Bose Sport Earbuds Review
Bose finally made a long-awaited successor to the SoundSport Free earbuds. Now simply called Bose Sport Earbuds.
Overall score: 3.7 points out of 5.
The new Bose Sport Earbuds come in a more refined body with a touch-sensitive surface. They’re still bulky and protrude out of your ears quite a lot. However, thanks to their ear tip and fin combo, they sit comfortably in your ears without budging.
The earbuds are also sweatproof thanks to the IPX4 rating and come with the latest Bluetooth 5.1. Add a punchy audio performance that’s a perfect fit for workouts, providing you the rhythm and energy to finish your session strong.
However, they lack some fundamental features that you would expect from a pair that costs $180. To some, it might be a deal-breaker unless Bose fixes them via updates. More about this in the Bose Sport Earbuds review below.
PROS & CONS
- Exceptional fit and comfort
- Great audio quality with detailed, punchy bass
- Massive soundstage (for an in-ear headphone)
- Sweatproof housing with an IPX4 rating
- Support for Bluetooth 5.1
- Good passive noise isolation
- A barebones mobile application without EQ
- Somewhat average battery life
- Lack of extra customizations
Check related guides:
- What’s in the Box?
- Comfort & Fit – 5/5 Perfect
- Noise Isolation – 3/5 Good
- Bluetooth – 4.5/5 Almost Perfect
- Battery – 2.5/5 Average
- Durability – 4/5 Great
- Features – 2.5/5 Average
- Sound – 4.5/5 Almost Perfect
- Should You Buy Bose Sport Earbuds?
Type: True wireless earbuds
Connection: Wireless Bluetooth 5.1
Driver size: n/a
Frequency response: n/a
Weight: 6g buds, 74g with case
Cable length: 30cm
Microphone & controls: Yes (built-in)
Battery life: Around 5 hours per charge, 15 hours total
Charging time: 2h from 0% to 100%, 15-minute quick-charge adds 2 hours
Active noise-cancelling: No
Charging cable: USB-C
Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC
Wireless range: 30ft (9m)
Type: 4 built-in mics
Mic design: n/a
What’s in the Box?
- Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless earbuds
- 3 sizes of ear gels (ear tip/fin combo)
- Charging case
- Charging USB-C cable
- User manual
- 2-year warranty
Comfort & Fit – 5/5 Perfect
The Bose Sport Earbuds are relatively bulky, but they fit nicely into your ears. Comfort is also superb, and because they’re light, you hardly know you’re wearing them.
Housing is similar to the SoundSport Free and current Bose QuietComfort earbuds, both in size and shape. Bose decided to equip these with StayHear Max ear gels: tip and fin combo. You get 3 different sizes, but only the fins change in size, whereas the tips stay the same.
Ear fins lock tightly in your ears, creating a secure fit that prevents earbuds from fall out during movement. Some users don’t like fins because they feel them scratching, but we barely noticed anything in our case. Once you put them in, you practically forget about them.
Tips also took a similar approach as with the previous generation, meaning that they’re too big to go deep into your ear canal. Instead, they hang right at the beginning of the canal without creating pressure.
The latter is the main reason why these earbuds are so comfortable and effortless to wear. There are no pressure points, no vacuum in your ears, nothing. And because each earbud only weighs 6 grams, you barely feel them.
Noise Isolation – 3/5 Good
Because ear tips go in front of the ear canal instead of pushing deeper, passive isolation isn’t the greatest. However, when you start playing music, the outside noise goes away.
In-ear earbuds are usually pretty effective at passive isolation since you push them deeper into your ear canal. This completely blocks the outside world. However, Bose Sport Earbuds are slightly different.
Like their previous model (and Jaybird Vista), they come with larger tips than usual. Their job is to hang in front of the ear canal and not in it. Of course, the “one size fits all” solution still creates a barrier between you and your surroundings.
But that barrier isn’t as efficient as deeper insertion, meaning it will let in more ambient noise than other earbuds. However, the result isn’t that terrible. Unless you want to wear them near a busy road, isolation is sufficient for an uninterrupted listening experience.
Is There Wind Noise?
Since they’re big, earbuds protrude out quite a lot. Sadly, that means they pick up more wind noise while running than smaller true wireless earbuds. The problem gets even worse if you decide to run on a windy day.
Bluetooth – 4.5/5 Almost Perfect
Straightforward pairing with a smartphone and a reliable connection with the newest Bluetooth 5.1. However, pairing Bose Sport Earbuds with a mobile app for the first time is frustrating.
