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Bose SoundSport Wireless
June 5, 2016
Original: $129 USD
9 x 9 x 3.5 cm (zipper case)
Few companies hold a tighter grip on the consumer audio market than Bose, but the Bose SoundSport Wireless is a tough sell today. After all, the company has since released multiple generations of true wireless workout earbuds, hedging its bets that the future is (totally) wireless. Still, if you don’t need the modern comforts afforded by true wireless earbuds, the SoundSport Wireless may be right up your alley. We tested the Bose SoundSport Wireless for two weeks to see how it performs.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on July 11, 2022, to include a section on the Bose Sport Earbuds, to add an Alternatives section, update formatting, and to answer FAQ about Beats Fit Pro.
- Athletes looking to get that reliable Bose performance will appreciate the reliably good performance and sound of the SoundSport Wireless.
- People who like wireless earbuds, but not true wireless earbuds, gain the convenience of Bluetooth with the security of StayHear+ ear tips and a cable keeping the buds together.
What is it like to use the Bose SoundSport Wireless earbuds?
Just looking at the SoundSport Wireless Earbuds and you may think, “There’s no way these are going to work.” The SoundSport Wireless features bulky, plastic housings and the headset merits an IPX4 water-resistance rating. After two weeks of using it on runs, the SoundSport Wireless continues to work perfectly. It makes sense that the buds are so large, given that all of the Bluetooth components have to go somewhere—not to mention the battery they stuffed that powers it all.
When you put the SoundSport Wireless in, the buds bulge out of your ears. Despite the precarious feeling of fit, the earbuds stay in place, even during exercise. The StayHear+ sports tips are fully responsible for keeping the SoundSport Wireless workout earbuds in place. They’re not the sleekest looking tips, but they’re functional and that’s what counts.
Bose includes the wireless headset, a small carrying case with a carabiner clip incorporated into the design, a microUSB charging cable, two different sized sets of StayHear+ tips, and the instruction booklet.
How do you control the Bose SoundSport Wireless?
On top of the right earbud is a single button responsible for pairing and powering on, but you’ll still have to use the in-line mic and remote for playback controls. The control module and wire are also nicely constructed and don’t go flying around, which is something that can’t be said of old Jaybird earbuds.
Does the Bose SoundSport Wireless stay connected?
The SoundSport Wireless connects to your phone via Bluetooth 4.1, and has NFC for tap-pairing. Its range is pretty average at about 10 meters and works well enough. Connection skipping is minimal when running with my phone strapped to my left arm (four times in a week), and no skipping occurs whatsoever when it’s strapped to my right. So if you hate jumpy music, try switching the side your phone resides.
Just like the Bose QuietComfort 45 and Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, the SoundSport Wireless supports just two Bluetooth codecs: SBC and AAC. This means that iOS devices can stream high-quality audio to the earbuds, but certain Android phones may struggle to do so. Android is unable to properly encode the AAC Bluetooth codec across its multitude of supported devices, so streaming is inconsistent. Some Android users may even have more consistent audio quality over SBC, the lowest common denominator of Bluetooth codecs.
How long does the Bose SoundSport Wireless battery last?
The SoundSport Wireless lasts 6 hours, 45 minutes on a single charge, which surpasses the specified six-hour battery life. It’s not too great if you’re playing non-stop, but in the real world, this lasts me the entire work week. It takes two hours to completely charge the earbuds, and you don’t get fast charging.
Does the Bose SoundSport Wireless block noise?
Isolation isn’t the best, but this is the nature of the StayHear+ ear tips. They don’t create an uncomfortable suction sensation to the ear, so you’re left with a fine fit, but one that fails to fully block out background noise. If you want workout earbuds with a tight seal, you should look at the Jaybird Vista 2 instead.
The Sennheiser MTW 3 isn’t technically billed as a workout headset, but the earbuds merit an IPX4 rating like the rest of the competition; plus, you get removable wing tips to secure the buds to your ears. We like the Sennheiser earbuds because they have great noise canceling that compares well against the popular Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Our isolation and sound quality sections used our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and ANC performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
How does the Bose SoundSport Wireless sound?
If you’re looking for accuracy you shouldn’t be looking into Bluetooth exercise headphones. That said, bass reproduction isn’t so dramatically emphasized that it completely overpowers all other instruments in your music. It’s good enough to keep you focused on the beat during a workout but you won’t feel a skull-shaking rumble with the SoundSport Wireless. For that, you’ll need to consider the Beats Powerbeats Pro.
Can you make phone calls with the SoundSport Wireless?
Yes, you can use the microphone, embedded in the control module, for phone calls. When you use it, be sure that the mic isn’t brushing up against your clothes as this can transmit a loud, unpleasant sound to the person on the other end of the call.
Is the Bose SoundSport Wireless still worth buying today?
