Audio

SoundSport Free: Built for the sporty

While Bose's SoundSport Free earbuds can come across as chunky, the pair offers good music and audio quality.
While Bose's SoundSport Free earbuds can come across as chunky, the pair offers good music and audio quality.

Bose's SoundSport Free offers a warm and rich bass, giving extra pump to workout songs

Audio company firm Bose has made strides with wireless headphones over the years, such as its over-ear QuietComfort 35 headphones, and has now also ventured into true wireless earphones.

The first of its true wireless endeavours, the SoundSport Free, is designed for active types looking for a pair of wire-free earbuds for their workouts.

The $319 pair of earbuds falls in the mid-range price category, considering the likes of competition such as the Samsung Gear IconX ($268), Jaybird Run ($299) and Jabra Elite Sport ($368).

As with all true wireless earphones, the SoundSport Free connects to a smartphone or music player through Bluetooth. Music and audio quality is good for a pair of wireless earphones, but some design elements leave something to be desired.

The SoundSport Free favours the lower end of the spectrum, with warmth and a rich emphasis on the bass - a sound I favour for sport-centric earphones as it provides additional pump to workout songs.

I am also really impressed with the level of detail and clarity, with no muddiness and a tight balance between the highs and vocals.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $319

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    WEIGHT: 9g (an earbud)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The earbuds are versatile across different genres, including music that is more stripped-down.

So while they might make, say, the soft piano tones of female vocalist Birdy's cover of Skinny Love punchier and warmer, her vulnerable, melancholic vocals still shine through clearly and cleanly.

Being sports earphones, the SoundSport Free features a tough, rugged design. This means a plastic build for IPX4 water and sweat resistance, which makes the earbuds extremely functional but not all that stylish.

They are quite chunky, despite not weighing a lot at 9g an earbud. The earbuds resemble large, bulbous discs that stick out - unfortunately comically - from the ears.

They do work great for their intended purpose, staying snugly in the ears throughout a vigorous full-body, high-intensity interval training and while pounding the pavement.

They are also extremely comfortable and can easily be worn for several hours at a stretch.

I find the earbuds do not provide too tight a seal, though, which lets outside noise seep in. This can go either way, depending on what you wear them for.

It is a boon for outdoor runners, for instance, who can then be aware of traffic or cyclists ringing their bells as they pass them by, but might not be enough for gymgoers looking to block off Top 40 hits blaring from the gym speakers unless they turn up the volume of their own music.

The earbuds' buttons are my biggest bugbear and their biggest design flaw. The tiny buttons on the sides of the earbuds are extremely stiff and hard to press.

It got to a point where I was so annoyed fiddling around for the button that I opted to just pause my workout or adjust the volume from my phone instead - which defeats the point of having quick-access buttons on the earbuds.

  • Verdict: Light, comfortable and with clear music playback, the SoundSport Free is an attractive workout companion. What it lacks in style, it makes up for in function and sound, and works extremely well in its intended use as sports-centric earphones.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'Built for the sporty'. Print Edition | Subscribe