Feel the Beat of a Different Drum: Shokz OpenRun Pro Bone Conduction Headphones

Shokz (previously known as Aftershokz) have been producing bone conducting headphones for a while, their latest headphone is the OpenRun Pro. This has two sides connected by a titanium band that goes behind the head and over the ears, while each side has a "speaker" that sits in front of the ear connected to  a solid bit that connects to the loop (the right hand side has the charging connection and the on/off/volume buttons). This bit has been redesigned so the charging connection is on the angled back, which makes it impossible to even try to force the magnetic connector on the wrong way round. The left speaker has the multifunction button.

OpenRun Pro headphones

Bone conduction works by vibrating the bones which then transmit the sound to the inner ear, this does mean that if the volume is too loud, then you can feel a vibration against the skin (like being tickled) which can be annoying, but assuming the volume is at a sensible level, this doesn't happen. Being "open ear" means you still hear what's going on around you, which may not be what you want if immersing yourself into a movie or travelling on the tube, but for runners, cyclists and even working out in a gym when you want to be aware of your surroundings these definitely work well.

Though similar in design to the older Aeropex, the OpenRun Pro is slimmed down in size for a more lightweight feel and only weighs 29g.

Bottom view

Audio quality has improved markedly in the OpenRun Pro and sounds more balanced with better depth in the lower frequencies (TurboPitch). Higher frequencies have always worked better and are crisp and clear. The volume can be adjusted sufficiently to overcome wind noise without distorting. Unfortunately fidelity is unlikely ever going to match traditional headphones, the OpenRun Pro delivers pretty good sound quality (Shokz claim 20Hz - 20KHz frequency response).

Top view

On the base of the right hand there are only two buttons, volume up and down, the volume up button is also the power button, if the OpenRun Pros are off, long pressing it will turn them on (and the blue LED will turn on too), holding it down when on, will turn them off. If turning on and continuing to hold, then the LED will flash red and blue, indicating it is in pairing mode.

There's also a multifunction button on the left speaker that pressing will pause/play music, answer a call etc.

Power connection

There are dual microphones which pick up speech which means calls and video conferencing work well.

The OpenRun Pros are also IP55 allowing them to be used in sweaty environments. There is a built-in moisture detector.

Bluetooth is now version 5.1 (though 5.3 is the latest version), but that should allow more stable Bluetooth connections and supporting multipoint pairing (i.e. multiple devices). The SBC codec is supported as well as A2DP, AVRCP, HSP and HFP Bluetooth profiles.

Battery life is now 10 hours on a full charge (which takes 1 hour). A 5 minute charge will give 1.5 hours of usage. Standby is up to 10 days.

Shokz now provide an app (IOS and Android) that allows for 2 levels of EQ (equalisation) optimising for music or voice. The app also supports pairing, multipoint pairing, listening customisation, and user tips.

In the box there's also a hard shell carry case that holds the headphones and a USB-A charging cable (that can fit into the carry case under a strap).

Hard shell carry case

As an artefact of bone conduction technology, if you have slight hearing loss that is caused by something say in the ear canal or similar, sound can actually sound better (or louder) as it's directly stimulating the inner ear [NOTE this is NOT any advice re hearing loss].

Not the most expensive headphones on the market they can be directly purchased from the Shokz site or other retailers for £159 (purchasing from Shokz gives a 2 year guarantee in certain territories).

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