Since deciding about 8 years ago that I was sick of being fat and losing around 65kg, I’ve been into fitness, a big part of that journey has been having great earphones. I’ve never been a fan of over-ear headphones when working out as I like to sweat a lot and it just doesn’t feel right, so earphones are perfect. I’ve been using a pair of Plantronics Backbeat Fit for sometime now, but they’re starting to die, so I`m looking around at what’s available and when the chance came up to check out the Bose SoundSport Pulse I jumped.
The Bose SoundSport Pulse are bluetooth earphones. I`m not a fan of cords, once again sweating and a cord for me just don’t mesh well. The SoundSport Pulse are sweat and water resistant as well making for a good candidate to replace my current setup.
In terms of features, the Bose SoundSport Pulse includes a heart-rate monitor which I’ve been keen to try out. My Polar Android Wear watch has phenomenally good heart-rate tracking but the ear does have a lot of capillaries close the surface making it easy to get a reading.
An inline mic/control toggle completes the package, but at $299, if anyone is going to shell out hard earned money then they have to be comfortable to wear, sound great and connect easily. I’ve been using them for about a week now, so how did they fare?
What’s in the box?
There’s a few bits and pieces included in the box, there’s of course the usual quick start guide and warranty cards, as well as a soft pouch with a zipper included to store all your ‘StayHear+ Pulse tips’ (the fins) and the included microUSB to USB charging cable, you can also attach this pouch to a bag using the included carabiner.
Fit, Design and Comfort
The one big thing for me with my workouts is running, the Plantronics Backbeat Fit go over your ears and then slot in, but many earphones, especially Bluetooth earphones no longer offer this working instead with silicon StayHear+ Pulse tips which I call fins that hold the earphone in place in your ear. I’ve never been a huge fan of this style of earphone, but decided to give them a go.
Let’s just say I had some teething problems with the Bose SoundSport Pulse. To put it bluntly, they fell out of my ears. The first time I went for a run I ended up coming back to the house to change ear fins, it took another false start before the third set of fins – there’s three sizes: small, medium and large – eventually worked. It’s not a completely secure feeling having these in your ear, but eventually you just have to give in and trust that it will work.
I’ve been using the over-ear style wireless earphones for so long that I actually forgot they’re a little uncomfortable to wear. Once you’re used to the feeling of not having your earphones hanging over your ears the Bose SoundSport Pulse are actually really comfortable to wear and surprisingly light. There is some slight drag from the control components of the earphones that sit outside your ear, but they’re pretty well balanced so you don’t tend to have to think about it too much.
The only other consideration was the rubber cable connecting the buds, I found it dragged on my neck when exercising making it a little easier for the earbuds to be accidentally pulled from your ear. It’s not a massive fault, and could be somewhat offset by a clip on the back of the cable to shorten it to a preferred length.
I did have problems with how far out of your ears the SoundSport Pulse earphones sit. The additional parts hang out quite far and you’re quite noticeably wearing earphones when you look at yourself front on and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the look.
I did like the in-line controls, which hang off the right earphone about 20cm down from your ear. The location makes it easy to reach and find the controls and also makes it easy to bring the mic which is built into the controls closer to your mouth if necessary when you’re in a louder environment. The controls are simple, with a soft touch button for Volume Up/Down and play/pause in the middle and on the back of the controls you get the microphone for voice calls.
Overall the fit and comfort of the SoundSport Pulse is pretty good, not perfect but once you take the time to position them in your ear properly and get used to that feeling, you should be pretty happy. The inline controls work pretty well, and allow you to quickly change the volume or start/stop music without having to get your phone out.
With smaller earphones, especially wireless earphones battery life is a strong consideration. The Bose SoundSport Pulse promises up to 5 hours of battery life, time enough to go for a fairly extensive run (even a fairly sedately run marathon) or at least a couple of workouts before requiring a recharge. I found the 5 hour estimate to be quite accurate, I did a full 5 hour use from fully charge up to switching off.
The earphones have audible alerts, though the alert for low battery is a single warning around half an hour before power cuts out. I’ve had other earphones which gave multiple warnings before cut-off, but a single one works.
