I have reviewed quite a few wireless earphones this year, and most of them have been in the budget end of the market. This week I have been reviewing the new Bose SoundSport Pulse earphones which cost a hefty £169.00 making them one of the most expensive wireless earphones on the market.
These are not just your typical sports headphones, though, apart from the Bose name and quality, the SoundSport Pulse include a heart rate monitor, using a small sensor on the left earbud. Bose claim the accuracy of this sensor is comparable to a chest strap, which should make it more accurate than wrist-based measurements.
Design and Build
The first thing I noticed about the earphones was the size of the actual earpieces, they are rather large. Unlike some of the other brands I have reviewed recently, Bose keeps all the electronics and battery in the earphones themselves, rather than a weighty unit on the cable somewhere.
When you put them on, they are not nearly as uncomfortable as you would expect, they don’t feel weighty nor do they feel like they will fall out of your ears. I tried both medium and large and they both felt secure. Unfortunately, they do protrude a lot and look a bit silly. A bit like you are walking around with a Bluetooth headset.
Bose use something called StayHear®+ Pulse tips to help keep the earphones in place, which is basically just a normal tip, with a rounded sort of hook that is supposed to go in the concha part of your ear, and sort of anchor them in place. If that makes sense. It does seem to work, though, I run, cycle, and go to the gym a lot, and I never had the earphones slip out once. This is normally a big problem for me and I sweat a lot during exercise, so when I do, the problem just gets worse.
Pairing the earphones with your phone is just the same as every other Bluetooth device, you just hold the button located on the right ear and wait for the voice queues. When paired, the earphones will tell you what device they are connected to, and the battery left. A neat little feature.
When I first paired the earphones, I had some skipping issues, but this seemed to go away after a few minutes and since then the connection has been 100% reliable. I generally keep my phone close to me when wearing them, but once I did go upstairs without it and the connection remained reliable, which I was very impressed about.
During use, you can control basic functions via a small control module located quite close to the right ear. It takes some time getting used to the location of this, but the benefit of it is that you don’t have an annoying lump bouncing around on your neck while running.
The most important thing about earphones is the sound quality, and you will be glad to know that these are hands down the best wireless earphones I have ever reviewed in terms of sound. In fact, they are probably the best earphones I have reviewed, but they are also significantly more expensive than any other I have reviewed. You get a luscious deep base, but not excessively so, while mids are well balanced and there are no harsh highs. The deep base means these are far from reference quality, but this is the general trend for earphones, and for me, in the gym, that is just what I want too.
Heart Rate Monitoring
When it comes down to the heart rate monitoring, things are not quite as great. The first time I tried to use it at the gym it just wouldn’t connect to Endomodo, even though I had previously gotten the Bose Connect app reading my heart rate. The second time I walked to town and thought I would try again. It connected straight away but after 2 miles of walking it had my average heart rate as 165. I am certainly not that unfit and my normal walking heart rate is 90-110. Subsequently uses, I had more look, but it was a little temperamental. I found I had to get the connection and make sure my heart rate looked about right then I can start. Adjusting the earphone in any way during exercise could/would lead to erroneous readings. My last session in the gym it was working great, and adjusted the earphone a little and the last 10 minutes it had my heart rate as high as 205.
This all sounds pretty bad for the HRM function, but in my experience, all HRMs suffer from connectivity issues. Both my Fitbit and Wahoo chest strap throw out bad readings. The Fitbit seems to cleverly ignore these, and the Wahoo goes through phases of being really reliable, or completely useless.
So, to summarise the HRM function. It’s a nice addition, I would say it is certainly no more accurate than a chest strap, but it is a lot more convenient, and if you get a good connection, don’t mess around with the fit, I would say it is more accurate than a wrist-based monitor.
The HRM feature adds £30 to the earphones which is actually quite cheap in comparison to buying earphones and a Bluetooth chest strap separately. Both Polar and Wahoo Bluetooth chest straps are around £40 so you are saving £10 and have a nice convenient all in one package.
Lastly, the earphones have up to 5 hours of battery life. I found this was probably accurate, and they lasted much longer than cheaper alternatives.
Overall, I loved the SoundSport Pulse earphones they offer amazing sound quality, are comfortable to use and the HRM is a great feature for gym enthusiasts even if it is a little temperamental. The major, and obvious downside is the price. £169 is a serious amount of cash to spend on earphones, and if you are anything like me they get broken or lost far too easy for me to justify spending that kind of cash.
If you are less careless than me and you don’t mind spending a decent amount of money on quality sports earphones, then these are a great choice. Whether you think the additional £30 is worth it for the HRM version will be completely up to you, but if I were buying them, I would probably spend the extra.
Runner Click has some great wireless headphones reviews and you can see more here