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Shokz OpenComm2 UC Bone Conduction Headset – A Mix Real-World Review

Shokz OpenComm2 UC headset fits the bill for those who need to communicate while keeping their hands—and ear canals—free.

Shokz OpenComm2 UC Bone Conduction Headset
THE TAKEAWAY: “The Shokz OpenComm2 UC fits the bill nicely, sporting solid sound, an intuitive interface and essentially frictionless Bluetooth pairing.”
COMPANY: shokz •
PRICE: $200
• Use of bone conduction allows user to hear surroundings unimpeded.
• Comfortable to wear for extensive periods.
• Can connect to multiple Bluetooth devices simultaneously.
• Not always clear as to which devices are connected to the headset.

New York, NY (November 8, 2023)—I’ll start this off by acknowledging right off the bat that a consumer electronics headset meant for office work and exercise is not in the typical Mix purview when it comes to reviews. Our Real-World Reviews are about pro-audio gear—the equipment that will help you get results whether in the studio or behind the FOH desk. Sure, that gear can include microphones and headphones, but this isn’t, say, an Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS StreamSet that brings together broadcast-level miking and earcups. However—and this is what makes the Shokz OpenComm2 UC Bone Conduction Stereo Bluetooth Headset appropriate for a Mix review—it’s a product that addresses the two words in the headline between “Mix” and “review.” This is a product for the real world, and that includes the time you spend on your career that doesn’t specifically involve turning a knob or carefully listening to speakers at 110 dB—though you could conceivably wind up using it in those surroundings, too.

The Shokz OpenComm2 UC headset wirelessly ties into your computer, phone and other Bluetooth devices, letting you listen and communicate with others, whether it’s over a Zoom conference, phone call or some other interaction over digital means. What makes it unique, however, is that the headset uses bone conduction, feeding you clear sound while leaving your ears uncovered and unplugged, so you can still hear the world around you.

As you might guess from that arrangement, Shokz got its start making headsets for exercise, allowing wearers to listen to music, podcasts and the like while jogging, biking and so on, keeping them aware of their surroundings at all times. That lineage is readily apparent in the OpenComm2’s design, too, as the headset is incredibly lightweight, durable and flexible, and is covered in a rubber coating with a pleasant tack that keeps it waterproof and in place on your head even when you move around. It’s also comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, as it curves around the back of your head without touching it, so there’s no heavy weight on top of your noggin. More than once, I’ve laughed at myself realizing that I had been wearing the headset for an hour or more since I last used it because I still heard everything around me like usual; I simply forgot it was there.

The bone conduction happens through two small pads on the headset that gently press against your head in the space between your ear and your cheekbones; they are two tiny speakers that can get pretty loud, relatively speaking, and are surprisingly clear given that they’re away from your ear canal. Take off the headset, however, and you—and the rest of the world—can’t hear them at all.

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The mic arm is short and unobtrusive, able to be swiped upwards and out of the way, and the mic itself is clear—you won’t record your next Grammy-winning vocal on it, but it’s perfectly fine for talking. The end of the arm includes a tiny mute/unmute button atop the mic itself. Meanwhile, the headset’s ability to hold a charge is impressive—Shokz says it’ll hold up to 15 hours of talk time, and a five-minute quick charge will get you two hours of talk time in a pinch. In practice, I find I can go a few weeks between charges, and it will verbally tell you if it needs to get recharged.

One of the most impressive aspects of the OpenComm2 UC headset, however, is that it can tie into two different devices via Bluetooth at the same time—say, your PC and your smartphone—and it generally knows which one to prioritize. Once you’ve initially connected devices to the headset, it will automatically find them and reconnect every time you turn the headset on. Once you get into the realm of more than two devices (I work with two Macs and an iPhone, for instance), it gets a tad more complicated; you’ll be turning off Bluetooth on one device to allow the headset to “find” another device—because you can’t have more than two connected at any one time—but generally speaking, the Bluetooth linking and unlinking is fairly intuitive and painless, and often simply automatic. If you’re listening to something on your computer and your phone rings, you can tap the ‘answer phone’ button on the headset and it’ll automatically swap over to prioritizing the phone.

While obviously made for office work, biking and the rest, the OpenComm2 UC headset really shines in any situation where you need to communicate but also need your hands free—and also need to hear what’s going on around you. So, if you’re soundchecking at FOH in an unfamiliar club and wind up calling the house engineer on your smartphone, you don’t have to put him on the phone’s speaker while you get things in order. I could picture this being useful as well for installers on the phone with manufacturers or the home office, and so on.

Is it for every use case? No, and for many people, typical Bluetooth earpieces or headphones are just fine for their needs, but if you need to keep 100 percent in touch with your surroundings, bone conduction is a strong solution and the Shokz OpenComm2 UC fits the bill nicely, sporting solid sound, an intuitive interface and essentially frictionless Bluetooth pairing. Using it the last few months, the headset has become part of my daily workflow, and it’s heartily recommended.