Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (2024)

Open-ear earbuds are transforming how we listen to music, tune into meetings, and commute to work. Rather than tuning out ambient noise, this new form factor of earbuds features an open design and fit, bringing users enhanced awareness of their surroundings — and Bose has officially entered the product space.

The all-new Bose Ultra Open true wireless earbuds are the only ones that don’t rock a QuietComfort moniker in

today’s Bose product range, setting themselves apart with a unique design and fit without silicone ear tips and, as their name suggests, lack of noise cancelation. The open-ear design also reduces fatigue, making them ideal for users who like to spend hours listening to content without losing touch with the “outside” world.

Bose Ultra Open Wireless Earbuds

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (1)

Bose Ultra Open Wireless Earbuds

Pros
  • Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (2)Sleek and comfy
  • Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (3)Great sound for the form factor
  • Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (4)Excellent button controls
Cons
  • Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (5)So-so battery life

Noise-canceling earbuds dominate today’s true wireless earbuds realm, but over the past year, open-ear earphones have become more common and well worth considering. Given the up-and-coming nature of this sub-category, open-ear options from big-name manufacturers have been scarce — making me all the more eager to put the Bose Ultra Open earbuds to the test from the moment I saw them.

The earphones hit the shelves with a hefty $299 price tag. That’s on par with the sticker of the noise-canceling QuietComfort Ultra earbuds and higher than the asking price of open-ear headphones from other makers. After more than a week with the Ultra Open as my go-to wireless earbuds, here’s how their design, ergonomics, and everyday performance measured up and why they officially made me a fan of open-ear earbuds.

Jump to:

  • How We Tested
  • Scores
  • Bose Ultra Open at a Glance
  • Sound: 8/10
  • Comfort: 9/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Battery Performance: 6/10
  • Overall: 8/10

How We Tested

To dissect the design, ergonomics, and performance of the Bose Ultra Open earbuds, I used them as my go-to set for over a week. I paid close attention to the quality of the earbuds’ ear fit and controls.

To put the earphones’ audio hardware to the test, I streamed a mixture of music and podcasts and used them to make calls across multiple platforms daily. I also used the earbuds while watching videos and gaming.

Scores

SOUND: 8/10
COMFORT:
9/10
DESIGN:
8/10
BATTERY PERFORMANCE:
7/10
OVERALL:
8/10

Bose Ultra Open at a Glance

  • Great sound (for the form factor), excellent spatial audio
  • Striking design and supremely comfy fit
  • Up to 7.5 hours of battery life
  • IPX4 water- and sweat-resistant

Sound: 8/10

The Bose Ultra Open earbuds are designed to keep you (or the person you’re shopping for) aware of your surroundings. There’s no noise cancellation, and even cranking up the volume will not completely get rid of ambient noise, especially in loud indoor and outdoor spaces.

The lack of noise cancelation offers you a natural aural link between you and your surroundings, which is exactly what makes these earbuds worthy of buying for yourself or treating a family member or friend to an awesome tech gift. It’s crucial for everyday scenarios like crossing the street, commuting with public transportation, or working in an open office space, to name a few. But if you want to detach yourself from your surroundings by turning up to volume, open-ear buds are not for you.

To my pleasant surprise, the Ultra Open earbuds treated me to signature Bose sound with a discernible harmony between good bass, harmonious mid-range, and vibrant treble, all while keeping me connected to my physical environment. My go-to music playlists for testing audio gear — ranging from live jazz recordings to bass-forward downtempo tracks — were well presented, and so were podcasts and audiobooks.

The Bose Music app has a robust set of sound customization options via quick-access presets and a graphic equalizer. Avid bass heads will find the latter particularly handy, as the lack of seal and noise isolation that standard ear tips provide make the low-range delivery of open earbuds underwhelming. Rather than moving directly inside the ear canal, the sound waves distribute differently in open buds, lowering their ability to produce deep bass. If you’re someone who likes to turn up your music to the max and totally remove yourself from your surroundings while you crank out work, then the open-ear form factor might not be best for you.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (6)

As their name and price category suggest, the Ultra Open earbuds can also deliver immersive spatial audio with or without dynamic head tracking. Dubbed Bose Immersive Audio, the feature relies on a proprietary tech to make any audio — not just Dolby Atmos-enhanced content — more immersive.

Immersive Audio has two distinctive and easy-to-access modes — still and motion. I enjoyed the former while streaming live albums because it kept the audio source front and center, shifting the sound as I moved my head left and right for a lifelike experience. Bose brought Immersive Audio with the QuietComfort Ultra headphones and earbuds in late 2023, and it’s great to see the desirable functionality available on the Ultra Open earbuds.

