As the industry leader in active noise-cancelation and a longtime pioneer in the world of digital signal processing, Bose has a history of incorporating the latest and greatest audio technology while still offering products with a high ease of use that appeals to even the most tech-petrified shoppers. You typically pay a premium for products with the Bose logo on them, but anyone who has spent time with the company’s offerings knows that, while better values exist, Bose simply doesn’t sell anything bad. Whatever you get will set up quickly, sound good, and function exactly as advertised — and that equates to peace of mind.
The company’s first ever fully wireless headphones, the SoundSport Free, follow this template. With five hours of battery life, IPX4-rated waterproofing, and impressive bass, they are a solid first foray into this exploding segment. In typical Bose form, there are better options on the market for less money — the SoundSport Free debuted at $250, and have since been dropped to $200, but that’s still $40 over Apple’s AirPods and $15 over Jabra’s more compact, better waterproofed, and superior sounding Elite Active 65t.
That said, though they offer a bit less performance for a bit more money, the SoundSport Free easily rise above most fully wireless options, and we absolutely wouldn’t balk at a friend or family member if they told us they’d copped a pair.
Out of the box
The SoundSport Free come in a small white box that houses the headphones inside a big, black pillbox of a charging case. Opening the case reveals oval-shaped fully wireless earbuds, which look a bit like plastic mushrooms that sprout from your ears when you put them on. Along with the charging case (a staple for nearly all fully wireless earbuds), accessories include a charging cable, a user guide, and three sizes of eartips.
Features and design
The SoundSport Free come in either all black or a gradient blue with neon yellow accents. A large disc along each earpiece houses the battery, antenna, and various other mission-critical functionality, suspended fairly far out of your ears when you have them in. Like the Sony WF-SP700N, the rather bulky outer section is well supported when you actually put them in your ears, thanks to a clever use of silicone.
The earbuds look a bit like plastic mushrooms sprouting from your ears.
The combined sport fin/eartip section on the end of each earphone easily keeps them in your ears, where they balance nicely, despite their large form factor. We had no problem wearing them for hours on end, which isn’t something we can say about many fully wireless in-ears.
As with most true wireless in-ears, there’s a basic array of controls on the top of each earpiece to keep you from reaching for your cell phone. The right earpiece has a set of three buttons — volume up and down with a multifunction play/pause button in the middle – while the left simply sports a Bluetooth pairing button.
It takes about two hours to charge the headphones in the case, granting around five hours of playback before needing to be returned to their plastic home. The case will get you two more full charges on the go, for a total of 15 hours of juice. For comparison, Apple’s industry-leading AirPods offer the same five hours of playback time and 24 hours of charging time from the case.
The SoundSport Free are sweatproof enough for even the stickiest summer workouts.
One of the SoundSport Free’s cooler features is their voice-prompted battery check which tells you how much battery level you have left each time you pull the earphones from the case and put them in. The charging case itself is an unassuming clamshell with a micro-USB port and the Bose logo on top. It’s a bit larger than cases from the likes of Apple and Jabra, likely owing to the sheer size of the headphones that need to fit inside.
Workout enthusiasts and fellow Pacific Northwest natives will love that the SoundSport offer an IPX4 rating, meaning they’re certified against water splashes for five minutes — and sweatproof enough for even the stickiest summer workouts.
Pairing the headphone is simple and easy. Thanks to included voice prompts and the Bose Connect App, your phone or other Bluetooth-enabled device will quickly latch onto the earbuds, and the earphones always quickly re-paired when we popped them out of the charging case.
Bose has never been known as a company that offers truly flat or transparent sound signatures, instead tending towards the kind of boosted low end and sparkling treble that tend to make songs seem more vibrant and energetic — if occasionally a bit muddy. While we typically prefer the more clinical performance of competitors’ over-ear headphones when compared to Bose over-ears like the QC25, we actually quite enjoyed the SoundSport Free earbuds, which easily keep up with their competitors in the fully wireless space.
When put up against tamer sound signatures like that of the Jabra Elite Active 65t, the SoundSport Free bring a more robust punch in the bass that really makes classic hip-hop and soul music pop. On the other end, the sound profile doesn’t seem quite as sharply sculpted as we typically hear from the company’s products.
We great enjoyed that punchier low-end during workouts, when we often listen to more beat-driven music. Jamming out to AC/DC, Chance The Rapper, and other workout favorites was always enjoyable.
That said, we did wish for more midrange clarity when listening to favorites like Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, a stalwart favorite in our testing library. We just didn’t get the same depth in the acoustic guitars offered by Jabra’s Elite 65t (our favorite fully wireless earbuds).
Still, the SoundSport Free hold their own; as with other leading examples, they sound comparable to banded Bluetooth headphones that run about half the price, and at this point, that makes their sonic talents pretty competitive.
Bose offers a one-year warranty for U.S. buyers (two years in the EU) that covers manufacturer defects.Our Take
With five hours of battery life, limited waterproofing, and good sound, the Bose SoundSport Free are a well-made entry into the fully wireless headphone market – especially if you’re a bass lover. Still, you can get better fully wireless headphones for cheaper.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. For our money, the Jabra Elite Active 65t — which offer identical battery life, more robust waterproofing, and a cleaner form factor, all for less money than the Bose SoundSport Free — are a better value.
For those who don’t mind slightly worse audio performance, Apple’s industry leading AirPods are also worth considering, offering solid connectivity, ease of use, and better battery life from their charging case.
How long will it last?
Bose is a well-known brand with a reputation for quality products, and the SoundSport Free fully adhere to that legacy. We expect you’ll get years of use out of them before any issues arise.
Should you buy it?
For most listeners, probably not. While we like the Bose SoundSport Free enough not to knock anyone who we see wearing them, we simply prefer the more affordable and better-looking Jabra Elite Active 65t. Unless you’re a huge bass-head, we suspect you will, too.