Let me preface this by saying, I hate cardio. I hate it with the fire of 1,000 suns. But since I can stand to lose some weight, I’m on a fitness journey and the Bose Sport Earbuds are just in time to audition to be my workout buds. At $179, they’re colorful, durable and sound great. Plus, they're incredibly comfortable.
The battery life could be longer, but if you're looking for a pair of sport earbuds that don't skimp on music chops, the Bose Sport Earbuds are the way to go.
Bose Sport Earbuds pricing and configurations
The Bose Sport Earbuds are available for $179.95. There aren’t any other configurations available, but the buds are available in an array of colors you’d associate with Bose. There’s Glacier White with neon yellow highlights, Baltic Blue and the more traditional Triple Black.
Bose Sport Earbuds design
These are the most colorful Bose I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. The Baltic Blue is like a dark turquoise and from the charging case to the buds, it’s absolutely gorgeous. But man Bose, you’ve got to work on your sizing. True, compared to their noise cancelling cousins, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches, the 0.3 ounces), the 0.2 ounces, 0.7 x 1.1 x 0.8-inch Sport Earbuds seem reasonable, but compared to something like the AirPods Pro, (0.2 ounces, 0.8 x 0.8 x 0.7 inches), they’re a bit chunky.
And where the Bose QC charging case is one of the widest I’ve ever seen at 3.5 x 2 x 1.3 inches (and 2.7 ounces), the Sport Earbuds case is definitely the longest, at 3.5 x 2 x 1.3 inches. They make the Galaxy Buds Plus’ (1.4 ounces, 1.5 x 2.8 x 0.8 inches) pill-shaped case look dainty in comparison.
Thankfully, the Sport Earbuds are seriously pretty. The front of the buds are made of matte Baltic Blue plastic and have Bose stamped on the capsule-like shell in dark gray. The rear of the housing is also Baltic Blue but made from a shiny plastic. You’ll find gold-colored charging connectors along with a sensor to detect when you remove the earbud from your ear and small vents for the microphones.
As for the case, the exterior is made from the same blue matte plastic material found on the earbuds. The top has Bose’s emblem on the top and a USB Type-C charging port in the rear. In the front is the locking clasp and five battery indicator lights. Pop the case open and you get a glossy Baltic Blue interior with grooves for the earbuds with a pairing button in between.
Since these are made for working out and all manner of vigorous activities, the Bose Sport Earbuds are IPX4 rated for sweat and water resistance. I really want Bose to take the next step and make them full-out waterproof for the swimmers out there.
The Sport Earbuds ship with three extra pairs of silicone eartips and a 12-inch USB Type-C cable for charging.
Bose Sport Earbuds comfort
It’s like these were made for my especially tiny ears. Normally, I have to swap out eartips when I get a new pair of earbuds. Not here. The default StayHear Max silicone eartips just melded with the folds of my outer ear and ear canal.
Similar to most wireless buds, you put the Sport Earbuds in by rotating them into place. The StayHear Max eartips tuck comfortably against your concha. It creates a nice, tight seal that lends a measure of passive noise isolation to the earbuds, which, for a pair of non noise-cancelling earbuds, is really important.
That tight seal also ensures a secure fit. I endured 30 minutes on my BowFlex Max Trainer every day for the past week. And through all the swears, sweat and positive reinforcement from my virtual trainer, the buds stayed in place and looked none the worse for wear. They even maintained their position after I dramatically flopped on the floor for my final round of sit ups for the day.
The Sport Earbuds are some of the most comfortable in-ears I’ve had the pleasure of wearing.
Bose Sport Earbuds controls
Similar to the QC Earbuds, the Sport Earbuds are controlled via a series of taps on its capacitive touch panels. The majority of the controls are located in the right earbud. So a double-tap on the right earbud will play/pause whatever you’re listening to or to answer/end a call. To decline a call, you press and hold the right bud. That’s also how you activate your device’s digital assistant.
If you want to skip a track, just touch and hold the left earbud. However, you can also switch it so you can hear the battery level instead. You just have to change the shortcut functionality in the app (more on that later).
Bose Sport Earbuds setup
Pairing the Sport Earbuds to a mobile device is a straightforward task. Once I opened the charging case’s lid, the buds immediately went into pair mode. Placing them in my ears, I was treated to a rather triumphant song before I heard the "ready to pair" prompt. But once it was ready, I went to the Bluetooth menu on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, selected the buds and voila, I was ready (albeit not necessarily willing) to cue up my workout playlist and exercise.
To use the buds with the Bose Music app, you have to pair them a second time. Only now, you’ll have to hold down the pairing button in the case for several seconds to initiate the process. From there, it takes about 10 seconds for the app to recognize your earbuds, but when it does, you’ll gain access to all of the app features.
Bose Sport Earbuds app
Like the other headphones and earbuds in its lineup, the Bose Sport Earbuds work in tandem with the free Bose Music app (Android, iOS). When the app is connected to the earbuds, you can check out the battery status, adjust the volume level, change the earbuds’ name and check out a tutorial, among other things. You can also control whatever you’re listening to. But without the QC Earbuds' talented microphones, you lose out on the ability to set the active noise cancelling levels or the volume of your voice on a call.
