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Bose Sport Open Earbuds vs SoundSport Free (2021): Which Wireless Headphones Is Better?

Fitness enthusiasts and athletes have plenty to be excited about as Bose adds the Bose Sport Open Earbuds to its catalog of wireless earphones. These new audio wearables sport an interesting open-ear design for those with an active lifestyle. It certainly makes a case for itself, especially against another popular wireless earphone, the Bose SoundSport Free. But with the three-year-old SoundSport Free’s remaining units becoming increasingly difficult to buy, is the latest Bose successor worth getting? Below we compare the two devices to see which is better.

Bose Sports Open Earbuds vs SoundSport Free Comparison Chart

ModelBose Sports Open EarbudsBose SoundSport Free
PriceCheck Price Check Price
DesignOpen ear headphonesIn-ear headphones
Wireless ConnectivityBluetoothBluetooth
Take CallsYesYes
Charging CaseNoYes
Water ResistanceIPX4 ratingIPX4 rating
Battery LifeUp to 8 hoursUp to 5 hours
Charging Time2 hours2 hours
Quick Charge30 minutes for up to 3 hours battery life15 minutes for up to 45 minutes battery life
Dimensions2.2″ H x 1.9″ W x 0.75″ D1.25″ H x 1″ W x 1.2″ D
Weight13.89 g each earbud9.07 g each earbud


The Bose Sport Open Earbuds follow an open-ear design as opposed to the SoundSport Free’s traditional in-ear design.

Viewed from the side, it’s easy to see how different the two sports headphones are.

As the name suggests, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds follow an open-ear design. Instead of an ear tip that seals your ear canal, the new wireless headphones simply sit on top of your ear. This is possible thanks to a hook that follows the contours of your ears and clips to the upper part of your lobe. The same curve also brandishes a matte finish for additional grip.

The Bose SoundSport Free, on the other hand, is your typical in-ear wireless headphones. What’s not typical, however, is the size of the housing. These earbuds are large and will noticeably protrude from your ear. But despite the size, they’re actually quite comfortable, and the grip is secure enough for most workouts. A flexible fin, called StayHear+ tips, also does a great job of conforming to the upper ridge of your ear. You also get three different-sized pairs of tips out of the box.

Since these two wireless devices are designed for the active lifestyle, they both come with an IPX4 certification. This means you don’t have to worry about sweating it out at the gym or taking them off during an unexpected drizzle or downpour while running. However, they aren’t fully waterproof and are not designed to be submerged underwater.

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are currently available in black. The SoundSport Free, on the other hand, comes in black, orange, and midnight blue, although the latter two colors are no longer easily available.

Sound Performance

Both Bose sports headphones offer decent and reliable sound performance for workouts.

The Sport Open Earbuds (left) make use of OpenAudio technology while the SoundSport Free follows the traditional in-ear device.

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds and SoundSport Free share the same objectiveβ€” provide you with music even at your most active. Because of their respective design, however, the approach differs. With the SoundSport Free, you’re essentially getting the typical wireless in-ear headphones. The device directs the sound to the nozzle and into your ears. To get the best quality, you’ll have to make sure the earbuds are in place and the seal is tight.

Bose explains that with the SoundSport Free, the volume-optimized EQ delivers a full and well-balanced sound. It also minimizes background noise. Still, enough ambient noise can be heard, which should prove beneficial if you’re running outside and need to hear the traffic. User experience, however, tells us the biggest complaint about the SoundSport Free is that it does allow in too much external noise.

The Sport Open Earbuds, on the other hand, make use of Bose’s OpenAudio technology. While most open-ear headphones employ bone conduction, the OpenAudio feature sends sound waves through the air. This makes for a more natural listening experience compared to having vibrations sent to the inner ear. And with the sound funneled only to your ear, the chances of a fellow gym-goer overhearing your playlist is pretty slim.

Between the two, however, the SoundSport Free offers a weightier and more full-bodied sound. The Sport Open Earbuds are pretty good, too, but its open-ear design comes with an inherent disadvantage. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of an open sound, then these headphones are among the best in their category.

Call Performance

The SoundSport Free has better call quality compared to the Sport Open Earbuds

Aside from playing music, you can also take calls using these Bose sports headphones.

