For legendary audio maker Bose®, 2020 was another banner year. The company debuted several products from its various category segments, including new offerings from its true wireless earbuds and audio sunglasses divisions. Over the course of a few weeks, we had the chance to test several of these new products, which included the QuietComfort™ Earbuds, the Sport™ Earbuds, and the latest styles of Bose® Frames™.
Top Features: Best-in-class noise cancellation, excellent sound quality, slimmed-down design
In 2017, Bose® released its first pair of true wireless earbuds, the good-almost-great SoundSport Free™. Despite having one of the best sound signatures available, the SoundSport Free™ ranked just below the top true wireless earbuds on the market due to the lack of advanced features like active noise cancellation and their conspicuously thick design.
This year, Bose® released its latest true wireless offering, the QuietComfort™ Earbuds. And friends, let me tell you: You can put away your silver medals, your runner-up ribbons, and your “almost-greats.” The QuietComfort™ Earbuds are among the best true wireless earbuds in the world.
In making the QuietComfort™ Earbuds, Bose® did a very smart, straightforward thing. It identified the few weaknesses of the SoundSport Free™ and eliminated them. The first of those “weaknesses” was the design. The SoundSport Free™ were just too big. They looked like something Lt. Uhura would wear. Did that make them uncomfortable? Nope. Did it negatively impact their sound quality? Not at all—they sounded excellent. But in a world where aesthetics matter, the SoundSport Free™ were not as physically appealing as some of their more handsome peers.
The QuietComfort™ Earbuds, on the other hand, look objectively great. Thanks to a revamped design, they are sleek and much more unobtrusive. They don’t stick out from your ears in a way that looks a tad bit silly. You can wear them and still look cool. On top of that, they feel and fit great. The QuietComfort™ Earbuds come with three sizes of Bose’s® proprietary StayHear Max™ ear tips, and once you find your fit, you’ll never have to worry about them falling out, or discomfort from prolonged use.
It’s not really fair to label the SoundSport Free’s™ lack of active noise cancellation a weakness. When they debuted in 2017, no true wireless earbuds had active noise cancellation. The technology hadn’t been implemented yet. Still, as time went on, more and more true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation came to market, creating a separation between the SoundSport Free™ earbuds and their top-tier peers.
With the QuietComfort™ Earbuds, Bose® not only addressed the missing feature, but absolutely crushed it. The QuietComfort™ Earbuds offer the best active noise cancellation you will find in any pair of true wireless earbuds. Not “among the best” or “one of the best.” The best. As in, better than everyone else.
You can choose from 10 different levels of active noise cancellation (technically 11, since you can also set it to 0). Maxed out, the QuietComfort™ Earbuds’ active noise cancellation essentially erases external noise. For reasons we don’t need to go into right now, I often write while sitting next to a live hairdryer. In fact, right now, as I type this sentence, it’s running next to me. I can’t hear it. It’s 12 inches from my body, set on high, and I can’t hear it. That’s beyond impressive. It’s—pardon the pun—unheard of.
Now, as far as their other features go, the QuietComfort™ Earbuds don’t offer as big of an improvement over the SoundSport Free™. That’s not a negative when you consider the SoundSport Free™ offered excellent sound quality and decent battery life. The QuietComfort™ Earbuds do improve upon those features marginally. The sound quality is as fantastic as ever—especially in bass-heavy genres. You get 6 hours of battery life per full charge, which is an hour more than you got from the SoundSport Free™. It’s definitely not the longest battery life out there, but Bose® added a quick-charge feature that gets you around 2 hours of juice from a 15-minute charge, which is really nice. I don’t recall ever having any connectivity issues with the SoundSport Free™, but some reviewers did, so it’s worth mentioning that I had absolutely zero issues maintaining a stable connection with the QuietComfort™ Earbuds. They use Bluetooth version 5.1, so I wouldn’t expect anyone else to have any issues either.
Bottom Line: The QuietComfort™ Earbuds are a significant step up from the SoundSport Free™ (which are still a good pair of true wireless earbuds, by the way). By improving the design, adding best-in-class noise cancellation, and offering the legendary sound quality it's known for, Bose® has created one of—if not the—best pair of true wireless earbuds available.
