These Bose Open Ear Headphones Stay in Place and Are Way Comfier Than AirPods

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Noise-canceling headphones are a lifesaver in certain situations, but sometimes, I don’t want to be so disconnected from my environment that I can't hear what's going on. Like when I’m biking and need to hear oncoming cars, or traveling on public transit and want to keep my wits about me, I need something a little less stifling than my over-ear headphones. In these cases, I wear the Bose Ultra Open Ear Headphones ($299), which let in some ambient noise and are comfortable enough for all-day wear. They’re my go-to for staying aware of my surroundings without sacrificing audio quality. (Not to mention, they're way comfier than AirPods.)

bose ultra open ear headphones
Bose, Ultra Open Ear Headphones — $299.00

Colors: White smoke, black

Features: IPX4 water resistance, built-in microphone, immersive audio

Battery Life: 7.5 hours


  • All-day comfort
  • Clean sound quality
  • Immersive audio mode that moves with you
  • Stays in your ear during sport


  • Can feel too quiet when ambient noise gets loud

First impressions

When I first opened these headphones, I thought they were going to be similar to bone-conduction headphones, which I don’t personally use because they never feel secure. But after I tried them on, I realized they were in a league of their own. They wrap around your ear with a “roller” made of soft, pliable rubber; it looks similar to an ear cuff but you can barely feel it. When you’re wearing them, they look pretty sleek; I’ve gotten a few comments that they look like earrings.

Photo: Author

Right away, the listening experience was pretty different from any other headphones I’ve tried. When I turned the volume up, it felt like everyone else could hear my music. (They couldn’t). But this was because even when you’re listening at full blast, some of the noise from your environment makes its way in. It’s not enough to distract you, but enough to hear it if someone tried talking to you.

Sound quality and experience

I’m not a sound quality expert, but these provide a clean, fun listening experience. The audio performance in the Bose Ultra Open Ear Headphones is surprisingly robust for open-ear headphones: The bass is punchy without being overwhelming, the mids are well-defined, and the highs are crisp. In the Bose App (which is available on the App Store and Google Play), you can customize the settings and choose from presets like “Bass Boost,” “Treble Boost,” or “Treble Reducer."

Photo: Author

The coolest feature is the Immersive Audio mode that “moves” with you as you walk around. As you turn your head, the soundscape shifts slightly, as if the music surrounds you. This creates a 3D audio experience that feels more natural and dynamic. To be honest, I didn’t notice this right off the bat, but when I used the demo to switch between modes, I could tell a big difference between the immersive and classic audio formats. It’s particularly noticeable when listening to tracks with rich instrumental layers and overall, it adds depth but is subtle enough that you get accustomed to it.

Bose Ultra Open Ear Headphones: final thoughts

While the sound quality is great, the reason I love these headphones so much because I can wear them for hours on end without them hurting my ears like Airpods do. And compared to my over-the-ear headphones, I can use these when I run and bike without getting too sweaty. They’re surprisingly secure in my ear—I’ve tried to toss them around my head to get them to budge but they won’t fly out.

I still prefer over-the-ear headphones for travel and deep work sessions, but despite the fact that these don’t have a noise-canceling feature, they have become a staple in my day-to-day life for workouts and commutes.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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