Bose Sport Open vs. Cleer Arc vs. Oladance Wearable Stereo: open earbud shootout

So-called open-style earbuds are an interesting idea. By placing a speaker near your ear canal instead of in your ear canal like a conventional set of wireless earbuds, they’re supposed to let you hear your music while staying fully aware of your surroundings. And it looks like it’s an idea that’s catching on. In 2021, Bose was just about the only company making such a product – the $199 Bose Sport Open Earbuds. But in 2022, there are now two more products to choose from: Cleer Audio’s $130 Arc and newcomer Oladance’s $180 Wearable Stereo.

So now that there’s a choice, it’s time to see which of these open-style earbuds is the best. As usual, we’ll put all three models head-to-head in a variety of categories and then (try) to declare an overall winner.

Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Cleer Audio Arc

Price

No doubt you’ve already figured out that the Cleer Arc are by far the most affordable of the three models, at $130. As we’ll see in a moment, there are some good reasons why you should consider spending a bit more, but if budget is your biggest concern, the Arc are the obvious choice.

Section winner: Cleer Audio Arc

Cleer Audio Arc
Cleer Audio Arc

Earbud design

Bose Sport Open Earbuds, Cleer Arc, and Oladance Wearable Stereo open-style earbuds.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

All three earbuds offer the same IPX4 protection from water and sweat, which is the bare minimum you need for workouts or running sessions. They all hook around your ear, and they all use the same basic audio concept – large-diameter drivers that aim sound into your ears. Where they diverge is in size, shape, controls, and colors.

The Oladance are the smallest and lightest (12.7 grams), the Bose Sport Open are in the middle at 13.8 grams, while the Cleer Arc are chunkiest at 14.5 grams. Frankly, you can ignore these weights from a comfort point of view (which we’ll get to in a moment).

Each has its own approach to function and fit. The Bose are a solid chunk of premolded plastic with a combination of touch controls and physical buttons, while the Oladance use touch controls, with flexible silicone rubber to connect the two main sections. The Arc also use touch controls, but they incorporate an intriguing, spring-loaded pivot, which keeps them snugly in place.

If color is your thing, Oladance has you covered, with blue, orange, white, and silver options. Cleer offers the Arc in a dark blue or a pale gray, and Bose will give you the Sport Open earbuds in any color you want as long as it’s black.

Ultimately, the design will be a deeply personal preference, but I’m giving the edge to Oladance with its small, light, and very colorful approach.

Section winner: Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds
Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Case and charger design

Bose Sport Open Earbuds, Cleer Arc, and Oladance Wearable Stereo open-style earbuds.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

For reasons that are unclear to us, all three earbuds lack the traditional charging case design that you’ll find on conventional wireless earbuds. By that, we mean, none of the cases provided possess their own internal batteries for recharging the earbuds when you’re on the go. Instead, the battery capacity in the earbuds themselves is all you get.

And each model takes a slightly different approach to case design and charging. Bose splits these duties into two components. You store the Sport Open Earbuds inside a slim, felt-lined carry case, but you charge them using a custom USB charging cradle. On the one hand, this separation of storage and charging means that if the case were to get damaged, it wouldn’t matter that much – the charger is separate. But on the other hand, having to carry two items when you travel – especially a charger that can’t be easily replaced if lost or broken – is less than ideal. Plus needing to remove the earbuds from their case to charge them feels counterintuitive and somewhat awkward.

Cleer uses a zippered case for the Arc that’s only slightly bigger than the Bose case, but inside is a full charging solution, including a built-in USB cable that is neatly stowed when not in use. The all-in-one design is super-handy, but not without two potential drawbacks: the zippered closure isn’t as easy to use as Bose’s magnetic closure, and if anything happens to that USB cable, you’ll have to buy a new case – it’s not replaceable on its own.

Oladance goes for a hybrid approach, with a plastic charging and storage case that has a standard USB-C port on the back. To charge the Wearable Stereo buds, you put them in the case and plug the case into power using the included cable, which can be easily and cheaply replaced with any standard USB-C cable.

Cleer definitely deserves an honorary mention for its all-in-one design, but Oladance takes this one for its simple, no-nonsense approach.

