Thursday , May 24 2018

Review: Bose steps into the true wireless market with the SoundSport Free

Bose make some great speakers that’s for sure and we have been lucky enough to test quite a few of theme here at Ausdroid in the past few years. Now Bose have decided to try their hand with a pair of truly wireless earbuds, the SoundSport Free.

I am a convert to the truly wireless earbud market segment. I held out as long as I could but in the end the sheer comfort and lack of wires sold me. The sound they produce is not as good as that from a Bluetooth wireless (not true wireless though) headset let alone compared to over the ear/head headphones but in the end the sound is definitely adequate to sway me.

What are they?

Bose say that the SoundSport Free earbuds “were engineered to strike a new balance between size, performance, and stability in a truly wireless design”.

In the process of removing the wires Bose have created a new antennae system to enable a strong and reliable connection between the two earbuds and the device they are paired to. Each earbud also houses a “miniature acoustic package, including Bose signal processing, volume optimised EQ, and a rechargeable Li-ion battery” — sounds like a lot doesn’t it, which explains the size of these things.

The ear buds, when in, make you look like Frankenstein’s monster — and I have heard a few people say this. Bose have effectively taken their SoundSport Wireless Bluetooth headphones and removed the wires. The earbuds look very similar to these but are now bigger.

The earbuds have some relatively easy-to-press buttons. The left earbud has a button called the Bluetooth button that scrolls through the devices that the headphones has connected to. The right side has three buttons — a volume up and a volume down button and a multi-function button where a single tap plays and pauses the music (or answers/hangs up a call). A long press on this multi-function button activates your phone’s digital assistant — Google Assistant in my case. Double tapping it skips forward a song and triple pressing skips back a song.

The earphones are NOT noise cancelling and they do not need to be. While they do not stuff into the external auditory canal (ear hole) like some they do create a decent enough seal to prevent too much outside noise affecting your listening experience.

The earphones are IPX4 which means they are sweat and water resistant, as you would and should expect from sport headphones. They are NOT waterproof so are not suitable for any activity where they will be submerged in water.

How do they work?

The Bose Soundsport Free do not have an on or off button. Instead, simply removing the headphones from the case turns them on. It took me a while to get used to it but eventually I did and found it handy not having to turn them on. If the headphones do not detect any use such as audio or button pressing for 20 minutes the headphones will go into a standby mode.

Simply pressing on any of the buttons on either earbud will take them out of standby mode. The 20 minutes can be altered using the Bose Connect app.

As for turning them off that was achieved by simply placing them back in the charging case.

The charging case has two full charges of power in it and will automatically begin charging the headphones when they are placed in it. It’s charge can be seen with the lights on the side of the case. If I thought the charging case of the Jaybird Run was rather large then the Bose SoundSport Free charging case is gigantic in comparison. it is slightly thinner but about 30 percent longer than the Jaybird Run charging case.

The charging case also provides a fast charge functionality with a short 15 minutes of charging providing 45 minutes of listening.

What is the battery life like?

You would expect the Bose SoundSport Free to have an amazing battery life compared to others of the same type. Unfortunately it is about the same, if not a bit less. Bose appear to have focused on improving the sound with the size of each earbud rather than increasing the battery life — not a bad thing in my opinion — it’s not like the battery life is terrible that’s for sure.

Bose specify that the battery life is 5 hours per full charge with the charging case having two full charges within it. This is difficult to test given that it charges as soon as it is placed back in the case. There was a couple of times it ran out of juice on me but then the charging pill was flat so I suspect they weren’t fully charged to begin with.

When you first take the headphones out of the case they tell you the charge at the start each time but if you do not put them straight in your ear you will not hear it. The battery life I achieved was close to the suggested five hours but it is rare for me to listen for five hours straight thus, with them charging after each use, I only had an issue when the battery on the charging case ran out.

How’s the fit?

I have never had an issue with Bose earphones fitting in my ears and I didn’t have here. The medium sized ear tips fit great with the fin keeping them in position. In the box you get a choice of a small, medium or large fin so there are options depending on the size of your ear holes. The Bose SoundSport Free do not push into the ear canal and wedge themselves there like other type of earphones — they just sort of sit on the ear with the fin doing most of the work to hold them in place.

