You’ve probably been perusing the Bose portfolio in search of the finest headphones for jogging or the best sports headphones. After all, the company has earned a name for itself as a leading manufacturer of superior wireless headphones for exercise.
But, should you really think about purchasing the Bose Sport Earbuds? We were already big fans of the superb Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, so its release was much anticipated.
The important question is whether Bose was able to transfer any of that genius to the cheaper siblings. Of course, some things had to give in order to get to that cheaper price point, and other things had to be changed, but did they lose any of their character in the process? A sure bet for the top spot, if that’s the case.
Design and Build
The Bose Sports Earbuds are a hybrid of the form and construction of the newer QuietComfort Earbuds and an earlier pair of Bose true wireless earbuds, the SoundSport Free.
The housings are more compact and rounded than those of the QuietComfort, yet they extend out from the head exactly as far. They’re not too bulky, and they’re less garish than the SoundSport Free, but they’re not as compact as, say, the Sony LinkBuds S.
The Bose Sport Earbuds’ touch surfaces are made of more durable plastic, giving them a cheaper feel than their more luxurious siblings. This is to be anticipated. They weigh 6.75g, which is slightly less than the QuietComforts’ 7g (versus 8.5g for the QuietComfort).
You can choose from three different colors: our test unit’s Baltic Blue, Glacier White, or Triple Black.
Recently, it has become standard for Bose wireless buds to only come with three different-sized silicone ear tips (small, medium, and large). We’d generally complain that there isn’t much to choose from, except that we have no trouble finding a suitable size.
Large, malleable, silicone pads (Bose calls them “umbrella-shaped”) paired with equally soft wing tips actually let the headphones sit firmly in your ears without having to be crammed in. Additionally, it eases their discomfort during extended listening sessions.
Also, switching out the tips is a breeze; other brands may take a page from the ease with which these can be removed and replaced.
The Bose in-ears give adequate isolation, but we wouldn’t be telling the truth if we said we didn’t miss the QuietComfort Earbuds’ superior performance and an additional layer of noise cancellation. Even if they cost more, it’s not unheard of to find noise-canceling earphones in this price range. As an example, consider the high quality of the JBL Reflect Flow Pro.
With an IP4 rating for sweat and weather resistance, the Sport Earbuds should hold up OK if you get caught in a light rainstorm while out for your monthly 5K run.
There is a fairly standard five hours of playback time for each charge, and an additional two full charges are included in the carrying case for a grand total of 15 hours. In comparison, the QuietComfort Earbuds can be used for six hours before needing to be recharged, while the JBL Reflect Flow Pro can be used for eight hours before needing to be recharged.
Using a 15-minute quick charge through USB-C, you should be able to bring a completely dead battery up to life for another two hours of use. However, unlike QuietComfort, this one doesn’t support wireless charging.
The Bose Sport Earbuds’ carrying case is more compact than that of the QuietComfort series. However, due to the arrangement of the buds on the inside, it is slightly longer. There is a pairing button on the inside of the case, and a bank of five LEDs on the front tells you how much juice is remaining in the case.
However, we do find the pairing procedure to be somewhat complex and erratic. We try to sync them with an iPhone and a MacBook, manually toggling between devices in the app as needed. However, the transition was not as smooth as we would have liked. In addition, the Sport Earbuds have trouble reconnecting to a single device, so we’ve had to retry the pairing process more than once. With the QuietComfort Earbuds, we didn’t experience any such difficulties.
It doesn’t help that you can’t use two devices, like a laptop for music and a phone for the occasional call, at the same time. To make a change in the Bose Music app, you must do so manually. Before you may use your Android or iOS smartphone, you’ll need to download the app.
Unlike the previous Bose Soundsport Free, the Sport Earbuds are controlled entirely by touch, just as the QuietComfort Earbuds. The majority of your control needs, such as pausing, playing, and skipping ahead, are met. To play/pause/answer/decline calls, simply double-tap the right earpiece. If you press and hold the right earbud, you can talk to your device.
Interestingly, there is no way to rewind to the beginning of the track after skipping forward by double-tapping the left earpiece. Not a deal breaker by any stretch, but oddly absent considering almost all competitors have this feature.
The right earbud’s touch surface may now be programmed to act as volume control, according to a software update. To lower the volume, swipe along and down; to raise it, slide up.
In-call clarity is adequate for earbud use. The microphones are housed in the right earbud (the master), and your voice is picked up clearly under typical listening settings. There is some wind noise when using them outside, but it isn’t enough to discourage us from doing so.
We had great hopes for the Bose Sports Earbuds because of the success of their noise-canceling relatives. And they do provide, at least to some extent. Their equanimity in this matter is very impressive. When we run music through them, everything is treated in a just and honest manner. No one finds high-pitched sounds annoying or grating.
Instead of being overcooked as they may be on lower-quality wireless earbuds, the low frequencies here are reproduced accurately. Bass notes are powerful and robust without coming across as bloated or sloppy. With their upbeat and engaging performance, the Bose never drag on for too long. They hook you from the first listen.
When you put on Can’t Stand Losing You by Sting and the Police, the plucked bass guitar has a nice weight to it as it struts out that reggae flavor.
The thumps of the drums are firm and accurate, carrying the song forward at a constant clip. Sting’s vocal has a fullness and richness that isn’t stuffy, but you get the sensation that it’s lacking a little in terms of direct emotion. Earphones that cost the same but are of higher quality will have a slightly clearer sound and reveal somewhat more information.
The orchestra, in the End, Credits from Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides sound full and detailed, however, once again, the best peel back a few extra layers of information and convey dynamics with greater nuance. It’s not as exciting as when played via something like a JBL equivalence or Sony WF-1000XM3.
When listening to the tune on a Bose, the strings don’t seem to shimmer quite as much, and their dynamics seem to be a touch restrained. The Sport Earbuds are still enjoyable to use, but they can’t compare to the best headphones available at this price point.
The Bose Sport Earbuds are a respectable set of wireless headphones, but they don’t quite reach the heights of the best in class. Their musicality and power in balance make them comfortable to listen to and suitable for athletic types that don’t need or desire a bass-heavy sound, but at this price point, they lack the refinement and nuance necessary for a five-star recommendation.