I have never felt the need for truly wireless earbuds. Between my old LG Tone headsets, the Skullcandy Hesh 3, the Anker SoundBuds Curve, and the HyperX Cloud Revolvers, my headphone needs were completely set. When the Apple AirPods first hit the collective eyeballs of consumers with the release of the iPhone 7, I was one of many who decried the need for the now popular accessory. Why go true wireless, when your wired options are just as good, if not better? Then, I was blessed with the Bose SoundSport Free earbuds, and I don’t think I’ll be looking back.
Name: Bose SoundSport Free
Release Date: September 27, 2017
Purchase Link: Verizon
Everyone knows Bose. Whether you’re like me and grew up watching commercials about Bose’s Wave series of home radios, or you’re an audio enthusiast who can’t seem to keep their ears out of the quality headphones that Bose, Sennheiser and others make, Bose has been a household name since the mid-1960s. They always seem to target just the right demographics with all of their products, and the Bose SoundSport Free is no different. No, this isn’t an advertisement…keep reading.
So, the Bose SoundSport Free are wireless earbuds that are targeted towards the workout crowd. With an IPX4 rating, these buds don’t mind if you sweat a bit, or get your jog on in the rain. With its included charging case, the SoundSport Free guarantees 2 additional charges to the initial 5 hours of battery life, allowing for up to 15 hours of usage in total – with a quick 15-minute charge giving users 45 minutes of usage. The implementation of Bluetooth HFP – Hands-Free Profile – allows for easy usage for phone calls and VoIP protocols, such as Discord, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Allo/Duo. The StayHear+ ear tips provided fit most ears with a nice seal at the ear canal so the earbuds stay in place. As you can see, these headphones are tailored towards the active crowd. However, I’m not part of the active workout community. So the question is: how do these earbuds serve as a daily driver, especially in New York City?
Surprisingly well. However, my initial interaction with the earbuds initially led to some confusion. Thank goodness for the Bose Connect application – we’ll get to this later in the review- which provided instructions on how to put the earbuds in your ear. Trust me, it was a confusing prospect at first. While I still haven’t gotten completely comfortable with the way you insert the earbuds, I can say one thing for sure: these things stay in! I can whip my head around like Willow Smith or D’Lo Brown and these things just won’t come out of my ears.
Credit definitely goes out to Bose for the design of their new StayHear+ ear tips, which fit snugly in your ear, using a barely noticeable tip that fits right in the top ridge of your ear. I barely have to adjust the buds in my ear, even on crowded subways and buses. I can still hear the hustle and bustle of everyday life, while still being able to listen to my music. Even doing laundry and basic household chores became less of a burden with the SoundSport Free earbuds in tow. Being truly unbothered by wireless can be a blessing – most of the time. While I do miss being able to just hang one earbud off of my ear when having to talk with someone – creating some interesting issues with connectivity, due to how the earbuds are manufactured – not having wires allows me to be a lot more comfortable, and to eliminate a bulk of the issues that come with building your everyday carry (EDC) portfolio. A significant part of that comes with the charging case that houses the earbuds when not in use.
Slim and compact in nature, the charging case offers a black-on-black profile, with a solid 10 hours of battery life, indicated by 5 white LEDs on the front of the case. A quick press of the button on the front of the case will queue the battery meter, with each LED indicating 2 hours of charge. Press the button all the way in, and the case will open, allowing you access to the inside. From here, you can place your earbuds in to charge, or take them out for usage. Two additional LEDs on the inside indicate when the buds are secured in and charging. Slipping this little cylindrical case into your bag or pocket is no problem at all, in fact, I like it for that exact reason. However, part of me would love to have some kind of strap or key fob attached to it. I’d love the ability to attach this case to my keys and not have to worry about where my case is – largely due to my ADHD; trust me, having to search for such a small case at times annoys me when I’m in a rush or totally out of it mentally. The case charges via micro USB, and while we are moving towards an all USB-C mobile phone reality – pretty much all 2017 and 2018 flagship phones NOT made by Apple charge via USB-C (so does the Nintendo Switch) – if you’re a gamer with a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Logitech/Razer/Corsair/8bitdo wireless peripherals, you’re bound to have a micro-B to USB-A cable laying around somewhere. That’s not to say that the 6″ cable that comes with it is bad by any stretch. Just saying, we’re not completely at USB-C yet, so it’s not a real knock on the charging case.
