I’ve been using the Bose SoundSport Free for a few weeks now. In the gym and outside, these buds have become an accessory I can’t do without. Considering the nascent nature of truly wireless earphone technology, Bose’s first foray into the field is not entirely without fault. After over two weeks of extensive use, here are my thoughts are on the Bose SoundSport Free.
Bose SoundSport Free: Design
Right out the box you’re treated to a very functional and cylindrical case that acts as the earbuds’ charging station. Just below the button that cranks it open are five white lights that indicate the case’s battery. First look at the buds and you can’t help but think “these are larger than I imagined” – certainly larger than Apple’s AirPods.
If you break up each earbud into two parts, you’ve got the main body that sits firmly outside your ear and a silicone mold that fits rather perfectly into your ear canal. With the silicone ear piece going right into the ear drum and a silicone hook designed to twist perfectly into each ear, comfort level is at 100 per cent. It may look like you’ve got something hanging out your ears, but you won’t feel the weight.
The charging station has a fine matte finish with two slots inside, one for each earbud. They slot in to connect magnetically and begin charging. The right earbud comes with two volume controls and a multi-function button. With the multi-function button you can play/pause, skip songs, answer calls and even say hello to Siri or Google Assistant, depending on your phone. The left earbud includes a single button that you can use to toggle its connectivity. For example, when first removed from its case, the earbuds try to connect to the last device they were paired with. If you’re on another device, however, press the button on the left earbud and it’ll immediately search for the next device on its list, based on connectivity history.
Bose SoundSport Free: Connectivity and Usage
As I remove the earbuds from their case and fit them in my ears, they inform me of the battery status and automatically try to connect with the last connected device. The attention to detail must be noted here: there’s an almost perfect amount of delay between removing the earbuds from the case and fitting them into my ear before a Siri-like voice chimes in with its battery status and which device it’s trying to connect to.
I wish I could say the Bose SoundSport Free were perfect. The most annoying issue I’ve faced multiple times is comes with switching Bluetooth connections. While using my laptop and phone, with both their Bluetooth connections active, if I switch off my phone’s Bluetooth and try to connect to my laptop, it just won’t connect. There were times when it worked after a few tries and times when it didn’t work at all, after which I gave up. Connecting it vice-versa has had similar results.
Another odd issue is the battery notification. After being in the charging stations all night, with full battery, I’ll remove the earbuds to be welcomed to a battery percentage of only 70 or 80 per cent. I’m unsure if this is a software glitch, because the case has always had ample charge. Other times, when I’m watching Netflix or YouTube on my phone, the audio mysteriously goes out of sync with the video. I’ve used a fair share of wireless audio devices and never encountered a sync issue before.
On phone calls, only the right earbud has any audio, so it can be a little jarring at first. This happens because the right earbud is the master bud that connects to your phone and relays information to the left. The best trick to be able to use it for having a lengthy conversation is to maximise the volume. Once you can hear the opposite party well enough, having a conversation with them is a breeze.
Bose SoundSport Free: At the gym
After all that’s said and done, these wireless earbuds were created for users that needed comfortable, wireless earbuds that delivered good sound. The SoundSport Free nail it on all those accounts. Having used the set during several gym sessions and a variety of activities, it holds up very well. I can’t overemphasise how comfortable they are. Even though a large part of the entire earbud is sticking out of your ear, you feel like any normal earbud is plugged in. Running, jumping, lying down; in any position they stay fixed and never make me feel like they’re loosening or are about to fall off.
The SoundSport Free are perfect for all kinds of active use. It makes the whole experience of being able to listen to your favorite music without any other distractions such as wires or a loose fit so much sweeter. Bose has also gotten the SoundSport Free an IPX4 certification, which means the earbuds are splash-resistant and capable of dealing with heavy sweating. That’s a big USP for Bose while targeting the active, fitness-centric user base.
Only at the gym did I find the buttons on the right earbud slightly difficult. The press required for the volume buttons is more significant than it should be. So it’s more difficult to do this in the middle of a workout. You also need to support the bottom of the earbud with your thumb before trying to change the volume, due the how hard the click is.
Bose SoundSport Free: Audio
Bose is synonymous with high-quality sound. The SoundSport Free don’t offer that quintessential Bose sound but for truly wireless earphones, it delivers a very well-balanced quality of sound. My mood for music changes every day so I’ve heard almost all kinds of music and it has never disappointed. The volume ranges from a meek soft to a comfortable loud, when in need of drowning out a noisy neighbour on the treadmill.
Being a Bose device, I expected some form of noise cancellation, even if it may seem a little greedy from a young technology. Bose has mastered noise cancellation for some time now. The SoundSport Free doesn’t even offer the most basic noise isolation. Each and every external sound is clearly heard. The only way to battle it is by raising the volume, something that happens frequently in a gym as it gets busy or the gym’s own music tends to get louder.
Bose SoundSport Free: Battery life
Battery life has been no hindrance in my use so far. Bose promises five hours on the earbuds at full charge, with the case allowing it two full charges from empty. Both estimates are fairly accurate. I’ve been able to use the earbuds from 100 to 0 per cent with a little more than five hours. My daily average use, however, consists of 2-4 hours, with the charging station only needing a charge once in three days. You’d be hard-pressed to find the battery of the earbuds and their case inadequate.
Bose SoundSport Free: Verdict
I needed a reliable set of earphones for the gym. Something without wires that fit perfectly and felt comfortable over long uses with good sound. The SoundSport Free ticks these boxes above and beyond expectation. I’ve had a lot of issues with other brands’ earbuds that can get very uncomfortable and even painful after prolonged use. That was my biggest fear with the SoundSport Free but after weeks of use, I’m yet to feel any discomfort. Apart from some connectivity issues that I hope get fixed in future software updates, Bose has clearly made a perfect pair of truly wireless earbuds for people who want something specifically while exercising. They work great in other environments, too.