In my experience, there are two types of people in the world: people who care a great deal about the sound quality of the things to which they listen, and then everyone else. The first group of people know the difference between a good and bad set of earbuds, and they know the importance of testing audio equipment that they are going to spend some money on. And they spend money on their headphones…they won’t hesitate to drop $100 on some ear buds, $200 on some decent on-ear or over-ear headphones, and if money were no option would be first in line to spend $500 or more on professional quality studio headphones. And for those who think that spending $500 on a nice pair of headphones is craziness, stop reading this RIGHT NOW and Google how much studio headphones will run a professional DJ or sound technician. Then come back and realize that $500 is not that much money.
OK, now that we’ve aligned our expectations, let’s talk about what everyone needs. Yes, I used that word. First, you need a good all-purpose basic ear bud with a decent inline mic. These are your every day buds, what you carry with you from place to place just in case you want to jam out to some Bushwalla while you ride the bus downtown, or when you go out for an impromptu walk during your lunch break at work. The occasional conference call on your way home (if you don’t have a solid in-car bluetooth setup) is easily managed by your go-to-bud.
Next, you need a pair of decent studio headphones. These are typically over-the-ear or on-ear; they have a great feel to them and put out some serious sound. These are the headphones you’ll use when binge-watching Dexter on your laptop or tablet, and while they might have a cord, they’re not an inconvenience. And, there are a LOT of these out there—many name brands and other not-so-well-known brands that get you similar or better performance for less coin.
Most people can survive on those two…but in 2016, we need a good wireless option: mowing the lawn, going for a jog, or even for one of the above occasions where I just don’t want to use studio phones or my go-to-buds. What then?
The product is the Bose Soundsport Wireless Headphones, one of Bose’s entries into active wireless audio tech. The unboxing was an absolute joy…I think good money spent on good technology should also allow the buyer a good “unpacking” experience. The design of the packaging is simple yet satisfying, as if Bose really focused on this aspect of the product. I had to cut two small pieces of tape, and the rest of the package could be pulled open within a minute of that, and in that minute no additional ripping/tearing/cutting was required. It is sensible packaging with good heft.
A handful of years ago I received as a Christmas present Bose’s basic earbud offering (before in-line microphones were important) and they served me well until one day the cable finally separated from one of the buds. It was heart-breaking. In any case, back then I immediately fell in love with the bud design, which I am pleased to say has been maintained years later. I have tried MANY ear buds, wireless or not, and none have come close to the comfort or ease of use as Bose’s buds. It’s also worth noting that these things do not flop out of your ears…ever.
Initially, I was concerned at the size of the back side of the buds….presumably where the battery and much of the speaker technology is supported…they seemed a bit on the large side and I was concerned about their weight…but once you get them in your ears, you can wear these things for hours on end without ear fatigue or discomfort. And, once you get used to using this type of bud with the grips that Bose provides, you will find it very easy to put them in your ears.
Now let’s get to the good stuff: how do they sound??
They’re good…and for their size and the fact that they’re wireless, they’re borderline great. Forget about their competitors…I’m more interested in describing how they compete with what I feel are the other headphones you might be looking to replace with these: The “average” user, the one who sports Apple’s EarPods because they came with the latest iPhone, will love these…in terms of sound, they far surpass anything the less-expensive wired buds can achieve. The “studio” user, who looks to spend several hundred or even thousands of dollars on a good pair of headphones shouldn’t expect these to replace studio gear. Bose, on most of their offerings, does a great job at under-playing their lows, so any hip hop or bass-intense pop tracks leave something to be desired. They do an adequate job…but these aren’t going to replace your studio headphones for binge-watching Netflix or jamming out to anything bass-heavy.
If you don’t have really particular tastes, or you like to listen to treble-heavy music, these will be perfect for you. Bose does well presenting very genuine-sounding audio from their headphones, and this product is no exception to that. Acoustics and vocals are excellent.
But beyond their sound output, these buds have some additional things to offer that are a bit out of the norm for what I’ll over-simplify and label as “exercise” earbuds:
These particular headphones can pair with multiple bluetooth devices, and swapping back and forth from one to the other is pretty quick. I can pause a song on my iPhone and press play on my Macbook, and the music picks up within a second or two…there is virtually no lag. This isn’t a tremendously important feature, but I could see someone transitioning quickly from one to the other and getting frustrated with lengthy pairing processes. With these, there’s not much to worry about there.
Also, for buds designed to be worn during exercise, these are amazingly easy to use and hassle free. They have decent battery life, maybe 6 hours or so, long enough to get through the trip to and from the gym, along with a decent workout between. And they stay in place. The first 5 miles I ran with them, they didn’t fall out once. They get adequately loud to cover a running lawnmower, but quiet enough if you’re running outdoors that you would still be able to hear traffic around you, or other fit-minded individuals on the same trail as you. The in-line controls are big and clunky and easy to grip and manipulate while running…and as I said before, once you get used to putting them in, you can do it with ease while in motion, as the previously-mentioned larger back section of the buds are ideally sized for fingers and hands of all sizes.
Probably the biggest surprise in these, for me, was the in-line microphone. I don’t have particularly high expectations when it comes to in-line microphones, and I’ll admit that Apple’s EarPods have spoiled me in that department: they are surprisingly great for the occasional phone call while on the move. I “accidentally” joined a conference call while using these, and sought out feedback from the people on the call at the time—no one had any complaints about poor audio quality; no one complained that I sounded like I was under water, or that there was excessive road noise while I was driving home. I have since tested with others, who all complimented the quality of the sound on their end.
So, I’ve covered the “what,” but let’s talk about “who.” I think these are a must-buy for those who like to listen to music while they work out—whether that be running, walking, weight lifting…they are low-maintenance, easy to operate while in motion, have decent battery life, and have good volume range depending on your taste.
If you actively use your Apple EarPods, you should seriously consider getting a pair of these…they can do everything Apple’s wired buds can, but they’re wireless. What’s not to like?
If you don’t work out, don’t mow your lawn, and really only listen to music or watch movies with a pair of studio over-the-ear headphones, these won’t change your life…that is, unless you use their cost as motivation to get yourself to work out more.
And, for the business-savvy folks out there: If your office phone supports bluetooth headsets, this is a great multi-purpose option for work use that you will also be able to use outside of the office.
I have been waiting for some time for Bose to release a good pair of in-ear wireless headphones, and these fit the bill perfectly. The battery life is fine, they charge in 60-90 minutes, and it will take some time for Bose to release the next generation. And, these are not my first Bose product: they should serve you well for at least a couple of years if not longer.
The only thing I can’t really figure out is why you haven’t already bought them. These are a no-brainer for at least half of the headphone-using market out there, and half of the remaining population could justify it easily because they do such a great job multi-tasking as a great all around headphone.
For comfort, audio quality and versatility, these easily earn 4 out of 5 stars. Improved battery life and slightly better bass performance would get them a fifth star. This is another solid release by the team at Bose.