Section winner: Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds
Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Comfort and fit

Man wearing Oladance Wearable Stereo open earbuds.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

All three models are very comfortable — it’s one of the things that makes open earbuds so appealing. Without anything inside your ear or ear canal, you can wear these headphones all day and never get fatigued.

But I did find a few differences that are worth noting. The Bose have the smallest openings for your ears, and as a result, you may find them a bit trickier to get seated.

Oladance’s flexible connector will likely make for the most comfortable fit for most people, but it is also the least secure of the three. Bose’s Sport Open Earbuds, as you would expect, sit very securely when you’re upright, but they fell off my ears immediately when my head was pointed toward the floor while doing a standing, hinge-at-the-waist stretch – as did the Oladance. The Cleer Arc, likely due to their spring-loaded hinges, are the most secure of the group and were able to stay put when the others lost their grip.

It will come down to how you want to use these earbuds, so given Oladance’s overall comfort and Cleer’s secure fit, I’m calling this a two-way tie.

Section winner: Tie

Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds
Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Cleer Audio Arc
Cleer Audio Arc

Bluetooth connection

Bose Sport Open Earbuds.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Normally, I wouldn’t even include a section on connection quality because, these days, especially with Bluetooth 5.0 or higher, connection problems are rarely an issue. But the Oladance suffered frequent, short connection drops during my time with them, which proved quite frustrating. I’m optimistic this can be solved with a firmware update, but for now, it’s a problem. I also ran into trouble when switching between previously paired devices. Going from my iPhone to my Mac was fine, but when trying to reconnect to the iPhone, I had to forget the Oladance from my Bluetooth device list and re-pair them as if it were the first time.

The Cleer Arc also had a few short dropouts, but they were very rare. Conversely, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds performed flawlessly.

It’s worth noting that none of these earbuds offer Bluetooth multipoint, so you can only connect one device to them at a time.

Section winner: Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Controls

Cleer Arc open earbuds.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I tend to prefer physical buttons over touch controls and as such, I think the Bose Sport Open Earbuds have the best controls of this group. However, that only goes for the basic playback and calling commands that you access via the buttons on each earbud. The volume control, which can be optionally turned on via the touch sensors (the Bose logo area) is finicky, and I found it was too easy to trigger accidentally ( which is likely why Bose lets you disable it).

The Cleer Arc’s controls are fine, as far as touch controls are concerned, though the touch surfaces end up slightly angled once you seat the buds properly, which makes them a little harder to tap accurately. I like that there are gestures for every command you could need, and that these gestures can be customized inside the Cleer+ app.

You can do the same thing with the Oladance, but I much prefer the Oladance’s volume control to the Cleer Arc’s. With the Wearable Stereo, it’s an intuitive swipe gesture (forward or back) that performs changes to volume, whereas the Arc require a double-tap-and-hold gesture, which is less intuitive and also less accurate.

Honestly, the Oladance’s controls are great, but as I said, for me, physical controls are preferable.

Section winner: Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Sound quality

Oladance Wearable Stereo open earbuds.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Let’s be clear: If you’re looking for high-fidelity sound, open-style earbuds are probably not the best choice. And if you use these devices in noisy environments, you can expect a serious degradation in sound quality, especially if you’re listening to podcasts. All three of these earbuds suffer equally under these conditions.

It’s also worth noting that you probably won’t be able to hear any difference between high-quality, 24-bit lossless tracks and lower-quality MP3s. None of these products support advanced Bluetooth codecs like aptX Adaptive, LDAC, or LHDC, and only the Bose even bothers with AAC.

Still, you may be surprised at just how good open earbuds can sound when they don’t have to compete with loud environments. The Oladance are particularly good at creating an open and airy sound. The company claims that wearing them is like having a home stereo wherever you go, with the feeling that the sound is coming from everywhere outside in a natural way. That might be a slight overpromise, but it’s not a total exaggeration – the Wearable Stereo earbuds are the most enjoyable listen of the group. You won’t find deep bass on any of them, but only the Oladance find a way to effectively compensate for that lack, with a sound signature that feels remarkably full. An available equalizer in the Oladance app lets you tweak that sound, but don’t expect this to have a huge impact.

