Bose has recently added another notch to its belt by introducing its first ever wireless headphones, the Bose AE2w. Touted to be the AE2 outfitted with a Bluetooth module, it retails at $250 – positioning it sorely on the middle rung of the price ladder. Most Bluetooth headphones have to strike a balance between fidelity and convenience, so how the AE2w fares will be the focus of this review.
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Design and Comfort
In the looks department, the AE2w is not all that different from its wired cousin, the AE2. From the fabric-covered headband to the elongated ear cups, it exhibits a sleek elegance that few could complain about. The all-black theme also contributes to that image. The ear cups are exceedingly comfortable; covered with synthetic leather, they don’t heat up even past the 1-hour mark. Bose favors a light touch with the grip of the headphones, and at 149.6 g, it doesn’t feel as if your brain is being squeezed out of you. It may not stay on if you do aerobics, though.
Going wireless is a liberating sensation – it’s as if a whole new world has opened up. Gone are the days of taking the headphones on and off multiple times when you need to get something from somewhere else. The Bluetooth module attached to the left ear cup is suitably unobtrusive; it doesn’t get in the way and is easy to access. Besides, it’s removable. The buttons are aptly spaced and designed in such a way that you can do anything just by touch – a huge point for convenience.
One of the things included in the set is an optional audio cable. If your battery has drained, a wired listening is still possible. Remove the Bluetooth module to reveal a port which you can plug the cable into. It goes without saying that by doing so all Bluetooth options and controls are disabled, but it’s still ideal for long trips devoid of charging opportunities. Also included in the box are a USB charging cable and a drawstring bag. A sturdier case would have been more satisfactory, but it’s something you can do without.
With a range of 30 feet, the Bluetooth capability is excellent. You can even stretch it to 35 feet, but more than one wall between you and your devices will impair connectivity. The control module has a multifunction button, + and – volume buttons, an On/Off button, LED indicators for pairing and battery level, and a microphone. Pairing the AE2w with your device is wonderfully easy – a matter of holding down the multifunction and + volume button and choosing the AE2w from your device’s Bluetooth list.
Pairing can also be done with two devices simultaneously, further increasing the AE2w’s convenience points. For example, if you’re using it with your smartphone and music player, an incoming call will beep and a single press of the multifunction button will both answer it and pause the music. Another press after you’ve finished will end the call and restart the music again. All in all, a very seamless and gratifying process. It’s also worth noting that the AE2w is particularly compatible with the iPad.
Wireless may not equal audiophile quality, but a pair of headphones that makes the most of it will be the pair to have. The low-end frequencies of the AE2w is deep enough to satisfy the relevant genres, but aren’t exactly a tight and controlled response. In contrast, the mid-range and high frequencies sound natural, even if the former is muddied up by the loose bass at times. However, vocals are vibrant and alive, consequently making mellow, acoustic tracks a beautiful experience.
In other respects, the AE2w doesn’t fare as well. The immersive sound that Bose claims to deliver is not as successful as it could have been, due to the disappointing volume level. Even at 80%, it’s nowhere near enough. Coupled with sound leakage, the most that you can get away with in a public environment is around 40%, but this leaves you straining to hear your music. Although you can get a more satisfactory volume when it’s wired, that is not the intended state for the headphones. This combination reduces its overall convenience.
The microphone performed better than expected – because it is relatively close to the mouth, the transmission is crisp, free of the usual cable noise accompanying wired headphones. It’s fortunate that all the features packed into the AE2w results in 7 hours of listening time, and around 200 hours in standby mode. It’s pretty reasonable return for around 3 hours of charging time.
The AE2w’s design is flawless and is one of the most comfortable headphones around. The excellent Bluetooth controls and connectivity is also one of the advantages it has over its pricier rivals. However, several let-downs in the sound department is enough to make you consider another alternative, namely the Harman Kardon BT. This contender may not look as good (or normal), but in terms of sound it’s way ahead of the AE2w. Both costing $250, the AE2w is not good enough to be the informed choice.