Recharging is a breeze, the microUSB port is easily accessible, secured underneath a port that closes neatly with a barely noticeable line. The battery on the unit charges in around 2 hours to fully charged using the short microUSB cable when attached to a PC and they’re ready to go again.
For those really into their earphones, but who find themselves regularly forgetting to charge their headphones, Bose actually sells a charging case for the SoundSport Pulse worth $89 which will give you an hour worth of listening from just 15 minutes of charge. It’s probably not needed though, unless you really find yourself forgetting to charge them quite often.
Audio Quality and Range
I’m pretty well known for not really listening to a lot of music, rather than a heart-thumping heavy metal tune to get my workouts going I tend towards a heated discussion in a podcast or an exciting audio book to accompany me on the road or at the gym. That said, I did break with tradition and threw a fairly mixed playlist filled with music at the SoundSport Pulse just to try out the range. I’m pleased to say that the earphones work extremely well.
The sound was crisp and true, theres highs and lows and didn’t tend to distort when a lot of sound was coming through which can be a bit of a pain with some earphones. Bose has a pretty good reputation for sound quality and it shows in the SoundSport Pulse. Music sounds great, and so do podcasts and audio books, so they’re a pretty versatile set of earphones.
Quality of sound is good, but they’re not noise cancelling. Instead you forgo noise cancelling in favour of the heart rate sensors. If it’s noise cancelling you want, you can always try out the Bose Quiet Control 30 earphones which Scott reviewed. That said, the fit of the earphones makes for a fairly quiet time, I couldn’t actually hear very well with them simply in my ears. The blocking of noise is great for getting good sound, but not so much for conversation.
In terms of range, Bluetooth earphones can be quite ‘finnicky’ when it comes to maintaining a connection to your smartphone. Bose promise up to 9 m (30 ft) of range and I found this to be spot on. A number of factors can be involved with Bluetooth streaming, from the smartphone you use to the side of your body you keep that smartphone on when you’re going for a run. Happily with the SoundSport Pulse I had no issues or even dropouts during the review period. I even found I could leave the phone inside and wander outside to bring in the washing or check the post all without losing connection.
One of the defining features of the SoundSport Pulse is heart-rate monitoring. Being able to get a fast reading can help immensely with workouts, particularly with cardio workouts where it’s imperative to monitor your heart-rate at all times.
The heart-rate sensor in the SoundSport Pulse is located in the left bud, to ensure that a good reading is taken, you need to ensure the bud remains in contact with your ear. For the most part the SoundSport Pulse earbuds are quite snug in your ear once positioned correctly. I had occasion where I had to re-position the earbud slightly to get an accurate reading, but that’s not a terribly onerous chore when running – reach up touch it and it was done.
Bose says that the ‘heart rate readings taken in the ear are comparable in accuracy to those taken from a chest strap’, and when testing the earphones out I found this to be true – it even matched up with the heart-rate monitor on my Android Wear watch.
Readings were quite fast once you brought up the Bose Connect app on your phone, that is a small problem when you’re running along with pulling your phone out of a pocket, or more likely an arm band to get a reading. You can connect a range of popular exercise tracking apps such as MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Endomondo, Strava or UA Record. These apps can then track your heart-rate for you and save the results in their respective apps and online databases. I`m not 100% happy with the setup, an Android Wear app would be quite handy for the heart-rate monitoring just for quick access, but tying it in to more specific exercise apps is a good compromise.
Bose is a big name in audio equipment and for good reason, their products are without fail great quality and sound fantastic. They also attract a rather hefty price tag for that quality, whether it’s worth that price tag isn’t something I’ve found justified from my perspective in this review.
I`m in the market for a new pair of bluetooth earphones, but I don’t think that the Bose SoundSport Pulse are necessarily for me. They’re great quality, but the setup on this particular set of earphones with the fins sitting in your ear don’t seem to fit very well with my ears. I love the quality, the heart-rate monitoring is a good addition, but it just doesn’t work well with my current tech/exercise setup.
That said, I`m not everyone and for someone more used to the method of using fins to secure earphones to your ears then the Bose SoundSport Pulse earphones are definitely a great set of earbuds.
Ausdroid kept the review device after consultation with the brand, as headphones can't be re-used due to hygiene reasons.