisingly clear for bone conduction, with a slight bass distortion.
    • Durability: Headphones are fully waterproof.
    • Easy of use: Physical button is great, while the sliding touch surface takes some time to get used to.
    Mojawa Run Plus ear plugs

    Run Plus leaped forward in sound quality using bone conduction technology and are even capable of underwater use. There are just a few problems – Mojawa Run Plus review.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.2
    Driver size icon Driver size: Magnetostrictive driver
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: Bone conduction | Battery life: 8h | Wireless range: 50 feet (15.2 meters) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 50 min – quick charge – proprietary charger | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IP68 | Features: App, multipoint, EQ presets, MP3 player
    • Most balanced sound from bone-conductive headphones
    • Stable fit, suitable for intense sports activities
    • Onboard MP3 player for outdoor runners & swimmers
    • Quality build with an IP68 rating
    • Bluetooth multipoint support
    • Mediocre call quality muffles your voice
    • Pretty noticeable bass distortion

    While most bone-conduction headphones produce harsh, messy sound, the Run Plus actually deliver sound that’s incredibly balanced. They’re still shouty but much less than any other headphones of this type.

    Furthermore, headphones feature 32 gigabytes of onboard storage. That’s enough for 8000 MP3 songs, but they also support AAC, FLAC, WAV, M4A, and APE files.

    Moreover, thanks to an IP68 rating, you can use these headphones in the pool, down to 2 meters in depth.

    A battery life of 8.5 hours is satisfying enough for a lengthy workout or two. Fortunately, due to really fast charging, they can go from 0-100% in just 50 minutes.

    The only two issues we could find were occasional bass distortion and louder-than-usual sound leakage.

    3. SoundPEATS Run Free

    trophy Close-Second Best Open-Ear Headphones
    • Comfort: Minimalistic & comfortable design “dressed” in a soft silicone coating.
    • Sound: Clear & punchy, with a very natural midrange.
    • Durability: Headphones are fully sweatproof.
    • Easy of use: Buttons are easy to locate but a bit mushy to press.
    SoundPEATS RunFree with a helmet

    SoundPEATS RunFree are a refined version of the Lite version, producing clearer sound and using more premium build materials. But they’re a fingerprint and dust magnet – SoundPEATS RunFree review.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
    Driver size icon Driver size: 16.2mm dynamic
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: Air conduction | Battery life: 12.5h | Wireless range: 60 feet (18.3 meters) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 1.6h – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IPX4 | Features: Custom EQ, Adaptive EQ, multipoint, Game mode
    • Great sound quality for this type of headphones
    • Stable & comfortable fit thanks to "liquid" silicone finish
    • Solid Bluetooth connection with 60 feet of indoor range
    • Good microphone quality in quieter places
    • But poor mic quality in louder places
    • Rubber flap protecting the USB-C port looks fragile
    • IPX4 rating is relatively low for sports headphones

    After applying our EQ settings, the RunFree produce a pretty neutral-sounding midrange and treble. While lacking some control in the lows and detail in the highs, these things are hardly noticeable during sports activities.

    To withstand workouts, headphones have an IPX4 rating, ensuring complete sweat resistance. Remember to carefully open the rubber flap protecting the USB-C charging port so you don’t tear it.

    Headphones play music for up to 12.5 hours on a single charge at 50% volume. However, since they’re relatively quiet, you need to push them to at least 60%. So, expect shorter battery durations.

    As for the features, RunFree offers Bluetooth multipoint for connecting to two devices simultaneously and a Game mode. The latter reduces the audio latency to 88 milliseconds. 

    4. SoundPEATS RunFree Lite

    dollar Best Cheap Open-Ear Headphones
    • Comfort: Cheaply built but incredibly comfy to wear.
    • Sound: Decently clear and warm and good enough for outdoor running or cycling.
    • Durability: Headphones are fully sweatproof.
    • Easy of use: Buttons are easy to locate but a bit mushy to press.
    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite on head controlling

    RunFree Lite are a slightly trimmed-down version of the non-Lite model, offering a simpler design and softer sound but a much better battery for less than $30 – SoundPEATS RunFree Lite review.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
    Driver size icon Driver size: 16.2mm dynamic
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: Air-conduction | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 55 feet (or 16.7 meters) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 1-2h – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC | Water resistance: IPX4 | Features: Game mode, multipoint, Adaptive EQ, custom EQ
    • Full, natural sound (after EQ)
    • Long battery life of 20 hours per charge
    • Outstanding stability & long-lasting comfort
    • Feature-rich companion app
    • Robust Bluetooth connection with multipoint support
    • Cheaper-feeling construction
    • Quiet, somewhat muffled sound output & slight distortion

    RunFree Lite are noticeably bassier than the non-Lite version but also softer overall. That results in hearing less details. However, using our EQ settings, the sound remains enjoyable even during a mountain bike descent.

