Bose SoundLink on-ear Bluetooth - Top Notch Performer

November 05, 2015

You will either love or hate the design of the white-based Bose SoundLink on-ear Bluetooth headphones. If the color-hue turns you off, no worries as the more classic black model is readily available. While this SGD 379 unit has been on retail shelves for a year, let's see how well it fares to recent on-ears.

Usually, we'll check out the unboxing process with a visual breakdown. In this case, the box and its contents weren't in the best shape for us to give the product due credit.

What we can say is that the packaging contents should include:
- Bose headphones
- Carrying case
- USB charging cable
- Audio cable

Let's dive in to look at the Bose SoundLink on-ear Bluetooth (affectionately known as Bose OE SoundLink). As you may have guessed from the photos, we received the black model.

On taking out the headphones, we can say the Bose is comfortably light at 153g. Looking at other Bluetooth on-ears, this is comparable to the equally lightweight Jabra Move Wireless (150g) and way lower than the Beats Solo 2 Wireless (215g).

The industrial design of the new generation of Bose headphones comes with a signature thick headband and minimalist exterior ear cup design. They look like a cross between the QuietComfort 25 (QC25) and the new AE2 SoundLink

There are massive 'L' and 'R' markings to make sure you damn well know the correct way to put on the OE SoundLink. The unit includes a two-way hinge design where the first allows you fold the ear cups inward for very compact storage and the second rotates horizontally to meet a suitable angle for your ears.  

When zipped up, the solidly built carrying pouch does its job in protecting its contents. When opened up, you get a pouch to store the USB and audio cables. When placing the headphones within, there is a practical flap to prevent abrasion between the two ear cups.

While there no touch controls, the tactile buttons that allow playback and volume adjustment are found under the right earcup and are easily accessible with your right hand. Pressing the center button twice skips to the next track and thrice will jump to the previous song.

Bluetooth pairing is a breeze. Simply flip, hold the switch on the right ear cup upward to start and the Bluetooth logo will flash blue. On your device, scan and select 'Bose OE SoundLink' to complete the process and the logo changes to a constant white. The headphones can connect to two devices via Bluetooth at the same time, a convenient feature when I was toggling between my Galaxy S4 and iPad Air.

Do note that aptX, that delivers a higher fidelity sound over Bluetooth with compatible devices, is not supported. If you are an audiophile, this may cause some consternation but to the majority, it's not a showstopper as you will find out as you read further.

The voice prompts were very useful and customizable. In one example, the female voice tells you when it's 'Ready To Pair'. When you power the unit, she will tell you what is the battery level left. The prompts can be switched off by holding the volume buttons and other languages can be selected by holding the volume up and center buttons.

For a wired connection, there's a blue audio cable (without in-line remote) that plugs to the headphones (via a 2.5mm port) and to your source device (3.5mm jack). 

The ear cups are replaceable, a big plus should you want to use these headphones for the long run.

If there's one thing that makes the Bose stand out, that would be the sound quality. A audio quality comparison with other on-ears like the Beats Solo2 Wireless (SGD 499) and B&O BeoPlay H8 (SGD 699) gave favorable results that reinforced our notion that the Bose ranks right up there despite its lower pricing.

The instrumentation on Joe Hisaishi's classical The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is distinct and the bass buildup is able to complement well. Avicii's house vs folk-themed The Nights shows off the headphones ability to pull off a good balance between the punchy bass and Nicholas Furlong's accompanying vocals. That said, bass heads may not get their kick if they commute on a regular basis as the bass can be overwhelmed by ambient sound (such as chatter and bus engine roars).

In terms of comfort, this is probably one of the best in the on-ears category that I've tried. The clamping force does enough to keep the headphones in place without placing excessive force on the ears. The ear cups press flat on the ears but they are pillowy thanks to the underlying memory foam and even with glasses, I could keep the OE SoundLink in excess of an hour without much discomfort.

Noise isolation is not fantastic but it does remove a minimal layer of sound. When used in a silent room, you will get a faint humming at the right side due to the Bluetooth module but this becomes completely insignificant when traveling.

For a 3 hour full charge, you get a respectable 15 hours of music playback, a very decent number when compared to the Jabra Move Wireless (8 hours) and Beats Solo2 Wireless (12 hours). The power indicator will blink amber to show it is charging. During usage, green shows a healthy battery life while amber and red should tell you that charging at the soonest is a wise decision.

If there's a pair of wireless on-ears to buy, this is probably it. The comfort afforded along with the well balanced audio output and complex feature set made simple propel the Bose SoundLink on-ear Bluetooth headphones to be an excellent choice for an on-ear.
Audio Sources
The Nights - Avicii (Tidal 1411kbps FLAC) on Samsung Galaxy S4
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky (Laputa: Castle In The Sky OST) - Joe Hisaishi (320kbps) on Samsung Galaxy S4

Credit to Atlas and Affluence PR for a review unit.

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