Proof that open-ear earphones are here to stay.
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- So comfortable you’ll forget you have them on
- Excellent environmental awareness
- Good sound
- Well constructed app
- Colors other than chrome are available
- Controls take getting used to
- Limited Bluetooth codec support (SBC)
- One size may not fit all
- No isolation
- Bulky case
It’s time for full disclosure. I’ve used the original Oladance Wearable Stereo OWS open-ear earphones almost every day since they arrived over 6 months ago. I love them. Full stop.
Although adored, I admit the originals aren’t perfect, though.
The two big complaints I have are the lack of internal battery in the case (the earphones must be placed in the case and the case plugged in to recharge) and a low-level audible hiss if using the OWS in a very quiet environment.
So when Oladance contacted me and offered up the new Pro version for review – which come in a charging case with an internal battery – I quickly signed on the dotted line. We all know that ‘new’ is always better, and ‘Pro’ always means superior to the standard version, right?
Maybe, maybe not.
Unboxing and First Impression
- Battery Life: 58 hours
- Connector: USB-c
- Wireless Charging: No
- Battery Capacity: 2550 mAh
As noted, it’s a big improvement from the original to include a battery in the Pro’s charging case. Connect a cable to the USB-c port on the back, and the case will charge its internal 2550 mAh battery in about 3 hours. This yields approximately 58 total hours of battery life, depending on volume and use. Impressive.
- Can be open easily with one hand: Yes
- Pass the shake test: Yes
- Light Indicators: Display battery level and charging status
The 4 tiny white LEDs on the front edge of the case indicate the current battery level when the USB-c cable is attached. While charging, these LEDs “breathe” (fade in and out) and turn off when fully charged. The LEDs are relatively dim in bright lighting and pretty subtle, but it works.
The OWS earphones clip into the case with magnets and are securely held. Until, of course, you are like me and drop the case on the floor, causing them to scatter and hide.
- Shape of the case: Clamshell
- Material: Chrome-plated plastic
- Build Quality: Average
This time around, I didn’t get to choose the color, and let me highly suggest that you give the chrome finish a pass. It gets fingerprints on it by merely waving your hands in the same room, by someone walking by on the street outside, or by a baby taking its first steps on the other side of the world.
Ok, I exaggerate—a little. But wow, the term ‘fingerprint-magnet’ is fully applicable.
The OWS Pro are also available in misty black, porcelain white, vivid green, and pearl haze pink. Oladance created an eight-layer coloring process called “ceramic skin” for the pink, green, and white models.
- Weight: 73.6g (With earphones inside)
- Volume: 88x74x29mm (~11.5 in cu)
- Portability: Substandard
Yes, I wished for a battery in the original case, and I got my wish.
Be careful of what you wish for.
Unfortunately, I vastly prefer the shape, size, and materials of the original case. The clamshell-shaped Pro case is much larger and bulkier than the original and, as a result, is less pocket-friendly.
This is a very chonky case.
- Battery Life: 16 hrs
- Charge Time (15mins): 360 mins (6 hours) playback time
The battery life for the OWS Pro is terrific – 16 hours on their own, and up to 58 hours with the case. If you manage to run them out, you get 6 hours on a 15-minute charge. I use them all the time with only one earphone in my ear for audiobook listening, effectively doubling the battery life.
- Control Mechanism: Mechanical, touch
- Touch Accuracy: Good
- Control Symmetry on both earphones: Yes
- Mono Use: Yes
The controls differ from the touch-only setup of the original, adding a pressure-sensitive button and power button to each earphone. To activate the touch button, it’s necessary to squeeze with your thumb and forefinger positioned on the bottom and top of the speaker module.
I struggled mightily initially until I finally convinced myself that the Pro controls differ from the originals. Once I acclimated, the new control scheme worked fine.
Single squeeze to play/pause or answer a call. Double-squeeze to skip forward/back or hang up. Triple-squeeze for voice assistant. Stroke the touch surface on the sides to adjust the volume.
Where the Pro version’s controls are unquestionably superior is when the earphones may be accidentally touched, i.e., used while lying down, with a headrest, etc. My pillow often accidentally pauses playback if I lie down with the original OWS in my ears.
- Profile: Low
- Material: Plastic, silicone, titanium
- Comfort: Outstanding
- Fit: Outstanding
The open-ear design simply can’t be beat for comfort. I often forget that I have the OWS Pro on and can sometimes be found looking for where I put them down or wandering around in public, not listening to anything. Super cool, I know.
The new slimmer design is just as comfortable as the original, and both seem to disappear once you wear them for a little while. There’s no fatiguing in-ear pressure, hotspots, or soreness like from standard IEMs or earbuds. These are comfortable enough to wear all day, every day.
They fit fine with glasses and stay in place once locked around your ear. For non-adjustable wearable tech, it’s remarkable how successful the design is in terms of ergonomics.
