AirPods 2 vs. Bose SoundSport Free: Better Sound or Convenience?
After months of testing, I determined Apple AirPods 2 are the best true wireless headphones because of the lightweight, comfortable fit, seamless pairing and switching, and unique software features. However, if you’re an Android user, want premium sound, or need a guaranteed fit, Bose SoundSport Free are the way to go.
I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two true wireless earbuds (Bose SoundSport Free vs. Apple AirPods) while evaluating six categories: sound, software, fit, design, battery, and exercise compatibility.
Apple AirPods 2
- Sound: The sound is average. If you’re disappointed, you’ve missed the point.
- Software: Pairing, switching devices, phone calls, and music playback when out-of-ear are all made easier with the H1 Chip, which eliminates many Bluetooth issues.
- Fit: AirPods don’t fit everyone, but they'll fit if the original iPhone earbuds fit.
- Comfort: You’ll forget you’re wearing them until the battery dies (five hours) because of the fit and lightweight.
- Design: The case is small, sleek, and charges wirelessly. You can customize playback controls with double taps.
- Battery: 5 hours of playback, plus 18 hours from the case. A 5-minute quick charge provides an hour of juice.
- Exercise: They aren't sweatproof, but if they fit you well, they should stay in place while exercising.
Best for you if...
You want lightweight, comfortable in-ear headphones with excellent software. The sound quality is mediocre, but okay for most people. Unfortunately, AirPods won’t fit every ear type, and Android users won’t benefit from the software.
Bose SoundSport Free
- Sound: The incredible depth and clarity is unmatched by other true wireless options.
- Software: Bose works around most of Bluetooth’s faults, but only one bud talks to the phone, which means it’s more susceptible to cutouts and other issues.
- Fit: They come with three different tips and should fit any type of ear.
- Comfort: The soft silicone is more comfortable than most earbuds, but your ears will tire after extended use.
- Design: They’re well-built and include playback buttons, but they’re bulky and awkward looking.
- Battery: 5 hours of playback, plus 10 hours from the case. A 5-minute quick charge provides 15 minutes of juice.
- Exercise: They are sweat and weather-resistant and will stay in place, but air can circulate in when you’re moving quickly.
Best for you if...
You want premium sound quality or need a better fit than AirPods. They’re the best sounding true wireless headphones I’ve tried. They fit a broader range of ears and won’t fall out during intense workouts, but your ears will get tired after extended use.
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- I’m not an audiophile, but it’s clear AirPods don’t deliver anything close to premium sound. However, it’s good enough for me and the majority of listeners.
- The high and mid-range sound solid, so podcasts and vocals sound the best, but there’s next to no bass or depth. (If you want a detailed breakdown of the sound quality, I suggest going here).
- AirPods sound about the same as the EarPods that come with iPhone.
- They don’t provide noise cancellation.
- There are no equalizer options. The sound quality is what Apple chose and you can’t change it.
- If you’re disappointed with the sound quality, you’ve missed the point of AirPods. They are about ease and convenience.
- Apple’s H1 Chip removes the friction that typically comes with Bluetooth. It’s the most important new feature in any tech product released in the last five years. (You can use AirPods with Android devices, but the H1 Chip won’t do you any good).
- The setup is a complete departure from the configuration of most Bluetooth headphones. When you open the AirPod case, your iPhone, Mac, and Apple Watch immediately recognize the AirPods and automatically connect. You never need to go into the Bluetooth settings.
- AirPods work with iCloud, making switching between Apple devices seamless and automatic. You don’t have to touch the settings, just tap AirPods from whatever service you’re listening with.
- Unlike other true wireless models, these don’t have a “master” earbud. Because of the Bluetooth limitations, only one bud talks to the phone, then that bud talks to the other bud. With AirPods, both are connected to the phone simultaneously, and the connection never drops. I haven’t seen a drop out in the two years I’ve been using AirPods.
- There are no power buttons. AirPods recognize when they’re in your ears. When you have music playing while wearing both, and take one out, the music pauses. The music plays again once you have both buds back in. If you prefer, you can listen with just one AirPod in too.
