Bose SoundSport Free Wireless Earbuds Review

A legacy brand tries its hand at something new, with mixed results

Nobody denies Bose is the king of audio brands in many markets around the world. Indeed, it has been rare to find a storied brand that has managed to innovate and stay relevant in a world dominated by upstarts like Sonos, Beats, and bootstrapped startups like Mifo.

Despite it all, Bose marches on with a true wireless earbud offering worthy of their legacy. The SoundSport Free is an adequate device with some of the better features in the category targeting active lifestyles. I’m talking movers and shakers, folks.

Bose SoundSport Free Orange

At first glance the SoundSport Free true wireless earbuds are just that: Sporty and cool with a handful of bright, easily recognizable colorways. But after using these fresh additions to a even fresher category of second generation true wireless earbuds, there are evident drawbacks that buyers need to understand before plunking down a hefty price tag that elevates Bose’s SoundSport Free earbuds well into the luxury category.

Sound is the single place in which the SoundSport Free excels. Music of all types is well reproduced, with clear highs and enough bass to satisfy those used to Beats or other bass-heavy tuned earbuds. The true wireless form factor prevents sound from reaching that of on ear or over ear options in the same price range; it’s just simple physics after all.

Design is exciting at first, but quickly loses luster thanks to an awkward, protruding design that is larger than it needs to be. The plastic shells extend well outside of the ear, creating a silly looking effect that also has potential to cause snags or catches during intense physical activity. Compared to the sleek form factor of the Mifo O5 the Bose SoundSport Free earbuds are gargantuan.

Bose SoundSport Free True Wireless Earbuds

Battery life is fine, but not outstanding. In our tests the SoundSport Free earbuds lasted a decent 3.5 hours before expiring using a mix of music and calls at various volume levels. For some that may be enough to make it through a workout or commute, but for the price we would expect to see 6+ hours of continuous use time to match other brands with similar offerings.

Conclusion: Bose SoundSport Free is fine, but not for the price

While Bose clearly paid attention to some details, it seems to have completely forgotten about others. For example, IPX4 water protection is woefully inadequate for true wireless earbuds marketed toward active lifestyles. Mic placement and function is also mediocre to poor, depending on your ambient conditions.

At nearly $200, Bose has priced itself above competitors that offer more features at nearly the same sound quality. While the Bose name carries gravitas in the audio world, we can’t recommend buying on brand alone.

Bose SoundSport Free True Wireless Earbuds

5.6
Sound 8.5
Features 5.0
Design 5.5
Value 3.5

Pros

  • Bose quality sound. If music is your game, then the SoundSport Free will live up to expectations. This is where Bose traditionally excels, and the standard is maintained in true wireless form factor.
  • Plentiful original color options. While many brands offer a drab range of colors, Bose has emulated athletic apparel markets, opting for neon colors and exciting patterns.
  • Included app. Bose's smartphone app allows for realtime tuning as well as assistance finding lost or misplaced earbuds.

Cons

  • Bulky design may be uncomfortable for some ears. The large, protruding earbuds and in ear fins may rule these out for certain ear shapes or activities.
  • Mediocre battery life. For the price, we expect better battery life. 3-4 hours is not terrible by any means, but many competitors now offer 6+ hours standard on less expensive models.
  • Poor microphone placement. Making and receiving calls is challenging thanks to microphone placement that picks up and even amplifies background noise. This is a common problem with truly wireless earbuds, and rears it's head here too.
  • Barely there waterproofing. An IPX4 rating is old news, and basically means an occasional damp spray will not bother the SoundSport Free. That said, these are meant for active lifestyles, and it's somewhat unnerving to worry about sweat, puddles, and rain.