Updated Jun 27, 2019

Powerbeats Pro vs. Bose SoundSport Free: For Workouts or Casual?

Cam Secore

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After months of testing, I determined Powerbeats Pro has a slight edge over Bose SoundSport Free because they offer better software stability, noise isolation, and battery life. But Bose SoundSport Free offers more bass and a more comfortable fit for prolonged wear.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing these two true wireless earbuds (Powerbeats Pro vs. Bose SoundSport Free) while evaluating six categories: sound, software, fit, design, battery, and exercise compatibility.

powerbeats pro

Powerbeats Pro

8
  • Sound: The sound isolation is strong and audio is crisp, but there's less bass compared to Bose SoundSport Free.
  • Software: iOS users get easy pairing, handless “Hey Siri," and ear detection. Android users get regular Bluetooth.
  • Fit: They’ll fit any ear and are great for working out, but ear fatigue sets in during stationary wear.
  • Design: They fit flush to the ears and have great playback buttons.
  • Battery: You get nine hours of playback, plus 15 more with the case. A five-minute charge provides 90 minutes of playback.
  • Exercise: They’ll stay in place and the playback buttons are easy to use.

Best for you if...

You want the best wireless headphones for an active lifestyle. Powerbeats Pro give you twice the battery life and better noise isolation compared to Bose. And if you’re an iPhone user, the excellent software features make these the clear choice.

bose soundsport free

Bose SoundSport Free

8
  • Sound: The audio has excellent depth and bass, but you can hear outside noise, especially wind.
  • Software: They don’t cut out often, but you’re stuck with most of Bluetooth’s flaws, like inconsistent connection.
  • Fit: They’re more comfortable while inactive and will fit any ear, but your ears still get tired if you wear them for long periods.
  • Design: They’re bulky and can catch on things and the buttons are difficult to press.
  • Battery: You get five hours of playback and an additional 10 with the case. A five-minute charge provides 15 minutes of playback.
  • Exercise: They don’t fall or cut out, but can potentially get caught and allow air in.

Best for you if...

You want extra bass or more comfort for everyday use. Bose SoundSport Free headphones look awkward and have more noise infiltration than is ideal, but they sound slightly better and their silicone tips make them more comfortable.

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I’ve been obsessed with gadgets since I was eight years old. I buy each device reviewed with MY money and don’t have insider access. I’m just like you, the everyman.

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Powerbeats Pro

8

Sound (B+):

  • Powerbeats Pro and Bose SoundSport Free deliver top-of-the-line consumer-level true wireless sound in the $200 price range. Picking the best sound quality between the two comes down to personal preference.
  • Previously, Beats was known for overdoing the bass, which sounds thumpy and overpowering, but Powerbeats Pro are not like Powerbeats 3 because Apple completely re-engineered them.
  • The overall sound of Powerbeats Pro is just as clear Bose.
  • Powerbeats Pro aren’t noise-canceling, but they’re better than Bose in this respect, with more outside noise isolation.
  • It feels like Beats overcompensated by removing too much bass. There’s more bass than AirPods and others on the market. But Bose has even more.

Software (A+):

  • Powerbeats Pro have the same H1 Chip as AirPods. The H1 Chip alleviates the Bluetooth issues while providing a smoother software experience. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch you’ll get all of the benefits of the chip. Powerbeats Pro work with Android devices, but they’ll just function as regular Bluetooth headphones. Here’s what the H1 Chip does.
    • To set up Powerbeats, you open the case and a message automatically appears on your iPhone and you tap “connect.” You never go into the Bluetooth settings to pair or unpair.
    • It uses iCloud to automatically switch between devices. You don’t have to go to the settings menu to pair.
    • There’s automatic ear detection that stops the music when you pull them out, then resumes playing when back in your ear.
    • There isn’t a “master” bud like other Bluetooth options because both buds talk to the phone. You can make phone calls and have both buds play the audio or choose to listen to music with just one bud at a time.
    • You can ask Siri to do anything you would on your phone, hands-free, by saying “Hey Siri.”
    • You’re presented with a screen that shows the battery percentage of the earbuds and charging case when you open the charging case.
  • Unlike Bose, there isn’t an app to make customizations. The only thing you can do is turn off automatic ear detection in the iOS settings, but I’m not sure why you’d want to do that.
  • If you use the “Find My” app you can play a sound through the headphones when you can’t find them.

Fit & Comfort (C+):

  • Powerbeats Pro come with four ear tips (the part that goes in your ear), but the tips are made of a harder rubber than Bose’s. It provides more sound isolation, but less comfort.
  • They also have hooks that wrap around the outside of your ear.
  • They should fit any ear and the hooks are the failsafe to keep them in place. They’re not going anywhere.
  • While they’ll feel great for working out, the hard tips put more pressure inside the ears and the hooks add irritation as well. Your ears are going to get tired if you wear them for more than an hour while staying still.
  • Another thing to consider is that if you wear glasses, the hooks may get in the way. But you should be able to slide them over the top.

