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Bose SoundSport Free review: Breaking the chains

Our Verdict

Price: $199Bottom line: The SoundSport Free delivers impressive sound that's full of depth and clarity. There's plenty to like here if you're in the market for truly wireless workout earbuds.

For

  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Snug fit
  • IPX4 certification
  • Decent battery life

Against

  • Design isn't for everyone
  • Mushy control buttons
  • Bulky charging case

Truly wireless earbuds are still in their infancy, but we're already starting to see exciting products in this category. Bose made its foray in this segment last year with the $249 SoundSport Free. The earbuds sound fantastic, offer a five-hour battery life, and provide a secure fit that makes them a great option during workouts.

Bose has since slashed the price by $50, and the SoundSport Free is now available for $199. Let's see if it's the right time to pick up Bose's first truly wireless earbuds.

Bose SoundSport Free review

Bose SoundSport Free What I like

The SoundSport Free is made out of plastic, and the design makes the earbuds protrude considerably from your ears. The bulky design does make the earbuds seem ungainly when you're wearing them, but they provide a secure fit.

The key to the secure fit is Bose's StayHear+ wingtips, which hook to the outside of your ear canal, ensuring the earbuds don't fall out even under strenuous activity. There are three wingtip sizes to choose from, and you should be able to find one that fits snugly in the ridges of your outer ear. I went for a long-overdue run, and I gave out before the earbuds.

The right earbud is the primary, and can be used on its own for calls. It also houses the buttons for music playback and volume controls, and a long press invokes Google Assistant. The built-in microphone works very well for calls and communicating with the Assistant, even in noisy environments.

The SoundSport Free has a rather bulky design, but it sounds amazing.

While the wingtips provide a snug fit, they don't fully isolate ambient sound — and that's a good thing as you'll still be able to hear traffic sounds if you're using the earbuds when running outdoors. But if you do manage to lose an earbud during a run, there's a feature called Find My Buds in the Bose Connect app that lets you locate them. The app essentially pinpoints the location when they were last in Bluetooth range, and the earbuds emit a tone that makes it easier to find them.

The SoundSport Free manages to deliver an impressive amount of bass considering its size, along with crisp highs and detailed mids. Boston's More Than a Feeling sounded wonderfully rich, with the earbuds translating Tom Scholz's soaring vocals with precision. The earbuds also did a great job balancing the synthesized and live instruments on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories.

When it comes to battery life, I got a smidgen over the quoted five hours, and the charging case provides an additional ten-hour charge. The case itself is rather bulky — just like the earbuds — but it starts automatically charging the buds as soon as you slot them in. It takes just over two hours to fully charge the earbuds, but you'll be able to eke out 45 minutes' worth of juice from a 15-minute charge. There's also an IPX4 certification, making the earbuds resistant to sweat.

Bose SoundSport Free review

Bose SoundSport Free What needs work

The SoundSport Free offers integrated media controls on the right earbud, with a single playback control button located in between the volume rocker. The buttons are housed in a rubber casing, and they lack any tactile feedback whatsoever.

The stiff buttons take away from what is otherwise a great experience, and you're better off not using them altogether.

Furthermore, there's no NFC, so you'll have to use the traditional Bluetooth pairing mode to connect the earbuds to your phone.

Bose SoundSport Free review

Bose SoundSport Free Review

There's plenty to like in the SoundSport Free, particularly if you're looking for a set of wireless workout earbuds. The sound quality is incredible, and the bundled wingtips provide a secure fit that ensures the earbuds don't fall out even during strenuous workout sessions.

Sure, the bulky design isn't for everyone, and the charging case isn't as portable as other options in this category. But overall, Bose has managed to do a great job with the SoundSport Free.

4 out of 5

The snug fit, great sound quality, and IPX4 certification make the SoundSport Free a great option if you're in the market for truly wireless workout earbuds. They're not exactly affordable at $200, but you're getting your money's worth.

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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

6 Comments
  • I've been debating between these Bose, Jabra, or waiting to see the new Pixel buds. I really need a new pair and while I would love to hold out to see if Google makes a quality pair this time I'm nit sure how much longer I can wait.
  • I picked up the Jabra first but returned them the next day for the bose. The Jabra's got annoying after 30mins and unbearable at 45min due to comfort. I guess I have small ears. To compare the 2 the Jabra's are better than the bose in everyway other than over sound quality and volume. What I mean by that, the charge case is better, the buttons are better and the fit and noise canceling is better. The bose sound a little clearer (and just a litter) and get louder, but the loudness is needed because they do not block nearly as much sound as the Jabra's. I would recommend to anyone get the Jabra's if they fit you comfortably you'll love them, if not and still really don't want to wait for anything else to come out (like myself) then get the bose afterwards and you will still be happy.
  • I thought they still have issue with lag during video playback, has this been resolved? No mention of this issue in this review.
  • I've had these since April and absolutely love them. The sound quality is fantastic. Clear at all volumes, resonant bass, plenty loud and unlike my previous pair of Beats Sport wireless I've not had a single instance of momentary cutting out of the sound with the Bose SoundSport Free. The fit is amazing. The SoundSport Free might look unwieldy at first, but they remain secure in my ears regardless of what activity I'm taking part of in or out of the gym. The charging case isn't that huge or clumsy, IMO. The 5 hours of charge held by the earbuds is pretty accurate and the additional 10 hours held by the case itself means you won't have to charge often, even if you use them for daily workouts. All in all, I think these wireless earbuds are worth the price, especially now that they've been reduced $50. I think they're a great product and I'd buy them again tomorrow if I needed to replace them.
  • These sound pretty good and would've been a good purchase if I didn't already have my Sony WF-1000X. They don't last as long as the SoundSport Frees but seal in your ear a lot better and I usually use ambient sound when using these anyways. Also helps that I got mine for less than $100 so theres that.
  • I have had the Sport Free earbuds for about 3 months and they sound great but not up to my other products from Bose so I'm quite disappointed. They do have about a 2 second delay on video and calls only work through the right ear! My major problem is frequent drop of signal coming from my Galaxy S8 phone. I have tried having phone in several places while on my bicycle including in a arm band! I know it's not the phone because it's fairly new and my plantronics ear buds didn't have an issue. They can't handle high temp and shut down if on bike or lawnmower on hot days. I am bringing these issues directly to Bose hoping I may have a faulty pair but I'm not certain that will be the case.