Headphones, in all their guises, have become part of our lives these days. Whether they be over-ear, around-ear, or earbuds, it seems everyone has a pair of some description. And we’ll be covering a fine example in this Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone 2 review. But before we do, let’s consider what has been a rapid rise in use and design.
Once the domain of the workplace and phone companies, they were first developed in the 1880s. German manufacturer Beyer gave us the first dynamic commercially available headphones in 1910. AKG took up the mantle in the 1930s, and Koss extended the headphone by adding padding to the earpieces and making them stereo. When you consider that, it wasn’t that long ago.
Use though was quite limited and only for certain people and used only really in certain occupations. The sudden rise of the music industry brought about the biggest development and changes through the 50s and 60s. Now headphones were not just for the workplace, including music and TV studios. They were for everyone. The Sony Walkman changed the rules in 1979, and the iPod did the same 22 years later.
Nowadays, there are headphones for every occasion. You can even swim with them. And with the development of technology, we don’t even need them to be connected physically by wires to anything. Unless we want to, of course. Bluetooth gave us the wireless option.
In this review, we are going to take an in-depth look at the Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone 2. However, before we do, let’s take a look at what the name Bose means.
Bose – A Name Associated With Quality
Bose was formed in Massachusetts in 1964 and has grown to be a respected manufacturer of audio equipment. Apart from headphones, they also produce audio equipment Loudspeakers and car audio systems.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for them. Their first product, the 2201 speaker system was a flop. Then came the 901 speaker system, which was manufactured from 1968 to 2016.
Bose is one of the few audio manufacturers that have had their own world-wide retail presence. The first store was opened in 2003, and they quickly expanded across the globe. Just recently, plans have been published to close the stores in the US, Europe, Australia, and Japan. Some stores in Asia will remain open. This is a manifestation of the new age of consumerism, where so much is bought online.
Despite its retail problems, Bose has continued to produce quality products. They cannot, of course, compete with the really big players. But in the home consumer market, they have an established position amongst those companies working from the middle to low-top-end level of products.
Bose always pays attention to detail with their headphones, which is one of the reasons they usually produce a very good sound. They do not try to specialize in one genre of music but give an all-around sound that suits most styles to a lesser or greater degree. Traveling the middle road if you like.
The Bose SoundLink 2 is exactly that. No pretentious design, they deliver a good sound across most genres. They might not be able to compete with some manufacturers, as we said. But that doesn’t mean they can’t produce quality headphones. The Bose name is respected and rightly so. These headphones are well-built, lightweight, Bluetooth enabled, and the controls are easy to use. But more on this later.
So, let’s take a closer look at the Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone 2…
With the Soundlink 2, the idea is not about having an eye-catching design. It is more about creating a functional set of headphones that produce good sound. People who know Bose won’t be surprised about this, it is almost a trademark of the company. It is a typical Bose design, right down to the matte finish and logo placed clearly on each ear cup.
As with nearly all headphones these days, there is a lot of plastic in the build. It is supported in critical areas with stainless steel which gives them a secure feeling. The plastic used is sturdy and described by Bose as ‘impact-resistant.’ This is an apt description. They feel like they might take a few knocks, and if you use them to commute, they might have to.
At under seven ounces, they are very lightweight and certainly not going to cause any discomfort in that area.
The headband is well-padded on its underside. Made of plastic, it has a metal inner support to give it strength and flexibility. It is height adjustable, of course, on rails, so you can get the fit right. The earcups are also well-cushioned and very soft indeed.
Unlike some, the Soundlink 2’s do not clamp on your head too tightly. This to us is a big positive but to some, it will be negative. They might not be suitable for use in activities such as the gym or running as the fit would not be tight enough. As they are an around-ear design, they completely cover your ears. We’ll have a closer look at the comfort level so more on this later.
Battery life is quite good, and a single charge should give you about fifteen hours of use. This will depend of course on how loud you play your music. A full charge will take about two hours, but there is a quick twenty-minute charge facility that gives you about two hours of use in an emergency.
Charging is via a supplied Micro-USB cable, which is supplied. Take note though that no socket is provided. You will need to use either the USB socket on a computer or your own adapter from a phone or tablet. To save battery life Bose have built-in a hibernation process. If the headphones go unused for five minutes when not paired, they will close down. If they are paired, the inactivity time is twenty minutes.
The Bose Soundlink 2 are not built to be noise-canceling. However, the around the ear design and the quality of the padding does provide a certain amount of sound isolation. But they cannot compete with the active noise-canceling headphones. If noise-cancellation is a priority, then the Bose QuietComfort might be worth a look. If you can just put up with having external noise dimmed down a bit, then the Soundlink 2 does a decent job.
As far as we are concerned, the controls on wireless headphones are often a disaster area. You often can’t find them, or you push the wrong button. We’ve even seen people take them off their head to change a track. This is quite amusing, but only if they treat us to some decent music while they do it, which often they don’t.
The Bose Soundlink 2 have certainly made the effort to make it as easy as possible. The controls are convenient and placed on the right ear cup. The controls include a powering up switch on the outer face of the ear cup and a dedicated volume control. This can be used in tandem with the volume control on your phone or tablet.
