Bose SoundSport Wireless review: Bluetooth earphones for sports enthusiasts and commuters

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UPDATE: We reviewed the Bose SoundSport back in 2017 at £150, and since they've dropped in price. They can currently be found for £130, a cool 13% off their list price. Our verdict hasn't changed, as rival earphones have also dropped in price, too. These are still too pricey to be among our favourite earphones.

Jon's original review continues below.

Bose is famed, quite rightly, for its noise-cancelling headphones, but the firm also produces a range of standard headphones. The Bose SoundSport Wireless is one such product, but its target audience is very different from the business-traveller type the firm usually goes after.

Bose SoundSport Wireless: What you need to know

The Bose SoundSport Wireless headphones are aimed, in fact, at sporty types: anyone who may be keen on keeping fit but for whom the drudgery of the treadmill or rowing machine is just too much to bear.

As such, they’re Bluetooth wireless headphones, lightweight and colourful, with a built-in battery, a microphone for making and taking calls, and a remote control built in. They’re sweat- and splash-proof and they sound pretty sweet, too.

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Bose SoundSport Wireless: Price and competition

There’s a huge number of regular Bluetooth earbuds fighting for your cash and competition in the sports headset arena is almost as fierce. At £150, though, the Bose SoundSport Wireless are pricey for sports headphones especially as they don’t have extra luxuries such as MP3 playback or a heart-rate monitor.

At around £120, you can pick up a pair of Gibson Trainer Ti100s, which have built-in lights for running at night, the Under Armour Wireless Heart Rate earphones, which read your pulse, or the Sony Walkman NW-WS413, which cost £80 and have an MP3 player built in. Then you have the BeatsX, which offer sweat-resistance, sports-specific tips and Apple’s W1 Bluetooth chip for seamless connectivity with iPhones and other Apple products.

Bose SoundSport Wireless review: Features and fit

So what DO the Bose SoundSport Wireless offer that the competition doesn’t? On paper, at least, the answer to that question seems to be “not a lot”. Battery life isn’t exceptional at a claimed "up to six hours". They’re sweat-proof, but not IP-rated. And there are only three pairs of ear tips supplied in the box, so it’s possible you won’t find a snug fit.

That’s not to say these are a poor pair of headphones, though; far from it. If they fit your ears, and their popularity indicates they will most people, you’ll find them a comfortable, secure fit. They sit on the outside of the ear canal rather than slipping in all the way like most earphones, allowing you to hear some of what’s going on around you instead of being sealed off from the outside world. Each “umbrella” tip is kitted out with rubber wings that hook into the outer part of your ear, locking them in place when you rotate the earpiece.

The neck cable is just the right length: not too short and not so long that it snags on your shirt collar. And, although the earpiece housings protrude around a centimetre out from the ear (a touch further than I’d like), they never felt like they’d fall out and they aren’t too heavy.

The one caveat here is that the battery, remote control and microphone box sits on the part of the cable that leads out from the right-hand earpiece. As you bounce down the road, it tends to pull the cable around to that side, which is why Bose includes a shirt, to keep the cable anchored in place. It's a bit fiddly to secure, though. Bose needs to take a look at the design of the BeatsX or the Gibson Ti100 Trainer, because these headphones nail this particular part of sports headphone design without the need for a clip.

Bose SoundSport Wireless review: Sound quality and battery life

Sound quality is good, though, and typically Bose-esque in profile. Bass is solid and meaty, delivering the eighties synth bassline of Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” with a pleasingly weighty thump, but it’s not too blousy and indistinct. There’s also plenty of detail in the upper registers and the mid-range is pleasingly open.

The SoundSport can come across a tad polite with some rock music and metal, but since most of the time you’ll be running or cycling or performing some other activity that induces heavy breathing, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Those umbrella tips mean microphonic cable rubbing noise isn’t a problem, either. Overall, sound quality is excellent, despite the lack of aptX support.

Battery life, on the other hand, is a little disappointing. It’s enough to get you through a couple of days’ worth of exercising and commuting, but you’ll need to charge the headphones at the very least twice a week, even if you use them lightly. At least they’re easy and quick to charge, with a micro-USB port located on the left earpiece beneath a flap.

Bose SoundSport Wireless review: Verdict

Overall, the Bose SoundSport Wireless are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, they fit securely and sound great; on the other, the cable slips to the side when you’re walking or running and battery life is disappointing.

They’re also quite expensive, which means it’s impossible to give them an unreserved thumbs up, especially now you can get hold of the better-designed Gibson Ti100 Trainer and the Under Armour Wireless Heart Rate earphones for £30 less. They’re good but not great.

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