Bose AE2 SoundLink - Listen in Comfort

December 08, 2015

Bose sprung its first wireless headphones back in 2013, nicknamed the AE2w. They were easily distinguished by a control module that stuck out like a sore thumb. Two years on, they have unveiled a new over-ears offering that looks thankfully more streamlined. Called the Bose SoundLink around-ears wireless headphones II (SGD 399), it is a highly descriptive (quite a mouthful) and understandable name that summarizes the product. We prefer to call it by its acronym - the AE2 SoundLink.
And we start with the unboxing. 
Here's the box front with the shrink wrap still on.

Tearing away the wrap and sliding out the outer box reveals a blue cardboard layer with nothing but the company name smack at the bottom third.

The underside of the blue layer shows an intuitive quick guide on how to connect through Bluetooth / NFC and button usage. Strip the thin layer of black foam to reveal the carrying pouch that stores the product proper.

On taking the loot out, the packaging contents include:
- Bose AE2 SoundLink headphones
- Carrying pouch
- USB charging cable
- Audio cable (3.5mm to 2.5mm)

There are 2 color variants - white and black. However, the white version (our review model) thankfully removes the blue accents seen previously on the Bose OE SoundLink, making for a more classic look. 
The materials used make the AE2 SoundLink very comfortable to wear - the padded foam on the underside of the headband and the ear pads' leather feel plush. Even weight-wise, at 198g, this is one of the lightest in class for a wireless over-ears model. The Sony MDR-1ABT, the Sennheiser URBANITE XL WIRELESS (both at 300g) and the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless (292g) all weigh almost a 100g more. 

The earcups swivel flat for safekeeping in the pouch but unfortunately do not fold inward for even more compact storage like its on-ears sibling, the OE SoundLink. There are giant 'L' and 'R' markings on the inner earcup that guarantee you won't be scratching your head on how to put on the headphones. 
All that said, this is one visually appealing pair of headphones to be seen with. Punctuated with the distinctive Bose logo printed on the matte earcup, this could very well turn a few heads.

The carrying case is sturdy and practical enough. There's an inner pouch to store the cables and a flap to separate the two ear cups from abrasion.

Connecting to your music device is a piece of cake. To link via NFC, you need to activate the NFC and Bluetooth on your device, flick the power switch on and press the middle of the outer (right) earcup to the NFC touchpoint of your music player.  

For Bluetooth pairing, you just need to flip the power switch up to initiate. Once the Bluetooth indicator flashes blue, just select 'Bose AE2 SoundLink' from your device to complete the pairing and the status light will glow a solid white. The unit can connect to up to two devices (phone and tablet perhaps?) at the same time. You just need to halt playback on one to start music on the second unit.

The voice prompts make the user experience intuitive. Whenever you turn the power on, a voice will inform of the battery charge level. The pairing process is complemented with prompts such as 'Ready to pair' and 'Connected'. With an 11 language selector, Bose has clearly thought of the global reach of its headphones.

Interestingly, Bose is conspicuously absent from the list of aptX-compatible headphones. aptX supposedly delivers a "near CD quality" experience but as we've mentioned before, it ain't a showstopper. 

The provided white audio cable doesn't include an in-line remote. What this means is that using the over-ears in wired mode, you will need to control playback through your device. It plugs to the Bose AE2 SoundLink through a 2.5mm port and to your device by the conventional 3.5mm jack.

The earcups are user replaceable, a welcome feature should they degrade through usual wear and tear.

We tested the sound quality and there is no bass emphasis. The neutral sound is actually emphasized in the press release where it states that 'What you hear is as close as possible to what was recorded, rather than re-created or altered'. This may work for some folks, depending on their usage. 

For commuters, the flatness in delivery may not be a good option if you need a certain measure of bass to take it one step above the ambient traffic sounds. The low frequencies are not as strong as other bass-inclined headphones like the Klipsch Reference R6i On-EarThat said, Sarah Cracknell's vocal clarity on In The Dark is clean but not overly crisp. If used in a controlled environment such as the office or home, the sound comes across as pleasantly well balanced.

Wireless and wired performance is almost on par which is an impressive achievement. However, the wired option still gives the edge in providing slightly better clarity. Do note that wireless mode will give a very (very) negligible hum in the background.

We mentioned this earlier but there's absolutely no harm reinforcing the notion - it's so darn comfortable! Passive noise isolation is a plus point as what can be expected from an over-ears model. The ear pads envelop your ears completely to seal off a certain level of ambient sound.

The battery lasts a rather average 15 hours on a 3 hour charge given the what the Sony MDR-1ABT (30h) and the B&O BeoPlay H7 (20h) promise. On a 15 minute quick charge, you can get 2 hours of juice. A thing to note is Bluetooth will deactivate once the USB cord is plugged to the headphones. Oh, and the battery ain't user-replaceable.

The Bose SoundLink around-ears wireless headphones II is one of the most comfortable pair of headphones in its category. The minimal bass emphasis may be a turn off for commuters but the balanced sound coupled with a stylish design to boot could very well appeal to the fashionistas.

The Bose AE2 SoundLink is available at selected stores in Singapore such as the Atlas Experience Showrooms.

Audio Sources
Around the World - Daft Punk (Tidal 1411kbps FLAC) on Samsung Galaxy S4
In The Dark - Sarah Cracknell (960kbps FLAC) on Sony NW-ZX100 Walkman

Credit to Atlas and Affluence PR for a review unit.

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  1. Very nice... can't help but to get one... thanks very much for the info


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