- Secure fit
- Good sound quality
- Robust build
- Decent battery life
- Chunky design
- Difficult-to-use buttons
- Large charging case
- Review Price: £179
- Truly wireless headphones
- Integrated media controls
- IPX4 rating
- Find my headphones feature
- 5-hour battery life + 10 hours from charging case
What are the Bose SoundSport Free?
Bose’s first truly wireless earbuds take much of what made the Bose SoundSport Pulse great – namely the secure fit and sound quality – and cut the cord connecting the two buds. They’re one of the most secure-fitting sports-orientated headphones on the market, and they also deliver a great sound experience.
Unfortunately, Bose’s first truly wireless effort isn’t a complete win. The chunky design is a little off-putting, and the controls are frustratingly difficult to use. This makes the Bose SoundSport Free feel more like nearly rans than pack leader.
Bose SoundSport Free – Design and comfort
The Bose SoundSport Free are pretty clunky as far as truly wireless headphones go. While not anywhere near as plump as the Philips Bass+ True Wireless, which left me looking like I had antennae protruding from my ear canals, they’re worse than the similarly sporty Jaybird Run.
While the SoundSport Free never once fell out, the fact that they stick out so much does give a sensation that they’re falling away from your ears.
It’s Bose’s StayHear+ wingtips that ensure the earbuds stay put during your workout. They’re made from a supple material that hooks onto your outer ear, anchoring the headphones in place.
Like the SoundSport Pulse that came before, I find the wingtips work really well to ensure the headphones don’t bounce around or come loose, even through more intense workouts. You get three different-sized tips included, so you shouldn’t have problems finding a pair that fit.
While the SoundSport Pulse’s built-in heart rate monitor went some way to excusing their chunky design, this doesn’t here. I really would have preferred the SoundSport Free if they were sleeker.
The headphones feature integrated media control buttons and these are incredibly difficult to both find and press. They’re super-stiff, without any real click or feedback to let you know you’re pressing them correctly. Just getting the buttons to engage when sitting down is a struggle, let alone trying to adjust volume or change tracks in the midst of a run or workout. I found them so poor that I essentially pretended they weren’t there following a week of struggling and hoping they’d break in.
With an IPX4 water-resistance rating, the Bose SoundSport Free are absolutely fine with sweat and rain.
Bose SoundSport Free – Sound quality and app
You can install the optional Bose Connect for Android or iOS, but its use is more limited compared to other Bose headphones that are also compatible. The app will let you give your headphones a name and adjust the auto sleep time.
Most useful is the ‘find my headphones’ option, which will help you locate your earbuds if you misplace them. A little like a Tile Bluetooth tracker, the app will show you where they were last in Bluetooth range then, once in range again, can make each earbud play a tone so you can find them. Neat.
Otherwise, the app doesn’t offer anything more – EQ adjustments, for example.
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This isn’t the end of the world, as the sound experience from the SoundSport Free is largely great. It’s a very ‘Bose’ sound signature, with lots of mid and treble detail – and, what some may say, a slightly lacking bass representation.
These probably aren’t the most exciting workout headphones, but that’s not to say it isn’t a pleasant listening experience. I don’t necessarily favour a thumping bass line during a workout, so I found there was a lot to like about the SoundSport Free’s controlled sound.
The feature Bose’s ‘volume-optimised EQ’, which is a fancy way to say that the headphones tweak their sound based on the volume for a more consistent sound.
However, one issue is that the StayHear+ wingtips aren’t particularly isolating. The SoundSport Free almost present like an open-back pair of headphones, so if you’re in a noisy environment then you’re going to hear everything around you. This might be great if you need situational awareness when running on the street, but not so great if you want to drown out the Eurobeat at your gym.
Bose SoundSport Free – Battery life and charging case
Like the earbuds themselves, the SoundSport Free come with a rather imposing charging case. It’s well made and does a good job of protecting the headphones when stowed away, but the case is far from pocketable.
My brain never did quite acclimatise to how you insert the headphones to charge, either. Putting them back always meant a split-second spatial reasoning test as you insert the earbuds on their side, which is a little different to other truly wireless headphones I’ve tested.
You’ll get around five hours of battery life from the SoundSport Free, which felt about right from my testing if you’re listening at a moderate volume. The charging case will provide a further 10 hours. For the forgetful, the good news is that a quick 15-minute top-up can net you 45 minutes of listening time. Perfect for charging your headphones while you get changed before a workout class, for example.
Why buy the Bose SoundSport Free?
If you’re after a pair of truly wireless workout headphones, there’s plenty to like about the SoundSport Free. The fit is secure and you’re getting a distinct ‘Bose’ sound.
I wish Bose had done more to justify their size, however. A heart rate monitor, as seen in the SoundSport Pulse and similarly truly wireless Jabra Elite Sport, wouldn’t have gone amiss. The frustrating to use buttons are also a shame.
In the end, there’s room for improvement – especially considering their price. For around the same money, I’d opt for the refreshed Jabra Elite Sport, which offer a lot more alongside many of the positive traits of the SoundSport Free.
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Bose’s first truly wireless earbuds don’t quite hit the mark, even if there’s a lot to like.
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