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Bose In-Ear Headphones Review

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
So mods, what do you think about a section just for user reviews of stuff we use with our Macs?

Before jumping into the review, I have a brief word for you Bose haters, and you know who you are. Stop hating on Bose! They are a company who understands the end user experience better than any company out there with the exception of Apple. They are not making products to meet some theoretical standard that can only be measured by a machine in an acoustically balanced room. They are designing products for how the end user will actually enjoy their music. It is not just about the physics of sound; it is about the biology and psychology of sound as well. Most audio companies stop at mere mechanics. Enjoying music is about a lot more than mechanics. Bear this in mind when judging any product. It is a lot like a PC user looking at the specs of a system and deciding which is the better system based on that. This is why Bose does not publish a lot of its specs. The specs do not matter, only the end user experience in real world usage.

Sound

Let us jump right to the heart of the matter. These plugs are a sonic marvel. Shocking, is how I would describe the sound. These babies got back. That is to say, they have a full, well-rounded bottom. The bass has a hearty and reassuring thump without being muddy. I believe the word is transparency. The bass does not bleed into the rest of the range. Speaking of the rest of the range, you will not be disappointed with the mids and highs either. I listened to a pair of Sure E2Cs I think, and thought the sound from those were a little colored toward the mids. Compared to those, the Bose may have been colored toward the lows. I cannot say which was more accurate. I can say that my impression of the Bose was that they were not colored at all, and the Sure had a slight coloration.

These are the first phones of any kind that I actually felt good about using for editing. I opened a few pieces that I had done in GB with guitars, drums, piano, vocals and more. I confidently remixed the music with noticeably improved results. I sang into my microphone with reverb and compression. I was completely blown away. My voice sounded much more full than it does in my best set of cans. Now that i have an MBP, portability is very important to me. Goodbye huge cans; hello, in-ear phones. These may have just become my new reference monitors.

Fit & Stability

This is the sticking point for a lot o people with this product. These plugs are not your father's in-ear phones. Bose completely rethought the concept. For many people, Bose is simply ahead of its time. One expects ie phones to form a seal in the ear canal. We have been conditioned to believe that without this seal, the phones are not in securely and the sound will suffer. Bose has done away with all that. These plugs do not form any kind of a seal. There is no noise isolation. You cannot shove these far into your head like other plugs. In fact, they are designed to sit in the bowl of your ear. The business end is a silicone tip that directs sound into the ear without placing the entire apparatus into the ear. They are more like buds than plugs.

The removable silicone tip has a somewhat sticky feel to it. This is, in part, what keeps these plugs securely in the ear, even when in motion. Everything about the fit and feel of these plugs is counterintuitive. There is no seal, no force, no pain or discomfort. There is nothing tactile that tells you these are in properly. But once you hit the play button, your jaw drops and you know you did it right. These plugs are all day comfortable. They are a new level of comfort because they are not shoved invasively in your ear. After more than three straight hours of wear, I hardly noticed I had them on. And, yes, after many hours of wear, they were still perfectly in place. If you can't live without the seal feeling, these will never be for you. Bose has found a way to make plugs that are comfortable and non-invasive, without losing one iota of fidelity.

At $99, these are a bargain. This is an outstanding first generation product. I can't wait to see how they evolve over time.
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post #2 of 20
Many people buy in-ear buds because they block out ambient sound. This allows the user to regulate the volume that is pumping into their ears. Not only does this create a more pleasurable listening experience, but it is also healthy for your hearing. I don't trust so-called "noise cancelling" headphones because they cancel sound by adding more sound waves to your ear-canals; and even if this allows you to hear the music better (and so play it at a lower volume), there is still actually more noise in your ear canal (even if you're not detecting it). I'll keep my Shure e2cs.
post #3 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Denton View Post

Many people buy in-ear buds because they block out ambient sound. This allows the user to regulate the volume that is pumping into their ears. Not only does this create a more pleasurable listening experience, but it is also healthy for your hearing. I don't trust so-called "noise cancelling" headphones because they cancel sound by adding more sound waves to your ear-canals; and even if this allows you to hear the music better (and so play it at a lower volume), there is still actually more noise in your ear canal (even if you're not detecting it). I'll keep my Shure e2cs.

Actually, "noise cancelling" phones use destructive interference to almost eliminate outside noise. this does <i>not</i> more noise to the ear canal at all. If there was more noise introduced into the ear canal you would...hear it... Unfortunately for me, bose uses a "proprietary" technology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interference See the section titled "destructive interference"

http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3000_7-1017728-1.html cnet gives a good summary of the difference between active and passive noise cancellation.
temporarily one handed, please excuse the typos
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post #4 of 20
Agreed on the Bose being tilted towards the lows, from my experience. I just picked up a pair of Shure e3cs, and *love them*. Much crisper than the e2cs, with more solid bass.

