Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Shokz OpenFit : Unboxing and Review

When Shokz offered me between OpenPro Run or OpenFit, It was a pretty hard decision because one has better robustness (Pro) and the other has better sound (Fit). As I am entitled to one device for the contract year, I went for the OpenPro Run, and not regretted the decision.

OpenFit On The Head. Thank you bro Slip.Pikto for the pic
Shokz Malaysia provided a loan unit to me for use and review. It is the best arrangement as it allow me to experience the OpenFit and at the same time have the chance to compare it over the OpenRun Pro I am currently using.

So, lets just start by saying that there is a tinge of regret (number 1) not choosing OpenFit over OpenRun Pro. Continue reading to know why...

What is OpenFit?
Lets start with the most basic... Shokz OpenFit is not the usual Shokz Bone Conduction earphone. It is a air-conduction and what Shokz call as DirectPitch™ technology. The technology optimise the distance and angle between the sound source to the ear in such way that it minimize sound loses to your surrounding while maximizing your listening.

DirectPitch™  explained at Shokz Website

Now, to call it air-conduction is not exactly mindblowing as all speakers works on displacing air through the drive unit. The displaced wave is what gives you sound. You can actually consider the OpenFit as a "mini speaker". But to call it a "mini speaker" is not doing justice to the OpenFit because I have had experienced "mini speaker" headphone that doesn't goes into the ear-canal and it is below par when it comes to sound and aesthetic.
Wasn't joking about the aesthetic (and sound) Things I do to review stuff for you all.

With more devices to compare with, I can comfortably tell you what you should spend your extra money on, and not regret making mistakes purchasing devices that you do not need or perform the way you wanted them to be.

So what makes the OpenFit drives the sound better than other "mini-speaker"? To start with, it has a 18mmx11mm driver made from composite (read: Carbon fiber) with polymer surround. Both the carbon fiber diaphragm and polymer surround creates the clear, crisp, strong sound with deep bass notes.

Tech explained at Shokz Website

So, yes, that is my regret number 2. OpenFit is superior when compared to bone conduction sound reproduction and experience.

Before I share more regrets, please take note that no other mini-speakers headphone I know has driver this big (18mm x 11mm). Basically the whole housing that hold driver is the whole driver unit. 
Yes, that is where that 18mm x 11mm drivers lives

Unboxing Lets Go!
Here is a very simple unboxing I did to show you what is inside the OpenFit packaging. It's obviously smaller than the OpenPro Run by 400% and more compact meant less material used to hold/keep the product.

Here is the unboxing video

Higher resolution Video in my YouTube here

Items you get in this box consist of

  • The OpenFit Left and Right,
  • Charging Case
  • Charging cable USB-C
  • Manual and warranty card
The Shokz OpenFit specification (that is important to know):
  • 8.3 grams per side, total 16.6grams - super lightweight. Charging Case is 57 grams
  • IP54 protection - water resistance (meaning, do not immerse in water), sweat proof, splash proof
  • 7 hours of battery life with Quick Charge - 5mins charge allow 60mins usage
  • Charging Case carries additional 20hours of power making a total of 28hours of usage end to end
  • AI-noise cancelling for calls
  • 2 Years Warranty
Full specification: Here

Now for the review (and more regrets)

Having spoilt with the OpenRun Pro for my daily run and conference calls on both phone and laptop, enjoying the freedom of not having the ear canal stuffed or the ear covered for my training; or even having the head constantly being clamped on headset for work - the OpenFit brought new freedom similar to OpenRun Pro.

All these with a total pass-through of surrounding sound even at volume as the ear canal is not blocked.

As this unit is a loaner, i been maximing the use for all my activities. I hear my footsteps, and continue to not feel guilty of using headphone for a workout in a trafficked public area. Similarly, I can have a conversation with music playing in the background like white noise while running or talking with friends.

And may i add again - the music streamed is like having an in-ear monitor or a proper headphone over your ears. Even as I am typing this, I have Eric Clapton Tears' In Heaven playing in the background, with each strum of the strings and the bass kicking in to be reminding me of my regret number 2.

Getting to know the device (parts)

Red circles are the dual-microphone. Yellow circles are the touch control

Green circles is where the battery resides. Yellow circles are the Quick Charge point which also sits in the Charge Case. Red is the DirectPitch™ drivers emits the main sound

The bottom air vent for Bass production

The top air vent for Bass production

Interesting point for these vents. If i close them off, the Bass is cut off and all i hear is just flat mid-range sound/vocal.

