Over the years I frequently get asked what the best Bluetooth sports headphone is. My stock answer is that none are perfect, all have their drawbacks, and the handful of top models may fit you well and work great — or they may not.
Bose’s SoundSport Wireless, the company’s first Bluetooth sports headphone, isn’t perfect either, but it may just be the best Bluetooth sports headphone currently out there.
What makes it the best? Well, it’s very comfortable to wear, sounds good, seems well built, and — at $150, £140 or AU$249 — it isn’t outrageously priced.
Like the original SoundSport wired, which remains in the line and gets a price chop from $130 to $100, this new SoundSport Wireless has an open design. By open, I mean you don’t jam the earbud into your ear and completely seal off your ear canal (that type of headphone is referred to as a “noise-isolating” in-ear headphone). Thanks to Bose’s StayHear+ eartips, which come in three sizes — small, medium, large — the bud sits loosely in your ear yet remains securely in place.
The SoundSport Wireless comes with three sizes of StayHear ear tips.
This model is equipped with a special sport version of the StayHear tips that’s different from the StayHear tips included with Bose’s earlier in-ear headphones, so they aren’t interchangeable. I should also point out that because the earpieces extend out from your ears you’ll probably have some trouble wearing these under certain helmets.
The ear pieces are somewhat bulky, but not so bulky to feel heavy on your ears. However, if there’s a criticism of this headphone’s design, it’s that the ear pieces could protrude out a little less and be more discrete-looking. Easier said then done, of course — today’s battery technology is holding back miniaturization efforts.
Rival headphones — such as Jaybird’s X2 and Freedom, Beats’ Powerbeats 2 Wireless and Monster’s Adidas Sport Adistar — give you the ability to shorten the cord length (or cinch up the cord) for those who want to wear the cord closer to the neck. With this headphone, you can’t adjust the cord length, but what Bose has done is provide a clip you can hook on to the back of your shirt (at the top) to keep the cord from flopping about. It’s a smart design and I thought it worked well; the cord remained fairly stable, even while I was running.
The headphone comes in aqua and black colors at launch with yellow arriving in September.
The only downside to the floating-fit, open design is that ambient sound does leak in: this isn’t a great headphone for noisy environments. (If that’s your preference, Bose’s upcoming QuietControl 30 is a wireless model that features active noise-canceling.) But if you’re out running or biking, you’ll be able to hear cars coming, which is why a lot of runners and bikers prefer their headphones to have open designs.
As you might expect, the headphone is sweat- and water-resistant and there’s an inline mic and remote that lets you skip songs, adjust volume, and take and make calls. Bose is touting its quality as a headset for making calls, as well as how reliable the Bluetooth connection is. I can attest to experiencing only minimal Bluetooth hiccups and was satisfied with how it performed as a headset, though the QuietControl 30 and QuietComfort 35 offer superior headset performance. Those models have noise-reduction features that muffle ambient sound, including wind and street noise.
Just as importantly I had no trouble pairing and repairing the headphone with my iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (the Bose features near-field communication tap-to-pair technology for devices like the Samsung that support this feature). I also simultaneously paired it with my iPhone 6S and MacBook Air and had no trouble switching between the two when a call came in as I was watching a video on the computer.
Bose Connect, a free app for Android and iOS, allows you to manage your pairing list, upgrade the firmware and change the auto power off settings (the headphone powers down if you don’t use it for a certain length of time, which is a good battery-saving feature). When you turn on the headphones, a female voice alerts you how much battery life is remaining and with which devices you’re paired. That information is also available in the app.
At launch, the headphone is available in two colors — black and aqua — with citron (yellow) coming in September. Also in September, Bose is releasing the SoundSport Pulse Wireless, which costs $200 (£170, AU$299) and has an integrated heart-rate monitor that’s compatible with Runkeeper, Endomondo and other fitness apps.