Bose has released its first truly wireless headphones, the SoundSport Free. It enters a rapidly crowded market, alongside similar major releases from Apple, Samsung, Sony and others.
But, be careful – more than half of all truly wireless headphones we’ve tested so far have been Don’t Buys, including many top brands, and they often cost hundreds of pounds. Do Bose’s headphones punch above the pack?
All truly wireless headphones we’ve tested feature a similar design comprising earbuds and a case that charges them – so how do you choose between them? Companies all claim excellent sound and great battery life, but our tests have revealed this is anything but the case.
Best Buy headphones – skip straight to our top headphone picks.
We’ve reviewed truly wireless headphones with a battery life that will last little more than a pitiful single hour between top-ups from the charging case, and our expert listening panel described the sound from one model as ‘shrieky’.
Their small size means batteries and sound drivers have to be equally tiny – and it seems it’s proved to be too much for many manufacturers so far. But Bose has the pedigree and weight of expectation behind it – is it the knight in shining armour to deliver our first ever Best Buy truly wireless headphones? Find out by clicking on the link to the full review below.
Bose SoundSport Free headphones, £180
Designed for exercise, the SoundSport Free headphones differ from their biggest rivals, the Samsung Gear IconX (2018) and Apple AirPods, in being IPX4 rated for sweat and water resistance, so you should be able to depend on them during your workout.
They also come with StayHear+ sport ear tips to give greater support when worn, aiming to quell fears that they will fall out during your routine.
And if you find touch controls a pain, Bose has you covered as well, as there are real buttons to play or pause tracks and take phone calls. You can even access your smartphone’s voice assistant such as Siri or Google Assistant.
Bose claims the battery lasts for five hours for each charge from the case – better than the current average for truly wireless models. You can charge them up twice from the case before the case needs recharging, so they should easily last through the day.
They even have a handy ‘find me’ feature in case if you misplace an earbud, which is controlled through the Bose Connect app on your smartphone.
Do they sound great, though? And do you get the battery life Bose claims in reality? We reveal all the details in our full review of the Bose SoundSport Free.
The rise of Don’t Buy headphones
With so many headphone brands around, so many releases and so much competition, we’ve found no fewer than 70 Don’t Buy headphones currently available to buy. In fact of the hundreds we’ve tested, around 30% are Don’t Buys.
And it’s not just really cheap headphones either – we’ve found many Don’t Buy pairs costing hundreds of pounds. So you’re not safe simply by spending more.
With the widespread move to wireless headphones over the last year, the number of Don’t Buy headphones is rising rapidly. While around 20% of wired headphones we’ve tested are Don’t Buys, for wireless headphones this has risen sharply to more than a third of all wireless headphones we’ve reviewed, as the graphic below shows.
The rush to bring wireless headphones to market appears to have been too much of a technical challenge for designers from many headphone manufacturers.
This is especially true for truly wireless headphones, as well as headphones that just have a cord between two earbuds. With manufacturers packing their audio technology into increasingly tiny form factors, we’ve found dozens of these slimline headphones have been Don’t Buys in the past two years alone.
In addition, at the lower end of the market, many manufacturers have tried to pack in wireless tech without raising their prices – and sometimes this leads to corners having been cut elsewhere.
Which? thoroughly tests all aspects of headphones with the help of a panel of music industry professionals with decades of experience between them. You can be sure that with our Best Buy headphones you’ll get excellent sound quality, better comfort and great ease of use regardless of the headphone design and price you choose. Head over to our Best Buy headphones to find the best ones for you.