Side specific Left and Right, which help with clear marking. 

The overview of the whole unit as per Shokz Website

I would agree with the silicon finish is satin smooth and the unit sits over my ears with minimal pressure for an hour or two.

The Charging Case is small and pretty nifty. Earlier purchaser get a premium carrying case that lend as a protection for the charging case itself. 

How the unit sits in the charging case. In this one the right is over the left

And this, the left over the right

As you open, close, remove or put back the unit, the LED will lit up on the top and at the side. 
LED lit up at the front upon closing the lid

Left side in cradle with LED lit

how the right side looked cradled in LED lit up

how it looked empty

USB-C point at the back

The OpenFit comes with Bluetooth V5.2 and allow Multipoint pairing. I have the unit paired to my Garmin FR965, Fenix7ProSolar, iPhone12 and my work laptop. Just like the OpenRun Pro, you can link up to two devices at any one time. It however require activation of Multipoint connection. The instruction is here or you can also do it via the Shokz App

I personally prefer it to be done on the Shokz App for the OpenFit as the touch-button doesn't support on device multipairing.

Easy to use App on iOS. Battery status on Charging Case and both L-R available

Using it with Multipoint meant I have the freedom to switch between two devices without needing to disconnect from other devices. At work, I switch between phone (for Spotify) and laptop (for meeting/calls). you are limited by the 7 hours battery life. If you are a heavy user, do keep your device charged in the Charging Case when you are not using. As an example, my 10 hours usage today for run, music, phone calls and standby time has set the Charging Case battery to 50%. Doing a quick maths to see it all add up - both OpenFit at 100% (7hours), Charging case at 50% (10.5hours), usage as of today 8 hours =  7+10.5+10 = 27.5 Hours. The unit is rated at 28hours which meant it is pretty accurate.
What my laptop picked up that is ready for pairing

As usual, on the laptop, the connection requires some understanding of the limitation of each function between using it as a headset and headphone.
  • Headset - allow full usage for both voice (usage of the mic on Shokz) and music/playback (anything streamed from the laptop)
  • Headphone - only music/playback
It function fully with MSTeam including Spatial Audio and Music Fidelity mode

The separation meant the playback as headset is biased to vocal. This meant the music streaming will be subpar and sound really bad. However on Headphone, the quality is as good as streaming from the phone.

Shokz for next 1 year

Connected to Phone

The Bluetooth 5.2 has a faster switching between devices between multipoint pairing. It's quite obvious. With OpenRun Pro at BLE5.1, there were some delay expected and in some cases, pressing the multifunction button (on the left) is required to restart playback. So this is regret number 3. 5.2 >>5.1. In fact, the pairing on my FR965 and Fenix7xProSolar was noticeably faster than my OpenRun Pro.

Other cool stuff the OpenFit can do that OpenRun Pro can't? Get ready for regret number 4. Equaliser. OpenFit is not limited by just Standard or Vocal, but you get the whole choices of Standard, Vocal, Bass Boost, Treble Boost and whole possibility of creating your own... This makes a significant user experience

Hello regret number 4

Bear in mind that this mode of EQ is only available through phone source streaming and not on any other devices as they are controlled solely from the Shokz App.


The unit hook over your ears like the Open-series, it clasps lightly over the top of your ear with the driver unit sitting somewhere on your upper part of the ear where it is near the Tragus, which shield your ear canal - it's also the place where some of you pierce your ears.

Tragus and where it is (that red circle). Image from AnatomyStuff

Well, i don't expect you to know where, so I am showing you where.

Position of OpenFit relative to my right ear

Once placed in position, at less than 9 grams, you hardly will notice it weigh. But prolong usage for the first day (>8hours) did result in some discomfort where the band sits on the part of the ear before it folds into your tragus.
Arrow shows approximate location of the pressure point after 6hours of usage

Compare this to the Open-series, where it doesn't press into any part of the external ears, the differences for prolong usage is significant.
No contact with any part on external ear
If you using it while cycling, the OpenFit won't interfere with the positioning as long as it's not an aero-helmet (the one that covers your ears and with cool visor at the front), you certainly can't wear them on a fullface mountain biking helmet or anything that covers the back of your head and cover your ears, like a motorcycle helmet. However as the unit hook over the helix (that top part of the ear), be wary of the unit when you remove your helmet as the strap may pull it off, or if the strap sits in the way and hook on the battery pack behind your ear, it may cause other issues (dislodged, sound unclear due to movement of unit relative to the battery pack), so perhaps reconsider it if you want to use it for cycling or any activities requiring you to wear a helmet.

