Strenuous activities demand a lot more from headphones than, say, the usual daily commute. Hence, the forays of sound engineering companies into the market of sport headphones are always worthy investments. The venerable Bose came up with its own sport earphones, namely the Bose SIE2 and SIE2i. They are basically sweat-resistant versions of the preceding IE2 earphones, and cost a little bit more. The spotlight will be on the SIE2 for this review.
Unlike the IE2, the buds on Bose SIE2 are not technically buds, but rather circular disks with acoustic ports. They are “positioned to resist sweat and water and are covered with a hydrophobic cloth to keep moisture out while letting sound pass through.” That’s what Bose claims, and it’s actually true. The disks are brilliant in comparison to silicone buds that often slide out with sweat, although you may have to get used to the absence of the sealing sensation than the latter provides.
The little wings attached to the disks are Bose’s proprietary StayHear tips, which are designed to rest inside the bowl of the ears. The curved end of the wings will slot into the ridge of your ears, but to avoid soreness you do have to find your size from the S, M and L pairs provided. All in all, they offer a relaxed, but secure fit. Even an aggressive run does not come close to dislodging them, and they don’t require much adjustment either.
Whilst the SIE2i has a multitude of options, the only color that the SIE2 is available in is an appealing lime green. The color is retained for both of its cables (53.3 cm and 60 cm respectively) and corresponds with the accompanying Reebok armband. The 60 cm extension cable comes down nicely to your waist when used without the armband, but has a tendency to flip around (and risk looping in your arms). This is where the included shirt clip comes in handy.
The alliance between Bose and Reebok has resulted in the highly functional armband. It has several entry points to accommodate different headphone cables, and also an ID and key pouch. You can also sweat a little easier knowing that the inside is designed to keep moisture out. Unfortunately, size is an issue, for both the device you’ll be using and your arm. The armband can only house devices which are as big as or smaller than the iPhone 4, and its Velcro wrap can only extend so much.
The SIE2 does not come with an inline remote and microphone, but that’s what the SIE2i was released for. It’s pretty frustrating to not have the feature available at $120, but such is life. The SIE2i has a wider range of colors, anyway.
The SIE2 has a similar sound profile to its cousin the IE2, but that may not be saying much. It’s pleasantly bassy with an adequate amount of depth, but not so seismic that you feel it when pounding the pavements. Bass-heavy tracks are carried off well with none of the woolly response you get when cranking the volume way up. However, its performance in other ranges of frequencies is lamentably uninspiring.
Compared to the much cheaper TDK EB950, the SIE2’s mid-range is not as nuanced as you might have hoped. It’s sad that the resolution expected of a pair of top-tier sport headphones is lacking, although by other standards it might be judged decent. The transition between the mid-range and the highs is also a tad abrupt, causing the latter to register suddenly instead of succeeding a smooth build-up. In contrast, the TDK EB950 has wonderfully crisp highs and vocals that just shine.
Due the ear pieces resting in the bowls of your ears rather than being jammed inside the ear canals, the SIE2’s sound-isolation is not particularly praiseworthy. Even though you can hear your music fairly well at less than the maximum volume, ambient noise does make it way through – but this does not necessarily be a bad thing. Cars and other vehicles are the city runner’s worst enemies, so the SIE2 might be the prudent choice for road safety.
If you’re honest with yourself and think that you don’t need audiophile sound quality while gasping through your workout, the Bose SIE2 is the pair for you. Although a tad overpriced, its stellar design, excellent fit and complementary armband makes for a pretty compelling argument. But then again, $120 is a steep price to pay considering better audio can be had for a fraction of that number. It comes down to this; sound, or fit?