The Bose SoundSport Wireless is, and has been, the favorite workout earbuds of many athletes. It earned that top spot on everyone’s list because the sound quality rates much better than most workout earbuds, even by today’s standards, and the fit is very secure.
Sure, the price hasn’t dropped as much as we’d expect for years-old earbuds, but that’s Bose for you. If you are loath to use true wireless earbuds but want a versatile wireless solution, we still recommend the Bose SoundSport Wireless in 2022, just know that it has its limitations and shortcomings relative to more modern picks.
The Beats Fit Pro is a set of true wireless (as opposed to simply wireless) earbuds with IPX4 rating and ANC. Unfortunately, in our official tests, we cannot get the ANC to work at all. Because Beats is an Apple product you can’t force any updates.
Its battery lasts 6 hours, charges via USB-C, and sounds okay. The stabilizers create a good fit and it uses AAC and SBC codecs. Seeing as you can’t access one of the primary selling points of the Fit Pro, it’s difficult to strongly recommend it, unless you can find it heavily discounted from the original $199 USD price.
How does the Bose Sport Earbuds compare to the Bose SoundSport Wireless?
Going completely wireless has its advantages as proven by the Bose Sport Earbuds. Certified with the same IPX4 rating as the SoundSport Wireless, you can exercise without wondering if you’ll drown the buds.
Both the Sport Earbuds and SoundSport Wireless have StayHear designs to keep your buds in place. The battery life of the Bose Sport Earbuds is 5 hours, 17 minutes which is about an hour shorter than the SoundSport Wireless, although the Sport Earbuds comes with a quick charge function—a feature absent from the SoundSport Wireless. Unlike the SoundSport Wireless, which uses microUSB, the Bose Sport Earbuds case charges via USB-C, this is handy if you prefer not to have a bunch of different cables.
Both earbuds use AAC and SBC codecs, like basically all Bose offerings, and lend your ears a consumer-friendly sound. The Sport Earbuds uses Bluetooth 5.1 rather than the older, Bluetooth 4.1 on the SoundSport Wireless. If you only occasionally need wireless buds it makes sense to save money and get the SoundSport Wireless, although, the Bose Sport Earbuds is more current and not much more expensive.
The microphone sounds pretty good on Bose’s Sport Earbuds, but it won’t do much to isolate the speaker from distracting background noise like wind gusts.
Bose Sport Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal):
Bose Sport Earbuds microphone demo (Wind):
How does the microphone sound to you?
What should you get instead of the Bose SoundSport Wireless?
If you are not convinced that the hookless Bose SoundSport Wireless will do the trick, consider the Beats Powerbeats. Like the SoundSport Wireless, Powerbeats have a secure fit, though instead of relying on the StayHear+, Beats added a hook design. Beats updated the Bluetooth to 5.0, but it still only uses AAC and SBC codecs. For Apple users, the additional H1 chip is a boon for connectivity, as is the 17 hours, 54 minutes of battery life alongside a quick charge function for those times when you need to top up in a rush. Unlike the SoundSport Wireless, the Beats Powerbeats boasts an IPX4 rating for some added durability assurance. One thing to note: the Powerbeats is discontinued but you can still find it from popular vendors like Amazon and eBay if you hunt around.
Cut the cord altogether with the Jaybird Vista 2. Jaybird adds some more premium features to the Vista 2 such as active noise canceling (ANC) and app support to compliment the stabilizers designed to keep the buds in place. Loaded with IP68 and MIL-STD-810G certifications you need not concern yourself with the sweat resistance (or most forms of damage, except maybe a tank running it over). The case uses both wireless charging, and the current USB-C connection. It also has a quick charge function, and the battery lasts 5 hours, 20 minutes with ANC on. It connects via Bluetooth 5.0 and gives the option of the AAC and SBC codecs.
Frequently asked questions about Bose SoundSport Wireless
The Bose Sport Earbuds are the company’s second pair of true wireless workout earbuds, and are much more refined than the Bose SoundSport Free. The Sport Earbuds boast a sleek design with improved connection stability. The Sport Earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant, while the SoundSport Wireless are just water-resistant, without an official IP rating. The SoundSport Wireless relies on a microUSB charging cable, which is outdated compared to USB-C charging. Bose features newer dynamic drivers in its Sport Earbuds for improved sound quality and Bluetooth 5.1 firmware for more energy-efficient streaming.
The Bose SoundSport Free is Bose’s debut set of true wireless earbuds, meaning the buds are not joined by a cable. Instead, each earbud is independent of the other, and one is designated as the primary receiver which then transmits data to the secondary earbud.
Battery life is much shorter with the Bose SoundSport Free earbuds compared to the SoundSport Wireless, but the charging case provides an additional 10 hours of on-the-go playtime. Sound quality is very good for true wireless workout earbuds, but it may not be worth the drawback of fickle connection stability.