Bose Soundport Free review

Georges van Hoegaerden
Georges van Hoegaerden
Founder, Author, and Managing Director of methodEVA.

As a lover of many a Bose product, my first purchase a set of 901 speakers and most recently the “Quiet Comfort” QC35 wireless headphones and many in between, I decided to give the latest wireless earbuds the Bose Soundport Free a try. After having read about many problems with Bluetooth connectivity, I decided to bite the bullet as I did not want to ruin my beloved QC35 by sweating on them during my runs on the beach. Trusting the reviews on the Bose website to be accurate (which, I came to find out, Bose edits heavily) I installed the latest firmware update in the hope of resolving the previous connection issues. Not quite.

The Bose Soundport Free, awful name again, is a remarkable feat of engineering delivering the best sound I have heard come out of small earbuds, wired or wireless, and easily beating the tinny-sounding convenience delivered by Apple Airpods, my daughter is now the happy owner of, her beauty vlogs somewhat indiscriminate to audiophile quality. The sound produced by these Bose earbuds is impressive, with a beautiful bass and realistically bright tonal range.

I thought I was going to miss the active noise-canceling of the QC35, but I did not. In fact, it is excellent and probably safer to hear a bit more of your surroundings while exercising on the beach, with dogs running loose and wanting to play less likely to creep up on me. The fit of the Bose earbuds is perfect for my ears, and albeit a bit large, stay in position. I like the little charging case that comes with the earbuds, which looks enormous in Bose’s photography, charging the earbuds in storage for another two or three more 5-hour bouts of listening pleasure.

That is, when you can get past the reconnection phase of Bluetooth on my iPhone X. Each time I turn on the earbuds, they introduce a dance of phase-shifting in my ears with the left earbud losing connection and reconnecting to the right in rapid succession. This process, which has happened now every time I take them out for a run over the last two weeks makes you want to toss them into the ocean, were it not for I cherish the ocean. Manually disconnecting the earbuds and repairing them using the Bose app does seem to help somewhat, but not entirely and only temporarily.

On that note, the buttons on the right earpiece are terrible, with little travel distance to give feedback on its activation and a noticeable and annoyingly delay in activation, making you want to press again. Thankfully, these controls are also available on the device you are playing from, and I suggest you use those instead.

Bose’s severe problems with Bluetooth are less apparent on the QC35 wireless headphones which can connect to two devices at the same time (the Soundport cannot), but on occasion rear their ugly head there too. Apple’s record on Bluetooth connectivity is not without fail, frequently dropping out trackpads and other devices only to reconnect shortly after that. The Apple Airpods on the same iPhone do not exhibit the same problem, at all. The Bose Soundport Free seems to have specific issues with the master-slave relationship between the right-and-left earpieces. The right earpiece is not exhibiting the frequent dropouts of the left earpiece.

While I recommend the Bose QC35 headphones wholeheartedly to anyone, its sporty little brother the Bose Soundport Free I cannot. They are a remarkable feat of audio engineering hopelessly failing to consistently deliver, on the source of sound that is.

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