Although they may not feel wedged in super tightly into the ear I was still unable to dislodge them. I shook my head and nodded it as hard and as fast as I could and they still hung in there without moving an iota. An advantage to them just sitting on the edge of the ear is that you can use them longer without any discomfort.

Even though they sit in the ear the seal is good enough to prevent a bulk of external noise from interfering with your listening while still being able to hear some outside world. These are not the total immersion headphones some prefer but these are a lot safer if you are out and about in the world.

How did they sound?

For the SoundSport Free you could easily think that Bose focused more on quality of sound than on the size of the earbuds — and that is not a bad thing. While the earbuds are relatively large their sound is exceptional. You may look a bit like Frankenstein’s monster while wearing them but the sound is worth it.

The sheer range of sound the earbuds produce, and accurately, is what sets them apart from others. The excel with a good mid and accurate highs but the real kicker is the lower end. The bass sounds great with a depth that belies the size and weight of them.

Most headphones these days sound great by themselves but it is only when you listen to one directly after the other that you fully appreciate the differences in sound quality between different sets of headphones. IF you want an extremely high quality sound then these are definitely for you but of course that comes at a price.

What about the connectivity?

Connecting to the headphones was relatively quick and the ability to select which device to connect to using the Bluetooth button on the left earbud was a nice touch. After going out of range of the phone it struggled to reconnect immediately when back in range at times but once reconnected the signal was relatively strong and consistent.

I did experience an occasional dropout of connection between the two earbuds but it reconnected almost immediately making it sound like it was one of those tracks you get to test out the DTS surround sound where the sound flashes from one ear to the other and back again. This was infrequent and is something I have experienced with all true wireless earbuds unfortunately. It didn’t happen enough to bother me much at all.

I have read somewhere where users have noticed the Bluetooth sound start to lag and thus be out of sync when watching video. Yesterday while streaming the NBA I noticed this but had not noticed it before, if it was present at all. There was mention of it being fixed with a future software update and after checking for a software update within the Bose Connect app it was fixed.

What’s missing?

I have been putting this section in all headphone reviews I have done because there is always something missing that would make them perfect. In the Bose SoundSport Free it would be two things, noise cancelling and an app that allowed you to adjust the EQ of the headphones.

Noise cancelling is something that I’m not sure is entirely required but for these to take the next step this is what Bose could do. I found that the sound did not suffer from the lack of noise cancelling but if I had used them on a plane it may well have been different.

Bose are a high end audio company and as such should include what should be a basic functionality — the ability to adjust the style and quality of sound emanating from the earbuds with a basic equaliser. Jaybird have done it with the Jaybird Run headphones so we know that it is easily possible.

Who should buy these?

Anyone who wants the best sound possible without the restriction the wireless present.

While these do not produce the quality of sound as a full over the head, ear-encompassing headphone they produce a quality of sound that is impressive for such a relatively small package. They are not as small as other true wireless earbuds but the sound is better.

The Bose SoundSport Free headphones are not cheap and at an RRP of $299 are at the higher end of the market for true wireless earbuds — but you would expect nothing less from Bose. The Jaybird Run’s come in at $249 in a smaller package but with a smaller sound. It is tough to distinguish between the two when one is cheaper while the other is bigger but with a more complete sound and earbud functionality.

I would recommend the Bose SoundSport Free for those who want the best possible sound they can get from a true wireless earbud and don’t mind paying that premium price. They can be purchased from the Bose website or from your usual tech store for $299 in Black, Midnight Blue and Bright Orange.

Scott Plowman   Associate Editor

Scott is our modding guru - he has his finger on the pulse of all things ‘moddable’, pointing us towards all the cutting edge mods hacks that are available. When he’s not gymming it up, or scanning the heck out of Nexus devices, you'll find him on the Ausdroid Podcast.

Outside of Ausdroid, Scott's a health care professional and lecturer at a well known Victorian university.

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1 Comment on "Review: Bose steps into the true wireless market with the SoundSport Free"

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Ausdroid Reader

Personally, I don’t consider Bose having great sounding speakers, for the price you can get much better sound, full size full sound, not little boxes, all about physics lol

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