Centrally placed, there is a multifunction button. This controls track selection, playback and will also handle incoming call management. It is easy to switch between your music and calls.
There are some good design features here. The controls are spaced apart at a reasonable distance. They are sized differently, so reducing the risk of using the wrong button. A further good addition is the inclusion of dual microphones. One on each earcup. This gives you better clarity during calls.
Pairing the Bose Soundlink 2 is a simple operation and quick to undertake. Once the device has been paired, it will automatically re-pair whenever you turn the headphones on. Providing the device is in range. If your phone or tablet is NFC-enabled, then the process is even quicker.
A nice addition is the control that it offers on what is going on. If you have the headphones connected to a phone and a tablet, you might be watching a movie. If a call comes in, the headphones will hold the movie and switch you to your phone to take the call. Once the call is finished, it will return you to your tablet and the movie. Multipoint functionality is a definite plus point — a clever idea that one.
It has a good microphone system which we have already mentioned. The positioning of a mic in each ear cup definitely makes your voice sound more natural to the person you are speaking with. It also assists in reducing external noises like the wind so you can be heard more clearly.
It has a built-in microphone, and so that facilitates hands-free calling. These headphones are compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets.
We spent a little time discussing the comfort in the build discussion, but let’s have a closer look. These are a very comfortable pair of headphones and are designed for people who might like to spend a few hours listening at a time. We mentioned the padding, and on the underside of the headband, it is a little light.
This is offset somewhat by the flexibility of the headband and the fact that they are so light. The earpads though, are deep and very well-padded with synthetic leather-covered foam. Inside the ear cups are grilles made of cloth that have left and right embroidered on. No more searching for which is right and which is left, you can’t miss them. They fold down for easy storage.
Quality materials and a very good design make these a very comfortable set of headphones. It is certainly one of their main attributes.
Bose uses a proprietary DSP, Digital Signal Processing, a system to create what they think is the best listening experience. These headphones can be used in a passive wired mode, but Bose claims the sound is not the same. There will be proponents for both wired and wireless operations. When used in wired mode, the DSP is not in operation. When used in wireless mode, the DSP is operative.
Bose refers to the two principal functions of DSP as firstly “active equalization” and secondly “volume-dependent equalization” Some will not like the DSP interference and will claim that the signal is interfered with and not pure. Nevertheless, it is not the way that Bose wants you to use them. They have been designed to be used wirelessly and involve their DSP.
That is what Bose wants and to enforce that they have deliberately not included an inline remote on the cable. You, therefore, have to use the controls on your phone. They seem to see the wired cable only as a backup. We don’t and would prefer a choice, thank you.
Bose also gives you an app that can be downloaded that lets you adjust the EQ settings, which is a useful option.
The overall sound is quite nice, though before the app is used to adjust any sounds, the bass is light. Using the DSP, the sound is crisp and bright. Possibly a little too much at the top end. Listening to them, they would be great with an acoustic guitar but too light at the bottom end for a decent rock sound that had some depth.
They are not harsh or shrill but certainly lack a little bit of bottom end to prop the whole thing up. A few points were lost there and a few more for Bose trying to tell us how we should listen to our music. Some companies think they know it all. They don’t! Their wireless DSP system might be very good for them, but not all of us want it or will be told what we want.
Bose does not usually give us a lot to be excited about with extras, just the basics. That is ok, quality manufacturers rarely do. There is a Micro-USB cable for charging. This attaches to the right ear cup. They also provide an audio cable (without inline controller), which connects to the left earcup. There is a zipper case which if we are honest is a little thin and flimsy.
Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone 2 Pros & Cons
- Solid audio performance.
- Incredibly comfortable.
- Cable for passive, wired listening.
- Multipoint functionality; therefore, you can pair two devices at once.
- No automatic power-down or standby mode.
- DSP sculpts the audio, therefore, not for purists.
- Cable lacks an inline remote control.
Other Headphone Options
As you can tell, we are not blown away by these headphones; if you’re not that impressed either, then check out our reviews of the Best Waterproof Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Headphones under 100 dollars, or the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording on the market.
You may also be interested in the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Running Headphones, or the Best Headphones and Earbuds for Sleeping currently available.
Difficult one this. We find ourselves in a difficult position. Bose is a company few people criticize, but we have to say with these headphones we are a little disappointed.
The comfort level is high. There is no doubt about that. At this price point, and they are quite expensive, they are no better or worse in the build quality to others. They are going to suit some people, and they will sell because of their name. But they fall behind a lot of the competition, especially the Sennheiser and Sony alternatives.
If you are happy not to have a great sound, but a slightly better than average performance will do, they are fine. Or, if you are happy with low bass in the basic mix, they will suffice. If you can go without real noise-cancellation but just a reduction in external noise, then these are good.
Trouble is if you are spending this much money, then there are alternatives that provide those features. It is also possible they will have Google Assistant or similar, which the Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone 2 do not have.
Bose headphones are good, there is no doubt about that, and these are a decent set of phones. The problem for us is that there are others that sound better that are cheaper. If you particularly want Bose headphones, then these will do the job even though they are not one of their better models.
But let’s finish on a positive note. They are very comfortable to wear and that, of course, is very important.