    Due to cost savings, headphones use mostly cheaper plastic. Only the neckband part is covered in softer rubber. On the flip side, they’re one of the comfiest open-ear headphones we’ve tested.

    Moreover, they last the longest, with a battery life of 20 hours per charge. And because of the more intuitive position of the rubber flap, they’re also less annoying to charge than the RunFree model.

    Lastly, the headphones have an IPX4 rating and a full-fledged companion app with custom EQ, Adaptive EQ, Game mode, and multipoint support. For under $30!

    5. TOZO OpenBuds

    true-wireless Best True Wireless Open-Ear Headphones
    • Comfort: Well-designed ear hooks make you forget they’re on your ears.
    • Sound: Very punchy for open-ear headphones but a tad sharp in the treble.
    • Durability: Headphones are fully resistant to sweat and heavy rain conditions.
    • Easy of use: Touch controls are intuitive & you can easily place buds on your ears with one hand.
    TOZO OpenBuds static noise

    TOZO OpenBuds convince with a unique open-ear design and impeccable comfort but could use more in-depth features to tweak some of the issues – TOZO OpenBuds review.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
    Driver size icon Driver size: 14.2mm dynamic
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 7.5h + 30h in case | Wireless range: 60 feet (18.3 meters) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 1.5h – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IPX6 | Features: EQ presets, multipoint
    • Comfortable & stable fit with multi-angle ear hooks
    • IPX6 rating is high enough for all sports except swimming
    • Full surrounding awareness thanks to air-conduction design
    • Long battery life at 7.5h, albiet not as advertised
    • Great indoor Bluetooth range of 50 feet & multipoint
    • Disappointing treble ruins sound quality
    • No customizable audio equalizer

    OpenBuds have the fullest bass extension out of all open-ear headphones and a surprisingly tactile punch. However, these earbuds aren’t for treble-sensitive users due to the occasionally sibilant highs.

    Pairing them to a TOZO app lets you customize touch controls and change EQ presets. Sadly, you can’t customize the EQ.

    Earbuds’ most unique feature is “biaxial rotatingear hooks that comfortably grab your ears. It’s also very easy to attach the earbuds using only one hand. As expected, they provide a solid grip suitable for all sports activities.

    Rated for an IPX6, OpenBuds can withstand sweat, rain, and even splashes from a showerhead. That said, avoid leaving them underwater as they aren’t fully waterproof.

    These best open wireless earbuds should last you for an entire week with up to 7.5 hours on a single charge and another 30 hours inside the charging case. Sadly, no Qi wireless charging available.

    Honorable Mentions: Open-Ear Headphones You Can Also Consider

    Shokz OpenRun Pro

    Shokz OpenRun Pro

    Shokz is the bone-conduction industry giant, and the OpenRun Pro is their flagship model.

    They’re comfortable and produce a bold bass response without distortion but lack a more well-rounded feature set of the Mojawa Run Plus.

    Why Trust HeadphonesAddict

    At HeadphonesAddict, we always compare the new headphones to a reference to observe what is better and what is worse. If possible, we perform objective measurements to avoid personal bias.

    When choosing the best open-ear headphones, we looked at the comfort, sound quality, feature customizability, durability, and quality of materials. We also consider the value when picking the best budget option.

    Mojawa Run Plus bass distortion
    Some headphones surprise us with their performance and value, while others leave us cold.

    Like you, we also sometimes seek advice from others. Just like we expect others to offer us unbiased, professional opinions, we strive to do the same for you.

    More reasons to trust us:

    • We test headphones on 9 key points.
    • We don’t take money for tests and reviews.
    • We don’t delete or edit “bad reviews.” Even when brands ask us to. If the headphones sound bad or have other faults, we tell you about it without embellishment.

    Read more about our headphone test process.

    How to Buy the Perfect Open-Ear Headphones for You

    As mentioned above, there are 4 things you should look for in open-ear headphones: comfort, sound, durability, and ease of use. Battery, stability, and Bluetooth connectivity are already great in all of these headphones, so you shouldn’t focus too much on that.