How the battery pack and the hoop sits behind your ear. If your wear spectacles and has a loop type of specs, it may cause some real-estate on the helix of your ear

Fitting - does it really work when running?
I was skeptical as the unit hooks over the ear and afraid that it may bounce off or bounces around the external ears. After 5 runs, 4 at easy pace and one fartlek, i can say this is absolutely debunked. It doesn't move or slip when dry or when it's wet with my sweat. It doesn't move away when i try to activate the Touch control. The only thing that will dislodge the unit is if you pulled the unit from the bottom of the battery pack upwards - it slides right off the top of the ear. So, be careful if you have long hair or your helmet strap rest on part of the OpenFit or the movement of you putting your hood (jacket) over your head or adjusting a cap that rest near the back of your ears move it out of place.

If you avertedly hooked the bottom/battery pack (red arrow) and move it upward (yellow arrow direction), the unit slides right off 

One thing about the OpenFit that did not have advantage over the Open-series is the lack of head-loop. With my OpenRun Pro, i can hook and secure the unit over my neck and it will stay there even when i am motorbiking (as the unit doesn't folds into my pouch). So the only way to transport them is in their Charging Case, which meant you can't carry them independently if your commute or when you aren't hooking over your ears, you may risk losing them.

OpenRun Pro looped over my neck securely

Sound - Else we won't be talking about this 
If regret Number 2 and number 4 isn't enough to tell you about the sound quality, i do not know how much more you want me to drive the knife into my ears to let my regrets known. (this is metaphor only, i am not making myself deaf)

Having said that, a reminder that I should not compare the Bone Conduction to in-ear or over-ear headphones, as much as I should not compared OpenFit to OpenRun Pro. The sound source delivery is two totally different method.

My songs of choices are as basic as these two playlist in my Spotify here and here

Lets just say that the quality of the sound and music produced is a step up from using bone conduction, and just slightly under using in-ear monitor or over ear headphones. Only reason it loses out to the in-ear and over ear is sound isolation. Obviously the choices for open-ear concept is to hear your surrounding while still able to enjoy music, podcast, conversation and be safe. This feature or ability to do this has alone trump over everything else except if you are looking for Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) features, which you should not be using if you are exercising in a traffic area.

How it looked from the front - pretty stealth

The dual-microphones is situated at the top portion of the driver unit. Compared to the Pro that has 2 mics on each side, the Fit has one mic on each side. With the AI-Noise Cancelling for voice, I can verify that whoever I talked to on the phone or laptop has no issue hearing me. As I do not take calls when I am driving or in a heavily human-traffic area, I can verify that the person on the other end could not hear my background noise such as my dogs' barking, the fan whoosing noise, or the kettle boiling downstairs. In this sense, the AI did work. How much they are different to the Pro, I have no idea as I do not have the right condition to test it.

As shared in my previous review, sound quality wise, the best would be streaming from phone or laptop/computer BUT must be using the HEADPHONE function (see above), followed by from my Garmin and lastly from the computer/laptop as HEADSET function. 

This is because the quality is significantly impacted by the sound codec of your device and limited by what Shokz can process. In this case, OpenFit uses sub-band codec or SBC which allow up to 300kbps transfer rate. This is also the most general codec compatible with all Bluetooth transmission, at the expense of quality. 

The Shokz is compatible with profiles such as A2DP (high quality audio signals profile), AVRCP (remote control profile for sending command such as play, skip, pause etc), HSP (Headset profile aka to be used for communication) and HFP (handsfree profile). 

Being TWS earphone meant that you can have the option to just use ONE side at any time and still carry on your daily work. Not too bad if you are planning to extend the battery life by another 7 hours by using one side at a time.

About IP54 Protection
The IP protection of OpenFit is lesser than the Pro version. The OpenRun Pro is IP55 and the OpenFit is IP54.

IP stands for International Protection (rating). It comes with two numbers and an optional letter. It defines the degree of protection against solid contact and water in electrical enclosures.

IP54, and sufficient for the purpose and intent of the unit

The first digit defines the level of protection the enclosure provide against access to hazardous parts such as electrical contacts, moving parts, and ingress of solid objects (like dust, sand, finger)

The second digit refers to liquid protection against well, water or liquid, generally.

