Hands-on review: Bose Ultra Open Earbuds (2024)

Early Verdict

Bose's attempt at the open-ear form factor is a great success from our early testing, The sound is incredible, the earbuds are comfortable and easy to wear, and they don't shift during runs despite a few threatening wobbles. The high price tag is a barrier though.


  • +

    Very little sound leakage

  • +

    Intuitive to wear and use

  • +

    Immersive Audio capabilities


  • -

    Premium price

  • -

    Uneven-feeling weight distribution

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Jump to:

  • One-minute review
  • Price and availability
  • Design
  • Features
  • Early Verdict

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds: One-minute review

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds are Bose’s attempt at transferring its premium audio expertise and signature bassy sound into an open-ear form factor, and by any metric it succeeds. The best bone-conduction headphones and open-ear headphones generally place an emphasis on a secure fit over sound quality, as it was assumed serious audiophiles wouldn’t be looking for open-ear headphones. Instead, open-ear headphones have been positioned primarily as workout headphones, allowing you to hear traffic and pedestrians while you run or cycle, or listen to tunes during swims.

However, more and more brands are realising that, despite the fact that they’re predominantly used for workouts, open-ear form factors have other lifestyle applications, both in the office (for example, being open to collaboration and replying to a colleague while you’re listening to music or having a virtual meeting), and in the street (it turns out that being more aware of your surroundings isn’t only useful while you’re exercising).

So, we’ve now got an offering from Bose that aims dual drivers at your ears, using Bose Immersive Audio, to give you the best sound quality it can pack into headphones that don’t sit in your ear canal. The sound is very good; the best I’ve tried from air-conduction or open-ear headphones, with their immersive sound-stage technology providing spatial audio that’s ideal for home media, as well as pumping tunes during a 10K.

The experience of being in work meetings is also quite nice, and there’s no disconnect between listening to what the person on my laptop is saying while also being able to hear my office surroundings.

The design is neat, with the headphones hooking onto the side of your ear’s helix rather than over the whole ear itself, with the battery cylinder tucking behind your ear. They do feel a little wobbly thanks to the uneven weight distribution, but have so far refused to actually fall off, even during my first five-kilometer run with the buds. Full judgement will be saved for a full review, but for now… they’re very impressive, albeit a little overpriced.

Watch our video on the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds here:

@techradar♬ Funk Hip Hop Music(814197) - Pavel

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds: Price and availability

Hands-on review: Bose Ultra Open Earbuds (1)

  • Available now
  • Priced at $299 / £299 / AU$449.95
  • More expensive than AirPods Pro 2

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds are available now, priced at $299 / £299 / AU$449.95. That’s quite the price tag: they cost the same as the Bose Quietcomfort Ultra earbuds and more than the AirPods Pro 2, and it’s clear that Bose considers the Ultra Open Earbuds a premium product just like the aforementioned buds.

In terms of sound quality and build, Bose is probably right – but given the slightly unsteady feel of the fit, the price did nothing to soothe my nerves while I was out jogging with them.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds: Design

Hands-on review: Bose Ultra Open Earbuds (2)

  • Interesting, intuitive design
  • Fantastic audio credentials
  • Secure fit, even if it feels precarious at times

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds have an interesting design, similar to the Huawei FreeClip, hooking into your inner ear and directly around your ear’s helix, rather than around the point in which your ear meets the side off your head like the Shokz OpenFit. The ‘battery barrel’, as our Bose rep referred to it, sits behind your ear, and contains a tactile button which lets you switch between listening modes and adjust the volume.

The hook part contains dual drivers that project sound directly towards your ear canal and up into your inner ear, creating a more complete listening experience than bone conduction headphones are capable of. Bose calls its design OpenAudio, and it allows you to crank up the volume while offering very little sound leakage, which many other cheaper buds and open-ear headsets are very guilty of. I’ll come back to this later; but it absolutely works, and the sound quality, especially on Immersive Audio settings, is wonderful.

Snapdragon sound reportedly boosts lossless and low-latency capabilities, which sounds impressive for a headphones category which starts and ends with “how secure is the fit” for most entrants. In regards to the fit, each bud is easy and intuitive to put on after just a few tries, although, as mentioned, they do feel a little weird, with the positioning of the battery barrel at the rear, making them wobble slightly, which occasionally feels precarious.

However, they haven’t fallen out of my ears at any point, even during fairly vigorous head-shaking and running. The only time they did come close to falling out was when I was twiddling the controls while running, when it felt like I could easily dislodge them. Otherwise, no complaints: my one gripe is that they’re so easy to take off in comparison to other headphones that it would be very simple for someone to swipe them off you on public transport or in the street, although the increased awareness that comes with the open-ear design of course means this is less likely to happen. Hopefully.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds: Features

Hands-on review: Bose Ultra Open Earbuds (3)

  • Immersive Audio offers best-in-class open-ear listening
  • Still and Motion listening modes
  • Easy volume and mode-switching

In order to control the earbuds, you use the tactile buttons on the rear of the barrel. You press once to switch between immersive and stereo listening modes, and press twice and hold to toggle the volume – left to turn the volume down, right to turn it up. Easy-peasy.

The really impressive bit is Bose’s Immersive Audio soundstage, which you can access on the Bose app, and which offers Still and Motion modes. The Motion mode allows you to turn your head and move around within a soundstage, creating the impression that sound is coming from a particular direction.

I’ve only tried this mode during a press briefing so far, with a Bose representative talking me through the functionality, but it’s a great feature, and worked well during my brief listen.

It’s all made possible by Bose’s OpenAudio functionality, and bolstered by a load of high-tech audio smarts such as Snapdragon sound and what’s described as a ‘tightly-controlled acoustic structure’. It’s all combined to make the audio on the buds best-in-class for the open-ear form factor: the sound is incredible and satisfyingly bassy, and at times I forgot the buds were open at all – it was just that good.