    • In comfort, ensure the headphones sit gently on your head. If you feel pressure on the first try, it will slowly develop into pain.
    • In terms of sound, try to get the clearest-sounding headphones if you want to enjoy music. Or pick the punchiest if you want the music to give you rhythm during workouts.
    • In durability, ensure that the IP rating matches your sports activity. IPX4 is for the gym, IPX4 or up is for outdoor use, and IPX7 (preferably IPX8) is for underwater use.
    • Lastly, for ease of use, look for physical controls as they’re more reliable. Ensure they’re easy to locate with your finger.

    Should I get open-ear over bone-conduction headphones?

    Always pick open-air headphones over the bone-conduction when looking for open headphones.

    Here’s why:

    Bone conduction headphones are pricier and offer worse sound performance. However, they’re the only option in case of medical issues or outer ear deformation, which prevents you from using conventional headphones.

    Mojawa Run Plus only take headphones
    Bone conduction headphones are getting better, but unless you have medical issues, open-air options are a far better solution.

    The good news is that most great open-air headphones cost less than $100, even less than $50.

    What are the differences between open-ear headphones at different prices?

    Differences between different price points mainly consist of sound and build quality, less in features.

    Open-ear headphones around $30:

    • The sound is noticeably muffled and less detailed. They’re still okay for casual listening, but don’t make you sing alone.
    • Feel more plasticky, with less premium materials like titanium or other solid but flexible metals.

    Open-ear headphones around $50:

    • The sound is clearer and slightly more controlled. The bass feels more tactile and audible. The benefit of that is to give rhythm when working out.
    • Have better build materials, with a soft silicone finish covering many parts. The housing is usually thinner to boost the aesthetic appeal.
    SoundPEATS RunFree vs. RunFree Lite
    The model with a thicker grey neckband is a cheaper RunFree Lite, whereas the sleeker black band belongs to a more premium non-Lite version.

    Open-ear headphones above $50:

    • The sound is even clearer but not necessarily more detailed. They produce a punchier, more distinct bass kick.
    • Use different design solutions to achieve a better user experience. Like turning headphones into earbuds by giving them ear hooks (TOZO OpenBuds).

    Interestingly, features remain pretty similar between different price points. However, the most important feature is the customizable audio equalizer. Here’s why.

    People’s ears are different, so they “hear” frequencies differently. Since you might get a different listening experience than an audio engineer tuning the headphones, you need a way to personalize the sound.

    That’s when custom EQ comes in handy, ensuring you can squeeze the best sound quality possible out of every product.

    TOZO OpenReal front app
    Most companion apps provide a custom EQ or at least sound presets.

    What to Expect from Open-Ear Headphones

    The most significant feature of open-ear headphones is that they offer perfect awareness of the surroundings. However, there are benefits and downsides to that. Let’s see all the pros and cons.

    • Perfect awareness

    Open-ear headphones (open-air or bone conduction) don’t block your ear canal. This means you can hear ambient sound (everything around you).

    The main benefit is increased safety, as you’re more aware of nearby dangers like passing cars, sirens, other peoples’ screaming, etc.

    • Rock-solid stability

    Adopting an ear hook design, open-ear headphones always provide excellent stability. It would be shocking to encounter a model that keeps falling off our heads.

    TOZO OpenBuds one-handed adjustment
    Ear hooks are designed to grab your entire ear and prevent headphones from falling off even during fast head movements.
    • Solid battery life

    Most open-ear headphones have at least 8 hours of battery life or above, enough for around 2 or 3 listening sessions.

    If there’s one potential issue, it is that some brands insist on proprietary charging solutions that aren’t convenient or are straight-out terrible (TOZO OpenReal).

    • Robust Bluetooth connectivity

    Most open-ear headphones we’ve tested have the latest Bluetooth versions (Bluetooth 5.3). Newer versions use more sophisticated protocols to ensure zero audio stutters, even with other Bluetooth devices around you (others use wireless headphones in the gym).

    Furthermore, most headphones have an above-average indoor range of around 60 feet (18.3 meters). This indicates they’re using stronger Bluetooth antennas for receiving the signal.

    Mojawa Mojo2 audio codecs
    Most open-ear headphones use SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs since it would be pointless to use higher-quality ones.
    • Zero isolation

    Perfect awareness comes at the cost of passive noise isolation, which is practically non-existent. Having noise isolation means external sounds can interfere with your music, forcing you to raise the loudness.

    • Good but never audiophile-like sound

    Lower frequencies struggle to sound full without an ear canal seal. So, you can forget about the sub-bass rumble. The bass extension is even worse than in open-back headphones.

    That said, midrange and treble sound really good on newer models. With the progress of technology, open-ear headphones might someday sound as good as other types of headphones.

