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Bose Ultra Open Earbuds

Comfortable open-ear earbuds with spatial audio

In a nutshell

Bose offers an original design for open-ear earbuds with the Ultra Open Earbuds, which aim to combine three core competencies: high wearing comfort thanks to their innovative “cuff” design, perception of the environment thanks to the open construction and an intense sound experience both in stereo playback and in 3D audio mode.

Pros:
  • High wearing comfort
  • IPX4 water and sweat resistant earpiece
  • Quick-charging function
  • SimpleSync technology
  • Spatial audio (with and without head tracking)
  • Supports AAC and aptX Adaptive
Cons:
  • Background noise during playback
  • Voice transmission during phone calls
  • No multipoint connections
  • Button control not freely assignable
  • Case does not support wireless charging
  • No manual on/off switching possible
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The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds, available in black and cream white, are extremely easy to use, as the earbuds can be clipped on to the ear and adjusted to the desired position in your ear. The clip design provides a sporty fit without exerting pressure on the ear, meaning that they are soon not noticeable even after wearing them for a short period.

These IPX4 water- and sweat-resistant earbuds are also relatively lightweight at 6.5 grams per side and can be easily worn with glasses or a cap. A fundamental difference between these earbuds and closed true wireless systems that sit in the ear canal is the perception of external sound. By leaving the ear open, you can interact with your surroundings, and this also increases your safety when used in everyday life and during sports.

Bluetooth specs

In addition to Bluetooth standard 5.3, Google Fast Pair and Snapdragon sound technologies, these open-ear headphones support SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive audio codecs. They don’t support multipoint connections with two devices at the same time, so you will have to switch between different sources, such as a laptop or a smartphone, as only one device can be paired at a time. However, thanks to the manufacturer’s own SimpleSync technology, it is possible to connect these headphones to corresponding speakers or a soundbar from the same manufacturer.

Battery life

In standard mode, the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds achieved a runtime of nine hours at a high playback volume when the AAC codec was used. When using aptX Adaptive in 3D audio mode, however, it was possible to achieve five hours; the earbuds could be charged three times in the case before an external power source was required. This provided a total runtime of 38 hours in basic mode and just over 21 hours with the spatial audio activated. Unusually, the earbuds were fully recharged after just 30 minutes, while a ten-minute quick charge provided capacity for two hours and ten minutes (stereo). By contrast, the case, which weighs 45 grams, required two and a half hours to complete a charging cycle via the USB-C port. There is no option to supply the case with power wirelessly via Qi.

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Operation

The controls are managed with easily accessible push buttons that sit on the cylindrical end piece of the “cuff” behind the ear, and these enable reliable device control even when in sports use. However, the assignment of basic functions is fixed, so a single press controls playback and is used to answer phone calls while pressing twice ends calls. To select a track, you can also press twice to skip forwards and three times to skip back. A volume control is also provided, although this is more suitable for making rough adjustments through pressing and holding.

Further options are provided by two shortcuts that can be configured via the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds app. Alternatively, you can call up a voice assistant or switch between different Bluetooth devices by pressing and holding. It is also possible to switch between different audio modes or switch between spatial audio with or without head tracking and stereo playback.

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These headphones cannot be switched on and off using the push buttons, which means that you will always need to carry the charging case. However, they do support single-sided use in single mode.

Bose Music App

The app (for Android and iOS) provides four preconfigured options for sound customisation: “Bass boost”, “Bass cut”, “Treble boost” and “Treble cut”. A 3-band EQ is also available for customised settings, although these cannot be saved as pre-sets, which would have been a practical addition to the controls.

Whether or not your head movement is tracked when using Spatial Audio can be selected in the “Immersive Audio” section. If required, you can also optimise this using the calibration function. You can also define your favourite settings as an audio mode, and this gives you direct access via a shortcut using the button control or the mode section of the app. Two pre-sets, “Stereo” and “Immersion”, are available as part of the factory settings.