Bose® Sport™ Earbuds
Top Features: Excellent sound quality, good design for active users, quick-charge capability
Bose® also recently released the Sport™ Earbuds, which fall somewhere between the SoundSport Free™ and QuietComfort™ Earbuds in terms of overall quality. With the Sport™ Earbuds, you get the best design of all three. The Sport™ Earbuds are the smallest, lightest, and least obtrusive. Likewise, they are probably the most comfortable—though it’s hard to say definitively because all three are actually quite comfortable. The Sport™ Earbuds are also very secure. They don’t fall out or jostle around when you’re exercising, which is a requisite for any pair of earbuds aimed at active users.
Unlike the QuietComfort™ Earbuds, the Sport™ Earbuds don’t offer any kind of noise cancellation. This was a very smart move by Bose®. By releasing two pairs of true wireless earbuds, one with noise cancellation and one without, Bose® gives consumers the option of whether or not they want it. And while it’s true the QuietComfort™ Earbuds offer the best active noise cancellation available among true wireless earbuds, some users aren’t as interested in it and would rather not pay for it.
That’s really the question you should ask yourself if you are trying to decide between the Sport™ Earbuds and the QuietComfort™ Earbuds. Do you want to pay the extra $100 for the world’s best active noise cancellation? If not, you’re probably better off with Sport™ Earbuds. In terms of sound quality, design, and battery life, they rate just as well. Yes, the QuietComfort™ Earbuds offer one or two additional features (slightly better battery life, for example), but otherwise there isn’t a whole lot of space between the two. Again though, and it’s worth repeating—that’s only if we’re leaving the world’s best active noise cancellation out of the equation.
Bottom Line: The Sport™ Earbuds are almost everything you want from true wireless earbuds meant for active users. They’re lightweight and comfortable. They stay in place without fail, even when you exercise. Plus, like all Bose® headphones, they sound incredible. The modest 5-hour battery life isn’t anything to write home about, but the quick-charge feature definitely is. Two hours of use from a 15-minute charge means even if you forgot to plug them in the night before, you won’t have to work out in silence.
Best Features: Improved sound quality, stylish, more versatile designs, customizable lenses
This year, Bose® also introduced three new pairs of its Frames™ Audio Sunglasses. Bose® first introduced the Frames™ series in 2018. Praised for their innovation and sound quality, the original Frames™ series received mostly positive reviews despite their niche category. (I, for one, thought they were pretty great.) These newest Frames™, which are available in three different variants (two for style, one for sport), build upon everything that was good about the original lineup, while minimizing those things that were not.
The two new style-focused variants of Frames™ are the Soprano™ and the Tenor™. I, for one, thought the original Frames™ looked pretty sharp, but there’s no question both of these new versions look significantly better. The cat-eye design of the Sopranos™ looks especially cool. Now, on the sides, the new Frames™ still have the larger-than-normal arms, but these have been slimmed down some and, more importantly, they seem more integrated. With the first Frames™, you could sort of tell that those were sunglasses with speakers built into them. These just look like sunglasses.
But that reduced arm girth doesn’t mean Bose® weakened their audio output. If anything, the company improved it. Considering the design, I was very impressed with the sound clarity of the original Frames™. This time around, I was just as pleased, if not more so. My music sounded very rich and, except for those times when there was a lot of ambient noise around me, full. I was very happy with it.
The aptly named Tempo™ model are the sports-focused variant, and while they don’t look as cool as either the Soprano™ or Tenor™, they might be the best option of the three—if only for outdoor runners and bicyclists. I see that because, while the Tempo™ Frames™ seem designed for one particular audience, they serve that audience very, very well.
For starters, they fit like sports sunglasses should. They’re comfortable. They don’t slide up and down your nose. They also have an aerodynamic design, so wind flows past you—it doesn’t smash against your face. On top of that, Tempo™ Frames™ support optional sets of additional polarized lenses, which you can change out depending on where you are running/biking. Like the Tenor™ and Soprano™ models, the Tempo™ Frames™ sound great—maybe even better. I’m not 100-percent certain about the speaker dimensions in each of the models, but I felt like the Tempo™ Frames™ had a little more kick.
Bottom Line: I was a big fan of the Frames™ when they first came out and I’m happy to see Bose® improve upon that series with three offerings that should further boost the profile of this innovative segment. Both the Tenor™ and Soprano™ models look sharp and sound great, and the Tempo™ Frames™ are an excellent addition to any outdoor workout.
Questions or comments about any of these new Bose® products? Let us know in the Comments section, below.
Okay, you got my attention with the Star Trek reference of Lt. Uhura. As Spock would say, "Intriguing"; I am intrigued about what the prior version looked like.