The true wireless earbuds category has been exploding in recent months. We’re not just talking about the sheer number of models available — which now number in the hundreds, if not the thousands — but also what these personal audio products are capable of doing.
Apple, Sony, Jabra, Sennheiser, and Google — just to name the biggest brands — have all released new or updated versions of their true wireless earbuds in the last 10 months, all with improved battery life, sound quality, wireless connectivity, and even active noise cancellation (ANC). However, the one company that hasn’t debuted a new true wireless product since 2018 is Bose, whose SoundSport Free remain its only true wireless offering.
When will Bose finally release something new, and what will it look like when it does? Here’s everything we know about Bose’s next true wireless earbuds.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Speaking of active noise cancellation, isn’t it a bit weird that the company that almost single-handedly created the market for noise-canceling headphones has never made a set of true wireless earbuds with ANC? We think so too. The wait, however, will apparently soon be over as Bose is readying its QuietComfort Earbuds.
If this name is new to you, it’s because it’s new to us too. On September 7, CNET discovered what appears to be a leaked promotional video from Bose, that features these earbuds. Until then, we had been operating under the belief that Bose would call these new, previously unnamed earbuds the Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700, to keep in sync with its excellent Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
It’s now clear that Bose has decided to go back to the QuietComfort brand, the one that established Bose as a leader in the ANC space.
Beyond confirming the name, the promo video confirms several other facts that had been previously leaked. For instance, battery life, which will be six hours between charges, the availability of black or white models, and a significant level of water protection (though no IPX rating is mentioned).
Earlier this year, Josh Quill released a YouTube video of a set of Bose-branded earbuds, which he claimed were the Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700. Amusingly, even though the box he showed says “QuietComfort Earbuds” right on the front, most of us (Quill included) assumed that was a placeholder.
In the video, Quill shows the earbuds, their charging case, a product box that is clearly meant to be a partial mock-up, as well as a charging cable and different sizes of ear fins.
The charging case will apparently offer wireless as well as USB-C charging, and continues several design cues from Bose’s previous earbud products. The case itself is on the bulky side as charging cases go. Bose has never shied away from bulky cases; the one it used for the SoundSport Free is massive. Larger charging cases are also inevitable when dealing with large earbuds that also have earfins, and the Bose design qualifies on both counts.
The lid uses a mechanical latch instead of magnets, an unusual departure from what has become an industry standard.
The text on the back of the box indicates the QuietComfort Earbuds will have a six-hour operational life on a single charge, which can be extended to 18 hours via the charging case which carries 12 hours of battery power. These stats are consistent with the leaked promo video.
Neither stat is very impressive in today’s true wireless market which now includes products like the Sony WF-800SPN, which delivers nine hours of operation with ANC on, and 13 hours with the feature turned off.
Quill never models the earbuds in his ears for us, nor does he offer any guesses on pricing, or an explanation of how he came to be in possession of them.
This possible leak notwithstanding, Bose hasn’t said much about these upcoming ANC true wireless earbuds, but its marketing copy is clearly aimed at getting us excited for them: “You’re looking at a truly wireless in-ear headphone with truly astonishing noise canceling. In fact, this category-defining earbud is being designed to deliver noise canceling that’s comparable to our most powerful banded headphones.”
The timing is equally vague, with “launching later in 2020” as the only reference we’ve got to work with.
Technically speaking, the first true wireless earbuds with Bose noise-canceling tech are already on the market — Amazon’s $130 Echo Buds possess Bose’s ANR system (active noise reduction). When the Echo Buds were announced, Bose was careful to avoid any suggestions that the Echo Buds would be comparable to its own ANC buds: “… they are truly two different products, with two different targets for performance, and as a result, two very different levels of effectiveness,” a Bose spokesperson told The Verge.
How will the QuietComfort Earbuds fare against other top ANC choices like the Master and Dynamic MW07 Plus, Sennheiser Momentum 2, and Sony’s aging but still excellent WF-1000XM3? If Bose’s most recent over-the-ear cans are any indication, they should be superb in every way, even if they don’t turn out to be the very best you can buy.
Given that the QuietComfort Earbuds will be Bose’s flagship true wireless earbuds, you can definitely expect a price that reflects this standing in its lineup. Currently, the company’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 retail for $400. If we apply the same pricing strategy as Sony has used on its headphone/earbud stablemates, the $350 WH-1000XM3 and $230 WF-1000XM3, it seems likely that the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds will hit the market at about $300, which is the same price as Sennheiser’s Momentum 2 ANC earbuds.
Bose Earbuds 500
As good as the Bose SoundSport Free were when they debuted, they’re in desperate need of an update. That update, which Bose says is coming “later” in 2020, is the Earbuds 500. Officially, all Bose is willing to say about the Earbuds 500 is that they will be “smaller and sleeker” than the SoundSport Free, have touch controls, and provide access to your choice of Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
Unofficially, you can bet Bose will be doing a lot more than that. With only five hours of battery life and an additional two top-ups in the charging case for a total of 15 hours, the SoundSport Free are now among the worst performers when it comes to longevity. The best models can now last 11 hours or longer on a charge. Bose may not be looking to break any records, but we suspect the Earbuds 500 will easily compete with the likes of Jabra’s Elite 75t, which offers 7.5 hours, and they should handily exceed Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro, which come in at around 5.5 hours.
The SoundSport Free can withstand a decent amount of sweat with an IPX4 rating, but if the Earbuds 500 are intended to inherit the mantle of “workout-friendly” buds, they must go further. Jabra’s Elite Active 75t, for instance, offer an IP57 rating for excellent protection from both dust and water. How robust will the Earbuds 500 be? We’re guessing at least IP55 or better.
How about the price? Given that the original SoundSport Free debuted at $250 and that Bose has never been shy about commanding a premium price for its products, we think that $200 will be the minimum you can expect Bose to ask for the Earbuds 500. If it sets the price at $250 or higher, it runs the risk of being overpriced compared to Apple’s $250 AirPods Pro and Sony’s $200 WF-SP800N, both of which offer ANC.
When will we see them?
So what exactly does “later in 2020” mean? Our best guess is that since Bose hasn’t launched them yet, a late-fall window is most likely, as Bose will want to take advantage of the holiday buying season. The current pandemic has had a heavy toll on many aspects of the personal audio space. With a lot of folks out of work, people’s ability to afford high-end products has waned. That same scenario has also meant much longer production lead times as companies struggle to get their operations back on track.
The all-important 2020 holiday season may not look like it did in 2019, but it will still be key for Bose and everyone else. A fall launch would mean the QuietComfort Earbuds and Earbuds 500 would still be fresh in everyone’s mind when Black Friday rolls around.
Updated on September 8, 2020: Added details from leaked promotional Bose video for the QuietComfort Earbuds.