As with many true wireless earbuds, you simply put them out of their case and enable Bluetooth in your smartphone’s settings. They show up on the menu in a matter of seconds, and you are ready to start listening.
Thanks to Bluetooth 5.1, you shouldn’t come across any significant problems with connection stability. Much the same as with version 5.0, earbuds can easily pass through one brick wall while beginning to stutter after trying to pass the second wall.
Since Bluetooth 5.1 is excellent at accurately pinpointing its location, it’s strange that these earbuds don’t offer a “find my earbuds” feature. It may be reserved for the future where smartphones also support a new Bluetooth standard.
Also, if you plan to use them in mono mode, only the right earbud works.
Bose Sport Earbuds also come with a mobile app called Bose Music, where you can tweak a few things and update the firmware. However, connecting it to your earbuds does take some time. In our case, we had to go through many error messages before finally registering our earbuds.
Thankfully, once paired, there are no issues with re-pairing.
Yes, these earbuds do support multipoint. You can connect them with multiple devices and easily switch between them.
What Bluetooth Codec They Use?
Bose Sport Earbuds only support SBC and AAC, which is quite common on Bose headphones. That means they work fine on both Android and iOS, with decent transfer speeds.
Is There a Video Delay?
SBC is well implemented on Android, so you shouldn’t experience any noticeable lag while watching YouTube videos. You get similar performance on iOS, with no visible audio lag.
Battery – 2.5/5 Average
The battery on Bose Sport Earbuds is a bit disappointing by today’s standards. You get only around 5 hours per charge, and the (big) charging case holds mere 10 hours more. There is support for fast charging but no wireless charging.
Even though their housing and charging box are on the bulky side, the battery seems lackluster. In our test, we got around 5 hours of battery life on a 60% volume. That is about average for premium TWS earbuds and leaves much be to desired.
Another surprising area is the case. It’s quite big and not particularly pocket-friendly, yet it still only packs 10 hours of extra power. In Jaybird Vista‘s, we understood the short battery life because their case is relatively small. In comparison, Bose’s box seems like a poor use of space.
These also lack wireless charging. While that is common for wireless sport earbuds at this price range, it’s still something Bose could implement.
You at least get fast charging, giving you extra 2 hours during a 15-minute charge. Inside the app, you can check how much juice is still in each bud.
Durability – 4/5 Great
The Sport earbuds are well-made and robust, with sweatproof protection against rain and water splashes. But ear fins look a bit fragile.
The housing is made entirely out of plastic with a polymer coating, similar to QuietComfort earbuds. It feels sturdy enough for daily use and more than capable of surviving an accidental drop.
That level of protection is good enough for working out since it can repel sweat. However, washing them under a tap isn’t advisable, so you have to clean them with a wet towel.
StayHear Max silicone ear gels are soft and feel nice to the skin. You can replace them quickly but be careful not to pull the fins too hard. They might break off if you apply too much force.
The charging case is also plastic and looks quite sturdy, with the lid’s locking mechanism. You have to press it first to open the lid. That ensures the top doesn’t open accidentally.
Features – 2.5/5 Average
This is where Bose Sport Earbuds slightly disappoint. Despite having a mobile application and touch controls, commands are extremely limited.
All sports earbuds that cost above $100 should come with an app to tweak the functionalities to your liking. And while these come with the Bose Music application, its features are limited or even useless.
There is no in-depth touch control organizer. As a result, you can’t decide what controls are on each earbud. Instead, you have to use the preselected actions, which are play/pause and summoning smart assistant. App says that you can double-tap on the left bud to skip songs, but it doesn’t always work.
Another frustrating thing is that you don’t have any volume controls. For that, you need to use a transmitting device, in our case, a smartphone. While the lack of volume control in normal in budget earbuds, it should be common with premium models, such is Bose Sport Earbuds.
Another thing missing is equalization (EQ). While the sound is great out of the box, little tweaks would make it even better. Weirdly, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have EQ inside the same app, but these earbuds don’t. Hopefully, that changes in the future.
Earbuds come with a proximity sensor for automatic play/pause. We usually disable it on all headphones since we don’t find it useful. While you can disable it inside the app, there is apparently a glitch.
When you put the right earbud out of your ears, it stops playing. Meanwhile, the left side keeps playing. However, when you put the left earbud out, it doesn’t stop playing.
In this state, the app is only useful for checking the battery percentage for each bud and performing firmware updates. Hopefully, Bose will issue an update for the app to add all the missing features that the competition already offers.
