Bose AE2i headphones

Bose AE2i review: Comfortable but expensive headphones with good sound

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Bose AE2i
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  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Well built
  • Good bass and detailed soundstage

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Build quality not as good as pricier Bose models

Bottom Line

Bose’s AE2i headphones, which now have an in-line volume control for iPod and iPhone support, are reasonably well constructed and comfortable. They also sound good, but they’re expensive and lack Bose’s signature noise cancelling -- which appears on the company’s more expensive (and better built) headphones.

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The Bose AE2i headphones are an update designed to appeal to the Apple crowd, with an in-line volume control and multifunction button that works with iPhones, iPods and MacBooks alike. They’re well put together, comfortable and sound good. However, the Bose AE2i headphones also quite expensive given their lack of active noise cancelling technology, and other Bose models are built more solidly.

Bose AE2i: Design, construction and comfort

Bose’s AE2i headphones sit over the wearer's ears, but only just — they are compact for full-size headphones and can be easily stowed away in a briefcase or handbag (they come with a soft carry case). The headband telescopes in two places to accomodate heads large and small, and the AE2i’s metre-long headphone cord detaches from the headset if pulled — a safety net to avoid any damage.

The Bose AE2i headphones are well built. The plastics are tough and high-quality, but compared to the QuietComfort 15 they feel slightly hollow. The AE2i headphones are light enough to wear for a long time without fatigue, which is an advantage over Bose’s more expensive noise cancelling models which include comparatively heavy batteries and circuitry. The ear-cups of the Bose AE2i headphones are finished in a soft-touch leatherette with cushioned padding, which means they are comfortable without being itchy.

The Bose AE2i headphones don't have any integrated active noise cancellation, but they do a good job (for small headphones) of blocking out ambient noise.

Bose AE2i: Sound quality

The Bose AE2i headphones are reasonably accurate in their representation of music, but do have a slight emphasis of low mid-range and bass, as well as a slight sharpness to treble notes. We listened to music in a range of styles and found that the most telling was classical orchestra — the thrums of double basses and the beat of bass drums reverberate and are slow to decay, and cymbals and high piano notes have an almost electronic ring to them. The AE2i headphones are nonetheless detailed and we enjoyed listening to them.

The soundstage of the Bose AE2i — the headphones’ ability to separate left and right audio channels, and to play back positional audio — is also excellent. Even when you’re not listening to music, the AE2i headphones’ good passive noise cancellation blocks out a lot of high-frequency background noise, such as people typing. They aren’t sealed enough to hide the low-frequency hum of an air conditioner, though.

We were able to turn the volume all the way up on our test iPhone 4 and MacBook Pro without the sound of the Bose AE2i becoming too harsh or fatiguing. The headphones aren’t painfully loud either though — when walking through a busy shopping centre we had them almost at maximum volume. This might make it hard to drown out very loud outside noise, but will protect your hearing in the long run. If you are in an environment with loud ambient noise, we’d recommend some high quality active noise cancelling headphones anyway.

Bose AE2i: Conclusion

Bose's AE2i headphones are expensive given that they don't have any integrated active noise cancelling. However, they are light and comfortable and possess good sound quality — three important traits for a pair of portable headphones.

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