Truly wireless headphones are the ultimate in portable audio devices, but in our experience, not an easy thing to get right.
Manufacturers have to balance superior sound quality with all the extra components that come with truly wireless devices. Battery, controls, Bluetooth receiver, and a mic to name but a few have to be crammed into a tiny space, preferably with a design that doesn’t make you look like an extra from Star Trek.
So how have the Bose SoundSport Free managed to perform this balancing act with their first attempt at a truly wireless set of earphones? All will be revealed in this in-depth Bose SoundSport Free Review, as we cast a critical eye over this new entry to the market…
Who Are The Bose SoundSport Free For?
As the name would suggest, these truly wireless buds have been designed with athletes and working out in mind. An IPX4 water resistance rating means they are sweat and splash proof and stay in your ears well even under extreme duress.
Design & Build
On removing the Bose SoundSport Free from the expensive packaging, the first thing you notice is their size. There’s no escaping the fact that these are large earbuds. The housings are the biggest we’ve seen, and they do stick out quite a bit when inserted. The resulting look, if this sort of thing bothers you, could be politely described as unusual.
We’ve definitely come across more discreet and stylish, truly wireless buds in our time.
Earbuds this big have to be well designed to keep them from falling out and fortunately this isn’t a problem. Bose’s patented StayHear wingtips and ear tips (three sizes of each) ensure a good fit for almost any ear shape.
As an open pair of earphones, the SoundSport Free will let outside noise into the listening experience. This is great for running in streets where you need to be aware of your what’s around you, but an abysmal experience if trying to drown out the noise of a busy commute. Essentially these earphones are for exercise use only. Traveling companions, they are not.
The accompanying charge case is just about small enough to be pocketable. It looks and feels sturdy enough to protect the buds which are held in place magnetically.
Well, there’s definitely room for improvement in this department. Whilst the Bose SoundSport Free are very easy to pair and reconnect extremely quickly, they don’t always maintain an uninterrupted connection.
The left earbud loses connection two or three times an hour for no apparent reason. It’s quickly remedied but a little annoying all the same. Bose have promised a software update to fix this issue, so hopefully, a remedy is in the pipeline.
Android users will experience an audio to visual time lag when streaming as the SoundSport do not support aptX. Apple users, on the other hand, are well catered for with AAC codec support providing seamless wireless streaming.
Lost your buds? No worries…
The Bose Connect app has a few useful features, including a ‘find my buds’ option in case you misplace. On command, the buds will emit an ascending beep making them easy to locate if in the near vicinity. The app will also show you their location on a map if they are not nearby.
Other more redundant features include the ability to personalize your buds by giving them a name. Cute but rather pointless.
The right earpiece hosts the three button control panel, giving you the ability to pause/play, skip or replay tracks and control the volume. The raised buttons are easy enough to locate and operate. Functionally, everything works just fine.
Also see: BeatsX Review
Bose claims a continuous playback time of five hours on a full charge. We actually consistently managed 5.5 hours before needing to pop them in the case for a charge. Battery life is obviously dependent, to a degree, on volume levels. We play at pretty loud volume, so users who lower the levels could probably squeeze out an extra half hour to an hour if they tried.
The case provides two full charges as back-up, which isn’t bad, but not quite up to the level of some of the competition. Longevity issues can be cancelled out for any user as by replacing them in the charging case whenever not being used.
This is sound advice anyway as, despite their larger size, they are still small enough to misplace easily. The amount of charge left in the case is indicated by 5 LED lights on the front. Once the release catch is pressed, they light up, letting you know how much power is remaining.
The mic does an admirable job of handling phone calls with excellent quality reported from the other end. In fact, friends weren’t even aware that they were speaking to someone using wireless headphones the conversation was so clear. Again this didn’t translate so well in noisy environments where we sometimes struggled to hear the caller.
The Bose SoundSport Free really are excellent sounding earbuds. In fact, we’d go as far as saying these have the highest sound quality of any truly wireless earbuds yet produced. There is a clarity and depth to the SoundSport Free that really sets them apart from the competition.
Bass response is slightly more impactful than Bose’s usual sound signature, but it never feels overblown or bleeds into the mid-range. Vocals and instrumentation across multiple genres sounded crisp and full, with levels of detail revealed in songs that you may not have picked up on previously. Trebles are also given plenty of room whilst never sounding over-eager or too bright.
The only problem here is that the moment you venture outside, the lack of noise cancelling or good isolation levels mean that the subtlety of listening experience is ruined. So basically, these make great earphones for listening in quiet environments or whilst exercising.
Whilst this does limit the scope, you have to use the SoundSport Free’s, if most of your listening will be in quiet environments or out jogging, then the sound quality alone make these worthy of consideration.
How Do The Bose SoundSport Free compare To The Competition?
The truly wireless sector of the headphones market is a rapidly evolving entity. Since the release of the SoundSport Free, other companies have really upped their game.
Apple have released the Airpods Pro and Powerbeats Pro to much acclaim, both of which outperform the Bose in terms of functionality, connectivity, battery life, and noise cancellation. But they still don’t sound as good as the Bose.
However, we’re not entirely sure that the superior sound quality of the SoundSport is quite enough to make up for the lack of versatility that the Apple products have in spades. But, audiophiles would probably disagree with that statement.
Bose SoundSport Free Pros & Cons
- Outstanding sound quality.
- Very stable fit.
- Great mic.
- Great for working out
- Very poor noise isolation.
- Bulky design
- Occasional connection issues
More Earbud Options
With so many great pairs of earbuds on the market, the choice can be confusing, so to narrow down your options you could check out our reviews of the Best Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds, the Best Earbuds under 100 Dollars, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, and the Best Earbuds under 50 2 Dollars currently available.
There’s an equation that needs solving here, and it will be different for every user.
If you’re in the market for a set of truly wireless earbuds with the best sound quality, then you will have to accept the fact that the SoundSport Free are not particularly versatile. If sound quality isn’t your main concern, then you can find alternatives that work better in a wider variety of situations, at a cheaper price. It all comes down to individual priorities.
So many aspects of the SoundSport Free are fundamentally average, but can the outstanding sound quality make up for the mediocre performance elsewhere? For some, the answer will be a resounding yes and for others, a definite no. The high price tag may also be a determining factor for some.
So there we have it — a polarizing set of earbuds that you’ll either love or hate. We’d expect nothing else from Bose.