SETUP | Getting the oladance OWS2 headphones connected was very straightforward, pairing with my iPhone and MacBook air without a fight. Opening up the simple but effective oladance app, I was able to see the battery levels of each earbud independently; adjust the audio EQ and change my preferences of the touch controls.
Fitting the headphones took a couple of tries to begin with, but once I figured out how they should feel in order to transmit the audio correctly and feel comfortable, the process became easier and I rarely struggled for too long. With riding glasses, helmet straps and long hair, I’ve likely got one of the more challenging setups that typical oladance OWS2 users are going to encounter, so the fact that I was able to find a comfortable setup suggests that just about everyone will. My preference was to run the optional rubber tips to add another point of contact to my head and aid stability, and once fitted correctly I was able to ride mountain bikes as aggressively as I liked without any issues with moving as I ride. It perhaps doesn’t need to be said, but helmets with a ¾ design make fitment very tricky, and it’s nigh-on impossible to wear these headphones with a full face helmet.
SOUND QUALITY | I was thoroughly impressed by the sound quality on offer with the oladance OWS2 headphones. I wouldn’t consider myself a full-on audiophile, but I do appreciate high quality audio equipment and the clarity and power of sound that it can provide, and the oladance headphones ranked pretty highly in most areas to my ears. The mid and high frequencies were beautifully rich and clear, and get pretty damn close in quality to my premium over-ear headphones. I found however that they were not able to transmit the deepest bass as well as more conventional offerings, even with their 2nd generation Virtual Bass algorithm trying its hardest. Don’t get me wrong, the sound quality is still considerably better and more consistent than the bone conduction headphones I had previously tested, but compared with a quality in-ear or over-ear unit, they fall a little short in their ability to produce powerful deep bass. They do have the ability to go very loud – almost uncomfortably so – which is great for dealing with different external situations.
RIDE EXPERIENCE | Thanks to their Open-Ear design, I was able to ride at 95% with the oladance OWS2 headphones. This is considerably better than when I’ve tried to ride with in-ear headphones in the past, which simply cut out too much noise from my surroundings and acted to slightly reduce my balance. However, the oladance headphones still added a slight distraction and prevented a small amount of external noise from reaching my ears, even when their audio was paused. I’m quite sensitive to this, but found I was still able to descend with music playing at a mid to low volume. Wind noise can play a part in reducing your ability to hear, but it was manageable given their loud potential volume. If you’re riding solo on trails you know well…almost to the point of some boredom creeping in…they can really enhance the ride experience. And for the miles spent grinding away on the climbs, they can be a friend for you to keep you from your inner demons.
The design of the OWS2 headphones means that if you are using them in a busy or just noisy environment, then you can occasionally lose the ability to clearly hear your music unless it’s turned up loud. This is to be expected given their design, and it simply means you need a different set of headphones for scenarios in life where you want to block out the outside. When turned up loud, people around are able to hear the slight “tiss” of the highs, but I didn’t receive any complaints through a couple of group rides and many hours logged in the local café.
FINISH AND VALUE | The oladance OWS2 headphones immediately strike you as a quality product, from their looks and feel to the sound quality when you’re listening through them. This matches their pricing, which is on the higher side. They’ve been holding up great through wet, muddy and sweaty rides; and have maintained impressive battery life during testing in conditions around freezing. That 19 hours claimed playback feels a bit generous but they certainly last for a long time, and the app makes for easy checking to ensure you don’t run out unexpectedly. One small disappointment is the lack of charging capability in their carry case, which would be great to see at this relatively high price point.
One minor gripe for me, which may be a slightly bigger issue for others, was the touch functionality. They are extremely sensitive, and the position of the touch portion means you almost certainly press them by mistake when taking them on and off. I found it difficult to feel out where the earbud was going to be when I wanted to press it, and the movement of the earbud when I pressed it occasionally made me accidentally double tap it. I ended up changing the settings so they would only control volume, and opted to use my phone for any other functions, which I was happy enough with.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE? | Compared with the Aftershokz Openmove headphones I tested a couple of years ago and have continued to enjoy from time to time, the oladance OWS2 headphones represent a big step up in quality across the board. From a more comfortable and less fussy fitment, to much improved audio quality and consistency, and even improved looks; I’ve found myself enjoying the experience with the oladance headphones considerably more. Of course, at twice the price the oladance OWS2 headphones represent a much greater investment, but for my preferences I’d say it’s worth every penny.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Soundtrack your ride with some high-quality audio, without reducing your safety or riding ability. The oladance OWS2 headphones are a high-quality audio product with great sound and excellent functionality. Consider me impressed.
Price: $149.99 / £169.99