Outdoor athletes have few truly safe options when it comes to workout earbuds, and Bose is bringing a fine solution to the table with the Bose Sport Open Earbuds. These are explicitly for outdoor enthusiasts who want a soundtrack to underscore their adventures. The non-occluding design may look strange, but the Sport Open Earbuds work well and sound better than bone conduction headphones. Let’s see all that these earphones have to offer, and what they’re lacking.
Editor’s note: this Bose Sport Open Earbuds review was updated on May 11, 2021, to answer an FAQ about wearing the earbuds with glasses.
Who should get the Bose Sport Open Earbuds?
- Outdoor athletes are the target audience for Sport Open Earbuds because they don’t block your ear canals, which keeps you aware of your surroundings at all times. Audio quality is good and certainly better than most bone conduction headphones (which these aren’t).
- Bike commuters should get these earphones because they take up less space than a JBL Clip 3.
- Anyone who lives in an urban area will benefit from the completely open design of these earbuds. You can walk around the city and down heavily trafficked streets while remaining vigilant of passing cars and other distractions.
Are the Bose Sport Open Earbuds easy to use?
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are unlike other true wireless earphones because they don’t include a charging case. Instead, Bose supplies you with an oblong, thin carrying case with a felt interior. The textured finish makes the case easy to grip, but it also attracts plenty of dust, dirt, and lint. There’s nothing remarkable about the case; it just works.
Learn more: Ultimate headphone buying guide
In lieu of a charging case, Bose provides a proprietary USB-A charging cradle with three-pin connectors for each earbud. It’s easy to properly dock the earbuds since both the earpieces and cradle cutouts are marked with an “L” and “R.” Aesthetically, Bose’s decision to separate the battery from the case makes sense as a hybrid case would have been massive, but this method still feels inconvenient.
The earbuds look a bit like snails, with bulbous ear hooks and rounded housings. They dangle from the top of your ears and are careful not to touch your ear canals. This deviates from typical open-fit designs like the Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, both of which have an unsealed fit that still blocks your ear canals. The chunky ear hooks keep the buds in place, which is good for security but not great for comfort. The section where the plastic hook meets the earbud pinches the helix and can become painful after about an hour of wear.
What are the Bose Sport Open Earbuds controls?
A button on the bottom of each earbud lets you control playback, field calls, and access your preferred smart assistant. You can enable touch controls through the Bose Music app. The glossy panels are touch-sensitive and you can adjust the volume with a single tap on either panel (right increases volume and left decreases volume).
|Input||Left button||Right button|
|One press||Hear battery level (shortcut)||Play/pause; answer/end call|
|Two presses||Skip track; decline call|
|Three presses||Previous track|
|Press and hold||Access smart assistant||Power on/off|
How are the Bose Sport Open Earbuds different from bone conduction headphones?
The Bose Sport Earbuds use precisely directed dynamic drivers to funnel sound down your ear canals, and that sound directly interacts with your eardrums. Bone conduction technology differs: the earpieces sit on top of your cheekbones and bypass the eardrum, instead of sending vibrations directly to the cochlea. If you are hearing impaired, specifically with eardrum damage, bone conduction headphones are a more accessible choice.
Read on: Best bone conduction headphones
Are the Bose Sport Earbuds good for exercise?
Even during cycling, rock climbing, and casually playing basketball, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds stay in place. The thick ear hooks effectively stabilize the earphones no matter how many times you jump or fall. The IPX4 rating makes them nearly impervious to sweat damage, and the button on each earbud is easy to find by feel.
Should you get the Bose Music app?
The Bose Music app offers little in the way of features, but Bose is known for dropping substantial updates to its headsets; it added a custom EQ module to the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and customizable touch controls to its Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Currently, the app lets you enable and disable the touch panels, review a slideshow of controls, switch between previously connected source devices, view the remaining battery levels, and choose a shortcut for the left earbud button.
It’s not the most useful or feature-packed app (at least, not yet). As with any application tied to your data, we implore you to read the terms and conditions before you download it.
Do the Bose Sport Open Earbuds stay connected?
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds use Bluetooth 5.1 and have a nine-meter wireless range. The earphones support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. Android smartphone owners may be bummed to realize these buds don’t support aptX, but you’re unlikely to hear the benefits of high-quality codecs with this unoccluded fit. There is a noticeable audio-visual lag when streaming video from an Android phone though, which isn’t an issue when using the earbuds with an iPhone.
Become an expert: Understanding Bluetooth codecs
The earbuds don’t support Bluetooth multipoint, so you need to manually disconnect from one device before connecting to another. Alternatively, you can use the Bose Music app to switch between source devices.
Mono listening isn’t completely supported either: when you power the right (primary) earbud on, it automatically powers on the left earbud. You can technically skirt around this as long as the right earbud is within nine meters of your phone. Under these conditions, the earbuds will play your media, regardless of which earpiece is in your ear. This quirk is similar to the Microsoft Surface Earbuds.
How long does the battery last?
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds have an official battery life of 8 hours. In our testing, we found the earphones fall slightly short of this, but not by much. When the Sport Open Earbuds are playing music at a constant 75dB(SPL) output, the batteries last 7 hours, 21 minutes. This is well above average for true wireless earbuds, and if you listen at lower volumes, you’re likely to get closer to the 8-hour mark.
It takes two hours to fully charge the earbuds, and just 30 minutes on the cradle supplies 180 minutes of playtime. Again, the magnetic carrying case doesn’t actually charge the earbuds, so you have to keep track of that inconvenient dock.
