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Shokz OpenFit Air review: more affordable, just as safe

The Shokz OpenFit Air in their charging case.
Shokz OpenFit Air
MSRP $120.00
“Shokz again delivers a safer listening experience when you're on the street.”
Pros
  • Great fit
  • More affordable price
  • New color options
  • Allow you to hear the outside world
Cons
  • Audio quality not quite as good
  • App is just OK

I’ve talked before about how I believe there are specific earbuds and headphones for specific use cases. The original OpenFit quickly supplanted my older Aftershokz Aeropex, and not just because the company changed names. And now I believe the OpenFit Air are my new go-tos.

These aren’t bone-conducting headphones, but they also don’t go into your ear the same way that, say, AirPods or similar earbuds do. Instead, they sit just outside (or above) the opening to your ear and direct the sound inside. You’d be mistaken for thinking that they’re bone-conducting (like the new OpenSwim Pro), but they’re not.

And the important thing is this: You get adequate audio from the OpenFit Air, while still being able to hear what’s going on around you, since there’s no passive (or active) noise cancellation. There’s nothing stopping the outside world from making its way in. There are plenty of times where that sort of thing is important. If you’re doing any sort of exercise or recreation around traffic — running or cycling, for example — you need to hear the traffic.

That also means there’s no sort of noise cancellation. That’s not a strike against the OpenFit Air — it’s just something to know.

The Shokz OpenFit Air as seen on Phil Nickinson's ear.
The Shokz OpenFit Air fit pretty much the same way as the original OpenFit. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

That’s the OpenFit air in a nutshell. They’re of the “true wireless” variety in that there’s nothing connecting them together, and nothing connecting them to your phone. They fit atop your ear, with the hook around back, and just do their thing.

OpenFit vs. OpenFit Air

The OpenFit Air are slightly smaller than the OG OpenFit, and ever-so-slightly differently designed. (The chrome bit is the most obvious difference, albeit a cosmetic one. But it’s also one I like.) The biggest difference actually will be in the speaker itself. And the OpenFit Air definitively don’t sound quite as good as the original OpenFit.

But hear’s the thing: Given that they’re meant to be used in noisy environments and not to shut out the outside world, that hasn’t made a huge difference to me. You can definitely hear a difference if you happen to have both sets and are swapping them back and forth. But otherwise? The Air are fine.

The Shokz OpenFit Air (left) and original OpenFit headphones.
The Shokz OpenFit Air (left) and original OpenFit headphones. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

These are the sort of headphones — buds, I guess — for which I don’t tend to worry too much about the tech. Again, that has to do with how I’m using them. But Shokz is quick to point out what’s inside. It has what’s called “DirectPitch Technology” to keep the sound in your ear and not spilling out to those around you, which is always good. An 18-by-11-millimeter driver is what actually creates the sound. (Or, OK, reproduces it.) And it employs “Shokz OpenBass Air” for the low end. You won’t find as much bass as there is in the original OpenFit, but it’s not awful.

Other tech of note: The OpenFit Air have an IP54 rating, which means sweat and water sprays shouldn’t kill anything. If you have to take a phone call, the four-microphone array helps keep you understandable. And you’re connected to your phone via Bluetooth 5.2.

These also aren’t the sort of buds in which battery life should be a worry. You get up to six hours of playback on a single charge, which should be more than enough for most folks. The case allows for a total of 28 hours of playback, and a mere 10 minutes of charging in the case gets you an extra 120 minutes of playtime. And the Bluetooth multipoint feature lets you connect to two devices at once.

Screenshots of the Shokz OpenFit Air as seen in the Shokz app.
Digital Trends

The Shokz app is pretty much the same as it’s been for a while. You’ll find a basic EQ on board, as well as the Multipoint controls, a user guide — and it’s where you’ll update the firmware. (My testing was done on T_04, but as of this writing I’m seeing V_21.) You also can customize the double-tap and press-and-hold controls on either the left or right, with options for play/pause, previous or next track, voice assistant, or you can just disable them altogether.

Shokz OpenFit Air in ear.
The Shokz OpenFit Air are a less-expensive alternative to the original OpenFit. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Should you get them?

In other words, all the things that were important to me in the OpenFit remain true with the OpenFit Air. I can hear the world around me. I can still hear podcasts or music well enough. And they’re comfortable whether I’m just wearing them around on the street, or (more importantly) when I’m putting in a few dozen miles on my bike. Call quality is adequate, but not great. And that’s exactly what I expected here.

At retail, there’s a $60 difference between the two. I’d have a hard time bringing myself to persuade someone that there’s a $60 difference in the overall experience, even if the Air don’t have quite the same audio quality.

And you’ve got some options when it comes to colors. I’ve got the black-and-chrome version, which is the sort of thing I default to. But the white models (with more of a matte silver instead of chrome accent) look plenty smart, too. And if neither of those fit the bill, there’s pink, too.

The OpenFit Air are still the sort of headphones that I’d get for a specific use case. Exercise is a big one, but there are also plenty of folks who have plenty of reasons to not want earbuds that actually go in their ears. Piercings. Anatomical differences.

But whatever the reason, the OpenFit Air give those people a less-expensive option than the original OpenFit.

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Phil Nickinson
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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