When Apple released its AirPods last December, wireless earbuds finally broke through to the mainstream. Apple was able to bring decent sound to its buds, which felt quite futuristic at the time, even if they looked quite strange hanging from people’s ears.
The AirPods are unique in that they feel like an extension of the iPhone instead of two nuggets hanging out of your ears. The tap controls work flawlessly, even if there aren’t any volume controls. The voice quality of phone calls is great, but you will have a difficult time hearing the person on the other end when you are in noisy areas.
Until recently, Apple was one step ahead of the competition. However, popular audio companies have started to release earbuds that go beyond what Apple has been able to do in terms of audio quality and sound isolation.
In September, Sony did a very limited release of their WF-1000X earbuds, which Trusted Reviews claimed were the best available. Perhaps because of connection issues (especially with the right earbud), Sony has moved the general release up to next week. However, Bose has followed through with the release of the SoundSport Free earbuds, which are truly the best earbuds on the market. However, at $249, it’s debatable whether or not they are the best buy.
The SoundSport Free buds weigh a half ounce each, and the bulky (but cool) case that charges them weighs 2.8 ounces. The buds last five hours per charge, but they also charge pretty fast when you put them in the case. After using these for four days, this author has never run into a situation where the buds ran out of juice.
What really makes the SoundSport Free stand out when compared to the AirPods is sound quality. Bose has taken the sound of its popular QuietComfort 35 over-the-ear headphones and put it into these small nuggets. The earbuds don’t have the popular aptX codec that many Android devices use, and it’s not clear if they have the high-quality AAC codec that Apple devices use. But the sound quality easily outdoes many headsets that use these codecs.
Listening to Madonna’s Erotica on the 25th anniversary of its release has been a pleasure with the SoundSport Free. You can hear all the instrumentation in “Rain,” and the underline thunder in the song vibrates with just the right amount of bass. “Believer” by Imagine Dragons also is full of life with the SoundSport Free. Some don’t like Bose’s sculpted sound quality, but most will be blown away by the fact Bose could include their signature sound in the small buds.
The SoundSport Free buds have more noise isolation than the AirPods, but it’s still not enough. You can clearly hear background noise in crowded places like a gym or a restaurant. Bose, unlike Sony, didn’t put in active noise cancellation that might have interfered with sound quality. The lack of sound isolation is a definite disability in the SoundSport Free buds, but it’s not a deal breaker.
The only possible deal breaker is the price — $249 is too much for what Bose offers, even though they offer a lot. At $159, the AirPods are certainly a better buy. But if you have an extra $90 to spare, you won’t be disappointed by the SoundSport Free wireless earbuds. In fact, you’ll be downright impressed.
[Featured Image by Daryl Deino]