Review – Bose AE2w Bluetooth Headphones
Well, it finally happened. The Nokia BH-905i headphones that I had been using for the last 5 years finally bit the dust. They would no longer link with my phone, or anything else for that matter, rendering them useless as a hands free device. I know, I know, I’m supposed to have one ear open when using a hands-free device and driving. Shh, don’t tell the Highway Patrol on me. At least I’m using a hands free device, unlike the dozens of stupid heads I see on the road every day. That alone should give me a fighting chance of talking myself out of a ticket for having both ears covered.
Where was I? Oh, yea, my new headphones. While I liked the performance of the Nokia headphones, finding replacement ear pads, cables or accessories was nearly impossible in the United States. That kinda ruled another Nokia product out for me. I wanted noise canceling technology for using the headphones on an airplane or in other noisy environments. I needed Bluetooth connectivity to use the headphones with my phone and to listen to music while working. Ear buds irritate the inside of my ears and on ear phones are uncomfortable for me to wear with my glasses, so an over the ear set was in order. Finally, I was aiming to spend less than $300.00. All of these requirements narrowed the list right down. From the few remaining choices, I went with the Bose AE2w Bluetooth Headphones.
Bose AE2w Design
The soft leather that surrounds the ear pieces is very forgiving and very comfortable to wear. The padding is so forgiving, that wearing glasses while using the headphones results in no pinching or pressure at all. The huge amount of adjustment on the head strap means that you can position the ear pieces exactly where they are most comfortable to wear. Using the Bose headphones for extended periods of time is not a problem.
Headphones, USB charging cable, Audio cable, Airline jack, Carry bag
Head strap is very adjustable; Easy and comfortable to wear with or without glasses; Top notch sound reproduction; Excellent noise cancellation.
Good seal around ears means little to no ventilation resulting in higher temperatures than you might want for the ears.
There is a small attachment on the bottom of the left ear piece. This is where the volume control, multipurpose button, power button, power cord plug and microphone are located. This sounds like a lot of things to cram into a small space but everything fits and works extremely well. All of the buttons are easy to use and intuitive in function. The power switch is up for on and down for off. Volume controls are just above the on/off switch and work exactly as you would expect. The multifunction button is on the top. Push it to start music playing, push again to pause. To connect a phone call, you guessed it, push the button. Push it again to disconnect. Easy, peasy!
The closed back design of the headphones effectively keeps any noise leak in check. There is no worry of anyone nearby being bothered if you like to crank the volume up. The downside of this design is that the headphones can be a little warm on the ears. As noted, the soft leather pads seal around the ears exceptionally well. While this seal is fantastic for sound quality, there isn’t much ventilation. I found my ears sweating when wearing them in warm weather. This also means that the AE2w’s may not be the best choice to use while working out.
My only concern with the AE2w is that they didn’t appear to have a jack to plug in an audio cable. It would be a real bummer if I couldn’t use my new headset to listen to a movie during a long flight. While reading the instruction sheet, I discovered that Bose had thought of this too. By gently pulling down on the multifunction button housing, it pops off, revealing a jack where you plug in the supplied audio cable. Bose even includes an airline adapter plug. Win! Bose clearly did their homework when designing the AE2w.
Bose has a reputation for delivering premium sound quality along with superior noise cancellation. I was anticipating some sound quality loss due to the compression of audio files associated with Bluetooth connectivity. I can’t say that I noticed any sound degradation at all. The sound is as full and as rich as any other headset I have tried. As with any headphones I have sampled, the bass suffers just a bit due to the small cone size of the speakers. The midrange and high notes, however, are crisp and clear. All in all, Bose absolutely lives up to its reputation for top notch sound reproduction. While the sound quality is superb, I have noticed an occasional ‘skip’ in the playback. In fairness, the ‘skip’ does seem to be random and very rare. I’m pretty sure this is a connectivity issue and not a glitch in the headphones. When all is said and done, I’ll gladly suffer through the odd interruption in playback for the convenience of wireless use.
Bose noise cancellation is top notch. Traffic noise, airplanes passing overhead, nearby conversations, the footfalls of joggers, wind noise, birds singing, all disappear. What this means in practical terms is that I get to listen to my music at a much lower volume and still hear every nuance clearly. Any surrounding sound is just erased. It can be a little disconcerting at times. When wearing the headphones out on a walk, the audible clues I expect to hear from my immediate environment simply vanish. Surrounding sounds are muted so completely that I am occasionally startled when an overtaking bicycle appears next to me. I would caution anyone wearing these headphones while out and about, to keep a wary eye on their immediate surroundings. I can easily imagine stepping out in front of a car because I never heard it coming.
While the noise cancellation is very noticeable out on the streets, the Bose AE2w headphones really come into their own in a noisy workplace. They Create your own personal bubble of tranquility, with soft music playing in the background. It's as easy as slipping the headphones on and hitting play. The Bluetooth connectivity means that you can move about your workspace freely while your phone or iPod remain plugged in. The only downside – if you want to call it that – is that you won’t hear your desk phone ring. But, if you need a little uninterrupted time to finish a project, the AE2w is just the ticket. Just remember to return those missed calls before you leave for the day!
Hands Free Calling
An informal poll of those I have spoken to on the phone while using the AE2w’s indicates that they work very well as a wireless headset. While hearing the other party with both ears takes a little getting used to, I am pleased to report that the noise cancellation works as effectively with phone calls as with music. Taking a phone call in a busy outdoor location with a noisy freeway nearby, I had no problem hearing clearly. Note, the noise cancellation does mute your own voice when you are talking. Because of this it is very easy to talk too loudly when using this headset. You wouldn’t want to share your conversation with passers by, would you? Unfortunately the noise cancellation only works on the incoming side. The microphone still picks up surrounding noise and transmits it to the other party. I also noticed a bit of wind noise coming through the mic when taking a call while outside on a windy day.
Those nits picked, on to more positives. Connecting to a call was as smooth as you would expect. Simply push the multifunction button and the headset seamlessly transitions from music to the call. When done with the call, push the button again and you are back to the music. When driving, it was a simple exercise to slip the headphones on, power them up and receive the call. The delay is barely a second long for the headphones to link with my iPhone. Exactly the way a hands free device is supposed to work.
With all of the choices of headphones available in the market place, going to a known name, with a proven track record makes sense. When a product also meets all of the requirements of the consumer it just adds bonus points. The Bose AE2w Bluetooth headphones carry on the outstanding quality and performance that Bose is know for, while adding the freedom of Bluetooth technology. That is a potent combination that is hard to beat.
About Brian Hill
Brian Hill is a home theater enthusiast who has an extensive background in sales. His interests include music & movies, F1 & NASCAR auto racing, hot rods (he has a '56 Nomad) and hockey — Go Sharks!
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