I hate in-ear headphones. To me, nothing is less comfortable than sticking a piece of rubber in my ear canal and leaving it there for an extended period of time (as in, longer than five minutes). For years, I have scoured the world for a pair of comfortable, good-sounding pair of earbuds, and I keep coming back to the Bose SoundSport line.
Most of the time, I don’t need earbuds. Over-ear headphones sound better, feel better, and many can fit in your bag without too much hassle. But there’s something to be said for a pair of headphones so tiny you can toss them in your pocket, pop them in your ears at a moment’s notice, and start walking—so I like to have some around for such occasions.
Unfortunately, I hate almost every in-ear headphone I’ve ever tried. And I’ve tried almost everything. Foam ear tips are nice, but they take too long to put in, and can deteriorate over time. Fixed earbuds like Apple’s EarPods and AirPods aren’t too bad, but they’re one-size-for-all—if your ears aren’t shaped identically to Jonny Ive’s, they’ll be uncomfortable. I just want something that sits gently in my ears and sounds good at an affordable price, and you’d be shocked at how hard that is to find.
Bose’s SoundSport earbuds—which come in wired, wireless, and true wireless varieties ranging from $100 to $180—are the only earbuds I’ll use anymore. Unlike most in-ear headphones, which go in your actual ear canal, the SoundSport earbuds come with unique tips, in three sizes, that sit in the “bowls” of your ears instead. A small rubber “hook” slides into the valley above your ear canal to keep the ‘buds in place. These were primarily designed as exercise earbuds—and I can attest that they stay in your ear very well while running—but they’re equally good as everyday earbuds thanks to the comfort of their design.
You’d think this would provide a sub-par seal in your ear, but in my experience, it doesn’t. You don’t get quite the isolation that you would from a pair of in-ear headphones, but on the wired model, the silicone sits against your ear in a way that keeps the bass from becoming too anemic—though your friend next to you may be able to hear your music, so keep the volume down. The wireless models are slightly different, and have an extra piece of silicone that creates a better seal with a slightly more in-ear (but still comfortable) feel.
As a result, the wired and wireless models have different sound signatures, but they both sound quite good. The wired versions are strongest in the midrange, where vocals, crunchy guitar, and the other “meat” of your music is located—while the treble and bass are a bit more subdued. The wireless versions, thanks to their better seal, give way more bass thump, without drowning out the treble and mids too much. There’s a bit of extra muddiness in the low midrange, but it’s hard to complain when your earbuds feel this good in your ears.
Both the wired and wireless versions also have built-in headsets so you can control volume and take phone calls—though if you’re buying the wired version, you’ll have to buy the version that’s compatible with your phone (Apple or “Samsung,” which should work with non-Apple phones). The headset will still work for basic calls no matter which version you buy, but the buttons may not all function properly.
The wireless models are battery-powered, and charge via Micro USB. Battery life is decent but not mind-blowing, at around 6 hours—more than enough for my use case, but if you’re looking for long stretches of listening, you might want the wired version. And while I occasionally run into an issue with the ‘buds trying to connect to my iPad at home instead of the phone two feet away, the Bluetooth usually connects quickly and doesn’t drop out. You will, however, want to make sure you install the Bose Connect app on your phone and update the firmware occasionally, though, as this solved some static issues I was having when I first got them a few months ago.
Lastly, I feel compelled to mention Bose’s fantastic customer service. While their designs do have some flaws from time to time—the wireless model is known to have the rubber come loose after a while, depending on how heavy you use them—Bose’s customer service has always been top-notch for me, replacing problematic earbuds for free with a simple phone call. For that—and for the insane comfort of these earbuds—Bose has won my loyalty.
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