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Bose Earbuds 500 are AirPods killers that are worth waiting for

I got to play around with a prototype of Bose's upcoming true wireless headphones, and they show a lot of potential.

The Earbuds 500 in blue.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Bose's recently launched Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, due to hit stores on June 30 for $400, were the main attraction at a media preview event the company hosted at a New York City hotel on Wednesday. But it also trotted out another new product, the Earbuds 500, its next-generation true wireless earphones that it hopes will make people think twice about buying Apple's latest AirPods.

The Earbuds 500 are still several months away -- Bose only says that they'll ship by "late 2019" -- but it clearly doesn't want to get lost in the shuffle as greater numbers of compelling true wireless earphones emerge, including Beats' Powerbeats Pro, to capture consumers' attention and wallets.

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Read more: I tried the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and they're pretty great

After a rocky start, Bose's first true wireless headphones, the SoundSport Free, found some fans, and they are one of the better sounding and more comfortable true wireless earphones to wear. They do have a couple of downsides, including a large charging case and generally bulky design. They do stick out from your ears more than many competing models.

I figured that Bose's next-generation true wireless model would slim down, and sure enough, the Earbuds 500 are significantly more compact -- and also lighter. The prototype I tried seemed pretty polished and fit my ears really well. But Bose reps said that the finish of the earphones wasn't final and was subject to change. But they did confirm the earphones will come in three color options: black, blue and an off-white.

I expect these to have around 5 hours of battery life (they will charge via USB-C), and they should sound fairly similar to the SoundSport Free, which has a bass-forward sound profile that's tuned more for outdoor environments, where bass tends dissipate when confronted with wind and other external noises. These are sports-oriented headphones that will be fully sweat- and water-resistant (and possibly even waterproof, though you can't use Bluetooth headphones underwater because Bluetooth signals don't transmit through water).

The Earbuds 500 are smaller than the current SoundSport Free (left).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the Earbuds 500 are enabled with Bose AR, the company's audio-augmented reality platform. They'll also have touch controls, a feature the SoundSport Free doesn't have, and access to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. A Bose rep also told me that they'll have stereo audio when you're making calls (the SoundSport Free has mono audio for calls). Apart from that, little else is known, including what their price will be, although hopefully it will be the same as the SoundSport Free ($200).

I didn't get a chance to try on even a prototype of Bose's other upcoming true wireless earphones, Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700, which, as their name implies, feature active noise-canceling and may share some intriguing new features found in their over-ear sibling. They're slated for a 2020 launch.

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Bose SoundSport Free (Black)
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