    How to Pick Open-Ear Headphones That Will Last

    Open-ear headphones are designed primarily for sports. This means 2 things:

    1. They will get frequently soaked in sweat and possibly even rain if you exercise outside a lot.
    2. They will get frequently tossed around or stretched too much when putting them on your head or over a cycling helmet.

    Consequently, if you want your new open-ear headphones to last, you need to look for these features:

    High IP rating

    You must look for at least an IPX4 rating, preferably a higher one. IPX4 means your headphones are tested against sweat and light water splashes, like running in a light rain.

    Higher IPX ratings mean surviving even harsher conditions, like listening to music in the shower or washing the headphones under a tap. The latter is only advisable with an IPX7 rating or above.

    Mojawa Run Plus water splash
    Mojawa Run Plus have an IP68 rating, so you can safely dunk them in water and use them on dusty roads.

    If you want to make extra sure outdoor activities can’t hurt your new headphones, also look for an IP4X rating or above ratings.

    That means headphones resist dust particles of various sizes that can damage the internal components. However, dust resistance ratings are relatively uncommon.

    Durable build

    Cheaper neckband open-ear headphones are made mostly from plastic. Hard plastic is more susceptible to cracking upon impact than metal or housing that’s covered in soft silicone.

    Look for longer warranty coverage

    Longer warranty coverage ensures the manufacturer must repair everything that isn’t inflicted by you. While batteries are typically covered only for a year, other repairs differ from brand to brand.

    Here’s a table of popular open-ear headphone brands and how long they cover your headphones:

    BrandWarranty
    duration
    Returns (after
    purchase)
    Shokz2 years (internationally)
    1 year (China, Taiwan
    Hong Kong, Macao)
    45 days
    Bose2 years (UK & EU)
    1 year in the USA
    90 days
    TOZO1.5 years (after registering
    your headphones)
    30 days
    SoundPEATS1 year (internationally)30 days
    Mojawa2 years30 days

    Try avoiding rubber flaps

    Manufacturers sometimes use rubber flaps to cover charging ports. The issue with flaps is they easily tear off, leaving you with an exposed port, which renders an IP rating useless.

    SoundPEATS RunFree charging port flap
    SoundPEATS RunFree have a fragile rubber flap cover that’s also in a weird spot behind the ear.

    That said, quite a few open-ear headphones use rubber flaps, so they’re harder to avoid than we’d like. The only solution is proprietary ports (TOZO, Shokz), which can be highly impractical.

    Open-Ear Headphones We Considered but Didn’t Make the Cut

    Here are the open-ear headphones that didn’t make the cut:

    • Mojawa Mojo 2: The sound lacks bass and gets occasionally sharp in the treble. The battery is also below average at 5.5 hours per charge.
    • Orange O Bones: Audio is way too exciting to the point of being sibilant. Headphones are also light on features and offer mediocre call quality. However, their battery lasts for almost 11 hours per charge.
    • TrueFree F1: Cheap and with a secure fit, but not as comfy as the rest. They have a decent sound, but it’s a bit bland compared to the competition.

    Open-ear headphones can also be sunglasses with speakers. The Bose Frames series is the most famous, but other brands are making them, too.

    Furthermore, some open-ear models come as a module with a clip to attach to your regular glasses.

    We didn’t add these types of headphones in our guide because we have yet to have an opportunity to test some. 

    FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

    Are open-ear headphones good?

    Open-ear headphones are good when you want full awareness of your surroundings while listening to music. That ensures safety, making them perfect for outdoor runners and cyclists.

    Are there open-ear earbuds?

    Yes, there are open-ear earbuds such as TOZO OpenBuds or Skullcandy Push Ultra.

    Do open-ear headphones leak sound?

    All open-ear headphones leak sound to some degree, which is normal. However, some leak it more than others. Unless you plan to use them in the library, you should worry about that.

    What is the difference between in-ear and open-ear headphones?

    The difference between in-ear and open-ear headphones is that in-ears seal your ear canals, improving bass response and isolation. At the same time, open-ears provide full awareness to increase your safety.

    Conclusion

    We believe TOZO OpenReal are the best, as they pass every criterion with flying colors.

    • #1 Best Open-Ear Headphones for Most People

    Lastly, check our guides on similar types of headphones like:

    2 Comments
    1. It would be really interesting to see a comparison of these used as headsets for calls and Teams meetings, both at home and in the car, or maybe even in an office. That would be the likely use case for me.

      Reply

      1. Aren’t the mic tests useful?

        Reply

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