Product Review: Bose SoundSport Free

Disclaimer: I was employed at Bose Corporation for 10 years before they shutdown our Blythewood, SC manufacturing plant in 2015. They are the electronics manufacturer I referred to in my bio.

First, a bit of background. There are very few times when I run without listening to music. Occasionally, I tried listening to audio books, but that just did not cut it for me. My history with headphones and running starts with a rather simple $10 set of wired headphones, the kind with hooks that wrap around the back of the ear. When I first started running, I only ran with the left earbud in, and I hung the hook of the other earbud on my shirt collar, so I could hear traffic coming from behind as an extra precaution. I ran on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic, but I liked to hear behind me as well.

When Bose came out with their earliest generation SoundSport wired headphones, I was able to purchase a pair at an employee discount. I was immediately impressed with the sound quality and ditched my $10 headphones for good. This is also the point where I began running with both earbuds due to the richness of the sound and the lack of hook to secure the dangling half.

The Old Wired SoundSport Headphones

Unfortunately, I would go through the early SoundSport wired headphones within a month or two because the control buttons around my neck were not exactly sweat proof, I guess, and they would stop working. Fortunately, I worked in the facility where Bose repaired and replaced returned merchandise, providing me a constant supply of replacement headphones. Life was pretty good, but that ended in 2015, as I mentioned earlier. I had one last pair of wired SoundSports, and I wondered how long they’d last.

Then one day the dog decided to chew up the controls on my last pair of SoundSports. I guess she liked the sweat taste.  I decided it was time to make the switch to wireless/Bluetooth headphones. For Christmas 2016, we snagged a Black Friday deal on wireless Beats Powerbeats 2, and I broke away from Bose. Soon, I decided I was a fan of wireless. Just to be clear, these were wireless as in Bluetooth. They still had a wire between the two ear buds, which housed the controls.

Well the Beats didn’t last long, either. The three pairs we purchased as Christmas gifts for my children and me did not last more than a few months before we had to return them all under warranty. A month after I received my replacement pair, those tore up as well. I had to resort to stealing my daughter’s Beats, while I decided what my next step in headphones was.

Father Day 2018

Father’s Day 2018 brought a huge surprise – a pair of Bose in-ear SoundSport Free wireless headphones. My wife did not know it, but these were the next step I had been considering.

As I’m finishing up the writing of this post, I’ve had the headphones for just over two months. But let me tell you these are by far the best headphones I have ever had.

Product features:

  • Truly wireless – no wire between the earbuds
  • Charge/carry case
  • Two earbuds: Volume & pause/play controls on the right earbud, Bluetooth disconnect on the left
  • Three sizes of Stay-Hear+ Sport tips
  • Available in blue, black, and orange. I have the blue.
  • Bose Connect app

Highlights

The sound. The sound quality is very good – rich, with plenty of bass.  Much better than the Powerbeats 2 and reminiscent of my earlier Sound Sport wired.

The fit. I was a little skeptical about how these would stay in. I’m a pretty heavy sweater, especially here in the heart of hell season, I mean summer, in South Carolina.  The SoundSport Frees come with 3 ear tip sizes, and I use the medium. I’ve had absolutely no issues with fit or the earbuds staying put, even as I sweated it out in the sultry South Carolina summer.

SoundSport Free Case

The case. To me, the storage case is brilliant and maybe the best reason to purchase these. One of the challenges with any wireless headset is charging the batteries. The Bose case does this for you. You charge the case and then you store the earbuds in the case. There are lights inside the case to tell you if the earbuds are charging. There are lights on the outside of the case to tell you the charge level of the case. According to the documentation, a fully charged case can do two full charges on the earbuds before needing to recharge the case. Bose claims the earbuds have a five-hour charge life. I haven’t tested this. Another sweet feature is the earbuds tells you the charge level when you pull them out and place them in your ears.

The BoseConnect app. The app is an interesting feature. After a couple of months, I have not really used it after the initial setup. I did test out the “Find My Buds” feature, and it seemed to work. Hope I never have to use that feature, though!

Lowlights

Not sure if this is a problem or not. One observation is the control buttons for volume and pause/play are much harder to press than other headphones I have. This takes a little to adjust to, but I’m hoping this actually means these buttons will work longer. These seems to be a weak spot on any headphones I’ve used in the past.

Occasionally, the left ear bud has lost its connection. A quick press of the bluetooth button resolved the issue.

Finally, I think I look a little dumber than usual with the earbuds sticking out. They definitely stick out more than other earbuds. Kinda makes me look like I have those ear gauges in, just a bit higher. Oh well, I’ll just run faster so no one can have a long look.

Conclusion

I love these headphones. Taking the wires away makes dealing with headphones so much better.

They solve several problems I had with my previous headphones:

  • No damaging sweat on the controls
  • No hollowing out/damaging the headphone jack hole on the phone while I run with the phone in my pocket
  • And my favorite – when running with one earbud in, the other one doesn’t have to dangle somewhere. I just leave it behind. (editor’s note: on pre-dawn runs, I only use one earbud. I do use a headlamp, but I don’t want the boogeyman sneaking up on me from behind!)

These headphones retail for $199.99, and my family fully paid for these.

