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SoundPEATS RunFree Lite Review

Last updated: 7 months ago
9 min read
Editor
rating
4.1
SoundPEATS RunFree Lite on a wall

SoundPEATS RunFree Lite are solid air-conduction headphones under $50. Mainly thanks to a companion app and various practical features.

SoundPEATS’s new air-conducting headphones look similar to bone-conduction headsets but have speakers playing into your ears instead of vibrating your bones.

Compared to alternatives like TrueFree F1 (headset from the same parent brand), the RunFree Lite output a fuller sound with decently natural out-of-the-box tuning, although their technical performance is as expected for the price of $40.

However, their app support is their main advantage over the others, as it offers a bunch of cool features, Bluetooth multipoint and EQ included.

If you’re in the market for this type of headphones, are SoundPEATS RunFree Lite the best you can get? Are there any significant drawbacks? Find all the answers below.

Price:

We test and evaluate headphones using a standardized 9-point methodology. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Pros & Cons:

  • Full, natural sound (after EQ)
  • Long battery life of 20 hours per charge
  • Outstanding stability & long-lasting comfort
  • Feature-rich companion app
  • Robust Bluetooth connection with multipoint support
  • Cheaper-feeling construction
  • Quiet, somewhat muffled sound output & slight distortion

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4.1
By HeadphonesAddict
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3.5
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CONTENTS (show more)

    Sound

    Star Rating
    3.5 Almost Great

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite have a much fuller and more natural tuning than other air-conduction headphones, but you can hear their 16.2mm driver struggle to produce lower frequencies.

    RunFree Lite have an “open-ear” design, meaning that external speakers play music to your ears. As they don’t provide any ear canal seal (similar to classic earphones), lower frequencies get lost in the ether, so speakers work harder to deliver a full sound.

    You can hear that the 16.2mm dynamic drivers inside the headphones are pushed to the limits. While you can ease the stress by using custom EQ, you can’t perform miracles.

    Bass: Provides fullness but sounds distorted when using default sound profile

    As mentioned, the design of the SoundPEATS RunFree Lite doesn’t work in their favor when it comes to bass.

    That said, compared to TrueFree F1, headphones with similar air conduction technology, the RunFree Lite actually deliver good tactile feedback and warmth, which adds to fullness.

    On the other hand, headphones try too hard to produce punchy bass, which often results in a boxy, hollow kick.

    To avoid it, reduce the bass a little with the in-app’s equalizer. It doesn’t resolve the problem, but it ensures the bass doesn’t sound as boxy.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite speaker grill
    The headphones have only 1 opening for the speaker without a bass reflex port.

    Midrange: Fairly natural (after EQ) but relatively muted

    Regarding midrange, it’s worth pointing out two things. First is that the overall headphones’ loudness is extremely low. You need to set the volume up to 70% to get to a reasonable loudness.

    Second, headphones lack clarity and detail. You quickly notice how muted they sound, as if someone used a blanket to cover the speakers.

    However, you probably don’t care about audiophile quality during intense workouts, so the mids RunFree Lite produce are perfectly okay for non-critical listening.

    Electric guitars sound gritty as they should, while the vocals can be a bit thin, as if a singer has a clogged noise.

    Treble: Nice sizzle but muted

    Higher frequencies are definitely there, but you have to search for them. Like the midrange, they’re muted and get lost in the mix.

    When they actually come through, you can hear some lovely shimmer and airy cymbal crashes, like in “The Curtain Falls” by Riverside. However, cymbals lack texture and resolution.

    Soundstage has a nice 3D effect with decent width and depth. Sounds never feel trapped inside your head, with vocals sounding the most intimate.

    Moreover, the imaging is pretty good, too. It gives you an accurate sense of where the sounds are on the soundstage. Not pinpoint accurate, but good, nonetheless.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite EQ presets & custom EQ
    Our custom EQ settings for slightly more natural sound if you wish to try them out.