I was going to get active noise cancellation headphones... until I tried them. I could not get over the *pop* feeling that happens when you turn them on - it's like having your head stuck in a vacuum, and frankly, it made me a little dizzy. The canalphones provided better noise cancellation in my tests (Glass Cube Apple Store, NYC - noisy as hades), and the e3cs had better sound than the Bose. The e4cs were incredible, but 2x the price.

And tomj is dead on with the destructive interference - the waves cancel each other out, and the sound is actually reduced. Yes, sound + sound = less sound. It's not masking it (as with white noise), it's actually destroying it.
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post #5 of 20
Yeah, I had the same experience with noise canceling headphones-- when the circuit is engaged I feel pressure on my eardrums that is fairly disconcerting.

I've been told you get used to it, but I dunno.

Unfortunately, I'm also weirded out ear canal 'phones. I just really don't like the sensation (or the process of inserting) things way down into my ear.

I say unfortunately because I know they sound good, and I like good sound.

So I may give the Bose (although I really don't think much of Bose's products in general) a try. If they sound better then run of the mill ear buds it might be worth it, for me.
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post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Please do not get sidetracked by discussions of noise cancelation. These plugs do not claim that as a feature. They do not try to cancel noise in any way. I am also not a fan of noise cancelation. If you do not like canal phones, pick these up a Sharper Image. They have a very good return policy.
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post #7 of 20
I'm quite sorry but I am indeed a Bose hater. I have recently become an audio-lover, and when getting into it was recommended to Bose by friends. Then I went online and was told to do side by side tests between other speakers/headphones and the Bose. While I was blown away by the difference of a Bose headphone versus a cheap $20 pair of Sony's, I had that same experience when going from Bose headphones to some nice Senn's or Grado's. As I type this I am listening to my Grado SR-80's. I prefer listening to the sound of these over my friend's 4 Bose flagship speakers.

To give you an example of why specs do matter, I will use these speakers. After some digging I have found out that the hz range is from the lower to upper range of human hearing. At the exact hz mark in fact. When listening to these that means that in the lows you have no feel of sound. You can't feel the air vibrating with the sound that you can't hear. Making it a truly lacking experience. I expected more from 2 pairs of $1400 speakers.

Another example of the poor products Bose produces is that those same flagship speakers had to have their paper driver's replaced with cloth by their owner. I can bet I would never have to do that with a pair of B&W's.

All-in-all I was at first very impressed by the Bose sound. But it really can't compare to similarly, or lower, priced headphones or speakers from other companies.

BTW here are their flagship speakers...The Bose 901's.


Also here is a great company who cares more about the user experience than any other company. Very, VERY reasonably priced to. Grado Labs.
post #8 of 20
I'm intrigued by the Bose In-Ear Headphones, but I agree with Shadow Slayer that their products are usually more marketing muscle than actual substance. Sure they sound better than your cheap headphones, but you can usually find quality that is just as good for a bit less money. However, for $99, I would take them for a spin. Too bad they don't have a version in white yet to match my iPod, but I'm sure it will show up at some point.

My main beef with Bose is actually their lack of compatability with so many of their products. The "Lifestyle" series really limits what the owner can or can't do with their system. Sure it's a snap to hook up, but then you're locked into "Bose World". The Lifestyle speakers are only compatable with the Lifestyle system. The DVD player is built in so most people end up with their old one lying around. The expandability they do offer through the ports in the back is minimal at best (the last time I checked, none of them even offered HDMI). Great for Mom and Dad who want an all-in-one solution, but not a good fit for lots of other people.

Hmmmm.... \ substitute the word "Bose" for "Apple", "Lifestyle" for "iMac" and "DVD" player for "Screen" and that last paragraph sounds a lot like complaints that I hear directed at Apple. So I guess it all depends on what side of the fence you sit on.
post #9 of 20
For $99 I would NOT take those headphones for a spin. Why do that when you could get some much better senns or grado's that won't be just a test? Go to a Bose store then with a similarly priced headphones and see if they will let you compare (i doubt it..). That's all you need to do.

Anyways I personally like the iMac because, while it doesn't have much expandability, it is quality built from the beginning. http://www.intellexual.net/bose.html That outlines the problems with Bose' speakers. If they were quality built I wouldn't mind about the no expandability...well maybe not lol.
post #10 of 20
Bose IE: Muddy, overrated, over-priced crap. Returned them.

They aren't even IN-EAR (!), despite the name and apparent ear-plug style tips. They specifically state in the pamphlet that they are not meant to form a seal. This is why you can still hear a conversation next to you while listening full volume. (Yes, I used the correct fit and put them in correctly). They aren't sound isolating like any in-ear ear phone ought to be.

