Shure AONIC Free review

Big and clever

the shure aonic free true wireless earbuds
(Image: © TechRadar)

TechRadar Verdict

Ignore the mild-but-undeniable shortcomings and pound-for-pound, these are among the best true wireless in-ears around.


  • +

    Exemplary sound quality

  • +

    Foolproof interface with impressive control app

  • +

    Comfortable fit


  • -

    Limited battery life

  • -

    Big ‘buds, big case

  • -

    No active noise cancellation

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One-minute review

The Shure AONIC Free earbuds lack certain features you would probably expect when spending just under $200 / £200 / AU$300 for a pair of true wireless earbuds. These buds don’t provide active noise-cancelling, for example, or sufficient battery life to last a long-haul flight.

Additionally, the AONIC Free come with unexpected features that aren’t particularly desirable; a bulky design, for instance.

Despite all this, the Shure AONIC Free are worth considering, even with rivals like the Sony WF-1000XM4 to contend with. When you consider the superb sound quality, the easy-to-use control app, and the comfortable fit,  few comparable competitors can lay a glove on them. 

Shure’s AONIC Free earbuds are particularly impressive when compared with Apple’s AirPods Pro, which are priced similarly; the AONIC sound better, and are considerably cheaper. 

the shure aonic free true wireless earbuds in their charging case

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Shure AONIC Free price and release date

  • Available now
  • $199 / £179 / AU$299

The Shure AONIC Free are on sale now, and in the United Kingdom they’re priced at £179. In the United States, they’ll set you back $199, while in Australia you’ll be handing over about AU$299.

If you’re willing to buy earbuds within this price bracket, there are several AONIC Free competitors with more impressive on-paper specifications. Apple’s AirPods Pro are the most high-profile alternatives, but there are also far more worthwhile and credible contenders from the likes of Sony, Sennheiser, and Bang & Olufsen, among others.

the shure aonic free charging case

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design and features

  • Big, yet somehow still comfortable 
  • Simple interface and app options 
  • No active noise cancellation

The Shure AONIC Free are big, pill-shaped earbuds, kind of like those Bluetooth headphone sets from the mid-noughties. We’re sure that the size alone will deter some people interested in a good set of earphones, which is a pity.

Because, despite the size - and weight - the AONIC Free are easy to position comfortably, and they’ll stay comfortable for hours on end thanks to their ergonomic shape and selection of Comply foam eartips

Connectivity is via Bluetooth 5, with SBC, AAC and aptX codecs: this will allow you to get the most out of your top-tier music streaming service subscription. There’s a single, full-range dynamic driver in each earbud, the size and composition of which seems to be a secret. No matter how big they are, or what material they’re made of, these drivers are thoroughly effective, as we shall discuss a little later.

As far as controls go, there are no touch controls on the surfaces of these earbuds. Instead, there’s a single, physical push/push button on the top edge of each earbud, and these buttons allow you to ‘play/pause’, turn ‘volume up/down’, switch ‘environment mode on/off’, activate ‘wake voice assistant’, ‘answer/end/reject call’, and ‘mute mic’. 

the shure aonic free app

(Image credit: TechRadar)

‘Environment mode’ is similar to the ‘ambient aware’ feature you’ll find on many true wireless in-ears Shure’s AONIC incorporate a couple of differences. First of all, you can adjust the mode  within the app across ten stages. For example, you can trim from ‘slight input from outside’ to ‘hear a pin drop from the other side of the road’. Secondly, there’s the ‘PausePlus’ feature, also accessible via the app, that keeps your chosen level of ‘environment mode’ ready for when you press ‘pause’ - otherwise, it’s not activated.

Another useful aspect of these earbuds is the ShurePlus Play app. The app features seven distinct EQ settings, plus the ability to make custom settings of your own. Through ShurePlus Play, you can rearrange the earbud controls, adjust confirmation tones, see the battery life of each earbud, and access software updates. If there’s something you want that the app can’t do, your preferred voice assistant is quick and responsive here. And if it would only let you integrate streaming services beyond Apple Music, it would be close to perfect.

