★★★★★ £180 • From

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - Christo­pher Mi­nasians

The Bose SoundS­port Free head­phones sound up­beat and fun; we just wish they fit­ted better


A de­cent-sound­ing pair of wire­less head­phones, but the price is high and de­sign is poor

LAST YEAR SAW the re­lease of the Bose SoundS­port Wire­less (Shop­per 358), which sounded good, but didn’t quite live up to the name: a be­hind-the-neck ca­ble con­nected the left and right in-ear units, so the head­phones didn’t de­liver the kind of true wire-free ex­pe­ri­ence you might want when you’re try­ing to ex­er­cise.

The SoundS­port Free, then, look like the per­fect up­date, be­ing wire­less ear­phones with no ca­ble con­nec­tions at all (sim­i­lar to Ap­ple’s AirPods). Con­nect­ing via Blue­tooth, they could be the per­fect match for those who want to go run­ning, cy­cling or to the gym with­out feel­ing a ca­ble bounc­ing on the back of their neck.

Un­for­tu­nately, the de­sign means they don’t get off to the best start: each bud sticks some way out of your ear, so you can of­ten hear the wind catch­ing on them. Their weight is also no­tice­able, with each ear­bud com­ing in at 15g.

At £180, they’re ex­pen­sive, too. To be fair, thatt’s a pretty nor­mal price for a pair of head­phones like these – the near-iden­ti­cal Jabra Elite Sport cost £175, while the less sporty, ANC-en­abled Sony WF-1000X come in at £200. Un­usu­ally enough, it’s Ap­ple that of­fers a cheaper op­tion, with the £159 AirPods. In any case, £180 is a lot to spend on in-ear head­phones, so it’s even more im­por­tant that they get ev­ery­thing else right.


The SoundS­port Free come with three sets of StayHear+ Sport tips, de­signed to keep the buds in your ears dur­ing work­outs. They would ben­e­fit from an­other set for those with smaller ears, how­ever, as with larger, poor­erfit­ting tips, the whole ear­buds can wig­gle around a bit un­der more stren­u­ous ex­er­cise, which is both un­com­fort­able and dis­tract­ing.

There’s also a por­ta­ble charg­ing case, ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing two full charges. A sin­gle charge pro­vides around five hours of play­back, so if you fully charge up the case and ear­phones you can lis­ten for up to 15 hours with­out hav­ing to track down a wall socket.

Recharg­ing uses a pro­pri­etary con­nec­tor, so you won’t be able to charge the ear­phones with­out the case. A full recharge takes around two hours; there’s also a 15-minute quickcharge op­tion, which will keep you go­ing for around 45 min­utes. Five LEDs on the cylin­dri­cal case in­di­cate how much charge re­mains, which is a con­ve­nient UI touch.

You get three colours to choose from, namely black, mid­night blue and bright orange. It’s worth choos­ing a colour you like, as these ear­phones are quite large and con­spic­u­ous; they re­call the Franken­stein Ul­ti­mate Ears TF10, which at­tracted an un­com­fort­able num­ber of cu­ri­ous looks on pub­lic trans­port.


Even if you’re not both­ered about how you look, you might care about that afore­men­tioned wind noise – we found them more or less un­us­able while cy­cling. Noise was less of a problem while jog­ging, but the slightly bulky de­sign of the ear­phones still caused them to bounce around in our ear canals, which wasn’t a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. The IPX4 rat­ing means they’ll be able to with­stand a splash of rain or sweat, but un­like the Soul X-Shock they’re not prop­erly wa­ter­proof. There are a few con­trols built into the two ear­phones: the left unit has an on/off but­ton, while the right unit of­fers a vol­ume con­trol and a play/pause but­ton, which do dou­ble duty as skip/pre­vi­ous con­trols. We found these buttons awk­wardly placed, and stiff to the ex­tent that we had to use our fin­ger­nails to press them re­li­ably. The SoundS­port Free con­nect to your phone over stan­dard Blue­tooth LE; you don’t need any spe­cial soft­ware. How­ever, the op­tional Bose Con­nect app includes an audi­ble Find My Buds fea­ture, which is use­ful, since these units can eas­ily get lost in a gym bag or be­hind the sofa. You could even leave them in a dif­fer­ent room, as their op­er­at­ing range is very good: we were able to keep lis­ten­ing even when our phone was 15 me­tres away, through sev­eral walls.

These ear­phones lack the high-qual­ity aptX au­dio codec, but they still sound great, with a

The slightly bulky de­sign of the ear­phones caused them to bounce around in our ear canals while jog­ging

warm, fun sound sig­na­ture. The bass is pro­nounced, while the mids are clear-sound­ing, if a tad pushed back. The highs have a nice sparkle at the top end, and the over­all sound­stage is im­pres­sively spa­cious.

Up­beat gen­res such as pop, rock and reg­gae ben­e­fit the most from this. Each gui­tar strum is tan­gi­ble, while per­cus­sion is clear and vo­cals sit pow­er­fully in the fore­ground.

That said, these ear­phones don’t work so well with less stri­dent pro­duc­tions. On live record­ings, for in­stance, the mid-bass re­sponse be­comes over­pow­er­ing, and the whole sound be­comes slightly muf­fled. Sub-bass re­sponse is lim­ited, too.


In all, the Bose SoundS­port Free aren’t au­dio­phile-grade ear­phones, but they are ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing a good sound that’s fun to lis­ten to. The wire­less range is good, and the Find My Buds fea­ture is a def­i­nite plus.

They’re un­de­ni­ably ex­pen­sive, and the bulky de­sign is a big po­ten­tial turn-off: even dis­count­ing the con­sid­er­able wind noise, any­one with smaller ears may strug­gle to make these ear­phones stay com­fort­ably in place. That’s not much better a sit­u­a­tion than hav­ing a neck ca­ble slap­ping against your skin.

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