Swinging back to the earbuds themselves, the pairing is quite simple. While they do pair via Bluetooth, the Bose Connect application assists with pairing by utilizing NFC (Near-Field Communication) to quickly pair the headphones to the device you plan to use it on. Pairing takes less than 5 seconds, and that’s a pleasure because it instantly created a pickup and go feel, which is far better than your typical set-up with Bluetooth headphones and earbuds, especially in the Android and the (now dead) Windows 10 Mobile device ecosystems. In addition to easy pairing, you can control basic music functions through the app – play/pause, back skip, forward skip. You’re also able to monitor the battery life of your earbuds, update the earbuds firmware, nickname your buds, as well as being able to find your lost earbuds – thank goodness for the notification that indicates that the sound’s about to go off – all within the Bose Connect app. It’s like Bose thought of most anything. If you don’t like the voice prompts, you can turn them off in the settings menu. I personally recommend you don’t, simply for the battery life notification from the right earbud when you take it out of the case and put it into your ear. Speaking of the prompts, you can set them to one of thirteen languages – some of the included ones are US English, Mexican Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Korean and Japanese.
The build of the earbuds themselves is not unique by any stretch, as they’re mostly a plastic encasement, with the silicone StayHear+ Sport tips for your ears. However, when it comes to any Bluetooth earbud, earpiece or headset, the physical buttons mean quite a lot. On the right earbud, you have your standard volume up and down buttons, as well as an all-purpose button in the middle. The left earbud offers just a Bluetooth pairing button for manual pairing to other devices. The buttons themselves are quite rigid, and you have to truly press down while holding down a solid grip on the earbud to get them to perform the action you’d want them to do. As the buttons on the right earbud are the main multi-purpose button, you’ll have to rely a lot on the user manual in the Bose Connect app to get used to the near 15 different button presses and combinations that you’ll have to use for most of what you’ll be doing. Back on the subject of the rigidity of the on-bud buttons, it takes a while to get comfortable using them, similar to how Bluetooth headsets back in the mid-2000s used to operate. This isn’t a bad thing, as most users would typically be using their phones to operate these basic features. For me, I appreciate the voice prompts that read off who is calling me at any time. I don’t have to take my phone out, and a simple press of the middle button is enough, and I believe should be enough for anyone else.
Anyone who has contacted me while I was using the Bose SoundSport Free has told me the same thing. I sound clear as a whistle while using the headset. While using the phone or any VoIP application, all sound will come exclusively through the right earbud – the left is simply a slave earbud. This came in handy while watching WWE Super Showdown with my Australian cohort, Karl Smart via mobile Discord. He noted that I sounded no different as to when I’m using my Logitech G930s while at the desktop. Take that comment as you will, but for a pair of $200 wireless earbuds, I take that as a net positive, especially given the intended usage for these earbuds. Listening to music is a pleasure too. The bass, while not heavy, is still pronounced, and you know it’s there. The mids and highs are effectively crisp as well. I certainly enjoyed listening to an album like Czarface Meets Metal Face, or a track like Gang Starr’s Full Clip, where I still got the feel of that boom bap sound. Audiophiles will see no real use for these earbuds, but again, that’s not who these earbuds are being marketed to. People commuting, working out and doing daily tasks will appreciate the clarity of the SoundSport Free earbuds.
While others may complain about the lack of Qualcomm aptX low latency support, I don’t truly believe it matters. Bose issued a firmware patch that solved the previous issue, and while the latency can be up to a half second, it’s not by any means terrible. Bose, in this regard, is a lot like Apple, who is more than happy to develop their own proprietary codec to compensate with this. It is worth remembering that unlike Apple, Bose doesn’t have its own proprietary devices to focus on. Maybe Bose may change their tune and adopt Qualcomm’s technology, but for now, it isn’t at all a deal breaker for someone who wants what could be regarded as the best sounding and best fitting true wireless earbuds on the market.
Review Disclosure Statement: The Bose SoundSport Free was provided to us by Verizon Wireless for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
$200 may seem like a lot for a good pair of wireless earbuds, but the Bose SoundSport Free definitely holds up its end of the bargain. Crisp sound and clear microphone audio punctuate these basic looking earbuds, that are packed with so much more. Sure, the sound quality may not be typical Bose quality, but it does prove itself a capable daily driver.
- Excellent Sound
- Compact Charging Case
- Sustainable Bluetooth Connection
- Comfortable In-Ear Fit
- Lack of aptX protocol (not necessarily a deal breaker)