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Running Accessories • May 8, 2024

Suunto Sonic Headphones Review: Ear We Go

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What You Need To Know

Battery Life

Up to 10 hours


IP55 sweatproof


Lime or Black


1.09 oz. (31 g)


Multi-function button on the left side, volume buttons on the right side

Price / Availability


Introduction to the Suunto Sonic Headphones

RYAN: I’m a big believer in bone-conduction headphones. I made the switch from traditional earbuds to the Shokz OpenRun Pro a few years ago and haven’t looked back. Like many runners who pick up a pair of open-ear headphones, I did so for safety.

At the time, I was living in a small town and running largely on open farm roads. It sounds like a perfectly safe place to be, with few turns and even fewer chances to accidentally run into someone. However, drivers saw it the same way. Cars would fly past me, going well over the speed limit, and in comfortable, noise canceling earbuds, I wouldn’t always hear them coming. One near miss too many, and I decided it was time to try something different.

Well, now Suunto has decided it’s time for something different, too. The company is primarily known for its line of GPS watches that challenge offerings from both Garmin and Coros, but now it’s trying to encroach on Shokz’s territory. It just launched the Suunto Sonic and Suunto Wing, and I’m here to check out the former.

I’ll save most of my comparisons to the Shokz OpenRun Pro for later in the review, but it’s impossible to ignore the similarities. I guess when a design works, it works. The Suunto Sonic uses a very similar wraparound design to the OpenRun Pro, with two main “earbuds” that loop over the top of your ears. They have a multifunction button on the left and volume controls on the right, with a charging connector tucked right behind.

Oh, and the silicone and titanium alloy headset is one size fits all, so don’t worry about the sizing. I haven’t had any issues with the fit of the Sonic, though the band is a little more generous than that of the OpenRun Pro, so you might have to fiddle with it to get just the right positioning. Suunto’s color options are different, too, with either Black or Lime to choose from.

Anyway, let’s get to some of the more important details.

How do the Suunto Sonic headphones work? How do they sound?

RYAN: Alright, so the first thing you probably noticed is that the Suunto Sonic aren’t like other headphones. They don’t have soft tips that go into your ear in order to block out external sounds, nor do they have a small charging case that you return them to in between listening sessions. Instead, Suunto’s wraparound Sonic headphones use something called bone-conduction technology to play your music and podcasts while keeping your ears open to the world around you.

If you’re not familiar with how bone conduction works, let’s just say that it’s a little bit different from your traditional earbud. Whereas something like Apple’s AirPods uses air conduction to send sound waves through the air and into your eardrum, the Suunto Sonic (and others) use a wide, flat pad that sits on your cheekbone. Then, the sound waves vibrate directly into the bone they’re in contact with to skip the eardrum entirely and instead flow right into your inner ear.

Fun fact — bone conduction is actually how Beethoven kept composing music after he lost his hearing. He clenched his conducting baton between his teeth and set it to his piano to feel the notes as he played them.

Anyway, your brain still processes the soundwaves the same way through the cochlea, completely ignoring the fact that they never passed through your eardrum and leaving it open to process other sounds.

With our little anatomy lesson out of the way, you’re probably wondering how well the Suunto Sonic headphones actually sound. Well, let’s start with a reminder that the open-ear design doesn’t isolate your eardrum from ambient sounds, so you can’t expect the same audio quality that you might with a pair of noise canceling earbuds. But, again, this is by design so that you can both hear your music and hear the world around you. Safety first.

Anyway, I think the sound quality on the Suunto Sonic is actually pretty good compared to other bone-conduction headphones in its price range. You’ll probably have to fiddle with the pads a little bit to get them properly positioned next to your ear, but once you do, you should have no problems keeping them in place. I typically kept mine at around 50% of my iPhone’s maximum Bluetooth volume and found that I could hear both lyrics and instruments clearly while streaming Spotify.

That said, I’ve found that most bone-conduction headphones fare just a bit better with spoken voices and podcasts than they do with music, at least when listening outdoors. There’s something about the sharpness of the human voice that comes across much cleaner than pianos or guitars.

Oh, and you can also pair the Suunto Sonic to Suunto’s official app, which gives you just a little bit more control over your playback. Specifically, it allows you to pair to two devices at one via Bluetooth Multipoint and switch between Normal and Outdoors sound profiles.

How durable are the Suunto Sonic headphones? Can you swim with them?

RYAN: Another very important feature on any pair of headphones that you plan to run or work out in is how durable they are. After all, sweat is pretty gross and tends to gunk up any old pair of headphones (or hats, or running shirts, or, well, anything else) it comes in contact with. You may or may not be familiar with the IP scale for water and dust resistance, but it’s important when it comes to understanding just how tough the Suunto Sonic headphones are.

Put simply, products are given a rating for water and dust resistance on a two-digit scale, with the first representing dust ingress on a scale from 0-6 and the second covering water on a scale from 0-9. Suunto’s Sonic headphones come with an IP55 rating, which means that it’s almost fully sealed from dust and protected from jets of water at a rate of 12.5 liters per minute.

Basically, you can wear the Suunto Sonic headphones to sit on the beach with almost no problem but don’t go diving into the ocean with them.