    If you compare SoundPEATS RunFree Lite to in-ear counterparts, the latter offer much better sound quality. However, since these headphones target specific active users like runners and cyclists, that seems unfair.

    That means that despite their flaws, they’re one of the better-sounding budget air-conduction headphones on the market. Much better than any bone conduction option out there.

    Check other headphones that are suitable for outdoor activities:

    Comfort & Fit

    Star Rating
    5.0 Perfect

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite are extremely lightweight and surprisingly comfy headphones, and most importantly, they stay on your head even during intense workouts. Though, you need a few days to get used to them.

    Most bone-conduction and air-conduction headphones we’ve tried are comfy at first but start to irritate after a while due to some parts poking or rubbing the skin.

    Fortunately, SoundPEATS took the best design decisions and used them in the RunFree Lite.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite on head profile
    The neckband part is tilted up, so it goes above the helmet’s size adjustment wheel.

    Apart from the awkward process of placing them on your head: where you have to squeeze your earlobes through narrow ear hooks, once you do that, you barely notice them.

    That’s interesting since they don’t have any soft silicone parts, so they rest on your skin with bare plastic. Even physical buttons are comfier to use compared to similar headphones.

    Stability-wise, these headphones’ form factor provides a superbly secure fit, allowing you to jump around, hang upside down, or do any kind of movement while working out.

    Other headphones in this category also excel in stability, but the SoundPEATS RunFree Lite are unique as they also retain a comfortable fit.

    Durability

    Star Rating
    3.0 Good

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite offer a lightweight, plasticky body that feels cheap. They even lack the carrying pouch of some competitors. But they’re protected from sweat and light rain.

    Compared to the competition, RunFree Lite feel the cheapest. Most of the body is made of hard plastic that sounds hollow when knocked.

    Even some design decisions, like the look of the button, give you the impression these headphones didn’t cost a fortune.

    The only silicone-covered part is the neckband (although that kind of finish is susceptible to “sticky rubber syndrome“, when the plastic starts to break down after years of use).

    TOZO OpenReal compared to SoundPEATS RunFree Lite
    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite have hard plastic, whereas TOZO OpenReal (left) have a soft silicone finish.

    Sure, the predominately plastic build is there to minimize the weight and ensure comfort, but still. Compared to TrueFree F1, the latter feel better made (although they’re also less comfortable).

    Furthermore, you don’t get a carrying pouch like competitors do. It would at least protect the headphones from scratches when not in use.

    Fortunately, SoundPEATS tested them for an IPX4 rating, meaning complete sweat resistance and protection against light water splashes. So, they can withstand a workout but not swimming.

    Battery

    Star Rating
    4.5 Almost Perfect

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite boast a battery life of 20 hours and 11 minutes, which is more than advertised. However, there’s a catch. More on that later.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite battery comparison

    Most air-conduction and bone-conduction headphones lasted below 10 hours (with some exceptions). And then come SoundPEATS RunFree Lite and completely crush the competition.

    In our standard battery life test, with music playing at 50% volume, we got:

    • 20 hours and 11 minutes of playtime.

    That’s 3 hours more than the advertised 17 hours, which is always great to see. However, there’s a catch: headphones play really quietly at 50% volume.

    You need to listen at around 60% or 70% to reach an adequate loudness. So, during normal use, you should expect a few hours shorter battery life.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite charging port
    The charging port is covered with a rubber flap, which can easily tear off.

    They use USB-C for charging and not proprietary solutions like Shokz OpenRun or TOZO OpenReal. There is no mention of fast charging. But they do recharge from 0-100% in 1.6 hours which is pretty fast.

    Features

    Star Rating
    4.5 Almost Perfect

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite have all the features other SoundPEATS headphones have, thanks to the app support, and have even received Bluetooth multipoint after the latest firmware update.

    It’s nice to see headphones below $40 getting app support and every feature that the brand offers (apart from active noise cancelling).

    The app’s features menu (left) and the front page (right).

