The SoundSport Pulse are Bose’s wireless running headphones that also pack an in-ear heart rate monitor that will play nicely with most running apps and services. So whether you use Strava or Runkeeper to track your runs, you can pull in useful heart rate metrics to improve your running or ensure you’re training in the right way.
With a super-comfortable and secure fit, the SoundSport Pulse are a worthwhile consideration for runners who want to be free of the tyranny of wires. They are, however, very expensive considering Bose hasn’t developed its own training platform to go along with the headphones.
The SoundSport Pulse use a standard flexible neckband design, with a cable connecting the two earbuds that goes behind your head. Unlike the truly wireless earbuds that are becoming more prevalent, the wire does at least ensure your headphones won’t go missing.
The familiar Bose wingtips make a return, but the StayHear+ Pulse wingtips are an improvement over older versions by using a more supple material. The wingtips used for the SoundSport Pulse are different than standard StayHear+ wingtips, however, as they have a cut-out for the HRM.
The wingtips catch on your outer ear and, alongside the silicone tips that go into your ear canal, ensure the headphones stay put. A clothing clip is included you can use to secure the cable behind your neck.
As far as comfort goes, Bose’s wingtips are right up there with the best. During both sprints and longer runs I never worried about the tips coming loose. Each earpiece is reasonably large and protrudes about a centimetre, but the wingtips help offset the weight and lock them in place. A range of sizes are included in the box, so you shouldn't struggle to find a size suitable for your ears.
The SoundSport Pulse come in a predominantly black colour with a few red accents. This helps visually set it apart from the standard SoundSport wireless headphones (£139.95), which don’t feature a HRM, but come in green, blue and black options.
The right earbud hides a small power button and there’s an inline remote control and microphone along the cable.
As you’d expect from running headphones, the SoundSport Pulse will survive sweat and rain, and there’s a hydrophobic coating to help wick away any moisture build-up. Having ran in the rain a few times and built up quite a sweat in the gym, I can safely say the SoundSport Pulse did indeed survive without an issue.
Instead, you’re expected to use the SoundSport Pulse’s HRM with other dedicated fitness apps that support the Bluetooth 4.0 heart rate service. These include some big names such as Strava, Runkeeper, MapMyRun, Endomondo and even Apple’s HealthKit. I used Strava predominantly throughout testing and the setup process was really simple.
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The HRM sensor is located in the left earpiece, so you’ll need to ensure it has a secure fit. You get a vocal notification in your ear when it has a successful reading or if it becomes dislodged. There’s no way to ever turn off the HRM, but it only transmits heart rate data when a relevant app is open.
I’ve worn the Jabra Sport Pulse in the past and found the fit and readings of the SoundSport Pulse to be more consistent. The Jabras would more often ask me to readjust the earbud’s positioning to get a reading, whereas I never had any problems with the SoundSport Pulse.
Heart rate readings were nice and consistent against a chest-worn HRM I wore at the same time, with the average BPM reported at the end of the run generally only 2-3bpm off, which isn’t bad. It’s certainly better than I've seen from most wrist-based optical HRMs.
The level of heart rate feedback you’ll get will be dependent on the fitness app you choose to use. Certain apps will also let you set target heart rate training zones and interval sessions.
The SoundSport Pulse have a much warmer sound than the Bose QuietControl 30 active noise-cancelling headphones I happened to be testing at the same time.
The bass has plenty of oomph to get your heart racing, whereas the mids and trebles don’t veer off into being overly bright or harsh. There’s a good amount of presence and energy to their sound production, with a nice and lively sound. You get a pretty good seal from the earbuds, which helps with the bass.
You can expect around five hours of battery life from the SoundSport Pulse. I wore them for a few short runs and for two gym sessions, which amounted to just short of five hours in total, before they ran out of juice.
The great news is that 15 minutes of charge should net you an hour of use, so you can top them up quickly before heading out. Charging is done through a Micro USB cable.
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Between the fantastic fit, solid heart rate monitoring and energetic sound, there’s a lot to like about the SoundSport Pulse. They check all the boxes you could really want, save for a dedicated fitness app, but considering the compatibility with a wide range of third-party services, it’s not as much of an issue.
The big sticking point, however, is the price. At £169.95 in the current climate, these are a little pricey. Granted, the Jabra Sport Pulse launched at £199.99 and we still awarded them 4.5 stars, but they're now available for around half that price. Consequently the Jabras offer far greater value, considering the dedicated Jabra Sport Life app is actually a very functional piece of software and you also get third-party app integration.
Still, the SoundSport Pulse are a great option for fitness enthusiasts and are slightly more comfortable.
The Bose SoundSport Pulse pack in plenty of runner-friendly features.