However, taking calls at work necessitated some quick volume adjustment, as voices channelled through low-quality laptop mics on Google Meets got a little shrill.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds: Early Verdict

I’m still yet to fully drain the battery, and there are a few tests I’ve yet to try, but overall I’m extremely impressed with how the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds have performed. The sound quality, as I’d expected, is wonderful, and the cool clip-on design is far more functional than I was anticipating.

The price is a sticking point, as for less money you can get the AirPods Pro 2, which offer transparency and ANC – I’ll probably knock half a star off for those omissions come my full review. However, these are the best-sounding open-ear headphones I’ve ever tried, and I’m looking forward to testing them further.

Hands-on review: Bose Ultra Open Earbuds (4)

Matt Evans

Fitness, Wellness, and Wearables Editor

Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.

Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.

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Hands-on review: Bose Ultra Open Earbuds (2024)


Are open ear earbuds worth it? ›

TechRadar Verdict. Bose's attempt at the open-ear form factor is a great success from our early testing, The sound is incredible, the earbuds are comfortable and easy to wear, and they don't shift during runs despite a few threatening wobbles.

Are the Bose Ultra open earbuds noise canceling? ›

You won't get any noise cancellation from the Ultra Open Earbuds, and that's by design. The Ultra Open Earbuds generally sound how I expected them to. And that's to say that they're clear, nicely detailed, and consistently pleasant to listen to.

Can you wear glasses with Bose open earbuds? ›

Putting on the earbuds

Look for the L (left) and R (right) markings on the inside surface of each earbud. To get the best fit while wearing glasses, remove your glasses before putting on the earbuds. When the earbuds are stable and comfortable, put your glasses back on.

How do Bose ultra open earbuds work? ›

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds wrap around the outside of your ear a short distance from your ear canal and use air conduction. This delivers more refined audio than bone conduction, and Bose's patented OpenAudio technology powers an impactful listening experience.

What are the disadvantages of open-ear headphones? ›

Open-ear audio allows you to be open to the environment around you without ever skipping a beat. This style of earbuds has historically had a few shortcomings, including less-than-stellar audio and bulky, uncomfortable designs.

What are the cons of open-ear headphones? ›

Open-Ear Headphones Cons

This can be a disadvantage in noisy environments where external sounds might overpower the audio content. Potential Sound Leakage: With the ear canal unobstructed, there's a higher chance of sound leakage at higher volumes.

How long do Bose open earbuds last? ›

With Immersive Audio off, playback time was up to 7.5 hours before battery depletion. With Immersive Audio on, playback time was up to 4.5 hours before battery depletion. Battery life varies based on settings and usage.

Are Bose Ultra Open earbuds waterproof? ›

Other audio features I noted and appreciated included Auto Volume, which adjusts your volume depending on your surroundings, and the fact that the earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant, which means I can take them on vacation with me or wear them out in inclement weather.

Do Bose earbuds fall out when running? ›

And the eartips won't hurt your ears no matter how long you exercise and won't fall out no matter how much you move. Get ready to beat your personal best, again and again. "The Bose Sport Earbuds serve up excellent audio quality, durability and a comfortable fit."

Can you wear Bose earbuds to bed? ›

The best wireless earbuds for sleeping are the Bose Sleepbuds II. The batteries may take forever to charge, but they also last longer than any truly wireless earbuds on the market. The Bose Sleepbuds II masks noise around you and also has a low profile in your ear, so you can sleep in any position without discomfort.

Can you talk through Bose earbuds? ›

Phone calls

Note: The microphone is located on the right earbud. When talking on the phone, you must wear the right earbud. Call notifications: A voice prompt announces incoming callers and call status. To stop call notifications, disable voice prompts using the Bose Music app.

Can you exercise with Bose earbuds? ›

Whether you're pounding the pavement or hitting the gym, the outside world has a way of creeping into your headspace. With the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds you'll get the latest generation of noise cancellation at adjustable levels to control over how much of the outside world you let in.

Is Bose really that good? ›

Bose is a well-known brand, popular for its excellent noise cancelling and incredibly comfortable designs. They produce well-rounded and versatile headphones that also deliver in the sound department. However, their models are comparatively more expensive and less well-built than headphones in the same price range.

Which earbuds have best noise cancelling? ›

All Reviews
ProductRelease YearNoise Isolation - Full Range
Devialet Gemini II True Wireless20239.4
Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless20229.2
Bose QuietComfort 20/QC2020169.2
TaoTronics SoundLiberty 94 Truly Wireless20208.9
11 more rows
Mar 21, 2024

Are open-ear headphones better? ›

Open headphones are designed to allow audio leakage out of the earpieces. They don't block out ambient noise. However, open-back models can often sound more airy, clear or spacious versus their closed counterparts. Open headphones are useful if you need to remain aware of your external surroundings.

What is the advantage of open-ear headphones? ›

Open-ear running headphones are a brilliant accessory if you want to run outside and still be aware of what is around you. In a busy park you might want to hear people shouting or other runners coming up behind you, near busy roads it is important to listen for the noise of approaching traffic.

Are open-ear headphones good or bad? ›

Unlike traditional in-ear headphones that sit inside the ear canal, potentially trapping bacteria and causing infections, open-ear designs sit outside or just in front of the ear, allowing for better ear hygiene by preventing moisture buildup and facilitating natural earwax circulation.

Is it better to have open or closed headphones? ›

While open-back headphones are often preferred for critical listening due to their natural sound reproduction, closed-back headphones can still be used for mixing and mastering. They offer better noise isolation, allowing you to focus on the audio without distractions from the surrounding environment.

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