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite features:

    • Adaptive EQ
    • Custom equalizer
    • Sound presets
    • Game mode
    • And even Bluetooth multipoint

    The controls offer essential commands for music playback and activating voice assistant, as well as answering and rejecting phone calls and even switching between two calls. Unfortunately, headphones don’t announce who’s the caller.

    Here are all controls:

    • Play/pause or answer a call – press the power button
    • Volume control up – press the “+” button
    • Volume control down – press the “-” button
    • Next track – long-press the “+” button
    • Repeat/previous track – long-press the “-” button
    • Game mode – triple press the power button
    • Reject call – long press the power button for 1.5s
    • Switch between calls or voice assistant – double press the power button

    Adaptive EQ

    Before using this feature, you must take a short hearing test. The app plays a series of frequency tones at different loudness, and you tap the screen when you hear them.

    Based on the results, the app creates a tuning that’s (supposedly) best suited for you. With every headphone, the result is slightly different.

    I got a reduced bass response, which is good, but then the treble is boosted to the max, making it a dominant region. That’s unsuitable for music, but it can work for spoken-word content like podcasts.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite adaptive EQ
    Adaptive EQ’s end result is a brighter, treble-dominant sound.

    Custom EQ

    Thankfully, SoundPEATS stuck to a 10-band custom EQ from the SoundPEATS Air3 Deluxe HS model, which we liked a lot. However, despite many options, you can’t perform miracles.

    You can get the tuning to somewhat natural levels, but the DSP sometimes starts acting strange when boosting frequencies to the max or even if, for example, boost 2kHz by 2dB instead of 3dB.

    Even with that, using custom EQ will only help those who nitpick (like we do). Otherwise, stock tuning sounds just fine.

    I had difficulties using SoundPEATS app as it kept crashing, and it only worked upon the first opening after reinstalling it. But it could be a compatibility issue with my smartphone after the software update.

    Microphone quality

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite call quality provides good legibility of your voice but sounds echoey.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite microphone test:

    In a quiet room, the microphone does a good job of picking up your voice. Others will fully understand you without any noticeable distortion. However, you will also sound as if you’re in a box.

    The RunFree Lite suffer from minimal distortion when exposed to loud background noise. You can hear a slight loss in voice quality but nothing like the muffled performance of some competitors.

    Overall, the call quality is fine for casual calls and quick replies during exercises. However, pick something else for a business call of videoconferencing.

    Noise Isolation

    Star Rating
    3.5 Almost Great

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite can battle wind noise with decent efficiency and also prevent others from hearing your music thanks to low sound leakage.

    Since comparing these headphones to regular ones would result in a terrible score, we rate wind noise and sound leakage when it comes to open-air headphones.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite on head controlling
    Physical controls are easy to use, and you quickly locate them with your fingers, even during cycling.

    Wind noise test

    The RunFree Lite headphones are targeted toward outdoor activities like running and cycling, so it’s essential to know how they handle wind noise.

    During the running test, I haven’t noticed any huge levels of wind noise that would make the usage problematic. Wind noise is similar to the one you experience when running without headphones.

    I tested them on a bike. There’s minimal extra wind noise, with a little bit of whining when turning your head left or right.

    What about sound leakage?

    To my surprise, there was very minimal sound leakage, even at moderate volumes, which is excellent if you want to keep your playlist private. Of course, we still advise you against listening in places like a library.

    Bluetooth

    Star Rating
    4.5 Almost Perfect

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite have a slightly above-average indoor Bluetooth range, basic Bluetooth multipoint support, and an almost lag-free mobile gaming experience.

    The RunFree Lite use Bluetooth 5.3 and provide a robust close-range connection. We haven’t noticed any audio hiccups when having a smartphone in the same room.

    Moving to our indoor range test, headphones scored slightly above average results.

    • SoundPEATS RunFree Lite manage to last up to 55 feet (or 16.7 meters) before starting to lose connection.

    Compared to their close competitor, TrueFree F1, and TOZO OpenReal, the latter offers a stronger antenna that extends the range by 10 feet. However, even 55 feet is plenty for walking around the house.