Built-in mics pick up your voice nice and clear in a quiet room. It’s somewhat thin but easily understandable and good enough to make phone calls.
The sport earbuds start to struggle a bit when you use them in a noisy environment. Although the phone call quality is still acceptable, it might be better to avoid taking phone calls while on the street.
Sound – 4.5/5 Almost Perfect
Overall performance is excellent, but the sound signature fits best for specific genres. What works well with popular music doesn’t work with busier, heavy instrumentation.
Starting with the bass response, it’s incredibly punchy, well-controlled, and with great extension in the sub-bass region. It’s by far the best thing about the Bose earbuds. Whatever song you throw at them, the low-end never skips a beat.
We like to test our headphones with a song called “Duende” by Bozzio Levin Stevens. The track heavily emphasizes acoustic guitar, drums, and especially the bass guitar. Where most headphones struggle to keep up with bass guitar’s plucking, Bose Sport Earbuds do it with flying colors.
Controlled bass works nicely with all music genres. You start noticing details in the songs where you previously haven’t. Even some tracks that usually lack bass now have a slightly better definition.
However, the biggest problem is its quantity. They have just a little bit too much bass to prevent it from bleeding into the rest of the frequency response.
The midrange on Sport Earbuds is clean and slightly recessed. It comes back up in the upper midrange to bring out vocals, which sound quite natural. Details are audible but not that well defined compared to the competition.
The treble is leveled-out with the mids. It’s very smooth and free of sibilance. Again, there is a lack of resolution, which would help to balance a slightly overpowering bass.
It’s worth mentioning that Bose implemented a feature called Active EQ. What it does is actively changing the bass and treble depending on the volume. Because of that you never feel as if some frequencies are missing.
The soundstage on these is huge (for in-ears standards). It has better depth than width, which is why you continuously move your head around to make sure if that sound really came from a song. But this vast soundstage causes the imaging to suffer.
Overall, the sound quality is excellent, and anyone who wants these for the sound only will be pleased. Genres like pop, electronic, and rap sound amazing. Even rock plays well with these.
But if you listen to metal, avoid them. As soon as the double-pedal starts kicking, the sound becomes muted and dull. The treble is too smooth to bring itself up, which is why you’re better off with something else.
The sports earbuds have a huge potential for fantastic sound quality. Hopefully, Bose decides to release a firmware update and tweak the EQ just a little bit.
Should You Buy Bose Sport Earbuds?
These true wireless earbuds provide an exceptionally comfortable and secure fit. Despite their size, you almost forget they’re in your ears. You can workout at the gym or run outside, they stay firmly in their place. If noise canceling is important to you, Bose also released newer QuietComfort Earbuds.
Audio quality is also excellent, pushing out the most from more bass-oriented genres. Low-end on these packs incredible control and punch. They can sound a bit muted when listening to rock, but it’s not that noticeable when you’re working out.
Of course, there are a few cons. Touch controls are extremely limited and non-remappable. The Bose Music mobile app is practically useless except for receiving firmware updates. Battery life also leaves a lot to be desired.
For the price of $180, Bose made too many compromises. Thankfully, with wireless earbuds, many things can get corrected via software updates. Hopefully, Bose sees that their Sport Earbuds are a bit underwhelming and decides to make them better.
Quick Comparison with the Competition
Both earbuds are very similar in comfort, stability, total battery life, and passive isolation. However, they differ significantly in terms of durability, with Jaybird Vista having an IPX7, as well as MIL-STD-810G, certification which prevents shock and water damage. Jaybird’s application is also much more intuitive and feature-rich, with full control over the sound with built-in EQ.
Sport Earbuds have a more secure fit, but this is where advantages over Elite Active 75t end. The latter are superior in passive isolation, have a much better companion application with loads of customization, functional EQ, and superior battery life. Not to mention a higher water-resistance rating (IP57).
PowerBeats Pro offer slightly better stability due to their ear hook design. However, Bose Earbuds does cause irritation as Beats do. Overall, they’re similarly water-resistant (IPX4), support only SBC and AAC, and come in a bulky charging case. Speaking of that, Beats PowerBeats Pro wipes away Sport Earbuds when it comes to battery, offering 11 hours on a single charge (Sport Earbuds can only do five hours).
Apple AirPods Pro are much more feature-rich than Bose Sport Earbuds. They come with active noise cancellation, support for Dolby Atmos, higher total battery life, and can offer a better call quality. The sound signature is a bit different, with AirPods Pro having an overall brighter sound with less bass. On the flip side, Sport Earbuds are better for sports, with a more secure fit.