Bosebois, let me have my hatred. It is warranted.
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post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow Slayer 26 View Post

For $99 I would NOT take those headphones for a spin. Why do that when you could get some much better senns or grado's that won't be just a test? Go to a Bose store then with a similarly priced headphones and see if they will let you compare (i doubt it..). That's all you need to do.

Anyways I personally like the iMac because, while it doesn't have much expandability, it is quality built from the beginning. http://www.intellexual.net/bose.html That outlines the problems with Bose' speakers. If they were quality built I wouldn't mind about the no expandability...well maybe not lol.

Thanks for the link Shadow Slayer. There are a lot of people who have a very "love/hate" opinion about Bose without much basis other than "Bose Sucks!/Bose Rox!". Nice to see some actual facts to back up the writers opinion. I also found this one on epinions that I think sums up a lot of people's opinion of Bose:

http://www.epinions.com/content_211914428036

According to the author, the salesman he spoke to claimed that "ease of use" was the company's first priority to their customers. If that is indeed true, then I think it tells a lot about their place in the world of AV equipment. Sure, you can find something that sounds better for less money - but it will be bigger, more complicated and involve lots of big black boxes in your living room. Many people just want to hook something up to their TV, turn on the game and call it a day - hence the popularity of the "Home Theater In a Box" options from most big name AV companies. Bose has just taken this concept to the next level and doubled the price in the process. Their marketing machine may CLAIM that they have "Better Sound Through Research", but I really think it comes down to "Marginal Sound in an Easy to Use Package That Looks Nice So Your Wife Won't Complain About It".

Too bad that won't fit on the box...

Anyway, I've always thought that their stereo/home theater equipment is a rotten deal to those who know better, but their headphones are in a slightly better league. $99 actually seems reasonable to me (better than their $300 noise canceling phones). What price are the Senns or Grados running?

P.S. I dig the iMac too (it would be my top choice if I were in the market for a desktop).
post #12 of 20
Well the lowest Grado's and Senns are around 60. The highest Grado's are 1000, and it would be advised to get their 200 headphone amp. I don't know the top level Senns...their website doesn't work too well (at least for me). Besides the Grado's look much more old school. Anyways play around with that website. The Grados are hand assembled, and their highest 1000 dollar model is personally calibrated by the owner of the company, to how he likes them.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quick follow up after a few days of usage. I still like them just fine. Though, there was a time when I thought for sure I was going to take them back for a refund. The issue was that the sound was breaking up at high volume levels. Once the sound broke, turning it down would not fix the problem. It took a couple of days to figure out what was going on. I use an iPod Shuffle. The shuffle is not powerful enough to drive these phones. It is as simple as that. I realized that you can have dramatically different listening experiences depending on the hardware you are using. The same music on my MBP sounds pristine at any volume. For those who believe that the shuffle has great sound quality, the problem is that you do not have good enough ear-phones. I have had this problem with other phones in the past. Good phones make iPods playing mp3 sound like crap. I have not tried these with my wife's video iPod. I suspect it has a stronger amp. I will report back. Take negative reviews about headphones with a grain of salt because depending on what people are listening to and on what they are listening will impact the sound and perceived quality of the phones dramatically. I will keep these phones for use with my MBP. They really are great, and in environments where one uses a notebook, an isolating seal is not important. The second generation shuffle just cannot handle this caliber of phones. My cheap ones do just fine with the shuffle. By the way, I am using a 2G shuffle.
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post #14 of 20
This thread is all over the place.

For starters, telling people to skip the Bose in favor of Grados makes no sense at all, since comparing ear buds to over the ear full sized head phones is pointless. There are, obviously, reasons to choose earbuds over cans beyond absolute sound quality, or nobody would ever buy earbuds at all.

Secondly, the relative performance/value of Bose speakers and associated equipment, or Bose over the ear headphones to similarly priced headphones, is, again, beside the point. Bose has some poor value products, that doesn't mean a given product isn't worth a listen.

Belittling the Bose earbuds for "not really being in ear" also, again, misses the point. There are lot of people who would like a good sounding earbud that doesn't have to be crammed down the ear canal, if the Bose are those then "not really being in ear" is a feature, not a bug.

Finally, the issue of whether they are harder to drive than the average earbud and tax the output of the Nano is interesting, although I'm not quite getting the "makes MP3 sound like crap" given the initial glowing review.

How do they sound with high bit rate, uncompressed or AAC files? How loud do they get before "break up"? Is "break up" distortion, or some kind of intermittent failure?

As I say, not a huge Bose fan, but the question is whether or not these specific ear buds sound better than the next $99 pair without the discomfort of deep insertion.
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post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

without the discomfort of deep insertion.



Sorry I'm childish. I'll go to my room now........
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post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

This thread is all over the place.

