open ear headphones
With their ear hook or clip-on design, air conduction headphones leave your ear canal free to listen to ambient sounds, even as you enjoy your music and podcasts. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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If you don’t like the feeling of silicone tips in your ear canals, or feel smothered by large ear cups when wearing headphones, there’s another option you might want to consider.

Open-ear headphones, also known as air conduction headphones, offer the perfect solution. They’re designed to keep all tech out of your ear canal so that you can stay aware of your surroundings, but they still deliver great sound quality. An excellent choice for outdoor runners and commuters, these kinds of headphones have been around for a while, but are only recently becoming a major area of focus for audio and fitness technology brands. So, while there are not too many options, we’ve shortlisted a stellar few that are worth your consideration.

We also spoke with Reza Moradi, audiovisual instructor at Canadian University Dubai, and founder of Hollywood Studio Dubai. He advised us on the best features to look out for, when buying open-ear headphones, and shared his top recommendations. Scroll down to read his advice.

Check out our top picks below, based on expert feedback and user reviews, and get your new pair of headphones with Amazon Prime, for free, fast delivery.

1. Best Overall: SHOKZ OpenFit 


  • Light and compact
  • Comfortable, flexible ear hook
  • IP54 water resistance rating
  • Customisable EQ settings
  • Good battery life


  • Some true wireless features are missing

If you’re looking for a pair of open-ear headphones you can wear every day, pick up SHOKZ OpenFit. Reviewers say they offer better sound quality than bone conducting headphones, but without having to wear anything in your ears, and still being aware of your surroundings. Dolphin arc ear hooks fit right behind your ears – something that can take some getting used to – but once in place, you’ll forget you’re wearing them. The dual-layered liquid silicone material, used in the ear hooks, is velvety soft and flexible, so it’s quite comfortable. The earphones are lightweight at 8.3g, wireless, have an IP54 water resistance rating, and offer seven hours of battery life (28 hours if charged in the case). If you download SHOKZ’s app, you can personalise EQ settings and play around with the sound – there’s also a helpful Bass Boost function. Do note that while it’s being branded as true wireless earphones, you’ll find a couple of features missing in the OpenFit – there’s no multi-point pairing, and no ear detection, so if you remove an earphone, the music will continue playing. Still, it’s an excellent choice for everyday use, once you get used to the fit of the open-air design.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh58.25 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh40, and two-year extended warranty for Dh57.

2. Best with Bone Conduction: AfterShokz Aeropex 


  • Light and comfortable for sports
  • Moisture detection alert
  • IP67 waterproof rating
  • Noise cancelling mic


  • Headband fit may not suit everyone

These Aeropex headphones combine open-ear design with bone conduction technology for the ultimate experience. Moradi said: “These are great for outdoor activities in the UAE because they fit well and use special bone conduction technology.” The open-air design allows you to listen to sound that’s delivered through the cheekbones – so you’re still fully aware of your surroundings. It’s lightweight, at just 29g, and comfortable, with a bud-free design. The wireless headset features dual noise cancelling mics for crisp, clear calls, and its battery life lasts for eight hours. An IP67 waterproof rating means it’s completely sweat- and water-proof, so it’s ideal for workouts and running. The headphones also have moisture detection alerts, which let you know if the charging port is damp, so that you can clean it out before recharging safely. Reviewers say it's their go-to pair of headphones for sports, but some complain that the band around their head slips frequently, when they tilt their head up or wear scarves or high-collared shirts.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh137.80 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh97, and two-year extended warranty for Dh138.

3. Best Premium: Bose Ultra Open Earbuds 


  • Limited sound leakage
  • Intuitive controls
  • Immersive Audio capabilities
  • Excellent sound quality


  • Fit has a slightly unsteady feel
  • Expensive

Bose’s first pair of open-ear headphones don’t fail to impress. Unlike the usual ear hook design, this pair hooks onto the side of your ear’s helix, and its battery cylinder tucks right behind the ear. While reviewers said it takes some getting used to, since it feels wobbly, the headphones are not likely to fall off. Bose’s dual drivers use the brand’s Immersive Audio technology to deliver fantastic sound quality, with spatial audio and very little leakage. There are tactile buttons on the rear that allow you to control volume, skip tracks and choose listening modes. Reviewers rave about Bose’s Still and Motion modes, which can be accessed via the app. With Motion mode, you get the impression that the sound is coming from a particular direction – turning your head allows you to move around the soundstage. It’s a surround-style experience that truly elevates this pair of headphones. The earphones last for about six hours, and can get a further 19.5 hours of playback through their case. It’s one of the best-sound open-ear headphones out there right now, but it does come with a hefty price tag.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh99.92 for 12 months with select banks. Apply a coupon to get Dh100 off.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh69, and two-year extended warranty for Dh97.