Design (B):

  • Earbuds:
    • The headphones have a better build quality than previous Beats products.
    • They weigh about the same as Bose.
    • They sit flush to your ears, providing a more subtle appearance compared to Bose.
    • My favorite part about Powerbeats Pro: they have tactile playback buttons that are easy to press and they’re identical on the left and right. You get volume up and down song skipping with a double tap of the Beats button.
    • Don’t forget that music pauses and resumes based on having the earphones in your ears.
  • Case:
    • The case is huge (7.8 cubic inches) and weighs 0.29 pounds.
    • The case is a similar height, weight, and volume as Bose’s, but it’s square shaped.
    • It charges with a Lightning cable, which is the same as iPhone’s. This is a huge bonus for Apple users because it means there’s one less cord you’ll need to bring with you.

Battery (A+):

  • You get nine hours of playback on a single charge. If you’re running marathons or doing anything else for several hours that requires music, Powerbeats Pro are your best bet of any true wireless headphones.
  • The case gives you 15 hours of juice.
  • AirPods have quick charging, but Powerbeats Pro take it to the next level with “Fast Fuel,” which gives you 90 minutes of playback with a five-minute charge.

Exercise (A+):

  • Like Bose, they are weather and sweat resistant with an IPX4 rating.
  • These are the ultimate workout headphones. They won’t fall out and even if they get jarred, the hooks will keep them on your ears.
  • The easy-to-press buttons are perfect for switching songs and adjusting volume while active.
  • Quick moving exercises, like biking, won’t be affected by the wind because there’s more sound isolation and the wind gets blocked better.

SoundSport Free

8

Sound (A):

  • Bose SoundSport Free headphones are the best-sounding true wireless headphones I’ve tried.
  • The sound is crisp and clear. It also has a level of depth and bass that’s unparalleled.
  • The bass packs a heavier punch than Powerbeats Pro. For me, it’s the perfect amount. It’s very present, but not overpowering.
  • There’s no noise isolation by design, which is fine while you’re stationary, but it becomes irritating when you’re moving quickly because the air gets easily into your ear and distorts the sound. They’re hard to use on windy days.
  • There isn’t an EQ inside the app. Apple’s known for not letting users customize anything but this was an opportunity for Bose to differentiate itself.

Software (C+):

  • Bose is stuck using pure Bluetooth because they don’t make phones. Bluetooth has substantially improved over the years, but there are still issues all devices face:
    • Headphones and speakers randomly don’t connect to your phone after a period of working perfectly, requiring you to “forget the device” and repair.
    • Headphones and speakers connect when they’re not supposed to during phone calls.
    • Switching devices can be challenging.
    • Multiple headphones fight for a simultaneous connection.
  • Powerbeats Pro provide a substantially smoother software experience with their H1 Chip, but Bose does the best it can with Bluetooth’s limitations and performs better than 90% of true wireless headphone manufacturers.
  • In the Bose App, you can manage Bluetooth connections, letting you remove devices you’re no longer using to eliminate false connections. Then, with the left bud, you can tap the button to cycle through your previously connected devices to change audio sources. However, I’m still in my phone’s Bluetooth settings more than I’d like.
  • To connect them to your phone, you need to hold down the Bluetooth button on the left bud and go into your phone’s Bluetooth settings to pair.
  • You can change the standby timer, making the buds go to sleep when they’re inactive.
  • There’s a “Find My Buds” feature in the app that plays a sound if you’ve misplaced them.
  • Unlike Powerbeats Pro, where both buds connect to the phone, Bose’s right bud is the “master” while the left gets a signal that’s relayed from the right. You’re more prone to cutouts between the buds and phone calls only work with the right bud.
  • There’s an accelerometer that can tell if they’re stationary. If they are, they’ll go on standby mode to preserve battery.

Fit & Comfort (B-):

  • You get three sizes of soft silicone tips that fit on the buds. Everyone should be able to find a nice fit. They’re more comfortable than Powerbeats Pro.
  • They naturally provide a tight seal without as much pressure as Powerbeats Pro.
  • There aren’t any hooks, so you’ll lose some stability, but they’re more comfortable without them.
  • When surveying my friends, most of them chose Bose’s fit for comfort.
  • While Bose is more comfortable, I’m still maxed at an hour or so before they become intolerable.

Design (C-):

  • Earbuds:
    • The build quality is great.
    • They weigh 0.04 pounds.
    • They look awkward because they protrude from your ears much further than typical earbuds. You may have issues if you plan to use them while wearing a helmet.
    • The right bud has two volume buttons and a multi-function button that’s used to play/pause/skip based on the number of presses.
    • The buttons are hard to press, especially while you’re moving. Sometimes you’ll tug them out of your ears trying to press the buttons.
  • Case:
    • The case is well made and has five battery life indicators on it.
    • The case is 6.9 cubic inches and weighs 0.22 pounds.
    • It charges with a micro-USB cable.

Battery (C):

  •  You five hours of playback on a single charge.
  • You get an additional 10 hours of battery from the case, but I found the charging case tends to lose battery quicker while in standby compared to Beats’ case.
  • A five-minute charge gives you 15 minutes of playback, which is slower compared to similar products.

Exercise (B-):

  • They are weather and sweat resistant with an IPX4 rating.
  • They’ll stay put during an intense workout. But because they stick out so much, they’re more likely to catch on things.
  • I prefer Powerbeats Pro for biking because Bose doesn’t block wind well.  
  • SoundSport Free headphones are great for running unless it’s a windy day.
 

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