It’s taken long enough, but the Bose Earbuds 500 may officially be coming to market. Originally present during last year’s press briefing for the Bose 700, the Earbuds 500 was shown to select media, including Tom’s Guide, though very little info was shared at the time. Along with the newly leaked Bose Earbuds 700, Bose seems poised to dominate the true wireless space with its two latest creations.
What do we know about the Bose Earbuds 500 so far? Based on recent reports, expert insight, and our brief hands-on time with the product, plenty. We might have another viable candidate for our best wireless earbuds and best sport headphones lists – when these earbuds finally launch. But while we wait for an official announcement, let us put you on to everything we know about the Bose Earbuds 500.
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Bose Earbuds 500 release date
The Earbuds 500 was originally slated for a late 2019 release, per Bose. That didn’t happen. In fact, there have been zero sightings of the product since the Bose 700 briefing. Fast-forward one year later, Bose’s website now states that both the Earbuds 500 and 700 will be “launching sometime in 2020.”
We’re already more than halfway through the year, and our guess is the Earbuds 700 will be released first, with the Earbuds 500 following shortly after. When exactly is yet to be determined.
But we can’t discuss release dates without bringing up Bose’s reported financial struggles (including the closure of 119 retail stores globally), along with the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has created production troubles for manufacturers worldwide. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the Earbuds 500 delayed again until Q2/Q3 2021.
Bose Earbuds 500 price
Bose products don’t come cheap, and while there’s no news on the Earbuds 500’s MSRP, we can take a pretty good guess as to what it might be.
The Earbuds 700 will probably launch for $300, which is a price point right in between the Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Headphones ($400) and the SoundSport Free ($200), a model the Earbuds 500 will soon replace. Since it takes a while for older Bose products to receive generous markdowns, it’s in the company’s best interest to give the Earbuds 500 a competitive price tag. Our suggestion: $200. Otherwise, expect the SoundSport Free to remain $200 and the Earbuds 500 to be listed somewhere between $230 and $250.
Bose Earbuds 500 design
If what we saw last year is any indication, then the Earbuds 500 will be a notable upgrade from the SoundSport Free. The only standout detail that both models share is the protruding shape, which makes either set of buds stick out, though the Earbuds 500 design is lighter and less bulky.
Where the SoundSport Free went for a composite plastic build that showcases unique colorways on the front and had rubberized casing that houses physical buttons, the Earbuds 500 seems to go a more minimalistic route. You’ll notice the front is bare, with just the Bose logo highlighted on a standard plastic surface. Personally, I find this design less striking than its predecessor, though it’s possible we looked at a prototype model, not the finished product.
Judging by our pictures and what Bose has shown online, the Earbuds 500 will not have physical buttons. That means the buds will feature intuitive touch controls that use swipes or taps to manage playback and call management, something Bose confirmed with media during the briefing. Another detail that seems like a sure thing is the color options: Black, Blue, and Off-White.
A recent unboxing video of the Earbuds 700 uploaded by YouTuber Josh Quill may offer some additional insight on what the Earbuds 500 will offer. The video shows the Earbuds 700 with tips that extend backwards and mold into the user’s ears for enhanced stability and fit. Quill also notes that two alternative gel tips come bundled. The Earbuds 500 looks identical to its noise-cancelling brethren, only instead of an LED light right next to the logo, the Earbuds 500 has six holes that indicate microphone placement. The Earbuds 700’s box indicates the model has sweat and water resistance too, which seems ideal for the sports-centric Earbuds 500. No IPX certification was shown, but we’re confident it’ll be higher than the SoundSport Free’s IPX4 rating.
For the charging case, the Earbuds 500 looks no different than the Earbuds 700. You can expect a pill-shaped design composed entirely of plastic. A Bluetooth pairing button sits in the middle and there are charging slots on each side to dock the buds. Both cases are also lighter and smaller than the SoundSport Free’s case, and there is a row of five white LEDs along the bottom side to indicate battery levels. The only thing we’ve seen that distinguishes the two cases is the Earbuds 500 can be docked horizontally, the Earbuds 700 vertically.
