The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear 2 are above-average mixed usage headphones with a good and well-balanced sound. They're lightweight, incredibly comfortable and easy to use with straightforward controls and an ergonomic design. Unfortunately, their build quality is a bit plasticky for their price range, and they don't block ambient noise well enough for loud environments, like being on a train or plane.
Decent for neutral listening. They're comfortable for long listening sessions and have a well-balanced sound that delivers a good amount of bass that isn't overpowering. They have an even and neutral sounding mid-range and good treble that caters well to all music genres. Unfortunately, they do not have the most spacious stage since they have a closed back design bit they should sound good enough for most and even more neutral listeners.
Decent for commuting. The Bose SoundLink II don't isolate enough for loud environments and may struggle to block the noise of a train or bus. On the upside, they are comfortable, easy to use with a simple and straightforward control scheme. They're also fairly lightweight and come with a decent case to carry them in while traveling, although they won't be the easiest headphones to carry around on your person without a bag.
Decent for sports use. They have a comfortable and lightweight wireless design. They're also fairly easy to use with an efficient control scheme. Unfortunately, they are slightly too unstable for intense exercises.
Above-average for office use. They are comfortable headphones you can wear for long periods of time. They also have a well-balanced sound and a great battery life. Unfortunately, they do not block as much noise which means you may be able to hear the ambient noise in a noisy office environment and they leak a bit at high volumes so they may be slightly distracting to those around you.
Subpar for gaming. The Bose SoundLink 2 have too much latency, they're not compatible with consoles via Bluetooth and cannot be customized to the extent of other gaming headphones. They also have a mediocre integrated microphone and do not have chat support when connected to your console controllers via their audio cable.
The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II are above-average wireless headphones with a decent audio reproduction. They are incredibly comfortable and deliver an ergonomic design that's decently stable but won't be ideal for sports (check our recommendations for the best over-ear headphones for working out). Unfortunately, they're a little plasticky for their price range and won't be your go-to headphones for commuting since they do not block that much noise. On the upside, they have a long battery life, a good wireless range and come with a standard audio cable to use with your phone or console controllers. This makes them decent for most use cases although they do feel a little pricey for what they have to offer when compared to some of the wireless options below. See our recommendations for the best wireless headphones and the best closed-back headphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 25/QC25 are the wired and noise cancelling variant of the Bose SoundLink 2 Wireless. If you need a wired headset and noise cancellation for your busy commutes, the QC25 are a better choice. On the other hand, the SoundLink are wireless, which makes them a bit more practical for day to day use, but worse for watching videos and gaming since all Bluetooth headphones have a bit of latency. Other than that, they have a fairly similar design and sound quality.
The Bose SoundLink 2 Wireless and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC 35 II Wireless 2018 are almost identical headphones, but the QC35 II are more versatile thanks to their ANC feature, which the SoundLink 2 lack. If you need active noise cancellation for commuting, then go for the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. However, if you don't need the added isolation, then the Bose SoundLink 2 have the same design without the ANC. The QC 35 II also have a slightly more pronounced bass and feel a tiny bit more durable and well-made. On the other hand, the SoundLink 2 offer better value if you don't need ANC, have even easier-to-use controls, and are a bit lighter, so they might be a tad more comfortable for some during longer listening sessions.
The Bose SoundLink 2 Wireless are better headphones than the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT. The Bose are one of the most comfortable headphones we’ve tested so far, and they have a more neutral sound signature. On the other hand, the Audio-Technica have better wireless range and are better-built than the Bose. They also have a great battery life but take much more time to charge fully. While the Bose support an earlier version of Bluetooth and therefore has worse wireless range, it can connect to two devices simultaneously, which the ATH-Audio-Technica can’t do, but they support Bluetooth 5.0.
The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless 2016 are a more feature-packed and a slightly better headset than the Bose SoundLink 2 Wireless since they're also noise cancelling. The Plantronics have a much better battery life and a much greater wireless range, which makes them suitable for pairing to fixed sources like a TV or a PC. They're also a bit more versatile since they support multiple codecs, and their ANC makes them a good option to use for your noisy commutes. On the other hand, the Bose have a more comfortable over-ear fit and a better-balanced sound that caters well to all genres and won't be as bass-heavy as the Plantronics.
