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Shure Aonic Free earbuds review: Bulky buds with excellent sound

Slowly but surely, pro audio companies are starting to get serious about consumer-focused products. Shure is perhaps one of the best-known of these companies. While the Shure name was once unknown to those who hadn’t stepped foot into a music studio, these days, Shure builds all kinds of consumer and prosumer products. The latest of these are the new Shure Aonic Free earbuds.

The Shure Aonic Free earbuds may be targeted at consumers, but they’re no AirPods. The headphones are big and heavy, with a focus on audio quality. But does Shure achieve its goal in bringing higher-end headphones to the masses? I’ve been testing them to find out.

Shure Aonic Free earbuds design

Shure is making no apologies for the design of these headphones. They’re big, bulky, and the charging case may not fit in your pocket. The earbuds themselves have a kind of multi-tier design with an arm that extends into your ears, attached to a massive module that brandishes the Shure logo and a button for playback and volume controls.

Shure Aonic Free Design
Shure Aonic Free Design Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

They’re not necessarily ugly, but I don’t love the overall look of the earbuds. It’s clear that they’re built from premium materials, but in a world with the AirPods Pro and the new Beats Fit Pro, the look is a bit…much. Of course, these buds target a slightly different market than those other options, but they’re still pretty big.

The charging case continues the trend of bulk — it’s pretty huge. It’s around 3.5 inches wide, 2 inches tall, and a little over an inch thick. It fits in my pockets, but it can definitely be felt there. The case opens at the top, and has a USB-C port for charging.

Shure Aonic Free In Case
Shure Aonic Free In Case Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

In the box, apart from the headphones and the charging case, you’ll get a few extra pairs of foam tips and a USB-C charging cable. That’s pretty much everything you’ll need here.

Generally, I can tolerate the design of the Aonic Free earbuds, but they’re much bigger than most competitors.

Shure Aonic Free features and battery

Apple has been leading the charge when it comes to earbud features. The Shure Aonic Free earbuds aren’t devoid of features, but they’re not packed either. They work in tandem with the ShurePlus Play app, which is well-designed and offers a number of features that typically aren’t offered by true wireless headphones.

For starters, the headphones have a transparency mode, and through the app, you can select one of 10 transparency increments. It works well, and is easy to use. You also get granular control over the controls, and you can select controls for one, two, or three presses, for each bud. You can even select what the buttons do when you’re in a call, which is super nice.

Through the app, you can choose whether or not you want voice prompts, and even elect the voice you want to give those prompts. And, perhaps most important is the EQ. As you would expect from Shure, you’ll get excellent EQ controls. There are four bands to control, and you can tweak the gain of those bands, the bandwidth, and the frequency. There are presets for those who find EQs a little intimidating.

The battery life on these headphones is pretty good. You’ll get seven hours of use on a charge, and the battery case gives you an extra two charges. In total, you’ll get up to 21 hours. That’s not bad, though not as high as you would expect from buds and a case this big.

Shure Aonic Free comfort

Despite the heft, the Shure Aonic Free earbuds aren’t uncomfortable. On the contrary, they’re actually quite comfortable. Much of that is owed to the fact that they have Comply foam tips, which help them stay firmly in your ears. I was able to wear the earbuds for multiple hours before they started to get uncomfortable.

Shure Aonic Free Comfort
Shure Aonic Free Comfort Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

That said, while they’ll stay in your ears in day-to-day use, they won’t for things like running and working out. The earbuds are still pretty big, and they’ll fall out if you go running with them.

Shure Aonic Free sound quality

The Shure Aonic Free wireless earbuds are imperfect, but the one area they should excel is in audio quality. And, they sound pretty good. These earbuds sound better than the majority of other true wireless earbuds out there, plus they offer EQ features that let you tweak them to your preferences.

The bass response on these headphones is solid. Unlike some others, these headphones don’t aim to boost bass much, but I really like the flatter bass response here. The mids are also relatively flat, with slightly laid-back higher-mids. And, there’s a good amount of detail and clarity in the highs, which is always nice.

Shure Aonic Free Front
Shure Aonic Free Front Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

There’s no noise cancellation here, which is a little frustrating to see on a pair of earbuds in this price range. The earbuds are pretty good at cutting out noise naturally, but if you want active noise cancellation, you’ll need to go for something else.

Conclusions

The Shure Aonic Free earbuds are a slightly strange release, but they definitely fill a hole in the true wireless earbud world. They don’t offer the same smart features that you’ll get from companies like Apple and Sony, and the design is definitely an acquired taste. But they succeed when it matters — with a solid audio quality that can be tweaked to your preferences with the app’s excellent EQ.

They’re a little expensive for those benefits though. In this price range, I would have liked noise cancellation and a sleeker design. But if you’re willing to give up smart features and noise cancellation, and like the idea of having more control over your headphones, these might be the way to go.

The competition

If you want smarter features and noise cancellation, it’s worth going for the Beats Fit Pro earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM4 headphones instead. These are more consumer-focused but are our tip pick for earbuds right now.

If you really like Shure’s approach, I prefer the Shure Aonic 215 Gen 2 earbuds, which offer the same controls in the app, with a slightly sleeker design.

Should I buy the Shure Aonic Free earbuds?

Yes, but only if you want Shure’s customization and don’t want to get the Shure Aonic 215 Gen 2 earbuds.

Christian de Looper has been passionate about consumer technology since childhood, but didn’t know writing about it could be a career until he started looking for online work during college. He was born in Canberra, Australia, and has lived in France, Minnesota, and now sunny Santa Cruz, California, where he test drives cars and puts every gadget he can get his hands on to the test.




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