All calls I made with the Ultra Open sounded excellent both ways. Given the track record of Bose products in this particular field and the earbuds’ price, I expected nothing less. The Bluetooth 5.3 earbuds linked flawlessly to an iPhone 15 Pro Max and a Google Pixel 8 Pro. And thanks to Bose SimpleSync tech, the Ultra Open linked to my Bose soundbar, allowing me to enjoy late-night movies with great sound without bothering the rest of my household.

Comfort: 9/10

The unique fit and flexible silicone arm that wraps gently around the ear edges made Bose Ultra Open earbuds among the most comfortable I have tested. Not needing silicone tips in my ear canals and a hook slotted between my ear and temporal bone was a game-changer during my testing, allowing me to spend hours without having any urge to remove them. The way the earbuds clip onto the ear is reminiscent of wearing jewelry, and although it takes a bit of getting used to, it’s well worth it.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (7)

Another major factor that contributed to the earbuds’ top-tier comfort is their lightweight build. At a tad over 6 grams each, the Ultra Open earphones weigh about the same as the Bose QuietComfort II noise-canceling earbuds.

In a week of everyday testing, the Ultra Open earbuds reliably stayed in place during outdoor walks, while walking around the office, and during indoor weight training sessions. Only HIIT workout warriors and frequent cross-country runners should consider earbuds with a more secure in-ear fit, as I found the earbuds prone to falling off during jumping jacks and treadmill runs at a higher pace.

Located in the modules that sit behind the ears, the clicky button controls of the Ultra Open earbuds are excellent and vastly superior to the touch setups that rivals have. These buttons made taking calls on the buds a breeze and allowed me to control playback easily throughout my testing. Long-pressing the button of each earbud is customizable in the Bose app, but oddly enough, the options don’t include adjusting the volume.

Design: 8/10

The Bose Ultra Open earbuds look like fashion accessories, not a tech product — and that’s the most important thing about their design. The earphones’ ear fit, soft curves, and metal-like finish without visible branding (tiny Bose logos sit out of sight) are unlike any other earbuds I’ve experienced. Showing the Ultra Open earbuds to friends and colleagues prompted similar reactions of awe and curiosity.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (8)

Experiencing the product in person made me quickly realize why Bose partnered with Kith — a popular fashion brand — to launch a branded version of the earbuds with visible logos. These earphones set a new standard for design, making an effortless fashion statement as you tune in.

The IPX4 rating for sweat and water resistance of the earbuds matches the durability of their noise-canceling Bose siblings. In this regard, the buds are perfectly suitable for outdoor activities in moderately rainy weather, as well as for light exercising.

Battery Performance: 6/10

According to Bose, the Ultra Open earbuds can deliver up to 4.5 hours of wireless playback between charges with Immersive Audio on. Disabling the feature ups their battery life to 7.5 hours between trips to the charging case. The compact accessory holds more than two additional full chargers when juiced up.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (9)

In real life, the earphones gave me 5-6 hours of continuous use. My usage pattern included listening to music with and without Immersive Audio and occasionally making calls. I’m also happy to report that the charging case’s ability to get me up to two hours of playtime in only 10 minutes successfully prevented battery anxiety. Having said that, I wish the USB-C accessory was also compatible with wireless charging.

Overall: 8/10

By offering striking design, impeccable comfort, and stellar audio performance that’s typical for Bose products, the Ultra Open earbuds are a great new option for fashion-forward gearheads who do not need noise cancellation. The earbuds are also much better than the company’s previous entry into this product category.

Compared to the cheaper open-ear headphones from lesser-known makers I’ve tested, the Bose Ultra earbuds make a solid case for their higher price by delivering a standout design and a more powerful and entertaining sound to go with sterling brand cachet. These qualities make Ultra Open shortcomings like so-so battery life and lack of wireless charging acceptable.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (10)

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (11)

You can order the Bose Ultra Open in two colors: black and white smoke. Every set comes with a matching charging case.

Shop Bose Ultra Open Earbuds

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (12)

Stefan Vazharov

Senior Technology Editor, Reviews

Stefan is the senior technology editor for Best Products, where he’s been covering the tech industry and testing the latest gadgets since 2015. He is an award-winning editor with more than a decade of experience reporting on and reviewing consumer tech products, especially smartphones, tablets, laptops, and audio gear like headphones, earbuds, speakers, and soundbars. Stefan was previously the U.S. editor for GSMArena.com. His writing can also be found in Popular Mechanics.

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds Review: Superior Sound Quality That Also Keeps You Aware of Your Surroundings (2024)
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