These Bluetooth earphones sound good and are splash-resistant – but they’re bulky, and expensive
- Good sound quality
- Find My Buds feature
- Bulky design leads to wind noise
- Buttons are hard to press
Last year, Bose released its SoundSport Wireless earbuds. They sounded good, but didn’t deliver a true wire-free experience, thanks to a behind-the-neck cable connecting the left and right units together. Now the company has updated its line of sports headphones, introducing the completely wireless SoundSport Free. Are these the perfect earphones for an active lifestyle?
Bose SoundSport Free review: What you need to know
The Bose SoundSport Free are wireless earphones with no cable connections at all (similar to Apple’s AirPods). They’re aimed at those who want to go running, work out or simply listen to music on the move.
Unfortunately, the design sticks some way out of your ears, which means wind noise becomes an issue. They weight is noticeable too, and those with smaller ear canals may find them a poor fit. At £180, they’re expensive, too.
Bose SoundSport Free review: Price and competition
The SoundSport Free costs £180 ($200 in the US). That’s a pretty standard price point for a product like this: the near-identical Jabra Elite Sport costs £175, while the less sport-orientated, ANC-enabled Sony WF-1000X comes in at £200. If you’re on a tight budget, the best cheaper option is the Soul X-Shock. Costing just £100, these wireless headphones feature an LED light for runners and can be submerged underwater for 30 minutes.
Bose SoundSport Free review: Build quality, design and accessories
The SoundSport Free comes with three sets of StayHear+ Sport tips, designed to keep the SoundSport Free in your ears during workouts.
There’s also a portable charging case, capable of providing two full charges. A single charge provides around five hours of playback, so if you fully charge up the case and earphones you can listen for up to 15 hours without having to track down a wall socket.
Be aware, though, that recharging uses a proprietary connector, so you won’t be able to charge the earphones without the case. A full recharge takes around two hours; there’s also a 15-minute quick-charge option, which will keep you going for around 45mins. Five LEDs on the cylindrical case indicate how much charge remains.
Design-wise, there are three colours to choose from, namely black, midnight blue and bright orange. It’s worth choosing a colour you like, as these earphones are quite large and conspicuous; they remind me of the Frankenstein Ultimate Ears TF10, which attracted an uncomfortable number of curious looks on public transport.
Even if you’re not bothered about how you look, you might care about how the size causes considerable wind noise – I found them more or less unusable while cycling. Noise was less of a problem while jogging, but the slightly bulky design of the earphones caused them to bounce around in my ear canal, which wasn’t a pleasant experience. The IPX4 rating means they’ll be able to withstand a splash of rain or sweat, but unlike the Soul X-Shock they’re not properly waterproof.
There are a few controls built into the two earphones; the left unit has an on/off button, while the right unit offers a volume control and a play/pause button, which do double duty as skip/previous controls. Sadly, I found it these buttons awkwardly placed, and stiff to the extent that I had to use my fingernails to press them reliably.
The SoundSport Free earphones connect to your phone over standard Bluetooth LE; you don’t need any special software to use them. However, the optional Bose Connect app includes an audible “Find My Buds” feature which is very useful, since these units can easily get lost in a gym bag or behind your sofa. You could even leave them in a different room, as their operating range is very good: I was able to keep listening even when my phone was 15 metres away, through several walls.
Bose SoundSport Free review: Sound quality
These earphones lack the high-quality aptX audio codec, but they still sound great, with a warm, fun sound signature. The bass is pronounced, while the mids are clear-sounding, if a tad pushed back. The highs have a nice sparkle at the top end, and the overall soundstage is impressively spacious.
As a result, songs such as Eddie Murphy’s “Red Light” sound fantastic. The strum of the guitar can really be felt, the percussion is clear and punchy and Eddie Murphy’s voice sits powerfully in the foreground.
These earphones don’t work so well with less strident productions, however. On this Alicia Keys live recording, the mid-bass response becomes overpowering, and the whole thing sounds slightly muffled. Sub-bass response is limited too: Dave’s “No Words”, the rumble at the bottom of the sonic spectrum is simply cut off.
In all, the Bose SoundSport Free aren’t audiophile-grade earphones – but they do produce an impressive overall sound that’s fun to listen to.
Bose SoundSport Free review: Verdict
Bose’s SoundSport Free wireless earphones sound good, with a good listening range – and the “‘Find My Buds” feature is a definite plus. They’re undeniably expensive, though, and the bulky design might well be a turn-off: it can lead to annoying wind noise, and those with smaller ears may struggle to make these earphones stay comfortably in place.