” Finally ! This is certainly what fans of the American brand thought when they saw the announcement made in early September. Bose unveiled true wireless headphones incorporating, for the very first time, an active noise reduction system. So far, the only true wireless in its range, the SoundSport Free, did not have such a process. And yet, it was not for Bose’s lack of excellence in this area. Faced with the dynamism of the market, the Framingham, Massachusetts-based company had no choice.
The AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM3 and the future Jabra Elite 85t therefore now have a new strong opponent against them. We have in fact known, now for years, that Bose perfectly masters the ANC (Active Noise Canceling), not only on its closed headsets (the NC Headphones 700 evidenced), but also on its wired headphones such as the QuietComfort 20.
QC Earbuds are big, very big
However, the SoundSport Free – despite their undeniable qualities – surprised us with their imposing size. Unfortunately, this is the same criticism that is directed primarily against the QuietComfort Earbuds. Starting with the charging case (compatible with the Qi wireless standard) which is almost three inches wide and over three inches thick. We are here very far from the 6 and 2.1 centimeters of the case of AirPods Pro for example. The same goes for the headphones themselves which will be anything but discreet when you wear them. This is clearly the weak point of these QuietComfort Earbuds.
Fortunately, Bose makes up for it with its StayHear Max attachment system, which keeps the headphones securely attached to your ears. Make sure you choose the right size from the three pairs of ear tips available. Not only will this affect the quality of sound and active noise reduction, but also comfort. If the size is not suitable, this fastening system with some kind of anchor can become extremely uncomfortable to wear. Once the fittings are finished, however, you will be quiet for a long time to come, even if the comfort of AirPods Pro is not yet quite achieved.
Perfectly controlled noise reduction
On the other hand, there is one area where Earbuds surpass the Apple model, but also everyone else: active noise reduction. While this lead is only a short head away, Bose clearly offers the most efficient ANC system on the market here. We don’t quite reach the performance level of the NC 700 helmet – whose passive isolation makes it more efficient – but we come very close. Appreciable for a product that ultimately fits in a (large) pocket.
As with the NC 700, ten ANC intensity levels are offered. Three of them can be customized to be accessed directly from the left earcup touchpad, without having to open the app. Several gestures are also available (long press, double tap) to access other functions: play, pause, trigger the voice assistant, etc. However, no volume control is accessible via the touch surfaces of the headphones. Also note that the application does not provide access to an equalizer as is possible with the NC 700.
In addition to this, you need to know more about it.
Some regrets about the features
We also regret that headphones do not offer the possibility, like headphones, of muting the music with a simple gesture (for example, a long press on one of the touch surfaces) and of going directly to transparency mode. The only way Bose can instantly pay attention to your surroundings is to remove at least one of the headphones. The music will then pause and the earpiece remaining in one of the ears will switch to transparency mode. The last major difference between the headphones and the QC Earbuds, the latter do not have multipoint Bluetooth. You will therefore have to disconnect them from the first device first and then connect them to the second if you want to change the source. Not very practical on a daily basis.
Fortunately, Bose makes up for it on the musicality. Regulars of the brand will not be disoriented by the warm sound signature always featured in the American’s products. It is not so much precision that is sought here – the highs are not emphasized enough to achieve it completely – but rather a very pleasant padded roundness and sufficiently versatile to suit all styles of music. The successful stereo image allows for a nice scale of the music scene, while the bass and mids reign supreme. Bose makes Bose and thus always offers a safe bet when it comes to audio.
Finally, let’s finish with a final positive point: autonomy. While the brand advertises 6 hours of operation, our lab measured top performance of 7.28am with ANC on and 7.40am without. The case offers two additional refills. Finally, a 15-minute fast charge system allows 2 hours of listening.