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A photo of the Bose SoundSport Free true wireless workout earbuds sitting perfectly in the case.

Bose SoundSport Free review

The Bose SoundSport Free is beginning to show its age two years later.

Published onNovember 17, 2020

Bose SoundSport Free
The bottom line
The SoundSport Free earbuds fit well but have a bulky look. If you can get past how far they protrude, then you'll appreciate the versatile sound signature and identifiable button controls. As far as true wireless are concerned, they're a great option because they do everything well enough even though there's ample room for improvement. Listeners who want a more modern headset should consider something from Beats or Jabra for a similar price.

Bose SoundSport Free

The SoundSport Free earbuds fit well but have a bulky look. If you can get past how far they protrude, then you'll appreciate the versatile sound signature and identifiable button controls. As far as true wireless are concerned, they're a great option because they do everything well enough even though there's ample room for improvement. Listeners who want a more modern headset should consider something from Beats or Jabra for a similar price.
Product release date
September 22, 2017
$119.95 USD
30.5 x 25 x 30.5 mm
18g (earbuds)
Model Number
What we like
Secure fit
Sound quality
IPX4 water-resistance
Fast charging
Mono listening (right bud only)
What we don't like
Intermittent connectivity drops
Lacks Bluetooth multipoint
No in-app EQ
SBC and AAC only, no aptX
SoundGuys Rating
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Durability / Build Quality
Battery Life

Back in 2016, we lauded the Bose SoundSport Wireless, and now there’s a newer, shinier kid in town: the Bose SoundSport Free. Although it doesn’t perfect the true wireless experience, the SoundSport Free meets most athletes’ audio demands including water-resistance and a secure fit. If you don’t mind the comically large housings, these earbuds are a great addition to the Bose ecosystem.

Editor’s note: this Bose SoundSport Free review was updated on November 23, to address the Bose Sport Earbuds.

Who are Bose’s true wireless workout earbuds for?

  • Athletes will enjoy the IPX4-rated build of these bulky true wireless earbuds. Despite their large size, though, Bose’s StayHear+ ear tips effectively secure the buds to the outer ear. You’re more likely to get vertigo from trying to shake these out than experiencing an unintended ejection.
  • Users with USB-C-only inputs will view the SoundSport Free as a solid alternative to a dongle headset while as these buds provide the benefit of Bluetooth mobility. Despite the lack of high-quality Bluetooth codec support, the earbuds relay clear audio making them usable in and outside of the gym.

What is the Bose SoundSport Free like?

A photo of the Bose SoundSport Free true wireless workout earbuds outside of the open charging case on top of a blue surface.
The charging case provides an extra 10 hours of battery life to the Bose SoundSport Free true wireless earbuds.

Upon opening the SoundSport Free, it’s apparent that a sizable portion of your money is funneled back into Bose’s packaging design department. Inside, is a tubular charging case, a microUSB charging cable, two alternative pairs of StayHear+ ear tips, and the SoundSport Free earbuds. Maybe the people over at Bose have abnormally large ears, or maybe they get their kicks from making their customers look ridiculous. Whatever it may be, these look goofy and jut from the ear.

Looking beyond the bulbous build, the SoundSport Free buds provide a very stable fit, due to the StayHear+ ear tips. The wing tips are grippy, flexible, and comfortable. Ambient noise easily permeates the seal, but that’s more of a “pro” with workout earbuds, making them safer than something like the RHA MA750 Wireless. This way, users can run outside with these and still hear traffic and other pedestrians.

A picture of the Bose SoundSport Free housing is larger than the SoundSport Wireless housing, which was already large to begin with. Pictured: The left earbud of the Bose SoundSport Free placed in the left ear to illustrate its unusually large size.
The SoundSport Free housing is larger than the SoundSport Wireless housing, which was already large to begin with.

Though they’re constructed from plastic, the Bose SoundSport Free are durable. An IPX4-certification and high-grade materials mean that these can withstand most workouts, save for aquatics. The included charging case is sturdy, too. It provides two additional full-charges to the earbuds, which isn’t great for its size-to-battery ratio.

Related: Best true wireless workout earbuds

Do the Bose SoundSport Free stay connected?

A photo of the Bose SoundSport Free true wireless workout earbuds inside of the charging case with the LEDs alight.
Bose’s SoundSport Free charging case uses two internal LED indicators, which light up when the earbuds are inserted.

