Shure Aonic Free earphones review: Chunky but crisp-sounding

Shure has been around long enough to be a reliable brand in the world of audio equipment. 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, fantastic sounding whatever you listen to.

They might be a little bulky thanks to a distinctly chunky design, but they rest in your ears well. Solidly built, such well-made design extends to the Shure Aonic Free’s app too which offers plenty of functionality that will delight both audiophiles and regular listeners alike.

There’s no ‘proper’ noise cancellation but sound isolation works pretty well anyhow, and we’ll forgive them for their lack of wireless charging. Paired with some high-resolution audio, and the Shure Aonic Free are delightfully crisp and fantastic to listen to. Even more so given their reasonable price tag.

What you get

The Shure Aonic Free are big. Very big. While many true wireless earbuds are desperate to reduce their size to the point of making you fear they’ll fall out, the Shure Aonic Free are actually reliably chunky. Their charging case is similarly bulky and will require some deep pockets to easily store on your travels.

With such bulk comes confidence though. The charging case makes a satisfying ‘thunk’ noise when you close it thanks to a sturdy hinge that means nothing bad could happen. The earbuds are large but they don’t feel that way in your ears. Instead, 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, with that providing fairly important to making sure sound is suitably isolated. Also included is a USB-C charging cable which is vital given the Shure Aonic Free’s case doesn’t work on a wireless pad.

Image: Amazon

Setting up

Pairing up the Shure Aonic Free with your smartphone or laptop 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.

A single tactile button rests on the top of each earbud that works well, albeit looking a bit dated. There’s no chance of accidentally tapping the wrong button here or using the wrong gesture.

The equalizer is the standout feature here. Too many earphones lack the personal touch and, at best, offer up presets that work well but aren’t quite the same as personalizing your sound. Here, you can choose presets or adjust the frequencies as much or as little as you want. A graph and set of figures ensure it’s always clear what’s going on.

For sound isolation, environment mode is also reasonably comprehensive too. A slider means you can introduce as much or as little surrounding noise as you want – 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.

Charging is completely done via the charging case’ 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.

Shure Aonic Free
Image: Amazon

Comfort

The Shure Aonic Free might be bulky but they feel good in your ears. Fitting them is a matter of twisting them ever so slightly in your ear to get a good fit. By doing so, sound isolation works better too.

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.

As mentioned, there are two chunky buttons up top on 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 can be useful. Effectively, everything is dictated by one to three taps of the button. So much easier than remembering swifts.

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.

Shure Aonic Free
Image: Amazon

Sound quality

The Shure Aonic Free sound superb. That’s before you get into the nitty-gritty of tweaking 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.

Alongside that, the Shure Aonic Free block out surrounding sound fairly well despite not having ANC support. Tweaking the Environment mode bar certainly helps here but we found ourselves suitably hidden from the world with these. They don’t quite beat something like the Sony WF-1000XM4 but then again, they’re at a different price range. Instead, they perform admirably against the likes of the Apple AirPods 3rd generation at keeping you focused on your listening.

Compatibility with aptX, AAC, and SBC via Bluetooth 5.0 codecs ensure audiophiles will be happy with their options too. The earphones default to the best option too depending on the phone you use.

Shure Aonic Free
Image: Amazon

Referencing

We tested the Shure Aonic Free earphones against the Apple AirPods third generation and the Earin A-3. They’re both earphones that are roughly similarly priced yet lack dedicated noise cancellation options.

Starting out with Childish Gambino’s Feels Like Summer, we enjoyed how crisp and fresh the vocals sound. The backing music is keen and lively at all times. Noticeably, we were able to lose ourselves to the track more so than with the other two earphones, thanks to the sound isolation.

Switching over to Disney sensation, Encantowe tried out Surface Pressure. It’s vibrant, loud, and punchy, just the character singing it. Bass isn’t too strong here and the soundstage is suitably wide to ensure you feel part of the experience.

Bringing out an old classic in the form of Under pressure goes similarly well. Its mids are well-balanced so you can hear the lyrics clearly and smoothly. High notes are high without feeling false in nature.

Ending on a bass-heavy note of All My Life by Foo Fighters, the sound is powerful and meaty with a certain painful amount of thump without being so. 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.

Conclusion

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 3rd generation, they sound a touch sharper and clearer. Being able to tweak the equalizer is a huge boon here, giving you plenty of opportunity to get things just how you want them.

We’d have appreciated slightly more battery life, and wireless charging. Also, the case and earbuds are really pretty chunky. They’re bordering on feeling like some kind of retro earbuds, but they don’t sound like it by any means. If you’re after quality over looks, these will delight you.

Shure Aonic Free
Image: Amazon

Key Features

  • Single Dynamic MicroDriver
  • Plastic charging case
  • USB-C charging
  • Frequency range of 21Hz to 17.5kHz
  • Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri support
  • aptX, AAC, and SBC codecs
  • IPX4 water resistance
  • Weight: 13.4g
  • Price $200/£180
  • Contact Shure
  • Buy: Amazon, Sweetwater

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