    Furthermore, unlike the other two headphones, RunFree Lite can also connect to two devices simultaneously using Bluetooth multipoint feature.

    How to pair SoundPEATS RunFree Lite?

    1. Powering headphones for the first time immediately activate pairing mode.
    2. To pair them to another device, turn them off and back on while holding the power button. After a few seconds, you’ll hear a “pairing” sound.
    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite buttons
    The middle button acts as a play/pause, power, and pairing button.

    What Bluetooth codecs do they use?

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite use SBC, AAC, and also LDAC Bluetooth codec, for some reason. That seems unreasonable, given the design and overall quality of the sound and driver.

    Also, there’s no mention of LDAC in the official marketing, which makes this even stranger. Overall, the sound doesn’t improve if you enable LDAC, so you don’t need to use it.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite LDAC
    You can activate the LDAC inside SoundPEATS RunFree Lite Bluetooth settings on Android.

    Is there any audio lag?

    You don’t experience any visible lag when watching video content on YouTube or other social media platforms. But you do get some during mobile gaming.

    Activating Game mode reduces the latency to a reasonable level, and unless you’re sensitive to lag, you can easily play mobile games with RunFree Lite.

    Should You Get SoundPEATS RunFree Lite?

    Star Rating
    4.5 Almost Perfect

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite are a niche product for people who seek headphones that provide full situational awareness and comfort and are not sacrificing sound quality for having such convenience.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite logo
    While SoundPEATS RunFree Lite feel cheap, they still look good on your head.

    While some competitors might have a higher build quality and more accessories, the RunFree Lite offer a more customizable package. And for $40, they’re an easy buy if you’re an extreme sportsperson.

    On the other hand, if you’re a casual user looking for audio quality on a budget, you should steer away and opt for something like TOZO OpenReal.

    How do SoundPEATS RunFree Lite compare to the competition?

    • They’re slightly comfier than the competition while offering an equal level of stability.
    • Sound quality isn’t necessarily better, but fuller compared to other headphones.
    • Headphones have an IPX4 rating, which is in line with competitors, at least within the air-conduction category.
    • Long battery life at 20 hours per charge lasts longer than with competition.
    • Thanks to the app, RunFree Lite offer more features than similar headphones at this price.
    • You don’t get (official) dust resistance or a carrying pouch for safer storage and transportation.

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite Alternatives

    TOZO OpenReal

    TOZO OpenReal on head

    For an extra $10, the OpenReal offer a much clearer and more natural sound. Adding more treble energy via EQ, they easily beat RunFree Lite in audio quality.

    Furthermore, they have slightly higher battery life at 14 hours but use an annoying proprietary charger. They also offer an app, but solely for EQ. No multipoint or gaming mode like RunFree Lite.

    TOZO OpenReal review

    TrueFree F1

    TrueFree F1 on a moss

    Much brighter, loudness, but also bass-less sounding air-conducting headphones. They lack custom EQ, so the sound signature is fixed.

    Headphones have an IP44 rating, slightly better than RunFree Lite, and an 8-hour battery, which is lower. Both use Bluetooth 5.3, but the F1 have a stronger antenna.

    Both are equally stable, but the RunFree Lite are comfier for longer listening sessions.

    TrueFree F1 review

    What’s in the Box?

    SoundPEATS RunFree Lite accessories
    • SoundPEATS RunFree Lite air-conduction Bluetooth headphones
    • USB-A to USB-C charging cable
    • User manual & app instructions

    Specifications

    Type: Air-conduction
    Connection: Bluetooth 5.3
    Back design: Open-ear
    Drivers: 16.2mm dynamic
    Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Impedance: n/a
    Weight: 0.99 ounces (28 grams)
    Mic & Controls: Yes
    Water resistance: IPX4
    Battery life: 20h
    Charging time: 1h-2h – USB-C
    Active noise cancelling: No
    Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
    Wireless range: 55 feet (or 16.7 meters)
    Microphone: 2 noise reduction mics

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