The bigger the number, the better the protection. Naturally the IP55 would meant better protection versus IP54. 
  • IP55 protection against limited dust ingress and protected from low-pressure water jets from all direction
  • IP54 protection against limited dust ingress and protected from water splashes (read: sweat and well, rinsing or just water splashes)
For the purpose of testing, yes, I have taken the OpenFit to shower after my run. Trickling water over the unit causes no significant issue except the touch function goes haywire and the air-vents on the top and bottom gets saturated with water and render the sound to be limited to just vocal/midrange. 

OK for washing or cleaning after exercise. Not ok for shower.

Looking at it, IP54 is sufficient protection taking into account splashes of water from heavy rain or sweat on typical exercise. Should not have issue and do not submerge the unit in water and make sure to empty your pocket if you are the type to keep your earphones/wireless buds in your pocket (remember i say above the unit is hard to keep outside the charging case without risk of losing it?)

The Touch is Touchy
I am a fan of real button. Tactile feel you can press. OpenFit doesn't has them. And my first usage of it was a challenge. 
Remember the Two-Dots and that Dash?

On default, tapping them twice will play/stop the music. It was frustrating as I wasn't sure if my finger did touch the two-dots or the dash (separately on right and left respectively). I got the music paused when running one moment, and then playing again another moment. Sometimes, i can't get any button touch to work and all I hear is a beep.

I can't find the volume button because they are none. I can't skip the track because the default action for both touch button was well - play/pause.

I then opened the Shokz app to see what I can tweak from there and find the best possible combination.

The selection on what Double Tap can do

For the option of Double Tap, I went for option 2 which is Play/Pause for left, and Next for right. And for Press-Hold, i went for the Volume Up (right) and Down (left). Seems to be the most workable combination. 
Press-Hold option

I was hoping that Shokz will flip the Double Tap and have the Next on the left like on the Open-series multifunction button. This way, it will harmonise their product control and make it easy for existing user to transition.

The control work perfectly fine when you are not exercising or bouncing with movement. It was a challenge to actually place the finger tip on the raised part of the OpenFit (2-Dots and the Dash) to perform the actions. I either paused the songs, and unable to play it again (and has to use the control on the watch), or I inevitably changed the songs while trying to increase the volume - because I was bouncing in movement, and the second touch to raise the volume is registered as a double tap (and hence change the track playing).

Also, because I took it into shower to test the functionality with splashes of water, the touch could activate by itself and you get random results depending on how the water drop "touched" the unit. So, if you are running through a water station and decided to pour a cup of ice water or squeeze a sponge over your head, be aware that the water could mess with the touch control.

Otherwise, when the Touch function works, it's fine.
Yes, a big Yay!
Long Term Review
I have this unit for a month on loan thanks to Shokz Malaysia (Nove Marketing) and will be using this as much as I can to imitate real user usage as much as possible. So, back to regret number 1, yes, at this moment I should had opted for the OpenFit as my 2023-2024 entitlement.

  • Significant better sound reproduction than bone conduction
  • Open ear concept allow you can hear your surroundings and still able to have a conversation while running or cycling or in the gym. Beyond sports-usage, the ability to hear your water boiling, fire alarm and other surrounding noises. 
  • Less potential for in-ear infection or impacted ear-wax as it does not go into the ear. The OpenFit sit outside the external ear and it gives impression it is an in-ear, but it isn't. No sweat or heating/hot issue as the unit doesn't sit in the ear canal or has the earpad covering like the traditional headphones.
  • Comfortable fit super light. You may only feel it's there after more than 5 hours of usage as the unit presses against part of your external ear. 
  • Some chances of losing the unit as it hooks over your ear that can get caught in your hood, cap or even your hair as you flip/adjust 
  • Sound leakage if you bump the sound too high. It is a mini-speaker after all. If you are in a quiet environment or taking a confidential call/privacy matters, it is best to lower the volume or find a more secure place.
  • Touch control can be improved
Based on the four regrets I noted above (well, which is actually the plus points of the product), the OpenFit is a very good choice if you are looking for something with good sound, mobile, not in your ears and want something good for sports.
For all it's worth, this is a really good Open-ear TWS for sports

This unit of Shokz OpenFit is provided to me on loan by Shokz Malaysia and Nove Marketing. The unit retail for RM899.00 and comes with 2-years warranty. To purchase, please click this link

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