Oladance OWS1 Open-Ear Headphones Review: Great Design but Questionable Performance

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Key Takeaways

  • The Oladance OWS1 are open-ear earbuds that sit in front of your ear canals, providing a different kind of listening experience.
  • The earbuds have a comfortable fit, solid mids and highs, and a fine companion app, but they have sensitive touch controls, weak bass, and poor call quality.
  • The OWS1 offer a good battery life of up to 16 hours, but there is no battery in the included USB-C charging case.


The Oladance OWS1 are one of the newer additions to the “open-ear” earbuds landscape. Designed to be seated in front of your ear canals instead of inside them, the OWS1 are cozy to wear, but the innovation starts to dwindle once you start listening to music and making phone calls.

Oladance OWS1 Open-Ear Earbuds

$104 $130 Save $26

The Oladance OWS1 brings an intriguing idea to the table, but when it comes time to play some tunes, the promise of ingenuity starts fading fast.

Battery Life
16 hours

Brand
Oladance

Bluetooth
5.2

IP Rating
IPX4

Driver Size
16.5mm

Weight
12.7 grams (single earbud)

Colors
Interstellar Blue, Cloud White, Martian Orange, Space Silver

Charging Port
USB-C

Compatibility
Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

Noise Cancellation
No

Pros

  • Excellent fit
  • Solid mids and highs
  • Great companion app
  • Good battery life
Cons

  • Touch points are far too sensitive
  • Bass isn’t too strong
  • Call quality isn’t good

Design and Fit: Striking the Balance

The Oladance Open-Ear Headphones on a wooden table.
Jason Montoya / How-To Geek

The Oladance OWS1 are available in four colors, with my test pair being Interstellar Blue (the other three shades are Cloud White, Martian Orange, and Space Silver). There are two main parts of each bud: the driver portion and the contact pad that sits below your ear, with a silicone arm connecting both areas. The parts of both sections that make contact with your skin are covered in silicone, while the exterior-facing parts are encased in glossy hard plastic.

Similar to many other earbuds, the OWS1’s touch controls are mapped to the exterior of each driver (more on this in a bit). You’ll also get a USB-C charging case that looks a lot like an eyeglasses holder. When you open it up, you’ll see where each bud is supposed to rest against its charging pins. One bummer is that this case doesn’t actually have a built-in battery, which means you’ll have to have it plugged into a USB power adapter whenever it’s time to re-juice the OWS1.

The company does make its own 2,550mAh charging case (which I used) that is supposed to provide an additional 78.4 hours of listening on a full battery. I must say I wasn’t a big fan of the case itself though. It was bulky, it felt a little cheap, and it’s priced at $50, which is too much if you ask me. (I’d be okay with $25.) There’s a USB-C port on the back of the case for charging it up, and I did actually like the LED indicator on the front for keeping tabs on how much juice was left.

The Oladance Open-Ear Headphones in the charging case.
Jason Montoya / How-To Geek

Admittedly, it took me a pretty long time to understand how to get the OWS1 over my ears; and even once I had the process fairly down pat, I still had to double-check which earbud went to which ear. Yes, there’s an “L” on one bud and an “R” on the other, but the silicone arm is what threw me. Here’s a pro tip: When you’re holding the left or right bud, try visualizing the curvature of the arm sliding over the top of your ear.

I actually thought the OWS1 were extremely comfortable to wear, to the point where I’d almost prefer to use them at the gym or on a run, instead of my AirPods Pro. The silicone pad that rests below your ear is an integral part of the OWS1’s multi-point support system, allowing for even weight distribution across the bud. While the pad was always firmly seated against the top part of my jaw (similar to the feel of bone-conduction headphones), I never found the contact to be too overwhelming.

I like the idea of open-ear earbuds becoming a mainstay, because anything in-ear starts to fatigue my ears after a while, and traditional headphones can make my whole head feel too warm. With the 16.5mm drivers hanging in front of your canal, the OWS1 can strike the balance between comfort and performance.

Touch Controls: I Dislike Them

As far as touch controls go, this was my least favorite part of the Oladance OWS1 earbuds. I found the over-sensitivity of the touch points (which can’t be adjusted) to be far too finicky; to the point where I would never even try to raise and lower the volume of songs using anything but my iPhone. It’s also pretty annoying how reactive the buds are when you’re just trying to seat them over your ears. I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally rewound an entire podcast episode or aggressively raised the volume of a song.

While you’ll be able to customize what taps and swipes actually do in the Oladance app, this doesn’t really change how awkward it can be to try and do something as simple as skipping to the next track of an album. Sometimes a command would work without a problem, while other times it was like the earbuds had a mind of their own.

