Rich Warren | You can't go wrong with SoundsportFree earbuds

Rich Warren | You can't go wrong with SoundsportFree earbuds

Unchain yourself. Headphones once anchored you to your devices. More headphones probably died from damaged or broken cords than any other cause. The headphone cord, like a snake, seems to possess a life of its own. If it can tangle or snag, it will.

About 30 years ago, full-size headphones cut the cord, using primitive radio transmission or infrared. These tended toward very limited range and fidelity. Most people used them to watch TV.

A few years ago, a new generation of wireless, full-size headphones arrived, connecting to your phone or audio source via Bluetooth, a radio standard for two-way communications between devices. Bluetooth delivers stereo high fidelity sound, and while designed for limited coverage, generally works up to 50 feet from the source.

Apple rocked the world 18 months ago with its Bluetooth AirPods. They were so small, the main complaint against them involved how easily they could be lost. They also don't necessarily stay in the ear, and their fidelity is acceptable, but not outstanding.

Bose rectified these issues with the Soundsport Free. These are small, but not too small. They sound very big with full fidelity and prominent bass. You can choose between black or blue.

As typical from Bose, they arrive in a very classy, useful package. The Soundsport Free earbuds nestle in a small, rounded hard plastic case about the size of a kitchen spice jar. It easily fits in a shirt or pants pocket.

The light earbuds fit in your ears with soft, highly flexible, rubber-like tips that include a crescent moon-shaped extrusion to hold them in your ears. Bose provides three different sizes of these tips that should fit nearly all ears. They comfortably fit my hard-to-fit ears, even staying in place while I'm in motion.

The earbuds contain tiny buttons for controlling, power and volume, along with stopping and starting the audio, as well as skipping back and forward. You also can answer phone calls, and with the built-in mic, conduct a telephone conversation.

Unlike some wireless headphones, activating functions require actually touching the buttons, rather than using head motion or swipes. So you never accidentally trigger an unintended command.

You can set a built-in timer to determine when the phones turn off automatically after they detect silence.

It takes some practice and patience to become familiar and comfortable with the tiny controls, which are mostly on the right earbud. Once you get the hang of it, they seem to function like magic.

These Soundsport Free earbuds easily pair with your phone or other Bluetooth source. A built-in voice guides you through the process along with a free downloadable app. That same voice also states the battery level each time you turn on the earbuds.

My only complaint is that Bose uses a synthesized voice on all of its wireless products that sounds like a petulant teenage girl.

In my experience, the battery life matched Bose's claim of about five hours. When you put the earbuds to rest in the case, internal LED lights show when they are seated properly for charging. When you plug the case into a USB power source using the supplied cable, a row of five external LEDs shows charge level and full charge.

Although Bose achieved fame with its noise cancelling headphones, the Soundsport Free do not actively cancel noise. They do, however, passively block a degree of external noise. You may not want to use them when jogging or cycling on very windy days because they stick out from your ears increasing the passing wind noise.

PC magazine designated these phones as an "Editors' Choice," and CNET noted they offer "richer sound than Apple's AirPods and a more secure fit." I add that it's easy to fall in love with these wireless earbuds. Bose advertises the Soundsport Free for $199.95. That's a small price to pay for total wireless freedom.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

Topics (2):Music, Technology