- You can see the battery status of the case and AirPods in three locations: the headphone selector, notification screen, and when opening the case.
- Phone calls work seamlessly. The other person’s voice is played through both AirPods.
- You can play audio with just one AirPod and leave the other in the case.
- AirPods make a noise when you press the Find My app when you misplace them. For some reason, this is never loud enough, or it doesn’t work. Bose does a better job with this feature.
- With AirPods in your ears, you can say “Hey Siri” to initiate Siri without touching any buttons.
- Almost none of the features listed above work with an Android device.
Fit & Comfort (A+):
- AirPods don’t require a tight seal or go deep into your ear. Instead, they rest in your ear with an open back.
- If the original Apple EarPods (included with iPhone) fit your ears, AirPods will fit as well. AirPods are more stable because there’s no cord to weigh them down or get caught.
- If you have an old pair of EarPods you don’t use, cut off the cords, put them in and test them for a few minutes because many people can’t get the iPhone EarPods to stay in their ears.
- Aside from software, the killer features are breathability and comfort. They’re light and don’t put pressure on your ears. I want technology to blend into the background. For me, the biggest praise you can give earbuds is that you don’t notice them. On more than one occasion, I left my AirPods in my ears after the music stopped playing because I forgot I was wearing them.
- You can wear these until the battery runs out without them falling out or causing your ears to be sweaty or uncomfortable.
- These babies refuse to fall out of my ears. I’ve intentionally tried to get them to fall out by running, jumping and doing other activities and they don’t budge.
- They’re the easiest buds to put in. You’ll know exactly how they go in without explanation, whereas with other earbuds, there’s a slight learning curve. (My mom still can’t figure out how to get the SoundSport Free headphones in her ear correctly).
- They have a premium feel and sleek appearance.
- They weigh 0.02 pounds each. The light weight is a significant advantage.
- They only come in white.
- There are no physical buttons for playback controls, but you can double tap either AirPod for controls. You decide what you want each double tap to do. A double tap of my left AirPod goes to the previous song and my right AirPod skips the song. There are four options for each AirPod:
- Initiate Siri
- Next Track
- Previous Track
- You can’t control the volume with buttons or taps. You can use Siri or pull out your phone to change the volume, but neither of these is ideal when you’re exercising. It doesn’t bother me because I have Apple Watch.
- Charging Case:
- It’s half the size of Bose’s and can fit in your pocket.
- You don’t need to think about how to put them in the charging case because they intuitively snap in with magnets.
- You can charge the case with a Lightning Cable (iPhone charger).
- The newest AirPods case can wirelessly charge with any Qi charging mat.
- The case is 2.5 cubic inches and weighs 0.10 pounds.
- AirPods give you five hours of music playback or three hours of talking time. My real life tests confirmed Apple’s advertised times.
- The charging case provides an additional 18 hours of battery life. I found this number is closer to 13 hours over two weeks because there is some battery drainage when they’re not in use.
- When you put AirPods in the case for 15 minutes, you get three hours of juice.
- AirPods fit in my ears perfectly, and I’m able to run, mountain bike, weight lift, mow the lawn, and shovel snow without them falling out.
- If AirPods fit you well, you should be able to do most activities without issue. I’ve had them fall out one time in two years and that was during an intense ab workout.
- It’s hard to skip a song while running because the combination of moving and double tapping the AirPod to skip makes them fall out.
- If they don’t fit you well, you may only be able to wear them while stationary. Unfortunately, you can’t improve the fit because there’s one size with no fins, tips or extra support. However, there are third-party accessories to help them stay in.
- AirPods aren’t technically sweatproof, but I work out every day with them and haven’t had issues. It may be an issue for people who sweat excessively though.
- Bose SoundSport Free earbuds’ sound is unparalleled.
- You get an incredible level of depth, bass, and clarity that I’ve never experienced in true wireless earbuds.
- While they sound great, they’re not noise-canceling, and there’s no isolation. You can hear your surroundings, which is intentional.