Bose Earbuds 500 performance and special features
The Earbuds 500 models at the Bose 700 briefing were not working samples, so sadly we did not have the opportunity to test for audio quality. However, CNET’s David Carnoy did snag some details, stating that a Bose rep mentioned the buds would have stereo sound when making calls, meaning users will be able to hear conversations on both earbuds. The SoundSport Free only does mono. That’s really all anyone knows right now.
Seeing how the brand’s previous earbuds releases have a bass-forward profile, it’s a given that the Earbuds 500 receives the same treatment. Our impressions on the SoundSport Free’s audio performance were mostly positive, praising the buds for its “a full range of sound” and being “great for listeners who want accentuated bass at a slightly high volume, along with well-balanced mids and highs.” Note that these are 2017 earbuds we’re talking about, so the expectancy rate for Bose to tweak its signature for the better is incredibly high.
Carnoy also said the Earbuds 500 would support the company’s audio AR platform, Bose AR. That would have been cool. We say “would have” because Bose pulled the plug on the project this past June. Here’s what one spokesperson said, as reported by Protocol:
“Bose AR didn’t become what we envisioned…It’s not the first time our technology couldn’t be commercialized the way we planned, but components of it will be used to help Bose owners in a different way.”
Active noise cancellation will be reserved for the pricier Earbuds 700, but since the Earbuds 500 is billed as a sports model, a transparency mode is not out of the realm of possibility. It makes total sense because most category options already offer the feature to provide better environmental awareness during outdoor exercises. Not to mention Quill’s video shows the Earbuds 700 box listing the feature, too.
Bose Earbuds 500 battery life and charging case
Another area of uncertainty is overall playtime. Carnoy predicted the Earbuds 500 would carry 5 hours, but with powerhouses like the Jabra Elite Active 75t (7.5 hours) and Powerbeats Pro (9 hours) generating longer playtimes on a single charge, we’re anticipating a higher number. He also confirmed the buds would have USB-C charging. Quick charging is a guarantee, and we predict the Earbuds 500 will have a similar recharge time to the SoundSport Free: a 15-minute charge equals 45 minutes of use.
The battery life shown on the leaked Earbuds 700’s packaging shows 6 hours, with the charging holding an additional 12 hours. It’s common for noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds to have less battery life than models without ANC, therefore, the Earbuds 500 will perhaps carry longer listening times. Our guess is 6 to 8 hours on a full battery, while the charging case holds about 15 to 18 hours. Add wireless charging into the mix as well, another feature that shows up on the Earbuds 700’s box.
Bose Earbuds 500 vs. Bose Earbuds 700
As we mentioned in our Bose Earbuds 700 roundup, you can look at these two Bose models the same way you would the AirPods Pro and regular AirPods.
The Earbuds 700 is set to have a stronger spec sheet and may include special features accessible through the Bose Connect app. An update is in the works that will add some cool upgrades, including an adjustable EQ and improved connectivity. It’s unknown whether the Earbuds 500 will have app compatibility, but we’re pretty sure a transparency mode will be programmed into the buds.
Other than that, expect these two models to share similar levels of comfort, stability, and sound quality for music and calls, along with intelligible controls and digital assistant support for the big three: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.
Bose Earbuds 500 outlook
Going by what we’ve seen and heard thus far, the Bose Earbuds 500 is a likely candidate for best sport earbuds upon release. The promise of an improved ergonomic fit, better battery life than the AirPods Pro, and modern features (e.g. wireless charging, Transparency Mode) show that Bose is ready to give consumers the true wireless experience they’ve been anticipating for nearly three years.
At the same time, we have our reservations when it comes to extended features and pricing. The lack of noise cancellation, which is something that will probably be exclusive to the Earbuds 700, won’t be a deal-breaker for fans of the brand. However, Sony has already released two sporty ANC wireless earbuds — the WF-SP800N and WF-SP700N — and at modest price points. So, if Bose expects to gain some ground in the true wireless space and overthrow category leaders like Apple/Beats and Jabra, they’ll need to either undercut their competitors’ pricing or offer a grand listening experience that’s worth the rumored high price tag.