- Noise Cancellation: Good
- Voice Pick-up: Good
The 6 MEMs microphones work very well. The external noise minimization technology is surprisingly effective at reducing external sounds picked up by the microphones while maintaining decent voice quality.
- Driver: 23mmx10mm dynamic driver
- Sound Signature: Balanced
- Bass: Good
- Mids: Good
- Treble: Good
- Sound Detail: Good
Perhaps the greatest surprise of the OWS Pro (as well as their older non-pro sibling) is how terrific they sound.
The open-back earphone design has a few insurmountable realities. Sound leaks – a blessing or a curse, as they are easily drowned out in loud environments, but environmental awareness is superb. These aren’t for commuting on the bus; rather, they are perfect for walking to work.
There is no sound isolation – in or out.
The open-back design does limit bass response – there’s no seal – much like comparing open to closed-back full-sized headphones. However, the Pro portrays a remarkably balanced sound signature and can impart sufficient weight and depth to the music, even if slam and punch are a touch light.
A tangible benefit of the open design is natural presentation. Sounds seem to come from the environment rather than being projected directly into the ear canal, like how IEMs sound.
The midrange and treble maintain very good detail and balance out the bass well, even with the inherent limitation of using a basic Bluetooth codec. It’s a smooth, unfatiguing character that sounds real.
If you really want to bump things up for your EDM running playlist, by all means, turn on the ‘Surging Bass’ EQ mode. I prefer the (in Oladance’s words) “distinct and comfortable frequencies” ‘Default’ EQ mode.
- Audio Codec: SBC
- Bluetooth Version: 5.3
- Auto-connect when: Taken out of case
- Average drop-outs in an hour: 0 times
- Multi-point connection: Yes
Part of the outstanding battery life may be attributed to using the most basic Bluetooth codec, SBC. While SBC is met with derision by audiophiles and gamers requiring the highest uncompressed data rates and lowest latency, it works absolutely fine in this application. The OWS Pro do not audibly suffer from this connection method.
Bluetooth multipoint connections are supported. The Pro pair and connect seamlessly, and I encounter no stability issues at all.
- IP Rating: IPX4
IPX4 – Protects from splashing water, no matter the direction.
- Available on: iOS, Android
- 8 Band EQ with presets, Focus and Hearing Protection modes, customizable controls
As noted above, the app allows for control configuration to your tastes through easy-to-navigate menus. It also displays the charge level for each earpiece and lets you customize the sound (8-band EQ) or select from a few presets.
EQ presets include ‘Default,’ ‘Surging Bass,’ and ‘Pure Voice.’ Additionally, there are focus and hearing protection modes.
Focus uses active noise canceling (ANC), although the open nature of the OWS Pro limits it. It’s most effective at drowning out constant low-level noises such as fans or engine noises. In a quiet environment, I find it disorientating.
Hearing protection mode is designed to minimize the chance of hearing loss by real-time monitoring the sound energy every 100 milliseconds and automatically adjusting the volume. Or, of course, you could just not turn them up too loud.
Who Should Buy This?
Are you someone who wants to maintain situational awareness when listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks, and your primary listening environment isn’t too loud? If so, then the OWS Pro are as good as it gets, in my experience.
However, if you want the deepest, most slamming bass and want to be immersed in your own little world, safely isolated from your environment, IEMs will be a better option.
Natural sound and sublime comfort. High praise, indeed.
I love the original OWS, and I learned to love the Pros. They aren’t a complete slam dunk in the fingerprint-prone chrome color, and that case shape turns me off a bit. Choose a better color, and I’ll get over the chunky case due to the excellent battery life it offers.
That is, if I ever get the Pros back.
My wife has absconded with them, so I’m stuck with the originals. I really can’t blame her, and it’s hard to complain about being stuck with excellence.
Where to Buy
Oladance declares itself “THE worldwide leader in the open wearable audio industry.” The company was formed by ANC technicians with more than a decade of experience in the audio industry, and Oladance first proposed the concept of open wearable stereo (OWS).
“Our Mission: Use technology to help human beings supercede the limits of their senses, so that everyone can enjoy a natural and healthy lifestyle.” – Oladance
Oladance is interested in context-aware wearables that interact naturally with the user in real life. Its goal is to promote integrated wearable devices and cloud applications, focusing on invisibility to the end-user and lack of wearing fatigue.
What’s in the Box?
- OWS Pro
- Charging case
- USB-c cable
- User manual
- Form: Open-ear
- Driver: 23mmx10mm dynamic
- Waterproof IP Rating: IPX4
- Frequency Response (Hz): 20 Hz – 20 KHz
- Bluetooth Version: 5.3
- Bluetooth Audio Codec: SBC
- Battery Life (hrs): 16 hours, 58 hours with case
- Mic: Y, 6 MEMS type, frequency range: 100Hz-10kHz, sensitivity: -38dbV/Pa
- Weight (g): Single earphone: 13.8 g, case: 73.6 g
- Size: Earphone: 57x45x22.5mm, case: 88x74x29mm