Tech Published: 18 April 2024 Update: 18 April 2024

I was surprised by how much I loved Bose’s new Ultra Open Earbuds

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bose ultra open earbuds with charging case

I’ve tried quite a few wireless earbuds in the past few months. After my Apple AirPods Pro stopped working, I made it my mission to step outside of the Apple ecosystem to sample more products, and I’ve been pretty impressed with my options. First, I tried the budget-friendly JBL Vibe Beam earbuds, but I quickly fell in love with the surprisingly stellar audio quality of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE and thought I’d found my winner — until I discovered Bose Ultra Open Earbuds.

I first saw Bose’s new earbuds on TikTok, and while I was instantly head over heels for the innovative open-ear design, the skeptic in me knew to proceed with caution. I’ve tried countless viral products in the past, some that lived up to the hype and others that fell flat, and I was skeptical that the Ultra Open Earbuds could deliver on their promise to leave your ears totally open while still delivering “rich, private sound.” 

So are the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds truly revolutionary? Or are they just another flashy gimmick? I put them to the test, and I was honestly surprised by the results.

First impressions of the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds

Straight out of the box, my reaction to the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds echoed what I experienced when I first saw them on TikTok. These tiny little earbuds are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and while I’ve tried other “open-ear” audio devices, like the Soundcore Frames audio sunglasses, the new Bose buds pack a surprisingly powerful punch.

Each earbud is designed to fit like an earring cuff, and unlike other open-ear headphones on the market, they don’t actually hook around the top/back of your ear. Instead, they fit more like a piece of jewelry, which makes them look cooler and fit better because they can be worn anywhere from zero to 90 degrees on your ear. It’s hard to describe the form factor of the Ultra Open Earbuds without seeing them, but it’s basically two pieces of plastic (the larger, barrel-shaped battery and the hooked speaker) connected by a soft silicone joint that serves as a flexible — and secure — grip around your ear.

woman wearing bose ultra open earbud with earring
The unique cuff design of the Ultra Open Earbuds work well even with earrings.
Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable

Comfort and fit

It might sound uncomfortable, but there’s no pinching involved. The earbuds “nestle” securely around your ear, and they actually fit like a dream. Because there’s so much flex in the joint, it’s easy to find where the earbuds fit best on your anatomy. The Bose companion app also offers a helpful tutorial on how to wear the earbuds.

Even with multiple ear piercings, I had no issues finding the perfect spot to wear the Ultra Open Earbuds, and I was shocked by how comfortable they were even after longer periods of wear. As someone with relatively small ears, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve literally never experienced earbuds that don’t cause some degree of discomfort after longer wear — so much so that it’s hard for me to gauge if earbuds are uncomfortable or if it’s just my super small ears. However, I can truthfully say that this was the first time I’ve ever been able to wear earbuds for several hours straight with zero discomfort — none at all.

After trying them during workouts, I was even more impressed with the fit and comfort. I thought they’d feel loose or bounce while running outdoors, but they stayed perfectly secure — something that rarely happened even with my beloved Apple AirPods Pro. And, with an IPX4 water-resistance rating, the Ultra Open Earbuds should withstand sweat and light rain.

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds have shockingly good sound quality

When it comes to impressive audio experiences, Bose rarely disappoints. I’ve been a long-time fan of the Bose QuietComfort 45 over-ear headphones, but I didn’t expect the Ultra Open Earbuds to come anywhere close to traditional wireless headphones or earbuds. And, while they definitely weren’t as robust as my QC45s, the OpenAudio technology delivered surprisingly fantastic sound.

Due to the design of these earbuds, the sound quality does vary slightly based on how you wear them. In some orientations, like when I adjusted the earbuds to fit closer to a 45-degree angle on my ear, the sound felt a little more distant than when I wore them lower on my earlobes. However, because these earbuds are so customizable to your ears’ anatomy, it’s easy to find the right spot to balance sound quality and comfort.

At lower volumes, I loved being able to listen to music and still experience the world around me. I could hold conversations with people on the street, and — because my ears were completely uncovered — I felt much safer taking my dog on walks or going on solo runs.

