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Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones review

19 Jul 2022
Verdict:

Bone conduction isn't a perfect solution for cycling, but this is a fantastic piece of tech

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Impressive sound quality (for bone conduction), situational awareness, mostly straightforward controls, battery life
Against 
Audibility at speed or in gusty conditions, antisocial in quiet spaces, skipping tracks hit or miss

The Shokz OpenRun Pros are wireless bone conduction headphones designed to let you hear ambient sounds and listen to audio at the same time.

The OpenRun Pro is the flagship model from Shokz (formerly Aftershokz) and it gets the brand’s best bone conduction tech, claiming to offer ‘premium sound quality’.

While bone conduction has some drawbacks for cycling that we’ll get into, the OpenRun Pro is a seriously impressive product that makes a great case for itself in a variety of everyday scenarios. Thanks to the audio quality, it’s worth the premium over the more affordable Shokz OpenRun.


Shokz OpenRun Pro key features and specs

  • Bone conduction means nothing in your ears
  • Bluetooth 5.1 wireless
  • Quick charge – 5 minutes adds 1.5h run-time
  • Built-in battery with 10h claimed life
  • Proprietary magnetic charge port
  • IP55 protection (able to withstand sweat and splashes)
  • Dual noise-cancelling mic for calls
  • 29g weight

Shokz OpenRun Pro design and features

The OpenRun Pro is a one-size-fits-all design with a titanium-cored headband that acts as a spring, gently gripping the wearer’s head.

The headphones hook over your ears and the sound-producing part – I hesitate to call it a speaker – sits in front of them, sending audio directly into your skull but leaving your ears open to the world. 

The headphones are completely self-contained with no detachable parts, no adjustments and because they use Bluetooth, no wires.

Charging is via a proprietary magnetic port that accepts the supplied USB cable. With no flap covering the port as there was on some previous models, there’s very little to go wrong.

There are just three buttons on the OpenRun Pros. Two control volume, with the volume up doubling as a power on/off switch.

A third is multifunctional, with play/pause and answer/end call as its primary functions, and skipping forward and backwards also available using multiple presses. I found the skipping function hard to nail consistently as you need to get your presses just right.

Some minor additional functionality such as switching EQ modes is available using the the Shokz app on your device, but you don’t need the app to use the headphones.

I didn’t find it added much to the experience, except that it allows you to enable pairing with two devices simultaneously.

Battery life for the OpenRun Pro is claimed to be 10 hours and that feels about right having used it extensively. Charging is rapid, just don’t forget to pack that lead if you’re away from home, because standard USB cables are no use here.

Like most wireless headphones, the built-in battery will have a finite lifespan, and the headphones are not designed for disassembly or easy recycing. This is unfortunately the case with most consumer electronics, so I’m not singling out Shokz here.



Wearing the Shokz OpenRun Pro: Sound quality and practicalities

For their intended purpose – running, walking and everyday life – the OpenRun Pro headphones are genuinely brilliant.

They’re lightweight and on my fairly large head they grip well enough to stay put, without being uncomfortable.

They should work for most people but, if you can live with dropping down to the cheaper OpenRun (see below for a detailed comparison), there’s a Mini version for those with smaller heads – Shokz offers detailed advice on sizing.

The OpenRun Pros are not audiophile headphones by any stretch, but sound quality for on-the-go use is absolutely fine for music, and all you’ll ever need for podcasts and audiobooks.

While sports may be the obvious application for the OpenRun Pros, I found them incredibly useful round the house and walking the dog.

They stay on better than separate wireless earbuds and of course, with no trailing wires, they don’t get caught in things or get in the way.

Because your ears are open all the time, they don’t give you that sensory-deprived feeling of conventional headphones.

You can still hear when someone speaks to you and you still get to enjoy your environment, but you can layer your own soundtrack on top of it.

A further benefit of bone conduction that is seldom discussed is that in principle it doesn't rely on having a functioning eardrum. Shokz is cagey about the potential benefits for those with hearing loss, but here’s one piece of very anecdotal evidence: my brother-in-law who’s partially deaf in one ear is pretty sure he can hear better with Shokz.

As well as listening to music and spoken word, the OpenRun Pro functions as a Bluetooth phone headset.

If like me you’re not particularly accustomed to talking into the void like a minicab driver, you may find taking calls this way mildly disconcerting, but it works really well and I’ve had no complaints from my interlocutors.

One area where the Shokz aren’t a great substitute for conventional headphones is in quiet spaces where you don’t want to disturb other people, such as public transport. They leak a fair bit of sound, making them quite antisocial.

Shokz OpenRun Pro for cycling

It’s a mixed bag for riding. As with previous offerings from Shokz/Aftershokz, audibility becomes an issue at higher speeds (over 25mph or so) or when the wind is blowing.

That’s no surprise – with your ear canals open, even a small amount of buffeting will drown out the audio being injected into your temples.

Despite this limitation, the Shokz are a decent option for general riding. The good-sized play/pause button on the left side is easy to find when you’re in motion, and I found it worked best simply to pause my podcasts at the top of a descent.

For music, you might just let the Shokz carry on playing, and accept you’re not going to hear every note.

The volume buttons on the right-hand side are easily located, so there’s no need to pull your phone out of your pocket as long as you’ve get plenty of content cued up.

A further issue I had with a previous incarnation of the Shokz was that they could clash with your helmet or glasses.

This will obviously depend on exactly what kit you’re using, but the OpenRun Pro is lower profile than ever, and I didn’t have a problem here. It does sit on your ears however, so some contact with your glasses or sunglasses is inevitable.

Shokz OpenRun Pro vs. OpenRun

The Shokz OpenRun is £30 cheaper than the OpenRun Pro at £129.95.

The OpenRun is actually the older Aeropex model, updated with quick charging and a new name. While the OpenRun Pro gets the latest (and currently best) ‘9th generation’ bone conduction tech, the OpenRun is 8th gen.

I’ve tested the OpenRun and OpenRun Pro back-to-back and the difference in sound quality between the two models is quite noticeable.

The OpenRun Pro sounds much richer, with more full-bodied bass. It also offer two hours more battery life, a claimed 10 hours versus eight.

With a relatively small price difference between the OpenRun and OpenRun Pro, I can’t see much reason to favour the cheaper model.

The only area the OpenRun has an edge is waterproofing – it’s rated IP67 (‘waterproof, not for swimming’) vs. the Pro’s IP55 (‘sweatproof, against splashing water’). Oh, and it weighs 3g less, as if that matters.

Shokz OpenRun Pro verdict

If you’re on a tight budget I’d still suggest trying a pair of cheap sports headphones as an alternative to bone conduction – JVC’s basic HA-EB75 is a solid option that doesn’t block too much ambient noise meaning you can still hear traffic – but the Shokz are more comfortable, and having your ears fully open is simply more pleasant.

While the OpenRun Pro isn’t the perfect solution for cycling, it’s a very clever bit of kit that works well and shows how far bone conduction tech has progressed.

Given how useful these headphones are for everyday life as well, I’m an avowed fan.


Photos: Joseph Branston

Products reviewed by Cyclist are independently selected and tested by our editorial team. Cyclist may earn an affiliate commission if you make a purchase through a retailer link. Read our reviews policy.

Price: 
£159.95

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