The app has a clean design and an easy-to-navigate interface. I just wish Bose had the foresight to add a Find My Earbuds feature like the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, and an equalizer is another nice feature to have.
Bose Sport Earbuds passive noise isolation
Instead of the QC Earbuds’ trio of powerful mics to keep the outside at bay, the Sport Earbuds rely on the tight seal of the StayHear Max silicone eartips. And I get it, for those folks who like to exercise outdoors, you want to hear ambient noise to stay abreast of your surroundings. Hell, it even makes sense if you’re navigating the busy New York City streets as I do. But if I have to choose, give me ANC, please.
So the eartips definitely muffle outside noise to a certain degree. Sitting in front of my LG TV with no music playing, the earbuds could only block out Rocko’s Modern Life when I lowered the volume to 5. When I played music, the threshold rose to 30. When I went for my daily walk, I was privy to NYC’s unique soundtrack, from someone trying to haggle down the price of a pack of masks to an uncomfortably loud phone conversation and the train passing overhead.
When the outside world got to be too much, I drowned it out with Colin Lucas’s “Dollar Wine” and proceeded to shake my dollar, dollar, dollar down the street.
Bose Sport Earbuds audio quality
They aren’t noise-cancelling, but they’re still Bose. Like the QC Earbuds, the Sport use Bose’s proprietary drivers and the company’s Active EQ, which electronically tunes the frequency curve to come as close to the 700’s curve as possible. The result is warm, relatively balanced audio with rich bass and a generous soundscape. As such, the Bose Sport Earbuds still pack a punch in the audio department. I found this out first hand as I listened to the Master of Tank and The Bangas' "Self Care" on Tidal.
I was hit with some big bass, its largesse was to the point of almost being unrestrained. But the Sport Earbuds managed to keep it in check so I could enjoy the flute and the guitar on the instrumental. The lead singer's leisurely vocals oozed on the track demanding your attention. The AirPods Pro gave a similar performance, but I was surprised when the AirPods had the more restrained low end.
On H.E.R.'s "Focus," the harp sounded heavenly as it faded in punctuated by a sharp snare. And while the soundscape was large enough that I could concentrate on the subtle alto below the singer's crisp soprano, creating a beautifully subtle harmony, here the bass was too boomy, making for a diffused sound. Once again, the AirPods Pro delivered the better bass, but the arpeggios were cleaner on the Bose.
An organ, robust horn section and a lively guitar, it all comes together in some profane religiosity on Prince's "Sexy M.F." The jam sounded great on the Sport Earbuds. Especially when the artist slyly sang the title of the song. The AirPods Pro presentation sounded distant and the horns were somewhat scratchy. And when Prince sang the chorus, it sounded like he was far away instead of in my ear like a coquettish seducer.
Bose Sport Earbuds battery life and Bluetooth
Despite not having all the bells and whistles of its cousin, the Bose Sport Earbuds only have an estimated battery life of 5 hours –– an hour shorter than the QC Earbuds. But the Sport Earbuds lived up to the hype, surviving an hour workout session, several meetings and calls, and listening to music for 4:49 minutes before needing a recharge. That time is on a par with the AirPods Pro, which lasted 4.5 hours. However, Sony’s sport earbuds, the WF-SP800N, have an estimated battery life of 9 hours.
The charging case delivers 2 hours of charge in 15 minutes. You can expect two additional charges from the case, effectively extending the buds’ battery life to 15 hours.
The Bose Sport Earbuds are Bluetooth 5.1 compatible, which has an approximate range of 30 feet. That allowed me to leave my phone in the living room when I went to the backyard to check on my brisket. There was some stuttering in the connection during the first few seconds I started tending to the grill, but it quickly righted the ship. I also went downstairs into my office and had an uninterrupted listening experience. The connection only cut out once I actually left my apartment building.
If you’ve connected the buds to a variety of devices, you can switch between them using the app.
Bose Sport Earbuds call quality
Again, they don’t have all the mics I want, but thanks to its beamforming mics, everyone I spoke to using the Bose Sport Earbuds, whether it was over video chat or smartphone, had no complaints. When I jumped on my morning meeting call with the Laptop Mag team, everyone said my voice was loud and clear. There were a few criticisms, however, with one colleague saying I sounded a bit sharp while another said it was a bit tinny. But most people didn’t realize I was using a pair of buds unless I said something.
Things sounded great on my end. I heard my colleagues’ voices as clear as I was using my MacBook Pro’s speakers. And when I called my brother, we had a Bose-off, comparing his QC Earbuds to my Sports Buds. There was definitely more detail on his end and he reported hearing a passing ambulance pretty clearly when I was walking around the neighborhood.
As I continue on the strenuous fitness journey, I'll need a pair of earbuds to keep me supplied with motivating tunes. The Bose Sport Earbuds are my new go-to. For $179.95, you get a pair of truly wireless earbuds that aren't overly sporty, providing water and sweat resistance and a seriously comfy fit. And true to form, they sound great, whether you're listening to music or taking a call. Plus, you get the slick Bose Music app.
True, the battery life can and should be better since there's no active noise cancelling. If longevity's your thing, consider the $148 Sony WF-SP800 earbuds, which offer an estimated 9 hours of battery life. But if you want the almost total package, the Bose Sport Earbuds are an excellent choice.