4. Best Battery Life: Oladance OWS Open-Ear Headphones 


  • Comfortable fit
  • Long, 16-hour battery life
  • IPX4 water resistance rating
  • Multi-point connectivity


  • Touch control is extremely sensitive

Checking all the boxes of fit, sound quality and battery life, is Oladance’s highly rated open-ear headphones. The brand calls its earbuds an Open Wearable Studio (OWS) since it delivers rich sound with its dual 16.5mm drivers for a concert-like audio experience. The fit is comfortable and secure, with no pinching of the auricle or blocking of the ear canal. Reviewers are especially impressed with its large, 160mAh battery life – it can go on for up to 16 hours with no issues. The headphones operate via Bluetooth 5.3 and have multi-point connectivity, so you can seamlessly switch between your devices. Although the one-tap control feature on the earphones is useful for answering calls, playing or pausing tracks, and adjusting volume, some reviewers complain that it’s extremely sensitive – even damp hair can set it off.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh43.33 for 12 months with select banks. Apply a coupon to get 25 per cent off.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh35, and two-year extended warranty for Dh49.

5. Best Budget: soundcore by Anker Aerofit Pro 


  • LDAC codec support
  • IPX5 water resistance rating
  • Great battery life
  • App has customisable EQ


  • Weak spatial audio effect

Stylish, comfortable, capable and decently priced, Anker’s soundcore Aerofit Pro earbuds offer excellent value for money. Their large drivers produce rich sound, and the earphones are capable of delivering hi-res audio over Bluetooth via the LDAC codec (if you’re using an Android phone). Like the premium Bose pair we highlighted in our list, this device also offers spatial audio, with dynamic head tracking, giving you a surround sound experience – although some reviewers comment that it’s weaker than they expected. In terms of fit, the open-air ear hook design is snug and soft – reviewers say it’s comfortable for all-day wear and feels secure. Tactile button controls on the device make controlling audio playback and making calls easier. The earphones last for up to 14 hours on a single charge, which is extended to 46 hours with the charging case. It also comes with a useful neckband for added comfort.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh45.72 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty for Dh49, and two-year extended warranty for Dh35.

What makes open-ear different from other kinds of headphones?

in-ear headphones
If you find in-ear headphones unsuitable for workouts, you'll enjoy the secure, non-intrusive fit of open-ear headphones. Image Credit: Unsplash/Caley Vanular

The biggest differentiator is the form factor or design of open-ear headphones. They look, feel and operate quite differently from the headphones you’re used to.

Moradi explained: “Open-ear or air conduction headphones are different because they don't cover your ears completely. This means you can still hear what's happening around you while you listen to music or talk on the phone.”

Unlike bone conduction headphones, which relay sound through vibrations in one’s cheekbones, air conduction headphones have audio drivers that sit close to the ears. They use sound waves to optimise the distance and angle between the earbud and ear, funnelling more sound pressure into your ear and less in other directions. So, they edge out the competition, in the fact that they offer a solid audio experience, without sacrificing situational awareness.

So, who’s best suited to wear these headphones? Moradi listed several candidates: “People who enjoy being outdoors, like runners, cyclists, and hikers in the UAE, because they need to hear what's going on for safety. Office workers or students in the UAE who want to stay aware of their surroundings while they listen to music or make calls. Some people who have trouble hearing in the UAE might also find these headphones more comfortable than regular ones.”

What features should I look out for, when buying open-air headphones?

Before purchasing, consider these factors shared by our expert, since they impact your listening experience on a daily basis:

  • Fit: Look for headphones that feel light and can be adjusted to fit well for a long time.
  • Connectivity: Decide if you want them to connect to your devices with wires or wirelessly. Moradi advised: “If they're wireless, make sure they last long enough on a single charge for your needs, during outdoor activities.”
  • Water and dust resistance: Check if they can handle sweat and light rain, especially if you plan to use them outside, in the UAE's hot weather.

Open-ear headphones do have their shortcomings though. Fit is perhaps the most important aspect to consider. Moradi said: “They sit outside your ear canal, so they're not as snug as earbuds, but they're usually more comfortable to wear for long periods. But if they don't fit right, they might feel uncomfortable or let too much sound out, which can be distracting, especially in busy places.”

Since these headphones offer ambient awareness at all times, you will not find any noise cancellation features in these devices. So, if you’re looking for a pair of headphones for travel or to block out noise while working or studying, it might be better to pick over-ear noise cancelling headphones.

You can also expect lower bass output than usual, in these devices. Since they don’t seal in audio with an in-ear fit and silicone tips, they cannot produce the same low rumble of bass, even if you pump up the volume. Still, Moradi says the audio quality is satisfactory for most average users.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.