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Bose Ultra Open Earbuds review: completely stylish, completely different

Bose’s latest earbuds are open for business…

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds review: completely stylish, completely different
Marc Chacksfield
15 February 2024

Open earbuds aren’t for everyone. They are a specific earbud category for those who don’t want the immersion of noise cancelling and want to be aware of their surroundings.

They’re designed to let the ambient background sound in, while still also offering up your music of choice in crystal clear clarity. For that reason, they are usually the go-to for runners.

There are currently two ways to create the ‘open’ nature of these earbuds. Go down the bone conducting route (how this works still feels like actual magic to us) or create a system where an earbud rests close to the ear but doesn’t block the canal.

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds use this system, but Bose has created an earbud like nothing I have worn or heard before.

I’ve been using the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds in the open for a few weeks now - here are 5 things you need to know…

1 Design is superb - more earcuff than earbud

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds review
Image Credit: Future

Bose has created a superb new design for its Ultra Open Earbuds. It’s taken inspiration from the jewellery world, creating an earcuff that is two parts of obviously sophisticated audio tech (the bud and the driver) that’s connected by a bendy band.

Putting them on does take some getting used to - there is a how-to wear instruction guide in the accompanying app - but once they are on they are ridiculously comfy. So much that I forgot I was wearing anything after a while.

Interestingly, Bose has decided not to make its brand visible on the earbuds, tucking its logo into the bit that sits at the back of the ear.

The pair I tested was the White Smoke version, which has a metallic strip on the side of the earbuds and a metallic physical button on the top of both the barrel-shaped part of the earbuds. That metallic strip is crying out for personalisation and I am sure this is a big part of Bose's plans for the buds going forward.

The case they come in is unassuming - but does have Bose branding on the front - and pill shaped. I found that there is a slight rattle when the earbuds are inside, due to the malleable shape of them but they are secure thanks to a very satisfying magnet snapping them into place.

2 Setup is simple - I was listening to music in seconds

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds review
Image Credit: Future

Anyone who has bought Bose before will be familiar with the accompanying app and how easy setup is. I was using a Google Pixel 8 Pro to test the Ultra Open Earbuds and thanks to Google Fast Pair, the phone instantly recognised the buds and there was no faffing around.

As mentioned, it does take a little longer affixing the earbuds to your ears but you do get used to unfurling them and hooking them around.

There isn’t a perfect fit as such, either - you can move them up and down the shape of your ear till they feel both snug and comfortable.

3 Sound is superb - even when getting a sweat on

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds review
Image Credit: Future

I will talk a little bit about how having 'open' earbuds does take a while to get used to below, but first sound quality. In short: it's excellent.

Helado Negro's album PHASOR sounded superb throughout, with the ear buds engaging well with both the high and low end. While the background sounds were there, when music is piped through that is definitely the focal point of the sound.

Wall Of Eyes by The Smile sounded crisp, with none of the detail of the jazz drumming lost in my listen. The epic Bending Hectic lost none of its power and the immersion was akin to listening to it through noice cancelling headphones.

One of the big reasons for this is Bose's fantastic Immersive Audio features. This can be toggled between Still and Motion (and turned off). While I wouldn't recommend it while listening to audio books, it's superb for bringing a deeper resonance to the music listened to.

Auto volume is also a saviour, adjusting the volume accordingly to how noisy or not noisy the place you are in is. These modes can be flicked on and off thanks to the physical controls on the top of the earbuds. I did find myself delving into the app more often than not, though.

The kicker for me, though, was running with the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds. They are some of the most comfortable running earphones I have tried - apart from the occasional slight wobbling feeling - and their open nature meant that I was fully aware of everything around me while A Tribe Called Quest was egging me on to beat my PB.

4 Open ear takes a while to get used to

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds review
Image Credit: Future

If, like me, you usually listen to music with noise-cancelling on, it does take a while to get used to the ‘open’ nature of the Ultra Open Earbuds. You can hear everything!

While that’s precisely the point, when living in a city or encountering a noisy environment, managing the ambience of background noise with what you are listening to can sometimes feel like a sensory overload.

Thankfully the BoseOpen Audio technology that’s inside these is really impressive. You can crank up the volume to drown out the noise if needed, while always knowing that if someone needs to chat to you, or if you are crossing a road and the like then you aren’t isolating yourself from this.

The clarity of the music you can hear is really impressive, too, and while there is a little bit of sound leak it’s very minimal and nowhere near as annoying as the tinny sound you hear from cut-price cans.

In fact, Bose’s ‘open’ sound works so well that I ordered a coffee for the first time without taking my earphones out. I have seen plenty of people do this before but it always felt a bit rude. Because I was completely aware of my surroundings, though, I felt I could - and did! - have a coherent conversation without taking the buds out.

5 They are designed for all-day wear Bose Ultra Open Earbuds review

Given the 'open' nature of these earbuds they have been designed for all-day wear and have a battery life to back this up. While the battery does drain listening in immersive mode, you should get around 7.5 hours out of the things.

They can last up to 48 hours, though, thanks to the charge in the case. And when I did feel like they were running low, it only took a 10 minute charge to get a couple of hours' play out of them. It's really impressive how long these earbuds last - and that quick charge tech means that low-battery fear is a thing of the past.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds: Final Verdict

Smart stylish and as fashion-focused as Bose has ever been, the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds are an absolute revelation in sound and form.

Granted, 'open' earbuds aren't for all but if you want to be aware of everything around you, while still piping pitch-perfect tunes into your ear then these are for you.

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds are available now for $299/£299 - head to Bose for more information.