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Shokz OpenRun Pro review: The best bone-conduction headphones, bar none

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
160
inc VAT

Thanks to best-in-class audio and battery life, the Shokz OpenRun Pro replace their predecessors as our favourite bone-conduction headphones

Pros 
Class-leading audio
Improved battery life and quick charging
Reduced sound leakage
Cons 
Only IP55 rated
Proprietary charging cable
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The Shokz OpenRun Pro are the newest and most advanced bone-conduction headphones from market-leading manufacturer Shokz (formerly Aftershokz).

Similar to other bone-conduction headphones, their big hook is that they leave your ears completely clear to provide exceptional environmental awareness. However, their best-in-class sound, battery life and a supremely comfortable fit elevate them above their numerous competitors.

This quality comes at a premium. At £160, the OpenRun Pro are the most expensive bone-conduction headphones on the market. If you already own their stablemates the OpenRun, the Pro version probably isn't worth the pricey upgrade. However, if you’re ready to splash out on your first pair and want the best experience possible, look no further than the OpenRun Pro.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: How do they differ from the OpenRun?

The OpenRun Pro share many of the same specifications and features as the standard OpenRun. For starters, they both operate over Bluetooth 5.1 and only support the SBC audio codec. Multipoint pairing allows both to be connected to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, while dual noise-cancelling microphones enable you to use both models to chat on the phone or in virtual meetings.

The physical design of the two models is very similar, too, though there are a few small differences worth noting. While both are fashioned from flexible titanium, the Pro version weighs 29g, three grams more than the cheaper model. This is likely due to the larger control buttons located on the underside of the unit that resides behind your right ear. This is a positive change, as it makes increasing and decreasing volume and powering the headphones on and off easier, especially during exercise.

Another welcome tweak sees the magnetic charging connector moved from the underside of the control unit to the back. This makes connecting the charging cable simpler, though I’m still not thrilled by Shokz’ inclusion of a proprietary charging method.

The Pro also offer superior battery life to their predecessors, with up to 10 hours of audio playback from a single charge compared with the eight hours provided by the original OpenRun. In addition to this extra stamina, the OpenRun Pro charge to full more quickly and have more impressive fast-charging capabilities. Just five minutes on charge will net you roughly 90 minutes of audio playback; the OpenRun require ten minutes to generate the same juice.

But the biggest difference between the two models is the bone-conduction technology via which they deliver audio. The Pro are the first Shokz headphones to feature its ninth-generation “TurboPitch” technology, which the company says delivers better sound quality and less sound leakage than previous iterations.

The extra outlay for the OpenRun Pro also gets you a hard-shell carrying case in place of a fabric carrying bag. It’s well made and sturdy, though a little bulky to carry around in a pocket, so you’ll likely only use it if you’re throwing the headphones in a bag.

There is one area in which the Pro model is bettered by its cheaper stablemate: water resistance. The OpenRun come with an IP67 rating, certifying them completely waterproof, though they shouldn’t be used while swimming. If you’re after a pair of headphones for swimming, Shokz has the Shokz OpenSwim (formerly the Aftershokz Xtrainerz). In contrast, the Pro are only IP55 rated, meaning you’ll need to be a little more careful with them. Rain and sweat aren’t a problem, but water sports and exposure to extreme weather conditions are a no-no.

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Shokz OpenRun Pro review: What did we like?

While both the Pro and base OpenRun are engineered with Shokz’ Premium Pitch 2.0+ technology, the Pros also get TurboPitch, which sees bass enhancers located inside their transducers. The impact of this ninth-generation bone-conduction technology is apparent pretty quickly once you’ve fired up a playlist.

Shokz headphones have historically handled mids and treble impressively, and that remains the case here. In fact, mid-range frequencies are articulated with greater clarity than before – a big boon to podcasts – and there’s improved instrument separation while listening to music. The enhanced bass reproduction won’t blow your socks off but does add some much-needed low-end punch to help prevent the OpenRun Pro sounding tinny.

They still fall short of in-ear headphones in the bass department but are an enjoyable listen nonetheless: in fact, bone-conduction headphones have never sounded so good. You also get the choice of two EQ modes – Standard and Vocal – though you will need to download the Shokz companion app to access them.

Superior sound quality is the most obvious upgrade from the base model but the other improvements are all very welcome, too. Extra battery life and faster charging are always nice and the minor tweaks made to the control buttons and location of the charging port make for a smoother user experience. Comfort is as good as it’s ever been, too: the OpenRun Pro require very little adjusting to get into position and sit extremely cosily on your head.

Despite the addition of bass enhancers, the OpenRun Pro vibrate less and leak less sound than their predecessors, which is another plus. The difference is particularly noticeable at very high volumes – the Pro are significantly less tickly on your cheekbones than the older model and less of a disturbance to others sitting nearby.

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Shokz OpenRun Pro review: How can they be improved?

While Shokz’ ninth-gen tech is a step in the right direction, there’s still a way to go before bone-conduction headphones can match in-ear headphones for sound quality. This is most apparent outside. In quieter environments, I was able to appreciate the OpenRun Pro’s sonic ability without any issues, but when the wind picked up or cars roared past, the impact of the additional bass became less appreciable.

This trade-off between sound quality and environmental awareness is of course the nature of the bone-conduction beast. The OpenRun Pro manage it better than their competitors, but don’t expect the kind of immersive audio experience provided by true wireless earbuds or other in-ear options.

One of my biggest gripes with the OpenRun Pro is that they’re charged via a proprietary magnetic induction port. This means you’ll need to bring the supplied cable with you if you’re heading out and don’t want to be caught short on juice. It’s possible that this type of connection is the only way to achieve the ten-hour battery life and fast charge ability, in which case it’s probably a worthwhile sacrifice. However, there’s no denying a universal charging port would be preferable were it able to deliver the same charging performance.

Finally, it’s a shame that the Pro have inferior water resistance to the base model. IP55 is perfectly acceptable for most situations, but the fact that you can’t use the Pro model in more extreme conditions is disappointing. Admittedly, the use cases in said conditions are pretty niche, but it still stings a bit.

Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Should you buy them?

The OpenRun represent a notable progression for the bone-conduction headphones industry. They’re still light on bass compared with traditional headphone styles but are the best-sounding headphones Shokz has ever produced and have the stamina to outlast the competition.

For £30 more than the OpenRun, you’re getting a superior experience in every department save for water resistance; unless you’re a water sports fanatic, it’s definitely worth spending the extra money. If you’re thinking about investing in a pair of bone-conduction headphones, you can’t do any better than the OpenRun Pro.

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