JBL joins open ear trend with new Soundgear Sense air conduction earbuds
Open-ear earphones are finally catching on, and this week, JBL became the latest brand to join the fray with the launch of its Soundgear Sense earbuds, which take the air-conduction approach to open-ear design (as opposed to bone-conduction). Air-conduction uses special acoustic techniques to channel sound into the ear with minimal leakage, without needing the earbuds to be inserted in the ears. The result is a much more relaxed fit for extended wear, that lets in important ambient sounds like traffic or a direct conversation.
JBL's new earbuds use adjustable ear-hooks and a detachable neckband to stay securely in position. Although open-ear designs inherently struggle with bass frequencies, JBL's 16.2 mm drivers and bass-enhancing DSP should sufficiently compensate for that. Being partly intended for use outdoors and during workouts, the earphones feature an adequate IP54 rating for dust, sweat and water resistance.
For office and work-from-home use, multipoint connectivity allows simultaneous connection with two devices, say, a phone and laptop. Four microphones are responsible for voice pickup and ambient noise rejection during calls. Battery life is 6 hours on the earbuds plus 18 from the case. Bluetooth LE audio support will be added later through an update, signaling support for the much-anticipated Auracast audio-sharing feature.
Air-conduction technology has been around for some time. Bose, typically ahead of its time, introduced it starting 2018 in its Frames sunglasses and Sport Open earbuds, but seeing poor adoption, retired them just before others started seeing the potential. Shokz, the definitive pioneer and leader in bone conduction headphones, has now released its OpenFit air-conduction earbuds. Sony’s LinkBuds and OneOdio’s OpenRock are among the other recent entrants in this space.
With people wearing their earphones for extended periods – whether for work or outdoors, commuting or exercising – issues like physical discomfort, disconnection from their surroundings and safety concerns are becoming hard to ignore. It’s no surprise that open-ear technologies are finally having their day in the sun.
The JBL Soundgear Sense earbuds will retail for €149.99 / £129.99 and are available on JBL's UK website. Pricing and availability in the US is yet to be confirmed.