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There’s certainly a benefit to headphones and in-ear buds that create a totally immersive listening experience, but there’s a growing market for safety-conscious devices that allow you to listen to your own private audio without closing you off from your surroundings — whether that’s in your office, on your commute or out on the streets.

Earlier this month, JVC announced the Nearphones, a new true wireless design that manages to deliver clear, rich sound quality without the use of an actual bud that would block the ear canal. And they’re available for ​​just $79.95, a more accessible price point than comparable products like the $199 Bose Sport Open Ear Buds, $179.99 Sony Linkbuds, or the $179.95 Shokz OpenRun Pro.

But are they worth it? Though they are not our favorite design, and not a great fit for fitness buffs, they are a solid, low-cost purchase for anyone looking for everyday wear with above average sound. Here’s what you need to know before you buy.

Affordable open-ear headphones

If you're looking to spend less than $100 on a quality pair of open-ear headphones that allow you to stay alert while exercising or going about your day, the JVC Nearphones are a worthwhile purchase.

What we liked

Impressive sound quality for an open design

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The JVC Nearphones were designed for people who want to know what’s going on around them even while they listen to music, audiobooks or podcasts, or take calls. When I donned them inside my home, I could ask my Alexa device questions and clearly hear the response (yes, it is 92° again in Denver) from about 10 feet away with music playing at about 75 percent volume. Even with the volume turned all the way up on a walk outside, which did not blow my eardrums out the way my traditional headphones do, I could hear cars whooshing by and make out conversations between passing pedestrians.

While, like most earbuds in this category, the music sound quality isn’t as immersive, rich or generally high quality as you’d get from a traditional in-ear speaker, it was richer than what I experienced using bone conduction headphones (which deliver sound vibrations through your cheekbone instead of the air) like the Shokz OpenRun Pro. That’s thanks to the uniquely shaped bass port and 16-millimeter drivers (the component of headphones that converts electrical signals into sound), which are just a smidge larger than the 8- to 15-mm drivers you’ll find in most standard earphones. And dual mics in each unit, along with an Active Noise Reduction system that reduces ambient noise, made phone calls crystal clear. On the external side of the speakers, touch sensors allow you to play/pause songs, skip tracks, and adjust the volume—but make sure to use a firm tap, or the device won’t register the touch.

Minimal sound leakage

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One of the big drawbacks with open-ear headphones is that, yes, you can listen to your music or calls without unplugging from the world around you, but that means it’s also pretty likely that people around you can hear your music and calls. To combat that, the speaker apertures on the Nearphones are specially designed and aligned to minimize sound leakage. A friend had to lean in until she was almost six inches from my face in order to hear my music, which was playing at 100 percent volume, while we walked outside; another friend who sat across a coffee shop table from me while coworking couldn’t hear it at all.

What we didn’t like

A somewhat precarious fit

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The JVC Nearphones hook over your ear so that the speaker rests just in front of your ear canal — just like the Bose Sport Open and kind of like my long-time favorite wireless earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro – though without that bud that fits into the ear. They’re super lightweight, just 12 grams per side, but, for some reason (maybe it was the weight distribution?) I was hyper aware of wearing them the entire time they were on. After some time, the tops of my ears got hot and itchy and I had to put them aside for a while.

I was also nervous about the lack of an anchor in the form of an earbud or connecting band or wire. These aren’t designed for workouts, although they’re rated IPX4 which is sweat-, splash-, and rain-proof, and they did stay put during brisk walks. But the fact that they didn’t feel as secure as other wireless or open-ear headphones I’ve tested (especially layered over sunglasses while walking) again made me hyper aware of them—I tend to prefer headphones that I can forget I’m even wearing.

Bottom line

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For anyone who’s constantly taking calls from their desk or prefers listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or even music in the background while they work, the JVC Nearphones are an affordable pair of open-ear headphones that offer great sound. They’ll also last as long as you do, with seven hours of battery life from a single charge, or 17 hours total listening time with the charging case. Just make sure you’re comfortable with the fit before you fully commit.

If you’re someone who also uses your headphones for any kind of movement faster than a brisk walk, you’d be better served by an alternative pair that promises a more secure fit, like the Shokz OpenRun Pro or the Sony LinkBuds. At just $79.95, though, it wouldn’t be crazy to invest in the Nearphones for work, commutes or travel, and buy yourself a second pair for working out.

How it compares to other open headphones we tested

Weight

0.42 ounces per bud

1.02 ounces

0.49 ounces per bud

Battery life (rated)

7 hours (earbuds only); 17 hours (with charging case)

Up to 10 hours

Up to 8 hours

Quick charging

N/A

1.5 hours from a 10-minute charge

3 hours from a 30-minute charge

Water resistance

IPX4

IP55

IPX4

Colors

Black

Pink, Black, Blue, Beige

Black

Price $79 $179 $199