‘Open-Ear Headphones’ Keep You Connected to Your Surroundings

At a time when everyone is talking about immersive audio experiences, Japan’s New Wave Maker (NWM) is going in the opposite direction with “open ear headphones” built around its proprietary Personalized Sound Zone Technology (PSZ).

“What we aim for is not immersion, but to connect and bring you closer to your world.” That’s how the company describes its mission on the homepage of its global website.

“The idea is to allow individuals to freely control their sound experience while staying alert to their surroundings — being able to listen to music and have a conversation at the same time,” the company further explained in a press release recapping its recent showing at CES 2024.

Unlike a conventional earbuds or “in-ear monitors” (IEMs) that block the ear canals, NWM headphones rest just above the ear canal and create sound “360 degrees around the ear” — without creating an annoying mini-boombox effect for people standing near the person wearing them.


The PSZ technology at the core of the NWM’s headphones, which the company says is the culmination of decades of research in audio and acoustics, produces an inverted soundwave to effectively neutralize sound that would otherwise emanate beyond the listener’s ears. Okay, if you get within 6 inches of the person wearing the ‘phones you will be able to hear what they’re jamming to but that’s pretty darn close. Unless you’re a close friend or significant other, you might reasonably expect to get elbowed.

NWM is quick to point out that the tiny speaker it uses is not directional. “It doesn't vibrate or exert pressure as with bone conduction earphones, allowing for continuous stress-free listening. PSZ technology minimizes sound leakage while being an on-ear speaker, delivering a natural yet new listening experience that utilizes the ear’s innate properties.”

The company offers three models, each of which secures the on-ear speaker with a loop that goes around the back of the ear: the MWE001 wired model ($59, left in photo), the MBN001 wireless neckband model ($89, right), and the MBE001 true wireless on-ear speakers ($178, middle).

All models use the same 0.5-inch driver to produce sound and are touted as lightweight, with each on-ear speaker weighing 0.32 ounces (MWE001 without cables), 0.34 ounces (MBE001), and 0.8 ounces (MBN001 both speakers plus wire and in-line controls). Battery life for the MBN001 is rated for up to 20 hours on a full charge, while the MBE001 provides 6 hours per charge.

Each model can be controlled using the NWM Connect app, which supports multipoint connection and provides an equalizer and noise reduction for phone calls.

NWM is a subsidiary of the Tokyo-based global technology company NTT. The company’s research and development is focused on sound physics and related hardware designed to create an “optimal audio experience.”

You can explore NWM’s products at us.nwm.global. All models are available on Amazon.