Is the battery life good on the Suunto Sonic headphones? How do you charge them?

RYAN: Moving on, Suunto boasts that you can get 10 hours of playback out of the Sonic headphones on a single charge. The claim is right there with what others like Shokz offer on their bone-conduction headphones and, in my experience, is just about right. I tend to use the Sonic for rides to and from the Believe in the Run office and while working out in my apartment’s gym since I’m injured from running at the moment, and I only have to charge about once a week.

Suunto isn’t super clear on the size of the battery inside the Sonic, but I would imagine it’s split between the larger segments behind each ear. Also, the estimated 10 hours of battery life comes from Suunto stress testing the headphones at 60% volume while playing Hotel California on the SBC codec — in case you were curious.

Once you drop the battery to the point of reaching for a charger, you’ll need Suunto’s proprietary magnetic connector close at hand. It sticks to the back of the right earpiece and takes just under an hour to bring the Sonic back to a full charge. If you’re in a bit more of a rush, you can plug the headphones in for 10 minutes to pick up three hours of playback.

Honestly, I don’t mind the charging setup; it’s pretty close to what I’m used to with my Shokz OpenRun Pro. However, Suunto’s magnets don’t seem very strong — a simple bump could easily knock the cable free and leave you with a dead battery instead of a full one. How did I learn this, you may ask? Well, I have two cats who are obsessed with cables… so yeah, be careful where you set your headphones to charge. Also, the charging cable is only about 18 inches long, which is pretty short compared to what most accessories come with.

Further, although Suunto is happy to give you its proprietary USB-A cable in the box, you won’t get a charger with your Suunto Sonic headphones. Instead, you’ll have to dig out one that you already have or do a bit of work to buy another one. Most phones and accessories come with USB-C cables, so it’s a little annoying to need a second charger closeby.

How do the Suunto Sonic headphones compare to Shokz OpenRun Pro?

RYAN: Ya know the meme where Pam from The Office holds up two images and explains that corporate needs you to find the difference between them? Well, that’s about what it feels like to compare the Suunto Sonic to the Shokz OpenRun Pro. It’s almost like the two sets of bone-conduction headphones are a little too similar to feel legal, but we’re here to test rather than to litigate.

Anyway, I’m not kidding. The two sets of headphones look almost identical. They each have a multifunction button on the left side, a power button and volume controls on the right, and a magnetic charging point on the back. Both sets of bone conduction pads are just about the same size, too.

However, I can’t help but feel like the OpenRun Pro is the original while the Sonic is the impostor. Shokz’s buttons are larger and easier to find and offer better tactile response, and the two “Bass Enhancer” grills do add just a little more bass feedback to your music. The Shokz OpenRun Pro also comes with a nicer carrying case, which offers more protection for the headphones themselves, as well as a soft pouch for you to store the charging cable in.

Mentioning the charging cable, I think Shokz’s proprietary option stays locked in place a bit better than Suunto’s as well. It sits a little bit deeper in the connecting point, making it slightly harder to knock free. As far as battery life and charging speed go, though, it’s a draw. Suunto claims that 10 minutes of charging gets you three hours of playback, while Shokz boasts that five minutes gets you an hour and a half of music. For those of you who don’t want to do math, those two rates are exactly the same.

Heck, even the sound quality across the two sets of bone-conduction headphones is just about identical. Neither one offers any form of isolation, so you’ll still hear the world around you, but both offer a few different profiles for different listening situations. Shokz allows you to prioritize the human voice for podcasts or set an even profile for music, while Suunto offers the normal and outdoor profiles mentioned earlier.

I think maybe, just maybe, the Suunto Sonic handles instruments a bit better than the OpenRun Pro, which, if true, is a huge win for the new product. That said, I can’t listen to both sets of headphones at the same time, so I might just be talking myself into that point.

Final thoughts on the Suunto Sonic Headphones

RYAN: At the end of the day, Shokz OpenRun Pro clone or not, I really like the Suunto Sonic. It’s not every day that a company that primarily makes GPS watches can roll in and take on a headphone giant, especially one as specialized as Shokz. And yet, the Suunto Sonic put in a pretty good shift.

Do I like them because they’re truly good? Or is it because they’re really close to the Shokz OpenRun Pro? I’m not actually sure, but I also don’t think it matters. If they’re close to the OpenRun Pro and the OpenRun Pro are good, then the Sonic must be good. Oh, and they’re $20 cheaper, which sounds like a win to me.

You can pick up the Suunto Sonic Headphones for $149 using the button below.

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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Ragnar says:

    A thing, most hearing aids are so small that old people using them will mess up fast
    Can these double serve as hearing aids.

    Shokz told me no about theirs.

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Ryan Haines
Assistant Editor
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Ryan is kind of like Robbe’s Igor behind the scenes. He helps to compile and clean up everyone’s reviews, and finds time to get in a few miles of his own. When he’s not running or editing, Ryan writes and reviews for Android Authority, spending time with the latest tech and complaining when things don’t work quite right. If he’s not doing any of that, maybe you’ll find him nose-deep in a crossword puzzle or trying to catch up on an endless backlog of shows to stream.

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