Bose is no stranger to sports earbuds. The company has made a number of them over the years, including multiplepairs of true wireless buds. However, for its most recent option, Bose is taking a different approach. The Sport Open Earbuds ($199.95) are indeed true wireless, but they dont have the typical ear tip that goes inside your ear canal.

Instead, as the name suggests, they have an open design that sits outside of your ear. Not only does this increase comfort, but it also allows you to hear whats going on around you at all times a key safety feature for runners. Add a sporty over-the-ear hook design and water resistance and youve got earbuds prepped for the gym or trail. The only question is whether youre willing to make some sacrifices for the sake of staying in tune with your surroundings.

Gallery: Bose Sport Open Earbuds review | 14 Photos

Gallery: Bose Sport Open Earbuds review | 14 Photos

Design

Like a lot of sports buds, both wired and wireless, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds have a hook that goes over the top of your ear and down behind it. This, of course, keeps them in place while youre moving around on a run or in the gym. And thats even more essential with these since theres nothing going inside your ear that would otherwise keep them from falling out.

The hook design keeps things stationary, but theyre made of hard plastic. They dont offer as much comfort as a soft-touch or flexible material would. Plus, they dont bend to adjust to the contours of your ears. Youre stuck with the exact shape Boses designers selected, which isnt uncomfortable per se, but it also isnt as comfy as it could be.

Due to the Sport Open Earbuds design, the actual earbud component sits at the top of your ear rather than just outside of your canal. This allows for the open design that keeps your ears free to hear whats going on around you while you listen to music or podcasts. Bose has created what it calls OpenAudio technology that beams rich, full-range sound into your ears while reducing what others nearby might pick up. Its a similar concept to the Bose Frames, though these earbuds position the sound source much closer to your ear. So instead of using bone conduction, the Sport Open Earbuds employ specifically placed acoustic ports that channel music to its intended destination, powered by two 16mm drivers. It sounds good on paper, but in practice, my family could easily hear noise from these even at medium volumes.

Samsungs Galaxy Buds Live, also offers an open type design. But with those, Samsung puts the speaker directly over your ear canal. So while theres no ear tip inside your ear, the buds are much closer, which helps with noise isolation and overall sound quality.

Lastly, Bose didnt totally nix on-board controls for the Sport Open Earbuds. There are two tiny physical buttons one on each side that offer a few options. On the right, a single press will play/pause, a double press will skip to the next track and a triple press will return to the previous track. That same button is used to power on the earbuds and answer/end calls. The control on the left earbud activates your voice assistant of choice when you hold it down, and you can set it to announce the battery level with a single press. Thanks to a post-launch update, you can adjust volume with a tap on the outside of the earbuds. Use the right to increase volume and the left to turn it down. Bose also gives you the ability to disable volume control entirely inside of its app (its disabled by default).

Its interesting that Bose employs both a physical button and touch gestures for the on-board controls on these earbuds. The tap is the less invasive action, so it would be great if the company could make some of button-pressing items touch enabled. At any rate, its clear Bose plans to improve the experience over time, since its already doing so shortly after launching the product.

Sound quality

Going into this review, I had flashbacks to testing the Galaxy Buds Live. Samsungs design choices were pretty unique and those earbuds accomplished a lot of what it set out to do. However, the audio quality just wasnt there. Plus, the company included active noise cancellation (ANC) on a product that didnt seal off your ears, which kind of defeated the purpose. My first experience with a set of open design earbuds showed me having your ears always tuned into whats going on around you meant big sacrifices in audio quality.

Thats the case again with the Bose Sport Open Earbuds. Bose has achieved a lot of what it intended: primarily, keeping your ears unobstructed when youre exercising. Theres no denying this has massive implications for safety, especially for runners. But, I could overhear plenty at home while testing these. And, if your gym is anything like the one I went to pre-pandemic, it blasts a variety of pop music at an unreasonable volume. The main reason I wore headphones was to block that out, and these Bose earbuds wont help you much there. You also have to be aware that these arent going to give you the audio quality youll likely be looking for in a set of $200 earbuds. Thats especially true when it comes to low-end.

While the Sport Open Earbuds have decent clarity, the lack of bassy thump sucks a lot of energy out of songs that are otherwise big and boomy. And if youre like me, you rely on an ample amount of low-end to keep you motivated during a workout. With these earbuds, you get plenty of treble and some mid-range but thats about it. This means theyre great for podcasts but just okay for most genres of music.