Wireless earbuds effectively work like sound-blocking earplugs when crammed into your ears, and while that’s great for tuning out distractions, it’s not so great when it’s safer to hear what’s going on around you. Shokz’s solution to the problem has been to skip the ears altogether and deliver sound through a user’s cheekbones, and the latest generation, called the OpenRun Pro, promise added bass performance that you can feel.
Even mid-level wireless earbuds now offer features that help make you more aware of your surroundings by using built-in microphones to amplify sounds around you. It’s a useful feature when you’re out for a run, or even just wandering around a busy city, as it lets you hear cars and other hazards while still enjoying your tunes. The problem is that ambient sound boosting often sounds very unnatural and unpleasant, so most either don’t use it or use just a single earbud.
Shokz (formerly AfterShokz) own solution to the problem has always been a clever one. Instead of blasting sound waves down the ear canal, it transmits them through the wearer’s cheekbones using a pair of vibrating transducers that sit just in front of the ears. The approach still delivers music to the eardrums but leaves the ears themselves wide open to naturally pick up ambient sounds instead.
Not every headphone maker targeting athletes takes this approach because sound delivered through bone conduction isn’t as rich or full as it is through earbuds or over-ear headphones, and it’s often lacking the low-end frequencies that can make listening to music so enjoyable. That’s a drawback that Shockz is specifically addressing with its new OpenRun Pro Premium Bone Conduction Sport Headphones featuring the ninth generation of the company’s transducer technology and a new feature called Shokz TurboPitch that introduces bass enhancers so lower frequencies are more prominently heard and even felt. Shokz is also introducing an accompanying mobile app for the first time that includes two EQ settings: ‘Standard’ for music and ‘Vocal Booster’ for making voices clearer while listening to podcasts.
Other upgrades include larger shortcut buttons on the OpenRun Pro headphones and a repositioned charging port. Unfortunately, a proprietary charging cable is still required and will be yet another accessory you’ll never want to lose. With an IP55 water and dust rating, the Open Run Pros will also work just fine if worn in the rain or through a torrential sweat, but as with many gadgets, you’ll want to avoid an accidental submersion.
Battery life is rated at 10 hours of playback after a full one-hour charge. But if you only have five minutes to top them off when they unexpectedly die, you can still expect to get an hour-and-a-half of playback afterward. The new Shokz OpenRun Pro Premium Bone Conduction Sport Headphones are available for pre-order today from the Shokz website for $US180 ($248), only in black. If you prefer an alternate colour, you’ll have to wait until later this year.