The Bose SoundSport Wireless Free are the latest in the sport earbuds from Bose and the first completely wire free. The left and right earbuds work as a pair but without any wires tethering them together. This can be great for those who have problems with the short wire between traditional sport earbuds snagging and pulling them out of the ear. Battery life feels shorter than others at just 5 hours but with the included charging case you have up to 15 hours of use. The case is the only way to charge them and serves as the standard way to turn them on and off. The moment you remove them from the case they turn on and will be ready to use. If left on they will turn off to save battery but the recommended way to turn them off is to place them back in the case. This is most certainly a good idea considering how easily the earbuds could be lost.
The Bose SoundSport Free are larger than normal Bluetooth earbuds because each earpiece needs to house everything it needs within the small casing and it shows. Traditional earbuds could be easily overlooked but the SoundSport Wireless Free looks like you are wearing two old fashion Bluetooth earpieces that were all the rage several years ago. Not much can be done about this so if you are wanting truly wire fee, this cosmetic issue must be accepted first. About the only people who could wear them unnoticed are those will long hair. With as large as they are you would think that they would be very heavy, but they feel surprisingly light during use. You can feel the weight but they feel secure even with rapid head movement.
The earbuds are secured in the ear with what Bose calls StayHear+ tips. They are uniquely different from other earbuds tips and only come in three sizes of the same style. For now, this means replacement tips won’t be as easy as buying a universal set from your local electronics store. It also means if you must have noise isolating earbuds you will have to look elsewhere. If you like earbuds to allow ambient sounds for safety, these work great. You can easily hold a conversation while wearing them without yelling. They stay secure by hooking behind the cartilage of your ear so, unlike others, a secure fit doesn’t mean jamming the tip tighter in the ear or wrapping a wire around your ear. This method works well, although some might feel some slight discomfort during extended use. Controls for music, volume, and voice controls via your phone assistant are all on the right earbud. There is a distinct difference between each section making finding the right control by feel easy. Using the controls is a little imprecise as the buttons are quite hard to press. Sometimes when pressing you may tend to initially pull the earbud slightly out of the ear. This creates an adjustment period on becoming accustomed to using the controls. Hopefully with repeated use the buttons will break in. After a couple of days of use, pressure required decreased slightly and control felt easier.
Sound quality is something you expect to be great coming from Bose and with the Bose SoundSport Free they do not disappoint. The most important part of great sound with compact wireless sport headsets where failure is common is keeping a solid connection. Bose claims to maintain a reliable wireless connection with a special antenna design and it seems they have achieved what they claim. A connection to the phone could be maintained walking into the next room of the house while leaving the cell phone in place. Another, more important, test is cross body signal strength. It seems that no matter where the phone was kept on the body, the earbuds kept a strong signal with no dropouts. Bose does not list if they incorporate Bluetooth 5.0 to handle higher quality sound. If they do not, they have done quite well with the limitations of traditional Bluetooth. Bose incorporates what they call a volume-optimized EQ. Whatever the techniques they use they seem to work quite well as sound was very well balanced throughout the range. Unfortunately, if you like to customize the sound to your likely there are no such controls unless your device offers an EQ. If any criticism could be leveled at the automatic EQ is that highs, such as vocals, could be just slightly higher. This is more of a personal preference though. For most, this will not likely be a problem as the default setting does quite well.
Of course, any earbuds today will include the ability to place and take calls. Accepting calls is a matter of pressing the play button. You can place a call by pressing and holding down the play button to launch your phone’s assistant. Depending on the assistant of your phone you may have other functionality as controlling music as well as reading and responding to texts. Call quality is not usually a strong point of sport earbuds simply because the microphone is so far away from the mouth. As with others, callers reported I sounded farther away as if I was on a speakerphone. However; generally people reported I sounded closer or clearer than on other sport earbuds used in the past.
Durability is an important area for sport earbuds. The SoundSport Wireless Free are IPX4 which means they are sweat and what they call weather resistant. This isn’t the highest rating in sport headphones and some car with water should be taken. A run in the rain is probably not a good idea nor is washing them off under the faucet. This seems to be a side effect of higher sound quality earbuds as other high-end earbuds often have a similarly limitation. Listed within the information is a warning. The IPX4 rating is expected to decrease with age.
Overall, the Bose SoundSport Wireless Free earbuds are a solid first time offering from Bose. Although long term durability is hard to gauge, they feel very well made and as though they will last. Use is about as hassle free as you can get allowing you to enjoy using them and the sound they produce. Hopefully as Bose continues to evolve the design the cons will be improved or even eliminated. Even with the cons, there is no reason to avoid enjoying great sound to help keep you motivated during your workout.