Though the connection isn’t quite as dicey as a game of Yahtzee, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Let’s start with the good. The SoundSport Free are a breeze to pair, and they reconnect instantaneously. The difficulty lies in maintaining a stable connection. Like other true wireless earbuds, connecting is a linear, rather than simultaneous, process. All you really need to know is that the left earbud loses connection a few times every hour, and because they don’t support aptX, Android users are bound to experience audio-visual lag. iPhone users, however, benefit from AAC Bluetooth codec support, providing high-quality wireless streaming.

The Bose Connect app supports the company’s Bluetooth products and has a peculiar option to nickname your device. Aside from its Zoey Deschanel-like quirkiness, the app provides useful features like “find my ‘buds.” A warning prompts users to remove the earbuds before playing the ascending beep, making it easy to locate when they’re lost in the same or an adjoining room. It’s not all good, though: the app has a tendency to crash. I had to uninstall it a couple of times and hope to see stability improvements with future updates.

How is the battery life?

Bose lists the earbuds’ standalone playback time at five hours; our objective testing measured a consistent 5.5 hours of playtime before I had to pop them back into the case which supplies an additional 10 hours of listening. While this isn’t up to snuff compared to more modern total wireless earbuds, longevity shouldn’t be an issue for those diligent about placing the earbuds back in the case. Which you should, because despite their protuberant style, they’re easy to misplace. Of course, battery life varies with how loudly you’re listening, so users can probably squeak out a little extra listening time by keeping the levels in check.

The charging method of choice, microUSB, is surprising, given the original price tag of $249. If Bose isn’t going to give us consumers USB-C charging, at least give us dual-functionality with the charging case like the JLab Epic Air Elite.

Do the Bose SoundSport Free sound good?

A photo of the Bose SoundSport Free true wireless workout earbuds charging case's microUSB input with StayHear+ ear tips in the top-right corner of the image.
On the rear of the charging case is a micro-USB input. In order to charge the earbuds, they must be placed in the case.

The SoundSport Free’s sound signature is a departure from Bose’s notorious weak bass response. Like their predecessor, these earbuds pump out a strong low-end. Treble and midrange frequencies are exaggerated too but not to the same degree. At first listen, highs seem acutely detailed. A more attentive listen reveals that this is a consequence of treble accentuation and can sound sibilant (that familiar hiss) and fatiguing after extended periods. Bose does a fine job reproducing a deliberately altered sound signature that appeals to exercise enthusiasts.

Lows, mids, highs

It’s clear that the bass is engineered to please athletes, but Bose’s StayHear+ tips demonstrate the vulnerabilities of an improper seal. In Emily Blue’s song Blackberries, the bass line receives substantial amplification, and the occasional bump refracts down the ear canal. Granted, for the most part, bass is simply just loud and is physically unable to maintain a steady thump. Bose emphasizes the low-end for good reason, but their attempt falls flat a bit.

AJR’s song Sober Up relies heavily on Ryan Met’s vocal lead and, relative to the bass and treble, the mids are the least emphasized part of the SoundSport Free signature. This is good and bad: they sound accurate but are quickly masked when an unrestrained kickdrum makes itself present. If these weren’t workout earbuds, this would receive more criticism, but given the intended use for the SoundSport Free, it’s easy to look past.

In Baseball by Hippo Campus, the filtering of the highs is most apparent during the first verse. Nathan Stocker’s guitar picking comes through clearly, even as it takes a backseat to the bass. High-pitched frequencies resonate, as his fingers travel up and down the fretboard. This is appealing within the context of Baseball; however, in Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the violins quickly lose their charm, instead, becoming irritating.

Should you buy the Bose SoundSport Free in 2020?

With the advent of the Bose Sport Earbuds, it’s hard to justify the SoundSport Free. If you’re heavily invested in the Bose family and appreciate the reliable nature of Bose products, then yes, the Bose SoundSport Free was a fine true wireless option. However, snagging a new pair of these buds has become increasingly difficult as remaining units are sold by smaller distributors. For people dead set on buying the SoundSport Free before it’s officially discontinued, the company offers refurbished models on its website for just under $120.

Get the Bose Sport Earbuds or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds instead

The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds in the charging case, adjacent to a pair of yellow rock-climbing shoes.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Be careful if you decide to rock climb with these earbuds, because they’re not dust-resistant.

Bose fans need not fret, for the company recently announced a new line of true wireless earbuds. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are a pair of noise canceling true wireless earbuds aimed squarely at the Sony WF-1000XM3, while the Bose Sport Earbuds are considered the successor to the SoundSport Free—designed for people with active lifestyles. The Sport Earbuds feature a new design that mimics the Bose Headphones 700, along with an IPX4 rating.