My rating: 4.99 out of 5.0. Minor deduction for the sporadic mystery left ear connectivity problem.

Link to the FAQ on the Bose site: https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/headphones/earphones/soundsport-free-wireless.html#ProductTabs_tab3

Thanks for reading,

Greg

 

 

 

Motivation – Find Yours

What Jack Looked Like Photo Credit: xikomartins Flickr via Compfight cc

Motivation comes in many different packages…

In summer 1983, a young man moved to my town.  Let’s call him Jack. Like most kids moving to a new town, Jack made new friends.  Being tall, blonde, and athletic, this wasn’t hard for Jack.

Problem was, unbeknownst to me,  Jack became good “friends” with my girlfriend. I was soon history. News traveled much slower back then in the landline phone days, but eventually word travelled back to me about a new kid in town who had contributed to my demise.

School soon started back, and there they were, roaming the halls together, Jack, the football player, and my ex, the cheerleader.  They made a cute couple to everyone but me.  One day, I heard a rumor that Jack was going to try out for basketball, too.  Word on the street was he was pretty good. Might even vie for a starting spot. Well, guess who’s territory that was?  That’s right. Mine.

To say I was looking forward to tryouts was an understatement. I had a new motivation and focus.  Poor guy showed up but never had a chance. There may have been more flagrant fouling than usual, but that could just be called aggressive defense. I don’t remember for sure, and YouTube didn’t exist, so there’s no evidence. Jack did make the team, but he didn’t take my starting spot.

So, that was my motivation all those years ago – girls, jealousy, pride, revenge.  Looks like there should be a sermon in there somewhere.

Fast Forward

Twenty-something years past my basketball days, the motivation to take on a new sport presented itself.  In December 2008, the most “wonderful time of the year” was not so great. The U.S. economy was in ruins, and my employer was feeling the effects. Our plant manager stood in front of the employees right before the Christmas break and gave the grim business update. He implied there would be layoffs soon after Christmas. Facing the prospect of losing my job after the holiday, I went home and dug out the old treadmill. My new motivation was stress relief.

After a few weeks of walking and running on the treadmill, I was feeling better. There was a layoff, but I was one of the fortunate ones who kept their jobs. I don’t remember if I knew I needed a new motivation, but I soon made a decision that would help drive me for several years to come: I entered my first road race, scheduled for the end of February.

As a new runner, I should have entered a 5K just two months after beginning, but I entered a 10K. It wasn’t a conscious decision of 5K versus 10K. The now-defunct Lexington Race Against Hunger 10K was close to my home, and I happened to see it advertised. I also had no clue yet of where to find other race signups.

So, the LRAH 2009 it was, and with a race registration, I had my new incentive to keep training. I was also beginning to have have an idea of my abilities and how to pace for several miles. So, I also decided I wanted to beat an hour in that first race. This was not wise for a beginner, either, but turns out it’s how my mind works.

On Saturday, February 28, 2009, the day before my 41st birthday, I showed up to run my first race, nervous and not sure I should even be there. Now, I have several vivid memories from that day. First, it rained during the race. It never occurred to me that people would run in the rain. But we did. At least it was fairly warm for February. Second, as we passed the mile-five marker, I was really struggling. After all, this was one of the few times I had ever run this far. It was at this point several young high school girls passed me, and left me in the dust, quite the humbling moment. Finally, as I crossed the finish line in a surprising 53:29, I had a huge feeling of accomplishment. Not only had a completed a 10K, I had beaten my goal by over six minutes. I was hooked.

“Once something is a passion, the motivation is there.” Michael Schumacher

Your turn!

So that’s how I fell in love with running and pursuing physical fitness. What about you? Do you need something to push you over the edge toward finally starting or restarting a fitness journey? Here are some other motivations I can think of. Maybe these will help:

Bucket List

Want to do an Ironman by age 50?  What about doing a 100-mile bicycle ride. Bucket list items can be an effective way to start your fitness journey. Set a big goal and work toward it. A word of warning on this one: it’s a good idea to have spouse buy-in on these big goals.

Weight Loss

I have mixed feelings on this one. I’ve known people who lost a bunch of weight as they worked their way into shape for marathons and Ironman events, and I’ve known others who put in the work and didn’t see any weight loss. So, I’d say don’t make this your main motivation. If weight loss happens in a healthy way, be thankful.

Be a Better Parent

A Rare Two-Fowler Victory Day in 2014

You may think that I consider making it to the Boston Marathon the best thing to come from my running. Well, I don’t. This is: a few months after I started running, my 10 year-old son started going on runs with me. Not too long after my first race, I entered him in a local 5K, hoping he’d win a medal and be energized to keep it up. That strategy worked! This led to high school cross country and now collegiate triathlon.

These days, many elementary and middle schools have after school programs such as Run Hard and Girls on the Run that promote running. These programs usually need volunteers and have a program-ending 5K where the parent needs to run with the child. You might as well show your child you can put in the work, too!

Social

Most people need accountability partners. If running or going to the gym with a group of friends is what you need to keep you moving, then by all means, be social. Just be sure to do some work and not spend the entire time socializing!

There are many other motivations. If you’ve started a fitness journey, what have been your motivations? Leave me a reply in the comments! Thanks!

Greg