In addition to the assignment of these shortcuts, other functions include firmware updates, activation and deactivation of the multilingual voice announcements and switching between different Bluetooth devices. Automatic volume control can also be switched on, allowing the output level to be adapted to different environments in mobile use. However, the app is not always stable, and this can also lead to disconnections during playback, but hopefully, this will soon be rectified.

Call quality

When making calls with the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds, we noticed that the person on the other end of the call on an iPhone was presented quite quietly, while there were significantly higher volume reserves when using a Nothing Phone. Otherwise, the open design created a pleasant conversation situation on your own side, which was perceived as very natural. A louder environment had hardly any negative effect on speech intelligibility, something which can often be problematic with open-ear headphones.

On the other hand, voice transmission did not yet appear to be fully developed, as the microphone technology was noticed by the person on the other end of the line as a wave-like noise. This was already the case in a quiet environment and increased when filtering wind noise, especially as the quality of voice transmission decreased noticeably, and this could significantly limit communication. Although the attenuation of background noise was better, the result was not satisfactory for the person on the other end of the call, so in this case, we think the manufacturer should make improvements with a firmware update.

Immersive audio

Whether with or without head tracking, the interplay between the open-ear design and spatial audio was perfectly coordinated, allowing films, sports broadcasts or computer games to benefit from an open, more spatial presentation. However, you will have to make minor compromises with dialogue, as the voice reproduction did not quite achieve the naturalness of stereo reproduction.

Apart from bass-oriented productions, the results when listening to music were also very promising. In 3D audio mode, for example, the customised soundtrack of the silent film classic “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” by Karl Bartos was very atmospheric and atmospheric, even if the stereo reproduction brought out one or two details more in direct comparison. The immersive listening experience was also impressively realistic with live recordings such as Sara Bareille’s interpretation of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” (Brave Enough: Live at the Variety Playhouse), where it really felt like you were sitting in the middle of the audience.

Sound

The tuning of the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds conveyed an appealingly expansive listening impression and subtly fanned out the catchy arrangements on the newly released studio album “Empor” by the Hamburg-based techno band “Meute”. At the same time, original compositions such as “Vermis” or the Henrik Schwarz rework “Come Together” made it clear that the bass reproduction of these open-ear headphones could not generate the pressure we have become used to from other True Wireless in-ears. Due to their open construction, there was a lack of low bass, which was negatively noticeable with modern, bass-orientated music genres, and you will need to adapt them to suit your own listening habits.

The mid-range was very powerful, and seemed deeply illuminated while offering the best conditions for authentic-sounding vocal reproduction. This was not only beneficial for vocals but also for spoken content. However, with podcasts, audiobooks, and quieter passages of music, there may be a perceptible background noise during playback.

The reproduction in the upper-frequency spectrum could be characterised as lively, energetic and agile. While the desired accents were set in the normal listening range, the treble range could be perceived as somewhat more forward and pointed with increasing playback volume. Max Richter’s “Spring 1” from the 2022 album “The New Four Seasons – Vivaldi Recomposed”, for example, seemed more balanced at a higher volume level if the upper registers were lowered a little with the EQ.

Conclusion

The clip-on “cuff” design of the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds proved to be practical to use, as it allows you to be in contact with the environment during sporting activities as well as in everyday use, and it was not noticeable when worn on the ears. One disadvantage of these open-ear headphones, however, is the loss of (low) bass in the sound reproduction. In addition, multipoint connections and a wireless charging option have been omitted from the features. While the quality of voice transmission when making calls currently appears to be in need of improvement, the 3D audio mode offers successful, more spatial media playback when listening to suitable content.

1 month ago by Maike Paeßens
  • Rating: 4
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingOpen-Ear
  • Typeopen
  • Transducer principledynamic
  • Weight without cable6.5g each, case 45 g

What's in the box

  • USB-C to USB-A charging cable
  • Charging case

Special features

  • Available in black and off-white
  • BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
  • BT version: 5.3

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