The Cleer Arc sound good too, but they don’t offer the depth and width of the Oladance’s soundstage, and their bass response isn’t as strong. But the Arc’s greatest weakness is its power. I had to crank the volume to 100% just to hear my music at an acceptable level, and even then, I found myself wanting more. Not that the Arc’s drivers could handle more power – by 90% volume, the throbbing bass line of Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy was producing noticeable distortion as the Arc tried and failed to reproduce those low notes. The Arc offers an adjustable EQ too, but again, don’t expect miracles.

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are the most powerful of the three, with volume levels that can easily overcome most external sounds. You may even need to be a bit careful – at full strength, they felt like they might be producing unsafe listening levels.

This power makes the Bose the right choice for folks who plan to use their open earbuds outside or while working out. The Sport Open Earbuds don’t deliver what I’d call a nuanced sound – it can even feel a bit harsh at times – but it’s a high-energy mix with an emphasis on clear highs that will keep you moving.

Bose definitely provides the power you need for workouts in all situations, but Oladance still takes this one due to the Wearable Stereo’s better overall sound quality.

Section winner: Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds
Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Sound leakage

Cleer Arc open earbuds sitting in charging case with USB cord unwrapped.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

It’s an inevitability that when your earbuds don’t create a seal with your ears, some sound will end up leaking out and being heard by those around you. The amount of sound that escapes will depend on your ears, your music, and mostly, the volume you’re listening at.

There was no discernable difference in sound leakage between the three models, when playing music at about the same relative volumes.

Section winner: Tie

Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds
Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Cleer Audio Arc
Cleer Audio Arc

Call quality

Oladance Wearable Stereo open earbuds sitting in charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

With Bose’s reputation for business-class headphones that are great for calls, I was fully expecting the Sport Open Earbuds to walk away with this one, but that’s not how it turned out. Indoors, or when your surroundings are very quiet, they do very well – your voice will come through extremely clearly. At their best, they sound as good as the mic on your phone. However, the moment there were any competing sounds – which will happen a lot if you use them outside (kinda the point with these things) – they struggle and things become muddied and noisy, unpleasantly so at times.

The Cleer Arc are a lot more consistent, but not consistently clear (unfortunately, given their name). Your callers will have no problem hearing you, but your voice will sound compressed and a little muffled.

The Oladance, by contrast, are superb for calls in all conditions. Voice clarity is so good that these earbuds rank up there with the best wireless earbuds and headphones for call quality, like the Jabra Elite 7 Pro and the Sony WH-1000XM5.

Section winner: Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds
Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Battery life

Oladance Wearable Stereo open earbuds sitting in charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

When you can’t top up your earbuds with a charging case, battery life becomes even more important when choosing among these three. Cleer and Bose are within striking distance of each other on this front at a claimed seven and eight hours of playtime respectively. Those are pretty good numbers; if a regular set of wireless earbuds offered that kind of battery life, I’d say they were well within the range of what we’ve come to expect. And they both have identical fast-charge times of one extra hour after 10 minutes of charging. Again, not bad.

But Oladance isn’t playing around. The Wearable Stereo earbuds have a huge 18-hour claimed battery life. There’s no fast-charge feature, but with this kind of stamina, I’m not sure that matters.

Section winner: Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds
Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Overall winner

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo open earbuds.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

By now, I’m sure you’ve guessed that the Oladance Wearable Stereo are my pick for the best open earbuds, and you’d be right. They sound great (for open earbuds), they’re comfy, they have stellar call quality and their battery life is more than double what you’ll get from Cleer or Bose.

But — and it’s a pretty big but — I feel this pick needs a major caveat because of the connection problems I experienced.

One or two drops now and then aren’t great, but given that Bluetooth is still far from perfect, it’s the occasional price we all pay for wireless convenience. Constant or frequent drops are a different story and they could make you miserable.

I haven’t seen similar complaints on any of the retail sites or forums, so it’s entirely possible that my set were duds and should have been returned. Hopefully, this is the case. If you buy them and experience this issue, definitely see about getting a replacement.

Full Specs

Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Oladance Wearable Stereo Earbuds

Cleer Audio Arc

Editors’ Recommendations