Don’t miss: Bose Sport Earbuds review

For those on a tighter budget, we at SoundGuys highly recommend the  Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 for their water-resistance, aptX and AAC codec support, and battery life. If you want to save even more money, the JLab JBuds Air Icon is available for $59 and features an IP55 dust and water resistance rating, making them an affordable and budget-friendly pair of workout earbuds.

Workout-friendly alternatives to Bose

An image of the Master & Dynamic MW07 Go true wireless earbuds in the open charging case atop a Chrome Industries messenger bag.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Long battery life benefits all listeners, and the Master & Dynamic MW07 Go charging case supplies an extra 12 hours of listening before needing to be recharged.

The Bose SoundSport Free was a unique product when released back in the fall of 2017, but we’ve seen a rapid uptick in truly wireless earbuds. As any Freakonomics fan will tell you: as competition increases, prices eventually decrease. We’ve seen more affordable and comparably priced workout earbuds enter the market, and the Bose SoundSport Free just can’t keep pace with the others. The large earbud housings look ridiculous in comparison to the IPX6 rated Master & Dynamic MW07 Go, and even compared to the sportier Jaybird Vista.

Additionally, what the Bose SoundSport Free once championed its extended playtime which ran circles around the competition two years ago. However, now we’re seeing total wireless earbuds that handily exceed six hours of playback with more playtime afforded from an even slimmer charging case. Suffice to say, the SoundSport Free is showing its age.

The Jabra Elite Active 75t are a great alternative for daily use

A picture of the Jabra Elite Active 75t true wireless workout earbuds (navy) covered in water droplets behind a Casio digital watch.
The IP57 rating means the Elite Active 75t are resistant to dust and water.

If you’re looking for a set of earbuds to use regularly but don’t want to sacrifice durability, the Elite Active 75t earphones are your end game. Jabra went through the effort to get these IP57-certified, meaning they’re great for rock climbers and poolside athletes alike. That said, you can’t actually use these for swimming because they lack on-board storage. However, the waterproof rating means you can rest assured if the headset happens to slip into a pool.

Other great features include the design and fit: these earbuds are about half the size of the SoundSport Free and are just as, if not more, secure. Each earbud panel is a tactile button that lets you adjust playback, volume, and access Google Assistant (Alexa, or Siri). The microphone system is excellent for hands-free calls and is even good enough for professional calls. If you want a pair of exercise earphones with a more modern design, get the Elite Active 75t or the standard Elite 75t.

iPhone users should save for the Apple AirPods Pro or Beats Powerbeats Pro

A photo of the AirPods Pro earbuds in the wireless charging case next to an iPhone and digital camera.
Apple includes wireless charging capabilities by default with its AirPods Pro noise canceling true wireless earbuds.

If you’ve been considering the SoundSport Free earbuds for their AAC support, you’d greatly benefit from saving until you can afford either the AirPods Pro or Powerbeats Pro. Both headsets integrate Apple’s H1 chip for greater energy efficiency, hands-free Siri access, and streamlined use across iOS devices. What’s more, the AirPods Pro are the first of the AirPods line to have an official IP rating (IPX4), so you can sweat in them to your heart’s desire without worrying about water damage. Coincidentally, the Powerbeats Pro buds are also IPX4-rated.

Related: Beats Powerbeats vs. Beats Powerbeats Pro

Neither pair of earbuds juts out from the ear as much as the SoundSport Free and both support fast charging. For the Beats workout earbuds, you get 1.5 hours of listening from just five minutes in the case, which is pretty remarkable. Anyone drawn to the Powerbeats Pro but want to save a few bucks should instead get the Beats Powerbeats.

Frequently asked questions about

The Bose Sport Earbuds improves upon the SoundSport Free in almost every way imaginable. While the Sport Earbuds still features the IPX4 rating of the SoundSport Free, it offers a minimalist design with improved ear tips, USB-C charging, newer drivers for better sound quality, and Bluetooth 5.1 for more consistent device connectivity—compared to its predecessor.

Because batteries degrade over time, no set of wireless audio products are going to last forever. True wireless earphones like the Bose SoundSport Free have very tiny batteries in them, making their battery life already pretty short. If there’s any degradation in the cells (which would happen in items a couple years old), you’ll notice dramatically worse battery life. Lily covered this a little more in detail on our sister site Android Authority, so if you want you can read up on it here.

Firmware updates can be accessed using the Bose Connect app, available for Android and iOS.

Despite Bose’s powerhouse status in the noise canceling headphones sphere, the SoundSport Free lacks noise canceling technology. If you’re interested in the company’s ANC earbuds, checkout the Bose QuietComfort series.

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