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(Pocket-lint) - The march of time in so many sectors of tech has led to smaller products, but there are some noteworthy exceptions to that rule, not least in the form of the huge phones we all lug around in our daily lives. When it comes to wireless earbuds, though, it's generally a safe assumption that smaller earbuds will be at least more comfortable.

Shure has demonstrated that it's happy to ignore that lesson, given the enormous size of the Aonic Free earbuds and accompanying case. However, sometimes bigger can be better, because Shure has nailed the biggest fundamental of all: sound quality.

Our quick take

We haven't felt as conflicted about a pair of earbuds as we do about the Aonic Free in a long time. On the one hand, we are disappointed by their size and the apparent lack of features they bring to the table.

On the flip side they sound phenomenal and the isolation on offer really does beat out a sub-par active noise-cancelling (ANC) system any day of the week. With a good app to accompany, including customisation options, if you're looking for a great-sounding set of earbuds and don't mind the larger scale then Shure's onto a real winner here.

Shure Aonic Free review: Bigger can be better

Shure Aonic Free

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
  • Truly great sound
  • Strong passive isolation
  • Comfortable despite size
  • Good app with customisation
  • Large case
  • Bulky design
  • Middling battery life
  • No active noise-cancelling (ANC)


  • Available in grey or red
  • Control button on each earbud
  • Case measures: 140 x 140 x 54mm

Shure hasn't held back on the Aonic. It's important to acknowledge first and foremost that these are big earbuds with an even bigger case.

Each has a flat outer surface with a canal-shaped bud on the other side, narrowing to a tip where you fit your choice of sleeve.

Pocket-lintShure Aonic Free earbuds review: Bigger can be better photo 2

While the section that goes into your ear is actually pretty small, the outer shell is large, and looks like something halfway between an earbud and an old-school Bluetooth headset from the mid-noughties. Inevitably that large exterior section pokes out of the ears, so it's hardly inconspicuous.

While the Aonic Free appear fairly subtle finished in grey, in red they draw additional attention to their size, which is further compounded when you turn to their case. While the earbuds are on the chunkier end of the earbud spectrum, the case is massive enough to be falling off the scale.

It's not weighty, though, but rather just big in every dimension to the point where it's not much fun to have in your pocket. That's a pretty big issue for earbuds, in our opinion - you'll be yearning for the pocketability of the AirPods Pro's case, for example.

Pocket-lintShure Aonic Free earbuds review: Bigger can be better photo 5

The case itself is made of plastic, just like the earbuds, and charges by USB-C (there's no wireless charging, which is a shame). The whole package is IPX4 water-resistant, enough to make them something you could reliably wear out in the rain without having a worry in the back of your mind.

The beginning of the Aonic Free's redemption arc comes when you actually put them in - they're surprisingly light and comfortable to wear, despite their bulk, with the weight balanced evenly and the earbuds light enough that their size is more of a visual issue than a comfort one.

Sound quality

  • Qualcomm aptX, AAC and SBC codec support
  • No active noise-cancelling (ANC)

The good news for Shure, as it, um, 'surely' knows, is that the Aonic Free aren't just comfortable - they also sound excellent. There's a great sense of balance to their sound, which doesn't overwhelm you with any registers in particular for a really nice listening experience.

Pocket-lintShure Aonic Free earbuds review: Bigger can be better photo 3

We listened through a range of genres and enjoyed how these earbuds presented each, but were particularly pleased with how gentler tracks were handled. The latest Alt-J album, for example, saves its punches for particular moments, and the sonic journey between those points was really subtly reproduced by the Shure in-ears.

The spectrum of codecs that the earbuds can support is fairly wide, too, but one miss at this price point is active noise-cancellation (ANC), which we're increasingly seeing in earbuds that are substantially more affordable than the Aonic Free.

The sound isolation that's offered is still pretty good, especially once you get the right fit, and ANC is far from something you need at all times, but it is handy when travelling.

Pocket-lintShure Aonic Free earbuds review: Bigger can be better photo 7

Still, the reality is that the Aonic Free are great for music, with a clarity and precision that we think is really laudable and, under the right conditions, rivals that of evem more expensive earbuds. Those other rivals, though, typically thrash it on the features side.


  • 7-hour battery life, 14 more from case
  • Comes with Comply foam tips

That isn't to say that the Aonic Free does a terrible job from a features standpoint, but it's a fairly generic offering in this regard. Battery life, probably the most important factor, is a relatively typical seven hours from a single charge.

Pocket-lintShure Aonic Free earbuds review: Bigger can be better photo 6

That massive case holds two more full charges in it, so you can get through 21 hours without needing to plug it into the wall.

Each earbud also has one button on it that you can use to control playback, and you can customise exactly what each does in Shure's very solid companion app. This is welcome, although the position of the button on top of the earbud is a little awkward to reach.

You get full EQ control in Shure's app, something that's always massively welcome for those who like to tinker, and there's also an optional ambient mode to let more sound in - something that's more naturalistic than many other competitors we've tried.

Pocket-lintShure Aonic Free earbuds review: Bigger can be better photo 8

While it's not a feature of the earbuds themselves, we also love that Shure has again included Comply foam tips for the Aonic Free, rather than thin silicone options. These tips make a huge isolation difference and fit more comfortably, and we wish more people knew about how much of a difference they can make.

To recap

These earbuds are pretty chunky, but their sound quality almost entirely makes up for it - we just love listening to music while wearing them.

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Mike Lowe.