Earbuds and I have a funny relationship; most of them don’t fit in my ear very comfortably, and those that do are usually fairly “boring”. Most of the fun technology seems to end up in buds which won’t end up in my ears, meaning that I usually just opt for something that works – my Bose QC 35 II headphones are many years old now, and still get used more often than just about anything else … for good reason.
When the opportunity came my way to review some Bose ‘buds, I thought it might be worth a try; after all, perhaps they’re as comfortable and powerful as my QC 35’s.
Turns out they’re not as powerful, but they’re about as comfortable. This is good news for those of small ear like me, but – as with many other buds – the features on the Bose Sport Earbuds aren’t all that exciting. The audio quality is great, the battery life is great .. but that’s about it.
Coming in at $299.95, these aren’t cheap earbuds – but they are $100 less than the noise cancelling bigger brother Bose QuietComfort Earbuds which come with things like noise cancellation and slightly different drivers.
What do you get for $299?
While slightly smaller than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, the size difference and noise cancellation is the biggest difference. They come in black, blue, or gray/yellow, and they come with a somewhat larger than average charging case which – in my testing – seems to last a long while.
I reviewed the black variant and found them to be unobtrusive and subtle, but sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of colour; if you ask me, the gray/yellow is the pick of the colour combinations offering something just a little bit different.
The in-ear fit of the buds is excellent, using a combination of eartips and fins to keep them in place. Despite the relative size, these stay in my ears securely, and they’re comfortable too – usually you get a snug fit and discomfort, or comfortable buds that just fall out.
For the gym types, these buds are rated to IPX4, meaning a bit of rain or sweat won’t cause you an issue, but they don’t enjoy being submersed or held under a tap; that’s a bad idea. Considering these are sports focused, though, I’d have expected a higher rating to protect them a little better – there’s plenty of IPX7 competitors at similar (or lower) prices, so water protection isn’t the selling angle here.
The on-ear controls aren’t either. There’s rudimentary controls: a double tap on the right controls playback (or answers/hangs up a call), but there’s no single tap option. On the left, the double tap can skip a track or you can make it read out your battery power remaining … but it doesn’t go back, (and, until recently, it didn’t) adjust volume, or much else.
A more recent update, announced just this week, brings volume control to the right Earbud and this is a welcome feature, addressing one of my major issues with the earbuds.Swipe up and adjust the volume up, swipe down and down the volume goes. It’s relatively intuitive, and a welcome addition.
The major annoyance for me is they don’t support multipoint Bluetooth connections; you can’t have these connect to your phone and laptop at the same time unlike some other similarly priced buds. As someone who jumps between music on his phone and video calls on his laptop, this manual swap process between devices is a chore.
It’s 2020; every device should offer this feature set.
The rest of the design is pretty basic; the larger charging case lasts a fair while, but it can’t do the 40 odd hours that some other models can. Bose rate the Earbuds at 5 hours per charge, and the case can add another 10 hours. This’ll easily get you through the most arduous of work days .. but that’s about it, and that’s with some breaks in between while you charge the buds up.
Unlike other products – including some Bose products – the app offers remarkably little customisation. There’s limited ability to change what tapping the buds does, there’s no sound adjustment / equaliser features, nothing exercise specific (odd, for a sports focused product) and .. that’s about it.
On the plus side, the Bose Sport Earbuds support the newest Bluetooth 5.1 standards, with AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs – this means good sound, and you won’t be disappointed. There’s minimal distortion with bass-heavy music and you can easily enjoy more melodic songs without the bass focus too – these are buds with good dynamic range and comfortable audio reproduction for whatever music takes your fancy.
On the topic of audio quality, there’s the microphone. I had few issues with people being able to understand me while using the Bose Sport Earbuds, but I did find myself cupping my ear a few times to pick up voice in a noisy environment, something that my daily earbuds (Apple’s Airpods .. don’t mock me) never have a problem with.
Unfortunately, for me, the $299.95 asking price seems steep for buds which are comfortable and have great audio .. but kind of stop there without going just a bit further. An app which offered a bit more, multipoint audio or better battery life would nail this product / price point … but Bose Sport Earbuds just don’t quite hit it.
On the other hand, though, what do you really want most from your earbuds? I’d wager that a comfortable fit and great audio are the top two requirements by a country mile… and if that’s so, then these are definitely ahead of many earbuds which I’ve tried which either fit poorly or sound crap.
Would I go buy these myself? Truth be told, I just might… but only to wear at the gym or when exercising.
For wear in the office, the lack of multipoint connectivity is an absolute killer, and makes them virtually unusable. That, and the inability to deal with a noisy office makes things a bit too much work. Your mileage may vary, of course, and you mightn’t have a day job in a zoo like I do … if that’s so, these could be the most comfortable earbuds you’ll find this side of $300 (even if only just).