At higher volumes, my ability to interact with the world disappeared entirely because these headphones were really loud. I never reached max volume while using the Ultra Open Earbuds, and while the bass definitely isn’t quite as deep or rich as other earbuds I’ve tried, it wasn’t absent either. The sound was well-balanced, and even with my ear completely uncovered, I didn’t notice any issues with the audio sounding distant or muddy. Instead, the Ultra Open Earbuds sounded clear, natural, and pretty lush.

Even better? They were, as Bose puts it, “surprisingly private.” At lower volumes, my partner couldn’t hear anything that I was listening to — even while standing a foot in front of me. At high volumes, it was definitely noticeable, but considering I never maxed out the volume, it wasn’t too big of an issue.

bose ultra open earbuds in charging case
The new Bose earbuds let you create your own bubble of sound.
Credit: RJ Andersen

What I loved about the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds: Battery life and controls

Incredible comfort and good sound quality aside, I was surprised by how much I loved these earbuds. The battery life is phenomenal — up to 7.5 hours of playtime (less if you’re using Bose’s Immersive Audio feature) or a surprising 48 hours of battery life on standby. The charging case also provides an additional 19.5 hours of battery. Despite using these earbuds almost daily for several weeks, I barely needed to charge the case, and the promised 7.5 hours of playtime ended up being spot on in my testing.

The earbuds feature super convenient shortcuts via the button on the battery barrel. You can play and pause audio with a single press, skip forward with a double press, and skip backward with a triple press. A double press and hold on the left earbud decreases volume, while a double press and hold on the right increases it, and a long hold on either button can be customized in the Bose Music app to perform additional functions like activating your device’s voice assistant or toggling through Immersive Audio modes.

I liked that these earbuds included some of my favorite Bose features via the Bose Music app, including a basic equalizer and optional spatialized sound using Bose Immersive Audio. There’s also a new optional feature called “Auto Volume” that dynamically adjusts the volume of your audio based on your surroundings. Finally, I could easily switch between multiple devices, including my Apple iPhone 11 Pro, and I love that they announced which device I was connected to.

What I didn’t love about them: Built-in microphone

Honestly, there was only one thing I didn’t love about my experience: the built-in microphone. For as good as Bose’s audio quality is, the built-in microphone on these earbuds wasn’t the best, especially when I was outdoors. Friends described it as sounding like a “really distant tunnel,” and my indoor microphone tests produced similar results.

Considering these earbuds are designed for all-day wear, it was disappointing to discover the microphone was so lacking. At one point, I even had to disconnect my earbuds entirely to talk to a friend directly through my phone because the ambient noise was so loud. Even at my desk, I tend to switch to other headphones to accept Zoom calls — it’s not that the Bose earbuds don’t work on calls, but the microphone quality is lacking even in quiet indoor environments.

bose ultra open earbud on fingertip
Impressive battery life, less impressive microphone quality.
Credit: RJ Andersen

Are the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds worth it?

At $299, the Ultra Open Earbuds are definitely pricey. However, I can’t help but think they’re worth the splurge — especially if you’re looking for a comfortable earbud that gives you the flexibility to listen to music and stay aware of the world around you. When Bose announced these headphones, they described them as the solution to the “one bud phenomenon” — aka needing to pull out one of your earbuds to interact with the world — and I was surprised to find that they lived up to the hype. Not only are the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds cool and functional, but the sound quality is great, the fit is incredible, and the comfort level is off the charts.

As someone who has long struggled to find earbuds that are actually comfortable for long-term wear, I definitely think I’ll be sticking with them — especially for my day-to-day use and outdoor activities like walking, jogging, and biking. While there are definitely more affordable earbuds to consider, these earbuds are in a category of their own. (Hopefully, these open-ear audio devices start a trend.) It’s a cool and unique product offering with a lot of potential, and if you find yourself getting excited about the hype like I was, then they’re definitely worth trying.

However, if you’re looking for a little more privacy to blast your music (like in a quiet office environment), you need Active Noise Cancellation, prefer better microphone quality, or you’re on a budget, then you might want to look elsewhere. These earbuds won’t be the best for everyone, but for the right people, they’re definitely a smart investment.

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Flavius Trica Creatif Agency Flavius Trica

Web designer and Co-Founder of Creatif.Agency, with more than 8 years in the design industry and a strong passion for digital art, has successfully managed to deliver one of the most creative web design agencies in San Francisco, California. Valuing quality, creativity, and customer satisfaction, always strive to improve!

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