Shure Aonic Free earphones review: Chunky but crisp-sounding
Sounding great even if they don’t look so good, these are a fine entry by Shure.
⊕ Good sound isolation
⊕ Well designed app
⊖ No ANC
⊖ Bit bulky to wear
Shure has been around long enough to be known a reliable brand in audio. Yet, somehow, the Shure Aonic Free earphones are its first pair of true wireless earbuds. While it’s taken a while for the firm to get this far, it was worth the wait. The Shure Aonic Free are a delight to use, sounding fantastic whatever you listen to.
They sport a chunky design, but they rest in your ears well. Solidly built, such well-made design extends to the Shure Aonic Free’s app that offers plenty of functionality that will delight both audiophiles and regular listeners alike. The sound isolation works well and, when fed some high-resolution audio, the Shure Aonic Free are delightfully crisp and fantastic to listen to. Even more so given their reasonable price tag.
The Shure Aonic Free are big. Very big. But they don’t feel that way in your ears – they twist in and sit comfortably, with the main bulk of the earbuds sticking out, kind of like an old-school Bluetooth headset.
Different silicone tips are included to find the right fit, which is important to ensuring sound is suitably isolated. There’s sure to be some sound leakage as we found, but it’s relatively minimal given these are in-ear headphones rather than over-ear ones which tend to be better at blocking out surrounding noises.
The charging case will require some deep pockets to carry around, and it makes a satisfying ‘thunk’ noise when you close it, thanks to a sturdy hinge that feels built to last. Also included in the box is a USB-C charging cable which is vital, given the Shure Aonic Free’s case doesn’t work on a wireless pad.
Pairing the Shure Aonic Free with your device is simple. Take them out of the case for the first time and they automatically go into pairing mode. Seconds later, you’re ready to listen.
It’s worth setting up the Shure app too. From there, you can adjust the earphones’ Environment mode, which isolates sound accordingly, changing what the buttons on the earphones do, and adjusting the equalizer.
The equalizer is the standout feature here. Too many earphones lack the personal touch and, at best, offer up presets that aren’t quite the same as personalising your sound. Here, you can choose presets or adjust the frequencies as much or as little as you want.
For sound isolation, Environment mode is also reasonably comprehensive too. A slider allows you to introduce your desired amount of surrounding noise – ideal if you need to listen out for what’s going on around you at a low volume. It might not be as effective as true ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) but it’s a reliable compromise. It doesn’t quite beat the Sony WF-1000XM4s but they perform admirably against the likes of Apple AirPods 3 at keeping you focused on your listening.
Charging is solely done via the charging case’s USB-C cable. Shure promises up to seven hours on one charge. We found it a little lower than that in real-world testing. Tweaking sound isolation and volume is sure to make a difference here. Expect up to 21 hours in total once you combine charges with the charging case.
There are two buttons atop each earbud. They might not feel as futuristic as gesture-based controls but they’re miles easier to use. The app means you can change them between playback features, turning Environment mode on or off, or skipping between tracks. There’s also voice assistant support, which is useful. Effectively, everything is dictated by one to three taps of the button – so much easier than remembering swipes.
When you’re running or active in any way, being able to touch a ‘proper’ button is a huge help.
Bear in mind, the Shure Aonic Free are only IPX4 rated against moisture. They’ll handle sweat or a wet walk, but we don’t recommend taking them anywhere near the pool or shower.
The Shure Aonic Free sound superb – and that’s before you tweak the equalizer. Crisp and well balanced, they offer a large soundstage that means you can lose yourself in the music. The bass is a little loud at first but you can spot some finer nuances you may not have heard with cheaper earbuds – just what you want at this price point. Compatibility with aptX, AAC, and SBC via Bluetooth 5.0 codecs ensure up to 352kbps listening.
We tested the Shure Aonic Free earphones against the Apple AirPods 3 and the Earin A-3. Both earphones are similarly priced to Shure’s offering but lack dedicated noise cancellation options.
Starting out with Childish Gambino’s Feels Like Summer, we enjoyed how pristine and fresh the vocals sound. The backing music is keen and lively at all times. We were able to immerse ourselves in the track more so than with the other two earphones, thanks to the sound isolation.
Switching over to Disney sensation, Encanto, we tried out Surface Pressure. It’s vibrant, loud, and punchy, just like the character singing it. The bass isn’t too strong here and the soundstage is suitably wide to ensure you feel part of the experience.
Ending on a bass-heavy note of All My Life by Foo Fighters, the sound is powerful and bold with a certain amount of thump. There’s no distortion, either, even when we whack up the volume to potentially dangerous levels. In a word, the Shure Aonic Free are always fun.
The Shure Aonic Free provide you with a fresh pair of ears to enjoy music, without being prohibitively expensive. Similarly priced to the Apple AirPods 3, they sound a touch sharper and clearer. Being able to tweak the equalizer is a huge boon here, giving you plenty of options for sound customisation.
We’d have appreciated slightly more battery life and wireless charging. Also, the case and earbuds really are large. If you’re after quality over looks, these will delight you.
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