The Bose SoundLink 2 Wireless are slightly better wireless headphones than the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC. The Bose are much more comfortable and have a better-balanced sound profile. On the other hand, the Sennheiser block out more background noise thanks to their ANC feature, feel more stable on the head, and have a slightly longer battery.
The Bose SoundLink 2 Wireless are slightly better headphones than the Sony WH-CH700N Wireless thanks to their very comfortable build. They can also connect to two devices simultaneously and have a way shorter charge time than the Sony. Their fit also isolates more than the disappointing noise cancelling feature of the Sony. On the other hand, the Sony have noticeably more battery life but have a very long charge time of over six hours. On the upside, they have a nice 5-band EQ to customize their sound to your liking, which you can’t do with the Bose.
The Bose SoundLink 2 look very similar to the SoundTrue Around-Ear II and the QuietComfort 25 with a few differences. They have the same sleek and simple design that looks great and is available in different color schemes. They're well-crafted, and the suede-like padding on the headband contributes to giving these headphones a premium appeal that's eye-catching.
The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear 2 are incredibly comfortable headphones. They don't apply too much pressure to your head, and the padding used for the ear cups is very soft. That combined with their lightweight design makes you almost forget you have headphones on. The headband could you use a little more padding and the ear cups might be a little smaller than some other over-ear headphones, but you won't be disappointed with the comfortable level these headphones provide.
The Bose SoundLink AE 2 Wireless II have an efficient control scheme. They provide call/music, track-skipping, and volume controls. The buttons deliver good tactile feedback and are relatively easy-to-use. However, they feel a little cramped on the ear cup.
The SoundLink AE 2, like most closed-back headphones, do not have the most breathable design. They create a good seal around your ears which prevents a lot of airflow and will make your ears fairly warm during longer listening sessions. They will not be the most suitable option for intense workout routines but should be fine for more casual listening.
These headphones are moderately portable. They do not fold into a more compact format like the Bose QuietComfort 25 and 35, but the earcups lay flat to take up less space. They are medium-sized over-ear headphones that are not too heavy or cumbersome but they won't fit into any pockets and may need to be carried in a bag.
The Bose SoundLink II come with a decent, soft case that is only slightly bigger than the headphones. The case looks great and prevents the headphones from getting scratched or damaged. However, it doesn't offer as much protection from drops and impacts as the Quiet Comfort 35 II's case.
The Bose SoundLink 2 have a decent build quality. They feel sturdy enough to handle a couple of drops without any damage. The ear cups are relatively dense and won't break or crack easily. However, they are mostly made of plastic and don't feel as durable as some better-built over-ear headphones. The metal frame that reinforces the headband is thin and the swivel joints seem susceptible to breaking under moderate physical stress.
The Bose SoundLink AE II are above-average stable headphones. They will easily maintain their position during casual listening sessions. They have a wireless design that prevents the headphones from being yanked off your head due to the audio cable getting hooked on something. Unfortunately, like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, they are not sports headphones and are not tight enough on your head to stop the ear cups from swaying and slipping off your ears, when used while running.
The frequency response consistency is about average. As opposed to the QuietComfort 35 II that uses its noise cancelling system to calibrate the bass reponse, the SoundLink 2 doesn't have an ANC system, and therefore showed some inconsistencies in bass delivery across our human subjects. The maximum amount of deviation in the bass range is about 4dB at 40Hz, which is noticeable but not too bad. In the treble range, they show less consistency and seem to be sensitive to positioning and placement.
The bass of the SoundLink 2 is excellent. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 10Hz, which is great. Low-bass, which is responsible for thump and rumbling sounds, is within 1.5dB of our target, which is also great. Additionally, mid-bass, responsible for body and punch, and high-bass, responsible for warmth are within 1dB of our neutral target. This indicates a deep, punchy and well-balanced, that doesn't sound boomy and doesn't overpower the vocals or other instruments.
