Soundpeats RunFree review: Top open-ear sound for less

 Soundpeats Runfree aoutsde placed on a wooden bench
Soundpeats Runfree aoutsde placed on a wooden bench

Soundpeats RunFree: Specifications

Price: $49 / £49
Type: Open-ear / air conduction
Colors: Black
Battery life (rated): 14 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3
Durability: IPX4
Weight: 1.1 ounces

The Soundpeats RunFree are part of a new wave of wireless, open-ear sports headphones that uses what’s been dubbed ‘air conduction’ as a counter to bone conduction to deliver audio while not entirely blocking out the world around you.

They join more high profile air conduction headphones like the Shokz OpenFit to deliver a bigger, more customizable sound compared to the best bone-conduction headphones.

Soundpeats is also promising to do that from a lighter and more comfortable design that its own RunFree Lite model and comes in cheaper than a lot of other air conduction-style options, making them an option for anyone looking for workout-friendly, open-ear sports headphones.

Soundpeats RunFree review: Price and availability

Soundpeats Runfree worn by reviewer outside
Soundpeats Runfree worn by reviewer outside

The Soundpeats RunFree are available now priced at $49 / £49. They're currently available directly from the Soundpeats website, and are also available to buy for $49 at Amazon. They're available in black only.

That makes them significantly cheaper alternatives to open-ear, air conduction headphones, including main rivals such as the Shokz OpenFit priced at $179 / £179.

Soundpeats RunFree review: Design and comfort

Soundpeats RunFree and RunFree lite side-by-side outdoors on a wooden bench
Soundpeats RunFree and RunFree lite side-by-side outdoors on a wooden bench

While the RunFree doesn’t opt for bone conduction technology, it certainly settles on a look that’s become pretty synonymous with the category. It’s a neckband-style design that does nicely weigh in at just 1.1ounces (31g), so just slightly heavier than a pair of Shokz OpenRun at 0.9 ounces (26g). It’s good to see that it’s swapped the predominantly plastic build used on the RunFree Lite (pictured above with the RunFree) a silicone-based one that feels nicer to touch and makes it feel a little less cheap.

They’re certainly not the prettiest looking headphones, but if you can live without them being so aesthetically pleasing they're a light, comfortable and secure fitting set of headphones during and outside of exercising.

On the right side of the headphones there are three physical buttons. They are quite tightly packed close to one another, which resulted in me hitting the middle power button when I actually wanted to turn the volume up or skip a track. Below that is the USB-C port, which means you’re not reliant on a proprietary charging cable to power it up.

There’s also room for dual microphones to let you take calls and an IPX4 durability rating means that it's protected against sweat and light rain. I’ve used them in both scenarios and seen no connection dropouts or issues with performance overall.

Soundpeats RunFree review: Performance

Soundpeats RunFree held in reviewers hand
Soundpeats RunFree held in reviewers hand

Soundpeats says it uses an air conduction approach to delivering the open ear sound on the RunFree, so it’s not blocking up your ears while using a 16.2mm-sized driver to deliver audio to your ears without blocking them up.

Like bone conduction, air conduction wants to offer you a balance between what you hear in your headphones and around you while offering a fuller, more rewarding sound. And I definitely feel that the RunFree manages to achieve that.

Before getting into sound, connectivity on the whole has been solid across the phones, laptops and watches I’ve paired them up to. You do also have support to pair multiple devices at the same time as well too.

I use a Spotify playlist to hear how these headphones handle a range of different music genres. I also used them for podcasts both spoken and music-based as well. The overriding feeling of the RunFree is that they offer a bright, enjoyable sound with some finesse and a good soundstage here.

While not spotless in all areas, they handle streaming audio and calls very well, even with competing noise like being near busy roads, battling wind or the PA system in a gym.

The good news is that you have preset EQ and custom EQ modes here via the Soundpeats companion app, which is pretty basic in nature and additionally offers volume controls, the ability to view battery status and a game mode to promise lag-free audio for gaming sessions. Having that better control over sound does mean you can get something that should work well for what you’re listening to.

They can go pretty loud. But like bone conduction headphones they leak sound, and it's arguably more noticeable if you’re using them in quiet environments. In louder ones, it’s not so much of an issue and the balance of ambient sound and whatever you're listening to works well on the whole.

Soundpeats RunFree app
Soundpeats RunFree app

Using the Soundpeats classic EQ mode delivers a sound profile that's pretty balanced but doesn’t really excel on any fronts. On tracks like Massive Attack’s "Unfinished Sympathy" or Bronski Beat’s "Smalltown Boy", that bass warmth isn’t massively present and there’s a touch of muddiness there too. Switch to a more suitable profile and there's a more noticeable punch of bass, mids feel smoother and while it doesn’t sparkle in the treble department, it’s by no means lacking there either. Switching to podcasts and audiobooks and there’s good clarity to enjoy too.

Matching the presets to the genres doesn’t necessarily work all the time. David Bowie’s "Heroes" had quite a harsh sound, so you do need to play around with the profile that works best for your tunes. You can’t skip between these EQ modes directly from the headphones, but in general I found the bass boost EQ mode and custom EQ route produced the best results.

If you’re using them to make calls, you definitely need to factor the environment you plan to handle those calls. Voices can sound echoey, and as such they're unlikely to rank among the best headphones with a mic for calls. If you’re planning to rely on them for a lot of work calls and meetings, then this isn’t an area where they excel.

Soundpeats RunFree review: Battery life

Soundpeats RunFree battery level shown in app
Soundpeats RunFree battery level shown in app

The RunFree hosts a 140mAh capacity battery with a quoted battery life of 14 hours, but that’s based on using them at 60% volume. I think you also need to factor in the EQ modes you opt for as bass-heavy modes seem to demand more of the battery too.

For an hour of playback the battery dropped by 7%, so that claimed battery number does seem to be just about on the money based on my testing.

It’s nice to see a more universal charging method here too with Soundpeats using USB-C charging, though based on our experience, you’re not going to need to charge them on a regular basis even if using them every day for an hour or two.

Soundpeats RunFree review: Verdict

The Soundpeats RunFree are a versatile pair of open-ear headphones with a bright sound for a very reasonable asking price. They're light and robust enough for active lifestyles, help you to stay aware of your surroundings, and although they're not great on calls and some mode may eat up battery life at a faster rate than others, it's difficult to level too many criticisms at them at the price.

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