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Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Specifications, Design, Comfort, Controls, and Connections

Tired of traditional earbuds blocking out the world around you? Bose has a solution: the Ultra Open Earbuds. Priced at $299, these earbuds offer a unique design and promise an open, airy listening experience without compromising on comfort. But do they live up to the hype? In this review, we dive deep into the design, features, sound quality, and more to help you decide if they’re worth the investment.

Specifications

FeatureDetails
Price$299
Battery LifeUp to 7.5 hours (27 hours with charging case)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.3
Water ResistanceIPX4
WeightN/A
ColorsBlack, White
CompatibilityiOS, Android
ControlsSingle physical button on each bud
Spatial AudioYes, head-tracked
ChargingUSB-A to USB-C cable
Wireless ChargingNo
Bluetooth MultipointNot available currently (promised in future update)

Pros

  • Comfy, glasses-friendly shape
  • Open, airy sound
  • Excellent controls
  • Impressive spatial audio
  • Doesn’t block your ears

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No wireless charging
  • No Bluetooth Multipoint (yet)

Design

The Ultra Open Earbuds sport a unique design, resembling a comma with a hook-like shape. Unlike traditional earbuds, they clip to the sides of your ears, making them ideal for glasses wearers. The charging case is compact and easy to use, although it lacks wireless charging, which feels like a missed opportunity for a premium product.

Another benefit to the Ultra Open’s unusual shape is the size of their case. Most open-ear models use earhooks. This requires bigger, bulkier cases. The Ultra’s case is actually smaller than the one that accompanies the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.

Unfortunately, the case doesn’t have wireless charging. You’ll have to use the included USB-A to USB-C cable. If you want wireless charging, Bose plans to sell a wireless charging silicone cover — the same ridiculous solution it designed for its QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. It’s 2024 and there’s simply no acceptable reason for a set of nearly $300 wireless earbuds to omit this handy feature.

I’m also a little concerned about the case’s lid. Even when closed, it can twist out of shape a bit, leading me to think that either the hinge isn’t wide enough, or the lid’s plastic isn’t rigid enough.

Despite the fact that Bose intends the Ultra Open Earbuds to be worn all day, in a variety of situations, they only have IPX4 protection from water and no dust protection at all. In other words, a bit of sweat or rain should be fine, but they are not going to stand up to rougher use.

Comfort, Controls, and Connections

Once you get used to the unconventional design, the Ultra Open Earbuds are remarkably comfortable for long-term wear. The single physical button on each bud offers intuitive control, and Bluetooth 5.3 ensures easy connectivity. However, the absence of Bluetooth Multipoint is disappointing, though Bose promises to address this in a future update.

They’re not perfect — I eventually noticed some pressure where the barrel sits against the back of my helix — but they can also be adjusted. I was able to slide them higher or lower to change that pressure point. They’re on par with the excellent Shokz OpenFit, except for the Ultra Open Earbuds’ big benefit: they don’t interfere with glasses.

Not that the whole glasses thing is a major problem with earhook-style buds, but with the Ultra Open Earbuds, you don’t think about it at all.

Another big benefit to Bose’s design is the controls. A single physical button occupies the top of each barrel, which is easily clicked by putting your thumb on the barrel bottom while pressing the button with your index finger (like the OK hand sign). This turns out to be one of the easiest, most intuitive earbud controls I’ve ever used, and it works just as well with gloved hands.

By default, you get playback/call control and track control via single, double, and triple clicks. A long-press handles a preselected shortcut (more on this in a moment), and the left and right buds have volume down/up gestures, respectively. Of these, only the shortcut gesture can be customized in the Bose Music app (iOS, Android.)

Sound Quality

Despite their open design, the Ultra Open Earbuds deliver impressive sound quality. Bass remains potent, midrange details are clear, and higher frequencies are focused. The addition of Bose’s Immersive Audio setting enhances the listening experience, providing a 3D-like effect. However, in noisy environments, listening to spoken-word content can be challenging.

It’s not just that Bose knows how to extract great sound quality from small drivers — it’s also a result of the Ultra Open Earbuds’ design. Most open-ear earbuds position their drivers in front of and just above the ear’s concha. The Ultra Open Earbuds’ curly shape, on the other hand, puts the earbuds’ drivers inside the concha, where they’re closer to your ear canals, while simultaneously using the ear’s natural contours to shield them. A side benefit of this arrangement is that they leak far less of their own sound to the outside world.

The overall result is impressive, especially in quiet locations. Instead of pushing audio into your ears like normal earbuds — which can be intense, particularly when listening to lower frequencies — the Ultra Open Earbuds create an airy, natural listening experience that does a better job of simulating a set of stereo speakers. They’re the earbud equivalent of open-back headphones.

Call Quality

Open-ear earbuds excel in phone calls and video chats, offering a natural way to communicate without the feeling of wearing headphones. While call quality is generally good, outdoor use may result in some distortion due to background noise.

On the other side of the equation, your callers should hear you clearly most of the time. Outdoors, the Ultra Open Earbuds occasionally struggle with loud competing sounds. Your voice may sound distant or thin. The fidelity gets better indoors.

Battery Life

With up to 7.5 hours of battery life on a single charge (27 hours with the charging case), the Ultra Open Earbuds should easily last through a day of use. However, battery life may decrease with Bose’s Immersive Audio mode enabled, requiring more frequent charging.

And most power estimates are based on listening at a 50% volume level. That may be enough when inside, but you will likely want it higher when outside.

While that’s not brilliant for wireless earbuds, the Ultra Open Earbuds should still be able to get you through a full day. You likely won’t be listening to music continuously, and even if you do, a quick charge of 10 minutes gets you an extra two hours of use.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds

Open-ear earbuds aren’t for everyone. They can’t deliver thumping bass, and the very thing that makes them appealing (being able to hear your surroundings) is also the thing that limits their audio quality. And yet, if you’re tired of jamming hard plastic objects into your ears and then having to yank them out just to order a coffee, the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds are a fantastic alternative.

They cost more than they should considering their lack of wireless charging, and I’m nonplussed at their current lack of Bluetooth Multipoint. However, they sound better than any other open-ear model I’ve tried so far, their unusual shape is ideal for wearing glasses, and their already open and airy sound is the perfect platform for their spatial audio tech.

Conclusion

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds offer a compelling alternative to traditional earbuds, combining comfort, innovative design, and impressive sound quality. While they come at a premium price and lack some features like wireless charging and Bluetooth Multipoint, their unique design and excellent performance make them worth considering for those seeking an open-ear listening experience.

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