The mid-range performance of the SoundLink II is excellent. The overall response is quite even and flat, and low-mid, mid-mid, and high-mid are all within 0.6dB of our neutral target. This results in a well-balanced mid-range, which produces clear vocals and lead instruments.
The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear 2 have a good treble. The overall response is rather uneven, but well-balanced. Low-treble is overemphasized by 1.5dB, which could add a bit of excess intensity and projection to vocals and leads. The narrow but +5dB dips in mid-treble have a small but negative effect on the balance of sibilances (S and T sounds) which will be mostly noticeable on vocals and cymbals.
The imaging is good. Weighted group delay is at 0.19, which is very good. The GD graph also shows that the entire group delay response is below the audibility threshold. This indicates a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. In terms of driver matching, the L/R drivers of our test unit were well-matched in frequency response, but showed a little bit of mismatch in frequency and phase response. This could skew the stereo image slightly by making one side a bit heavier than the other.
It should be noted that this mismatch could be unique to our test unit and the one you buy may or may not have this issue.
The Bose SoundLink 2 have a sub-par soundstage. The PRTF graphs show a decent amount of pinna interaction, but with low accuracy. There's not a notch around 10KHz present either. This and the closed-back design of these headphones results in a soundstage that is perceived to be located inside the listener's head, as opposed to in-front.
The isolation performance of the SoundLink 2 is mediocre. In the bass range, where the rumble of airplane and bus engines sits, they don't provide any isolation. In the mid-range, important for blocking out speech, they achieve 14dB of isolation which is above-average. In the treble range, occupied by sharp sounds like S and Ts, they reduce outside noise by more than 32dB , which is good.
The leakage performance of the SoundLink II is decent. The significant portion of their leakage is between 400Hz and 2KHz, which is a relatively broad range. The overall level of the leakage is not very loud though. With the music at 100dB SPL, the leakage at 1 foot away averages at 40dB SPL and peaks at about 55dB SPL, which is just above the noise floor of most offices.
The SoundLink 2's microphone has an average recording quality. The LFE (low-frequency extension) of 306Hz indicates a recorded/transmitted speech that's relatively thin. The HFE (high-frequency extension) 3.5KHz results in a speech that lacks detail and is noticeably muffled. However, it'll still be decently comprehensible since speech intelligibility is mostly dependent on the 500Hz-4KHz range.
The integrated microphone of the SoundLink II is mediocre at noise handling. In our SpNR test, this mic achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 15dB, meaning they are best suited for quiet environments and may struggle to fully separate speech from ambient noise in moderate and loud places.
The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II have a decent battery life of about 20 hours. This means you won't have to charge them as often throughout the day which makes them suitable headphones to take on long flights or road trips. They also have an adjustable timer that helps prolong the battery life. Unfortunately, like the SoundLink On-Ear, you can't use them while they're charging and they also take a quite bit of time to charge. So if you're out of battery, you won't be able to use the headphones for about 2.6 hours.
The Bose Connect app looks fancy but has a disappointing list of features. It only allows you to connect, rename, and update your headphones but doesn't provide you with an equalizer or any other sound enhancing features. On the upside, you get the battery level status, an auto-off timer you can set at different intervals and an in-app player that gives you some playback control but that's pretty much it.
Update 10/18/2021: These headphones were updated to Test Bench 1.5 and their PC latency value has changed. Our previous Test Bench 1.4 measurements reported 'PC latency' at 195 ms. However, our new test bench uses an average of three measurements instead of one, resulting in a new value of 252 ms of latency on PCs. As a result, we have updated our text to better reflect test bench 1.5 measurements.
The Bose Soundlink 2 headphones can pair simultaneously with two devices and support NFC. Like the other wireless Bose models, they have an easy-to-pair power switch that you can quickly toggle to put the headphones in pairing mode. They also keep the last sync devices in memory for automatic pairing when you turn the headphones on. Unfortunately, their latency on PCs is likely too high to be suitable for watching movies and gaming. Their latency on Android devices is quite high, although it's a bit lower on iOS devices. That said, some apps and devices compensate for latency differently, so your experience may vary.