- I’m not a sound expert, but what I hear doesn’t differ from the crowd. If you want a thorough breakdown on sound quality, check out RTINGS’ review.
- The release was shaky by Bose’s standards. Users reported lag between video and audio. These problems were patched with the latest firmware update. Bose gets the most out of Bluetooth, but there are frustrating limitations. For instance, phone calls only work with the “master bud” (right), and there are more cutouts between the buds than AirPods, but Bose gets most things right.
- Once you get used to headphones that stop playing music when you pull them out of your ears, it’s hard to go back to those that don’t. SoundSport Free headphones don’t recognize the difference, so they keep playing.
- Like AirPods, there’s no on/off button. They’re on when they’re out of the case and shut off automatically when you put them in the case or when they’ve been inactive.
- Changing audio sources isn’t as seamless as AirPods. A tap of the Bluetooth button on the left earbud changes the audio source to a previously used device, but it doesn’t always work. You’ll still need the Bluetooth settings menu on your phone more than ideal.
- When connected to a new device, hold the Bluetooth button for a few seconds, and it’ll disconnect from the old device, and enter pairing mode.
- You can see all of your Bluetooth connections in the Bose App, change the standby timer, and look at cool tutorials. You can also have your buds play a sound so you can find them if you’ve misplaced them. It’s much louder than AirPods’ finder and works well for finding the buds when they’re buried in the couch cushions.
- Overall, the connection is better than 90% of truly wireless headphones. You won’t experience many dropouts, but it’s not completely immune. The only time I had an issue was when I had my phone in a thick coat pocket while shoveling snow.
- Firmware updates fail frequently and are time-consuming.
Fit & Comfort (B-):
- They’re made of soft silicone and sit on your ear canal (similar to AirPods) rather than inside the ear canal.
- You get three different size ear tips. They fit more people’s ears than AirPods. My friends said they love the fit too.
- You’re going to love the fit when you’re working out. The soft silicone makes them more comfortable than other wireless earbuds on the market while also strong enough to not budge.
- They’re more comfortable than most earbuds, but because they’re double the weight and fit tighter than AirPods, your ears may get tired. I call it quits after an hour of listening and don’t want to use them when not active.
- The buds feel solid, but they’re relatively heavy at 0.04 pounds. You won’t notice the weight while you’re active, but it’ll become tiresome on your ears after an hour of use while sitting.
- The build quality is excellent, but Bose falls short when it comes to aesthetics because they are bulky and look awkward, noticeably protruding out of your ears. With everything else SoundSport Free earbuds bring to the table, it was a worthwhile sacrifice considering the brilliant battery, fit and sound.
- The right bud has three buttons: volume up, volume down, and a multifunction-button for going back and skipping tracks based on the number of button presses.
- It’s nice to have physical buttons (especially volume, which is missing from AirPods), but these buttons require lots of force to initiation. This is fine when you’re sitting but not easy when you’re running.
- The right bud has a button for connecting to Bluetooth. You can cycle through your devices with one tap, or a double tap puts it into pairing mode.
- Charging Case:
- It feels great, has a battery life indicator with five lights, and the buds snap into the case nicely.
- Getting the buds back into the case isn’t as intuitive or satisfying as AirPods, but you’ll get the hang out it with practice.
- The case is 6.9 cubic inches and weighs 0.22 pounds. It’s twice the weight and more than double the size of the AirPods case, but the Bose charging case should still fit in most pockets.
- It charges with a micro-USB cable.
- You get five hours of music playback with an additional 10 hours from the case.
- A 15-minute charge provides just 45 minutes of juice. Bose advertises their quick charge feature, but it’s below the standard recharge time for wireless earbuds.
- The standby time is not nearly as strong as AirPods. After two weeks of inactivity, the case will be at 50% battery.
- They are sweat- and weather-resistant (with an IPX4 rating), and they won’t fall out, even with the most rigorous of exercises.
- If you’re moving quickly, they let in more air than AirPods, due to the design. For biking and running, my preference is AirPods because of this.
- While I’m critical of Bose’s comfortability while sitting still for long hours, you won’t notice them in your ears if you’re exercising.