Like many of today’s wireless headphones, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds and SoundSport Free can take calls. Bose shares their latest open-ear headphones come with an enhanced dual-microphone system that highlights your voice for clearer calls. On paper, the tech sounds good. But in reality, taking calls with the Sport Open Earbuds isn’t always pleasant unless you’re in a quiet place. If you’re inside a crowded gym, for instance, hearing a caller can be problematic.

The SoundSport Free also supports hands-free calls. Call quality is better than that of the Sport Open Earbuds, with most users sharing callers on the other end of the line rarely recognize you’re even using wireless headphones. However, call audio will only be heard in the right earbud. If you’re used to taking calls with audio heard on both earbuds, this is something you’ll have to get used to. But it does allow users to hear their natural voice during conversations.

Click here for more Bose headphones comparisons.

Controls and Battery Life

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds offer more intuitive controls and longer battery life compared to the SoundSport Free.

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds charges via a base station while the SoundSport Free uses its case.

If you’ve used wireless earbuds like the Apple AirPods or even Samsung Galaxy Buds, you’ll be surprised there are no touch controls on the Bose Sport Open Earbuds. Instead, you get a single tactile button on both left and right earbuds.

The right earbud button has several functions, including switching the earbuds on and off, playing or pausing music, and skipping tracks. It also doubles as the answer key for incoming calls. The left earbud button, on the other hand, gives access to your phone’s voice assistant. However, you cannot control the volume using these buttons yet and will need to rely on the connected Bluetooth device. Bose shares they’ll roll out the on-earbud volume control functionality in March via a Bose Music app update.

Just like the Sport Open Earbuds, the Bose SoundSport Free comes with physical buttons. On the right-earbud, you get three buttons for adjusting volume, playing and pausing tracks, and powering the device on and off. On the left, you only get a power button. However, the keys sit on the edge of the earbuds and are quite small, making them difficult to use. You’re better off controlling playback with your phone.

When it comes to battery life, the Sport Open Earbuds has the advantage. It can last up to 8 hours on a 2-hour charge and 3 hours on a 30-minute quick charge. In contrast, the SoundSport Free offers 5 hours of battery life on a single 2-hour charge and 45 minutes on a 15-minute charge. The SoundSport Free’s case, however, doubles as a charging case.


The Bose Sport Open Earbuds is one of the better headphones of its kind but may not have the same sound and call quality as the soon-to-be discontinued SoundSport Free.

Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Best for those who prefer an open-ear design

Bose SoundSport Free

Best for those who like in-ear headphones

Choosing between on-ear or in-ear headphones largely depends on your preference. Users who don’t like the invasive feeling of an in-ear headphone will obviously gravitate towards the Bose Sport Open Earbuds. Of course, its open design has disadvantages, including sound and call performance that’s not up-to-par with in-ear headphones. But Bose has taken strides to address this problem, thanks to its proprietary OpenAudio technology.

The SoundSport Free, on the other hand, is still a pretty solid option, but only if you can get past the bulky size and awkward controls. It offers a better sound performance and call experience, too. Finding units, however, is difficult as the model itself is bound to be discontinued. Renewed options are available in online marketplaces at discounted rates. Similarly, you can get refurbished models directly from Bose. If you’re out of luck, however, the Bose Sport Earbuds might be the best alternative for a similar in-ear design.


πŸ“Œ What’s the difference between the Bose Sport Open Earbuds and Bose SoundSport Free?

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds is an open-ear wireless sports headphone that sits on top of your ear, whereas the SoundSport Free follows the traditional in-ear design.

πŸ“Œ Is the Bose SoundSport Free waterproof?

No, the Bose SoundSport Free is not waterproof and is not designed to be submerged in water. Its IPX4 water-resistance rating is only for handling sweat and splashes of water.

πŸ“Œ Is the Bose Sport Open Earbuds a touch device?

No, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds is not a touch device. Instead, it uses single, tactile buttons on both the right and left earbuds.

πŸ“Œ Can I charge my Bose Sport Open Earbuds using the case?

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds do not come with a charging case. To charge the device, each bud must be placed on the accompanying charging base station. The case that comes with the package is only for carrying the buds.

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Mari Bassig

Senior Editor, writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, social media, and music.