Benefits of a non-charging case
Most true wireless earbuds go through a constant deplete-charge cycle, which hastens the battery degradation process. Since the carrying case is purely to protect and keep track of the earphones, the Sport Open Earbuds are only charged when you intend to charge them. Sure, the cradle is inconvenient, but it could end up extending the life of these earbuds, relative to other truly wireless earbuds.
How do the Bose Sport Open Earbuds sound?
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds don’t occlude the ear, and while this design has its safety benefits, it negatively impacts bass reproduction. There’s virtually no sub-bass or bass response to be heard, but the midrange frequency response is accurate, which is good for vocals and string instruments. Bose’s tuning amplifies treble notes quite a bit, making it easier for you to hear harmonic detail from the 16mm drivers. The buds are designed to channel sound toward your ear, not beyond it, though anyone nearby will hear your music if you crank the volume past 75%.
Due to how the earbuds fit without blocking any part of your ear canal, there is absolutely no isolation performance to speak of. While we bemoan this and chalk it up as a drawback of the Apple AirPods, and earphones with a similar design, the ability to hear your surroundings and music simultaneously is the selling point of the Sport Open Earbuds.
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Lows, mids, and highs
In King Princess’ song Hit the Back, Mikaela Straus’ vocals sound clear when it’s just their voice and the slow piano chords. The bass drops at 0:51 and it sounds underwhelming through the Sport Open Earbuds. A quick drumroll leads the song into its final chorus at 2:30, and the de-emphasized bass response is painfully obvious. Syncopated claps occur throughout the song and sound surprisingly clear.
Again, these aren’t the earbuds to get for audiophile athletes. If accurate audio is among your top priorities when it comes to workout earbuds, you should instead consider the IPX4-rated Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 or IPX7-rated Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
Can I use the Bose Sport Open Earbuds for phone calls?
The right earbud houses a dual-microphone setup, which is fine for quick calls, but it isn’t the best headset microphone that’s crossed the SoundGuys desk. People on the other end of the call are bound to tell you that you sound “off.” Take a listen to our demo below and rate it, doing so helps contextualize the microphone performance across a range of products for our other readers.
Bose Sport Open Earbuds microphone demo:
Bose Sport Earbuds vs. Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Though both the Bose Sport Earbuds and Sport Open Earbuds are intended for athletes, the latter is more niche. If the bulk of your training happens indoors, the Bose Sport Earbuds are the better value: the StayHear Max tips comfortably seal to your ear canal and the attached wing tips maintain a secure, comfortable fit. The Sport Earbuds have a stronger bass response because of the sealed design and also happen to have a better mic system than the Bose Sport Open Earbuds.
Unlike the Sport Open Earbuds, the standard Sport variant includes a USB-C charging case that fast charges the earbuds and provides 10 hours of reserve battery. The Bose Sport Open Earbuds have a greater standalone playtime, but you need to keep track of the charging cradle at all times.
The hybrid button/touch control system of the Bose Sport Open Earbuds is nifty, but the touch controls are just too sensitive and could really use recalibrating. This is a disappointing contrast to the Bose Sport Earbuds’ perfect touch panels, which accurately register touches, even imprecise ones. As of the initial publication of this Bose Sport Open Earbuds review, you have more freedom to configure the Bose Sport Earbuds controls than you do with the Open Earbuds.
Again, if you’re an outdoor adventurer who likes to listen to music the Bose Sport Open Earbuds are a great option, but all other athletes can save a few bucks and go the way of the Bose Sport Earbuds.
Should you buy the Bose Sport Open Earbuds?
If you frequently exercise outside and feel lost without your music, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds is the next piece of gear for your kit. If you want a more versatile, comfortable pair of earphones with better microphone quality, check out other top contenders.
To all of you non-athletes, don’t immediately write off the Sport Open Earbuds: these are a very safe option for anyone who likes to break up their days with neighborhood walks. Whether you live in a city or out in the country, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and remain aware of your surroundings. These earphones give you the best of both worlds since they play stereo sound while letting you hear the outside world, and the sound quality is much better than software-powered ambient passthrough modes.
If these earbuds still don’t seem like the right fit for you, don’t worry: that’s where our next section comes in.
Editor’s note: this review was written with headset firmware version 1.1.2-21274+132ebd5 and version 4.3.4 of the Bose Music app.
What should you get instead?
If you like the idea of an open fit but don’t want something more budget-friendly, check out the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3100. These earbuds block the ear canal, but they don’t seal to it. You can still remain aware of what’s happening around you with Plantronics’ earbuds and they’re more comfortable than the Sport Open Earbuds.
Another great option if you want to stick to an ear hook design: the Beats Powerbeats Pro, or the Beats Powerbeats if you aren’t set on true wireless earbuds. Both sets of Beats earphones house the Apple H1 chip for functions like audio sharing, voice access to Siri, and more.
If the ear hook look isn’t for you, consider something a bit more versatile like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro or Jabra Elite 85t. Samsung’s earbuds have an IPX7 rating and are jam-packed with features (a handful of which are exclusive to Samsung devices). Both the Jabra Elite 85t and Galaxy Buds Pro offer very good active noise cancelling and both pairs of earbuds seal to your ear. Samsung and Jabra’s microphone systems sound far better than the Bose Sport Open Earbuds, and their respective apps provide many more features than the Bose Music app.
Frequently Asked Questions
This depends on the thickness of your glasses' arms. Unless you have wireframes, you're unlikely to be able to comfortably wear the Bose Sport Open Earbuds with your favorite spectacles because the hook is too thick, which is unfortunate since plenty of us wear sunglasses outside.