The Apple AirPods (2019) are hugely popular true wireless earbuds. They offer a superb combination of excellent battery life, simple-to-use controls and good sound quality. But how do they fare against a top-performing rival: the sporty Bose SoundSport Free.
The SoundSport Frees offer excellent sound quality and have established an army of followers, thanks to their impressive fit and sporty design. But is that enough to mitigate the simplicity and reliability of Apple's classy second-generation AirPods?
Who wins the battery life war? Which pair is the best value for money? And which 'buds will do your music collection justice? Let's dive in and find out...
Portable audio products often live and die based on their battery life. After all, there's no point in owning any wireless earbuds if they constantly run out of juice.
The Apple AirPods have the edge when it comes to battery life. While both devices offer five hours of playback when full, both come with charging cases that hold additional battery power, allowing you to power-up your 'buds on the go.
Apple's charging case provides a total of 24 hours playback, while the Bose charging case offers 15 hours total. What's more, the AirPods (2019) charge rapidly. You get three hours playback from a 15-minute charge, whereas the SoundSport Free buds only return 45 minutes from a quick charge.
Design and fit
There's no denying that the AirPods (2019) are sleeker, lighter and more compact. That said, Apple's supposed "one-size-fits-all" design doesn't suit everyone. Some find they fit snugly; others have trouble getting them to stay in.
The Bose SoundSport Free are slightly pricier and mix a rugged design with a few premium touches. Built for sporty types, they're IPX4 sweat- and water-resistant. The AirPods? They're not officially rated for sweat (nevermind water) so you'll have to use them at your own risk.
The Bose buds also come with StayHear tips that feature little wings that rest against the inside of your ear for added stability. They come in small, medium and large sizes, which means they should fit most ears.
All in all, Apple's AirPods (2019) are a far more elegant affair but the chunky SportSport Free buds have sportier appeal – and you've got a better chance of a superior fit if you go the Bose route.
The new Apple AirPods (2019) are a marked improvement over the first generation. There's no artificial bass boost, but they go louder and sound more composed. Sound is neutral and low-level dynamic shifts are handled admirably. It's fair to say that they lack a little low-end authority but overall, they deliver an engaging performance.
The SportSport Frees are a step up from the AirPods, though. They produce a richer, weightier sound with greater body and a plentiful supply of bass. Highs are crisper and vocals are more expressive.
Neither of these buds offers active noise-cancelling, only noise isolation. And thanks to their silicone tips, the Bose in-ears do a far better job of blocking out the world.
Both pairs have a range of 35ft and performed superbly in our tests, with no major dropouts. However, there are a few pros and cons that could affect your buying decision.
Apple's H1 chip in the AirPods (2019) uses Bluetooth 5.0 to ensure fast pairing with Apple devices, maintain a solid connection and enable "Hey Siri" voice commands. The AirPods connect instantly to your last audio device and the bud-to-bud connection is exceptionally strong. They also support Apple's Audio Sharing feature, which allows two people to listen to the same audio from one iPhone.
The SoundSport Free also run Bluetooth 5.0. However, while that ensures a solid connection they don't pair quite as swiftly as the AirPods (2019). If you're an iPhone or iPad user, the seamless experience that Apple's H1 chip provides could seal the deal.
The AirPods (2019) are designed to work with Siri voice commands and their simple touch-sensitive controls. Users can assign one double-tap control to each earbud. And while the lack of physical buttons looks super-sleek, it does limit the scope of the controls – especially for those who don't want to look like they're talking to themselves.
The SoundSport Free buds feature a full array of physical controls, including the ability to change the volume, skip tracks and answer calls. In our opinion, they're a bit easier to get to grips with.
So, would our money go on the 2019 AirPods or Bose SoundSport Free? The AirPods are an attractive all-round package for Apple users and boast class-leading battery life. But if you're the sporty type, and want better audio performance, make a beeline for the Bose SoundSport Free. They're a little on the chunky side, but their superior sonic ability and stability are worth investing in.