The Bose new SoundLink headphones series, simply known as “Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II”, is a pair of lightweight wireless headset. Designed with premium materials like soft leather headband and ear cushions, it comes with an equally well-made case to store the headset.
Intelligent Voice Prompts
You can listen to the headphones wirelessly or with cables when battery runs dry. In wireless mode, the intelligent contextual voice prompt reads out the devices it is connected to. The voice prompts also report the battery level in percentage, not just “high” or “low”. A 15-minute charge can offer 2 hours of listening time. A full charge gets you 15 hours. There is also an option to disable the voice prompt if you do not like the sound of it. Without voice prompts, there is still the LED indicators to give you an idea of your battery health.
The headphones are easily operated with just 3 buttons. The volume buttons control only volume levels, while the middle button does most of the functions. Press the function button twice to forward the next track and press thrice to go to the previous. Hold the button to activate the smartphone voice dialing, during which the ambient sound is turned on to let you hear the surroundings while you speak to the mic for remote dialling. I thought this was a well-thought feature so that we don’t end up speaking too loud, which we often do as we could not hear ourselves with headphones.
Advanced Bluetooth Features
While most other wireless headsets offer standard Bluetooth capabilities, the SoundLink Headphones II comes with some special features. First of all, the Bluetooth mode is part of the power switch, of which you slide to activate the Bluetooth mode. When I slide and hold at the position, it will go into pairing mode, allowing me to pair new Bluetooth devices without restarting the headphone (an easier way to pair is using NFC). Secondly, the headphones can remember up to 8 devices, so when I slide and release the button quickly, I can manually toggle to previously-paired Bluetooth devices. Finally, the headphones connects to 2 recent devices, which means you can play music from either devices, just pause on one device and play on the other.
With Bluetooth wireless listening, the sound staging is wide, with deep bass response and clear treble details. The highs are bright with great sonic control, so it’s a rather comfortable listen even at loud volumes.
When the cable is plugged to the headphone port, the audio bypasses the headphone electronics. Turning on the power would receive no audible response. Neither would the buttons or the mic work. When listening with wire, the sound is compact, more forward, treble is less pristine. Wired listening would be more natural, while wireless listening is more enjoyable.
The headphones are comfortable to wear, thanks to the generously large ear cushions that goes around my ears. But there is little isolation from ambient noises. When listening in a noisy café, I would not be able to immerse in the music.
More than just a audio machine, the SoundLink headphones II offers well-thought interactive features between smartphone devices and the user, while delivering enjoyable audio quality of transparent treble and responsive bass. The SoundLink headphones II sells at recommended retail price of S$399, available at Atlas e-Store and selected resellers.
Comparing to Plantronics BackBeat SENSE
I can’t help comparing this to the BackBeat SENSE, which has many similarities, including colour scheme. Comfort-wise, the Bose is a little better due to around-ear cushions. Sound-wise, Bose treble sound is less piercing and the overall audio presentation is a notch better. Size-wise, I’d give it to BackBeat. Noise-isolation: BackBeat is better. Feature-wise, BackBeat is better, with OpenMic and Auto-Pause that are more useful, and the ability to use voice calling even without power. Price-wise, BackBeat is better value.