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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Bose SoundSport In-Ear Headphones review:

A sweat-resistant, earbud-style headphone that's ultracomfortable and stays in your ears

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The Good The Bose SoundSport In-Ear headphones are secure and comfortable as well as sweat-resistant, and their "open" design is appealing. They also offer pleasantly full bass and include an integrated remote and microphone and a nice carrying case.

The Bad They let sound in, so they're not good for noisier environments.

The Bottom Line While the Bose SoundSport In-Ear may not be the best sounding in-ear headphone for the money, the design and comfort level are great, and it's ideal for people who want this sort of headphone style without the need to jam the tips into their ear canals.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Sound 7.0
  • Value 7.0

Over the years, Bose has had a few different variations of its in-ear headphones -- and a few too many model names to choose from -- but now it's condensed the line to include only the "open" ear-bud style SoundSport In-Ear and SoundTrue Ultra , its first noise-isolating in-ear headphone. You can still find the SoundTrue In-Ear and special-edition Freestyle -- essentially the SoundSport with a different paint job -- kicking around at a good discount. But both of those models are on the way out.

With the new changes to the line, we thought it a good time to update our reviews of Bose's in-ear models. All the "open" in-ear models sound the same with the exception of the powered, active noise-canceling QuietComfort 20 , which costs considerably more.

The SoundSport's color options.

Bose

The SoundSport In-Ear is priced at $130 (£115 or AU$180) with an inline remote/microphone and $100 without it. The Apple iOS version with the remote is available in several sporty colors but the Android version has a more limited color selection, as does the less-expensive "audio-only" model. As Bose introduces new colors and tweaks the included accessories, you tend to find the older colors available at a discount online. (Note: The green model in our review is actually an image of the older green model, and it's available for less than the current green model).

Floating 'buds

As with all of Bose's earbud-style headphones, this is the in-ear headphone for people who don't like to have eartips jammed into their ears. The buds are designed to sit loosely in your ears, but they're held in place by Bose's StayHear tips, which feature a soft silicon wing-like design and come in three different sizes.

I really like the fit -- the medium-size Stay-Hear tips worked well with my ears and kept the buds locked in, even when I was running. I think most people will find these earphones very comfortable, but because of their open design, they do let a lot of ambient sound in, so they're not good for noisy environments (The QuietComfort 20 cancels out incoming sound but costs $300).

Bose's original SoundTrue In-Ear has a 45.2-inch (115 cm) cable. It's a medium-length cable that feels long enough without being too long. In contrast, the SoundSport's seemingly durable cable is 42 inches, or about 3 inches shorter. It's designed to be a little shorter because you don't want to have too much cord dangling down when you're doing most forms of athletic activity.

The inline remote.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The SoundTrue In-Ear isn't sweat-resistant but the SoundSport (and FreeStyle) are. Bose says: "The SoundSport in-ear headphones feature a weather- and sweat-resistant design, which provides improved durability and splash-resistance -- but they should not be submerged in water or used for swimming."

In the past, Bose did sport versions of this headphone that came with an armband and a very short cord, plus an extension cable. It wasn't the best option for people who didn't like to use an armband case (it's never great to use an extension cable). This current model keeps things simple with the 42-inch cable. There's no armband accessory anymore, but the SoundSport In-Ear comes with a round neoprene carrying case (plus a carabiner) while the SoundTrue In-Ear and Freestyle ship with a larger, rectangular case.

It's also worth pointing out that inline remote's design is well done, with the tactile buttons easy to operate by feel. Call quality was also good, and this headphone works well as a headset, though the Ultra works even better thanks to its noise-isolating design.

The headphones, like all of Bose's current in-ear headphones, have a straight plug rather than an L-shaped plug that, in theory, should be more sturdy. The straight plug is compact, so it's designed to work with most cell-phone cases.

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