It’s not all gravy, mind you. Shure likes to go on and on about how effective its passive noise isolation is, which is true: the AONIC Free are among the most effective designs around that can dull external sound simply by virtue of the way they fit. But in this price bracket, every worthwhile rival has active noise cancellation - and some of them are very good indeed. The AONIC Free go without accelerometers, too, so if you remove one (or both) of the earbuds they just keep right on playing. And while battery life of seven hours from the buds - plus another couple of charges from the case - is nothing to sneeze at, almost every competitor  boasts longer-lasting power. And these alternatives don’t even have the Shure’s physical dimensions, in which to store power.  

the shure aonic free true wireless earbuds

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Audio performance

  • Precise, yet unfussy, sound
  • Great focus and detail retrieval
  • Agile and convincing  

Let’s face it, it would be a much bigger story if the Shure AONIC Free were a rotten listen. But for those who started reading this review thinking “I know how this ends”, well, you were right. There’s no exciting plot-twist here: the AONIC Free sound great, in exactly the sort of manner we’ve long since come to expect from Shure.

Just use the buds to listen to Fusa Riot by Bobby Hughes Experience via Apple Music and you’ll get a sense of the Shure audio experience. The AONIC Free deliver an accurate, insightful and rigorously precise sound, presenting the music as a single, unified entity while offering the sort of separation and focus that make each individual strand easy to follow. 

Bass is deep, taut and sinuous - there’s ample punch, but it’s in no way overpowering, doesn’t drag at tempos and stays well out of the way of the midrange. The midrange itself enjoys almost indecent levels of detail, so a vocalization as loaded with character as serpentwithfeet during Bless Ur Heart sounds every bit as engaging, immediate and idiosyncratic as if you were hearing it live. At the top of the frequency range, there’s well-controlled bite and crunch, an impression of substance without any accompanying lethargy.

The stage the Shure create is big, well defined and utterly believable. These earbuds showcase expressive rhythms and tempos with complete assurance and positivity, so no matter if you enjoy the lope of reggae or the headrush of EDM, the AONIC Free will deliver the sonic goods. They have ample dynamic expression too, both where the broadest volume-shifts and the finest harmonic differentials are concerned. Tonality is consistent across the frequency range; integration is simply not an issue, and neither is the vexed question of ‘musicality.’

Because of the sound performance aspects, the AONIC Free are among the best-sounding true wireless in-ears you can buy for under $200 / £200 / AU$300.    

Should I buy the Shure AONIC Free?

the shure aonic free wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Shure)

Buy them if...

You want maximum audio fidelity for your money
Good luck finding a more faithful or convincing listen at this price level.

You’re in no way self-conscious
The AONIC Free are, um, a strong look. 

You appreciate a well-sorted app
ShurePlus Play is among the best around.

Don't buy them if...

You want active noise cancellation
For some people this will be a deal-breaker - check out our guide to the best noise-cancelling earbuds for our top picks.

You like a discreet look
For some people this will also be a deal-breaker.

You want to listen around the clock
There’s nothing special about the Shure battery life.

Simon Lucas

Simon Lucas is a senior editorial professional with deep experience of print/digital publishing and the consumer electronics landscape. Based in Brighton, Simon worked at TechRadar's sister site What HiFi? for a number of years, as both a features editor and a digital editor, before embarking on a career in freelance consultancy, content creation, and journalism for some of the biggest brands and publications in the world. 

With enormous expertise in all things home entertainment, Simon reviews everything from turntables to soundbars for TechRadar, and also likes to dip his toes into longform features and buying guides. His bylines include GQ, The Guardian, Hi-Fi+, Metro, The Observer, Pocket Lint, Shortlist, Stuff T3, Tom's Guide, Trusted Reviews, and more.