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It may be surprising to those sitting on the sidelines, but the exercise and sport headphone category is the fastest growing segment of our business. So it makes perfect sense that big headphone companies are all adopting sport-style headphones in their line-up. But its not quite as easy as it seems. Sport headphones must, above all else, survive the hard daily pounding of running, copious sweating and rough treatment. They must also fit great and be able to remain exactly in place regardless of how hard you get after it. Oh yeah, it would be really nice if they could also sound great too. Those requirements basically leave a handful of competitive models still out on the field, among them the new Bose® SoundSport® wireless earbud headphones.
Bose® has made good sports-oriented headphones before but the 2016 SoundSport wireless earphones improve upon both the fit and construction over previous models while adding nice wire-free Bluetooth connectivity to the equation. The SoundSport earpieces are joined by a thin flexible cable that measures about 24 inches from earbud to earbud. A built-in shirt clip is affixed at the cable mid-point for securing any cord slack to your clothing. Even without affixing the clip, the cord is totally silent and non-microphonic. Included are three sizes of the newest Bose® ‘StayHear’ eartips which feature a unique wing-like attachment that helps to secure the eartips into the outer part of the ear canal. It’s a surprisingly comfortable, easy insertion into the ears that is non-invasive but yet manages to stay in place even during extra-active sports or gym work. For folks who do not like the deep earplug-like sensation of typical in-ear headphones, the Bose® SoundSport® provides an ingenious alternative.
The SoundSport earpieces themselves are fairly large and protrude noticeably outward from the earlobes, meaning wearing a sport helmet with these headphones is largely a no-go. The right earpiece housing contains a covered USB mini-plug for charging and a small tactile button used to activate the wireless Bluetooth pairing process to your source. Just below the right earpiece is the hydrophobic 3-button controller and smartphone mic assembly which transmits and receives calls with impressive voice clarity and a noticeable lack of that annoying windy wooshing sound in the background. The SoundSport will pair and recognize up to eight different sources, allowing easy back and forth between your computer and smartphone, for example.
Sonically, the Bose® SoundSport® wireless earbuds are balanced and clear with decent musical detail. Although the tone is completely intelligible and smooth without hard edges or any shrill emphasis, these of course are not built to be ‘audiophile-level’ in-ear headphones and the lack of dynamics is plainly evident in the slightly thin, wiry sound. Perhaps a bigger concern is the slight volume limitation that we experienced using the Bose® SoundSport® wireless headphones with a variety of Bluetooth sources. Depending on the device, the maximum volume level was typically just loud enough to overcome loud music pumping through big speakers in the gym. However, on some older Bluetooth sources, the volume could have easily been louder for some of our testers and distracting ambient sounds were able to drift in. Undoubtedly, the volume ceiling is certainly impacted by the fit style of the earpieces/eartips which, again, will typically sit in the outer part of the ear canal as opposed to being inserted deeper into the ear and using the ear canal itself as a resonant amplifying chamber. The advantage of this very comfortable fit design is that you’ll be more easily able to detect ambient sounds around you which may be a good thing when navigating busy city streets. The Bose SoundSport wireless headphones minor volume limitation may even be considered a really great thing to preserve your long-term hearing safety.
Compared to the other top wireless exercise headphone currently available in the industry, the JayBird Freedom wireless earphones, the Bose® SoundSport® had a more comfortable fit but the superbly slim-profile JayBird earpieces took the cake in streamlined design and the ability to fit under sport helmets. The deeper earpiece fit of the JayBird also delivers better isolation and ambient noise-blocking ability. Both models appear to be excellently well-built with ingenious moisture-resistant construction that will survive the test of time under heavy-duty gym work and outdoor use in difficult weather conditions. And although its not a vast difference, we’d also give the sound quality nod to the JayBird Freedom due to its slightly warmer, punchier tone and better bass response compared to the very evenly balanced, albeit somewhat undynamic sound of the Bose.
For exercise-loving listeners or serious outdoor people who use their headphones in demanding tough settings, these two wireless earbud models represent the cream of the Bluetooth sports headphone crop in our headphone.com opinion.