For starters, telling people to skip the Bose in favor of Grados makes no sense at all, since comparing ear buds to over the ear full sized head phones is pointless. There are, obviously, reasons to choose earbuds over cans beyond absolute sound quality, or nobody would ever buy earbuds at all.

Secondly, the relative performance/value of Bose speakers and associated equipment, or Bose over the ear headphones to similarly priced headphones, is, again, beside the point. Bose has some poor value products, that doesn't mean a given product isn't worth a listen.

Belittling the Bose earbuds for "not really being in ear" also, again, misses the point. There are lot of people who would like a good sounding earbud that doesn't have to be crammed down the ear canal, if the Bose are those then "not really being in ear" is a feature, not a bug.

Finally, the issue of whether they are harder to drive than the average earbud and tax the output of the Nano is interesting, although I'm not quite getting the "makes MP3 sound like crap" given the initial glowing review.

How do they sound with high bit rate, uncompressed or AAC files? How loud do they get before "break up"? Is "break up" distortion, or some kind of intermittent failure?

As I say, not a huge Bose fan, but the question is whether or not these specific ear buds sound better than the next $99 pair without the discomfort of deep insertion.

Very true, at first I was merely offering an example of headphones superior to Bose for the same cost. I guess I really don't see In-Ear as being any better as around the head.

However with the relative performance/value of the Bose...I'm all for listening to them, but would you spend $99 to test them out? When you could instead get a pair of more trustworthy phones where arguments are more opinionated about how upfront they are rather than if they are plain good or bad?

Also any pair of headphones will probably be harder to drive than Apple's, however I have a hard time believing that an in-ear would really be all too difficult to drive? What is Bose putting in there?

However I would be happy if someone could be so nice as to tell me why one would want in-ear phones rather than around the head or over the ears? I find them much more uncomfortable and cannot personally see any advantage to them.
post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow Slayer 26 View Post

Very true, at first I was merely offering an example of headphones superior to Bose for the same cost. I guess I really don't see In-Ear as being any better as around the head.

However with the relative performance/value of the Bose...I'm all for listening to them, but would you spend $99 to test them out? When you could instead get a pair of more trustworthy phones where arguments are more opinionated about how upfront they are rather than if they are plain good or bad?

Also any pair of headphones will probably be harder to drive than Apple's, however I have a hard time believing that an in-ear would really be all too difficult to drive? What is Bose putting in there?

However I would be happy if someone could be so nice as to tell me why one would want in-ear phones rather than around the head or over the ears? I find them much more uncomfortable and cannot personally see any advantage to them.

Do you go jogging or walking around or driving or to the gym with full sized headphones?

Ear buds are light, unobtrusive and easy to stash. They don't bounce off your head if you're moving around quickly. Lots of people value those things more than the ultimate fidelity, particularly when paired with MP3 players loaded with relatively low bitrate encodes.
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post #18 of 20
Not full size headphones, but what about around the back headphones? Those tend to stay on better than most in-ear headphones. And the sound is better anyways. More comfortable IMO as well. Sure I wouldn't go to the gym with my Grado's on, but what about these?
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
I was really starting to wonder how these stacked up to other plugs in the price range, so I when back to the store and picked up a set of Shure e2c.

Bottom line. The Bose sound much better to me, but are less accurate. I believe they are doing something techie to enhance the bass, as it really does have a nice thump right out of the box. It is very pleasing to the ear and eliminates the need for EQ. Just plug them in and enjoy.

I tested the Shures with my reference monitors. They are not perfect, but they come much closer to the actual sound of the music. For editing, I would not recommend the Bose despite my earlier post to the contrary. The Shures have taught me the error of my ways. I would recommend editing with the Shures. Using the Shures makes me want to re-rip all of my music with a better codec and higher bit rate. The Bose plugs make the crappy music sound better than it should. I might have to keep them both; Bose for enjoyment, Shures for accuracy.

By the way, I do not understand why the Bose have the issue with the Shuffle. I tried several headphones with the Shuffle and they worked just fine. Perhaps it has to do with whatever trickery they are using to enhance the sound. I will let smarter people than myself speculate on that. In spite of some of you getting way off topic, I appreciate all the input. Some of it has been quite helpful. Please do your own review threads so that I and the rest of the community can benefit from your experience. I read these boards before I buy anything to use with my Mac.
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post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow Slayer 26 View Post

Not full size headphones, but what about around the back headphones? Those tend to stay on better than most in-ear headphones. And the sound is better anyways. More comfortable IMO as well. Sure I wouldn't go to the gym with my Grado's on, but what about these?

I disagree that the type of headphone you linked to necessarily sound better than earbuds. Some do, some don't, depends on the particular model.

Having said that, around the head are still big and invasive and hard to stash compared to ear buds. And a lot of people like the fact that you can walk around and not look like a dork wearing headphones, particularly at a gym.
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