Gear

Bose SoundSport wireless headphones review: mostly great for cycling

Bluetooth headphones have a cable, which makes it easier to control on the bike and a lot harder to drop or lose a single earbud.

Review Rating


Pros

Excellent audio quality; earbuds stay in place; pairs easily; recharges quickly with a standard cable; cables don't tangle like sticky iPhone headphone cables

Cons

The earbuds are big and stick out; control buttons are hard to find and manipulate when wearing gloves


Our Thoughts

A good solution for on-the-bike audio if you're more concerned with function than fashion.


Size Reviewed

One size; three earbud modules included

Weight

0.8oz

Price

$129

Brand

Bose


Bose makes a variety of high-quality audio equipment, including three styles of sport earbuds. While Bose has two completely wireless earbud options, I bought the SoundSport because of a connecting cable that runs between the two. On the whole, I’m pretty happy with the purchase. Sound quality is excellent, they stay in place, and the play/skip/pause and volume-adjust buttons work well.

In this review, I’ll give you my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly for using these things on the bike, inside and outside.

The Good

After an initial pairing with your smartphone, using the SoundSport headphones is easy: Just press the little button on the right earbud to turn them on. This triggers battery status (Bose claims about six hours between charges) and connection checks, delivered via a robotic voice in your ears: “Battery life: 60 percent. Connected to: iPhone.” Easy.

Sound quality is excellent, with rich bass and clear treble. They are not noise-canceling, which is a good thing for cycling, but the fact that they are stuck in your ears does muffle ambient noise somewhat. The top volume is pegged at less than concert volume, but I suppose that is a healthy and safe thing, too.

I’ve used them on rattling gravel rides and quite a bit more for Zwift racing sessions, where I’ll alternate between music and Discord. Although they also come with size small and large silicone inserts, I have just used the stock medium covers. They have yet to fall out when I’m banging over washboards, or when sweating like a pig inside.

You can customize the fit with three different sized inserts. Photo: Ben Delaney

About three inches down from the right earbud is a controller that is similar in function to the old iPhone headphone design: the tall center button is play/pause/advance, and the small buttons on either end adjust the volume. They’re easy to use with bare hands on the bike, and the mic works well enough for taking calls outside, especially if you have it tucked under a Buff or Pandana as a windshield.

I bought the corded pair for three reasons. I was wary of losing a completely wireless earbud on a ride. Adjusting a helmet, putting on sunglasses… something is bound to bump them, right? Also, I like the idea of being able to manually control sound on something that is not a tiny earbud. Apple’s AirPods Pro model probably works great if you’re sitting at a desk. And lastly, I like being able to quickly yank out an earbud if circumstances call for it and just let it dangle from my helmet strap, not have to worry about dropping a tiny, slick, expensive thing while rolling down the road.

So on those points, the SoundSport earbuds have delivered.

The Bad

My main beef with the things is how challenging they are to use the audio control buttons when wearing gloves. Although there is a gentle curve to the button “stick,” it’s basically a four-sided box where all four sides feel identical with gloves on. And only on one side can you get anything to happen. So your options are: fumble around a bunch with trial and error, or pull off a glove to make adjustments.

The control buttons are easy to use with bare hands. With gloved hands? Not so much. Photo: Ben Delaney

The Ugly

The earbuds stick way out. This is a negative for aesthetics but is also annoying when pulling a winter hat or a gaiter or a helmet on or off.

Bottom line: Good audio solution for cycling

I bought these refurbished from Bose for $79, and am content with the purchase. The fully wireless options from Bose are $179 for the in-ear Sport Earbuds and $199 for the Sport Open Earbuds. Bose also has some sunglasses with speakers built into the thick arms for $249. I’m not going there.

Aside from the annoyance of using the controls with gloves on and pulling warm layers or a helmet over the earbuds, the Bose SoundSport headphones work well for cycling, delivering clear audio and staying put when riding hard inside and outside.

The battery charges with a standard (and included) USB cable. Photo: Ben Delaney