Sound Quality: Don’t Crank Your Earbuds

The Oladance Open-Ear Headphones on a wooden table.
Jason Montoya / How-To Geek

The Oladance OWS1 are truly exceptional when it comes to mids and highs. In fact, I heard more details in the demo tracks I’ve run through a hundred times with other headphones than I’ve ever heard before.

British prog-rocker Steven Wilson’s sixth solo album “The Future Bites” is packed to the brim with powerfully layered synth scapes. Not only did each and every new section sound clean and crisp, but whenever vocals would enter the fray, the sound staging was always well-balanced and just as detailed. I will admit that audio became problematic at higher volumes for all genres.

When listening to Paramore’s song “Running out of Time,” the groovy blend of vocals, guitars, and bass sounded great until I pushed the decibels past the two-thirds mark, which resulted in a fair amount of distortion and a complete lack of bass. I tried several other songs at higher volumes too, and the same thing happened each time. This malady becomes especially hard to ignore when having to contend with filtered-in environmental noise.

Even at normal volumes, the OWS1 struggled with bass quite a bit. When I went into the EQ and cranked the low-end frequencies up, it didn’t add much oomph; and choosing the “Surging Bass” preset resulted in essentially the same sound. Now I could definitely hear the bass in the many tracks I demoed, but it never truly stood on its own, often sounding like it was just lumped into the mids. I’m wondering how much of this might have to do with the design, considering the buds are only hanging in front of the ear canals. I’m assuming not much though, because the mids and highs were totally unaffected.

Call Quality: Poor to Say the Least

A person listening to music with the Oladance Open-Ear Headphones.
Jason Montoya / How-To Geek

In the few test calls I made with the Oladance OWS1, I never had a particularly great experience. For starters, the person I was chatting to would always sound choppy and compressed. The overall volume level seemed to ebb and flow, too. Added to this, my test caller reported that I sounded tinny and unclear, with lots of phasing in and out of average clarity to slightly worse articulation.

Then there’s the fact that there’s no noise-canceling to work with, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if the calls themselves were easier to hear. But once you throw in louder environmental sounds, like traffic and HVAC systems, using the OWS1 for a phone call becomes just too frustrating.

Battery: A Saving Grace

Oladance claims that the OWS1 will deliver up to 16 hours of playtime on a single charge. While actual listening hours will vary based on volume and EQ adjustments, I received exceptional performance out of my earbuds; to the point where I never even had to give them a full recharge. On the occasion that either of the buds would dip below 60%, a half hour in the case would boost them up to around 90% or higher.

As mentioned, the charging case does require a separate USB power adapter, which can make charging the OWS1 on the go a little annoying. But as long as you know in advance that, when traveling, you’ll need a portable charger for your charger, you can avoid some dead-battery disappointments.

Using the Oladance App: Intuitive, Save for One Hiccup

The Oladance app is available for Apple and Android devices and offers a few different ways to customize your OWS1. After you’ve created your free Oladance account and entered the confirmation code, getting the earbuds paired to the app is as easy as opening the OWS1 case and placing it near your phone or tablet. Once the app detects the OWS1, you’ll be navigated to the device dashboard.

A simple but intuitive layout, the main screen of the app shows the battery level of both earbuds. A finger-tapping icon is what you’ll press to access touch control customizations for both music and phone calls; allowing you to change what single, double and triple taps do for each bud, as well as forward and backward sliding. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to assign different commands based on which bud you tap; so if you change your single tap to voice assistant, tapping either bud once will call up Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri.

Back on the main screen, the three vertical lines icon brings you into the OWS1 EQ, where you’ll be able to choose from a few different audio presets. By choosing the “Customize” option, you’ll also be able to create your own custom sound using an equalizer; but when I reviewed the earbuds, tapping Customize actually didn’t do anything. To get into the manual EQ, I had to go back to the main screen to tap the settings icon (a pentagon with a gray dot in the middle). Then I had to tap “EQ” under the “Customization” category, followed by tapping “Customize” once more on the final page of options.

On the settings menu, you’ll also be able to adjust sound balance between both earbuds, access the user manual and device info, as well as remove the OWS1 from the app entirely.

Should You Buy the Oladance OWS Open Ear Headphones?

No. The Oladance OWS1 are truly innovative as far as comfort and fit goes, but when it comes to actual music, in-call audio, and touch point sensitivity, these over-ear earbuds really come up short. One or two of the bothersome points being corrected may have swayed my thinking in a different direction, but for the money, I think there are too many things that the OWS1 earbuds miss the mark on.

Oladance OWS1 Open-Ear Earbuds

$104 $130 Save $26

The Oladance OWS1 are open-ear earbuds, designed to hang just in front of your ear canals, instead of inside them. This set includes 16.5mm drivers, a USB-C charging case, and up to 16 hours of battery life.



Source
Las Vegas News Magazine

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