Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Bose Sport Earbuds: Which should you buy?

Bose carries an expectation to do things right every time it launches an audio product, and rightly so. When you consider yourself among the elite in the category, you have to deliver. This comparison is a case in point, where you have a pair of flagship earbuds and another aimed at more active people. But the differences are far more aesthetic and functional than they are determinate, so it really comes down to how you prioritize sound and comfort.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Bose Sport Earbuds: Not so different

It's curious as to why Bose would release "sport" earbuds, yet retain the very same water and sweat resistance it put into the QuietComfort Earbuds. If the Sport Earbuds were at IPX7, there would be a sensible disparity, but as it is at IPX4, it's a comparison that you can only look at from the other elements.

For example, one of the points not noted in the specs is the size difference. Bose made the Sport Earbuds smaller, which shouldn't have been difficult considering how big the QC Earbuds already are. The trimmer form factor makes them easier to wear, and with wings to go with the tips, you've got some stability to work with while active. Still, even at their smaller size, they stick out more than they probably should.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Bose QuietComfort EarbudsBose Sport Earbuds
Bud battery life6 hours5 hours
Charging case battery life18 hours19 hours
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.1Bluetooth 5.1
Wireless charging caseYesNo
Charging connectorUSB-CUSB-C
Digital assistant supportGoogle Assistant, SiriGoogle Assistant, Siri
Speaker size6mm drivers6mm drivers
Supported audio codecsSBC, AACSBC, AAC
Active noise cancelation (ANC)YesNo
Transparency/ambient sound modeYesYes

That's a consequence of the familiar design Bose chose to go with. It's not out of the question that these two pairs were engineered around the same time using similar molds. The thing about going smaller with the Sport Earbuds is that Bose removed the active noise cancelation (ANC) from the earbuds and reduced battery life by about an hour. While you could argue more active earbuds and headphones can get away with shorter battery life cycles because workouts and runs won't last that long, you can expect that five-hour estimate to drop based on volume levels.

The QC Earbuds are one of the industry's best ANC performers, setting themselves apart from the Sport Earbuds (and others) in that regard. They're also bigger than most other pairs, which is something to think about when working out or going out running. Tthey have the same water and sweat resistance as the Sport Earbuds, so the latter have no inherent advantage when it comes to durability.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Bose Sport Earbuds: Listening for the sounds

A sweating runner wears Bose Sport Earbuds

Source: Bose (Image credit: Bose)

Things diverge a little with sound. Bose tweaked the soundstage in the Sport Earbuds to try skewing a little further toward the bass so as to cater to the workout crowd. Ultimately, though, the sound is arguably more tuned to runners than those working out at a gym. It's not a dramatic shift but enough to notice, especially when there's no EQ to use on the mobile app. It remains a baffling omission for both brand expectations and the caliber of earbuds we're talking about here.

In contrast, the QC Earbuds keep things balanced, though perhaps without as much bass as some competitors throw in. There is a crisp quality to them that works for most music genres, and that's not entirely the case with the Sport Earbuds, where the focus is a little more on pleasing those into popular music.

Both earbuds could use EQ tweaking to help personalize and customize the audio experience. But when you've got a sound profile that feels limiting in certain scenarios, not having that feels constricting when you're paying this much. That's not to take away from the overall audio quality, which is excellent. The crisp clarity is there on both sides, though the QC Earbuds sound better when all things are taken into account.

One thing that makes both of these earbuds sound good is the excellent passive noise isolation.

One thing that makes both of these earbuds sound good is the excellent passive noise isolation. You will notice it in most situations, and it matters with either pair — even more so with the Sport Earbuds, which have no ANC support. If you can block out enough background noise passively by getting a tight seal, you preserve the best parts of the sound.

For call quality, the QC Earbuds hold an edge because they have extra microphones to help amplify voices while drowning out everything else. The Sport Earbuds don't have that luxury, and because of it, phone calls aren't going to be as consistent. Again, not that they fall off some cliff, just that they aren't going to be routinely excellent every time you talk on them. On the bright side, the Bluetooth range is superb on both, with no real cutoffs.

It's probably not surprising that Bose stuck with black, along with soapstone, for the QC Earbuds yet went a little more colorful with the Sport Earbuds. On top of Black, you get Baltic Blue and Glacier White.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Bose Sport Earbuds: Which pair should you choose?

Both of these earbuds number among the best Bose headphones, so which should you pick? Ironically, the choice has little to do with durability. It comes down to fit and comfort above all other things. 

They are both pretty aligned on specs, save for the big features the QC Earbuds wield, and the more nimble (by Bose standards) fit of the Sport Earbuds. If you want something a little smaller and easier to wear when being active, going that sporty route makes sense. You just aren't going to get any extra level of protection with them. You could just as easily wear the QC Earbuds and sweat the same amount.

Even at their lower price, the Sport Earbuds are against stiff competition from other brands, too. You can get some excellent activity-focused earbuds that are more rugged and sound good without the Bose logo. The Sony WFSP800N and Jaybird Vista come to mind.

The QC Earbuds are among the best noise-canceling earbuds available, so aren't going to be known as much for active needs. That's just a bonus. When you want the better sound and deeper features, those are the earbuds you go with, provided you'll be comfortable wearing them while getting active.

Ted Kritsonis
Contributor, Audio Reviewer

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.