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In the box
Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II
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.
- Above-average audio reproduction.
- Lightweight and comfortable design.
- Stable and wireless design.
- Poor noise isolation.
- Plasticky build quality.
- High leakage.
Update 9/28/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.
The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear 2 are stylish-looking headphones that deliver an incredibly comfortable listening experience. Like the QuietComfort 35, they have a sleek, wireless design and a good but slightly cramped control scheme. They're not the best headphones to use at the gym but are stable enough for casual listening sessions. Sadly, their build quality is mostly plastic and not as durable as some other over-ear headphones that we've tested within their price range.
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.
- 100% Avg.Temp.Difference
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 Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II is a good sounding pair of closed-back over-ear headphones. These headphones have an excellent, deep, and punchy bass, a clear and nearly flawless mid-range, and a good and well-balanced treble. This makes them suitable for a wide variety of genres, from bass-heavy EDM and Hip-hop, to vocal-centric rock and pop. However, their bass delivery is prone to inconsistencies across multiple users, their distortion levels are a bit elevated, and like most other headphones, they don't have a speaker-like soundstage.
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 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 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 harmonic distortion performance of the SoundLink Around-Ear II is decent. The overall amount of harmonic distortion is low, but there is a rise in THD in high-bass at higher volumes. Also, the sharp peaks in THD in high-mid and low-treble could make the sound of those frequencies a bit harsh and brittle.
The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear 2 headphones only isolate passively. The ear cups provide a decent enough seal to prevent some high-frequency noise from entering your audio. Unfortunately, it's not sufficient for loud environments like on a train or plane. The heavy ambient noise of a busy commute could potentially ruin your listening experience. They also leak quite a bit of sound, which may be distracting to the people around you at moderate volumes.
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 Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II have a mediocre microphone. In quiet environments, speech recorded or transmitted with this integrated mic sounds relatively thin and muffled and lacking in detail. In noisy situations, it struggles to fully separate speech from background noise, even in moderately loud environments, like a busy street.
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.
- 100% SpNR
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 AE 2 have a good 20hr battery life but a mediocre app. They should easily last you a whole day's worth of continuous listening even if you're a heavy user, but unfortunately, they take a bit longer to charge than some of the newer models from Bose. On the upside, they have an auto-off timer that will shut down the headphones when inactive to conserve power, which makes them last considerably longer than some of the other similarly designed wireless headsets. Unfortunately, their app is bland and lackluster. It looks good but does not provide as many features as the Sennheiser Captune app or the Sony| Headphones Connect app.
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.
- 10% Bluetooth
- 32% Wired
- 10% Base/Dock
- 22% Wireless Range
- 25% Latency
The Bose SoundLink 2 are Bluetooth headphones that can pair simultaneously with multiple devices and supports NFC pairing. They also come simple audio cable with no in-line remote or microphone so you can use them with your console controllers but they will not have chat support. They have a good wireless range even when obstructed although they are not quite as far reaching as some of the other Bluetooth headphones we've tested in direct line of sight. Unfortunately, they have a quite a bit of latency which means they will not be the best option for watching movies and gaming unless you use them wired.
- 79% Multi-Device Pairing
- 20% NFC
- 0% PS4 Compatible
- 0% Xbox One Compatible
The Bose Soundlink 2 headphones can pair simultaneously with 2 devices and support NFC. Like the other wireless Bose models, they have an easy-to-pair power switch that can be quickly toggled 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.
- 13% Analog
- 9% USB
- 26% PS4 Compatible
- 26% Xbox One Compatible
- 26% PC Compatible
The Bose SoundLink 2 come with a simple audio cable with no in-line remote or USB adapter. This means they do not have a mic that is compatible with consoles.
- 4% Optical Input
- 22% Line In
- 4% Line Out
- 22% USB Input
- 4% RCA Input
- 9% PS4 Compatible
- 9% Xbox One Compatible
- 9% PC Compatible
- 2% Power Supply
- 13% Dock Charging
These headphones do not have a base/dock. If you want an equally great sounding headphone with a dock/base for watching movies and gaming, check out the Steel Series Arctis 7
The Bose SoundLink 2 have an above-average wireless range that extends a bit further than the Soundlink On-Ear. They have a stable connection up to and slightly above 40ft when the Bluetooth source is in another room. They perform about average in direct line of sight which is not as good as the QuietComfort 35 or Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2.
The Bose Soundlink AE 2 have a bit too much latency for watching movies and gaming. They are about average for most Bluetooth headsets, but at 195 ms with no low latency codecs, they will not be the best option for watching a lot of video content unless you use them wired.
In the box
- Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II Headphones
- Audio cable
- USB cable
- Carrying case
Compared to other Headphones
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. 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.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is a better commuting and mixed usage headset than the Soundlink Around Ear II thanks to their great noise cancellation. They have the same comfortable Bose design and ergonomic controls. They also have a long battery life, a good wireless range and multipoint and NFC pairing. However, the QuietComfort 35 II have one of the best noise cancelling performance that we've measured, which makes them a great option for commute and travel although they do leak a bit more than the SoundLink AE 2. If you do not need a lot of noise isolation when commuting, then the SoundLink could be a cheaper alternative to the QuietComfort 35 II but overall, the QC35 are the better built and more versatile headset.
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 are a more versatile but worse sounding alternative to the SoundLink Around-Ear II. On the upside, they have a customizable app that gives them access to a great EQ and a lot of customizable features. They have a good wireless range a decent build quality and a more stable fit for physical activities. They're also noise-canceling headphones with a decent isolation performance which makes them a better option for commuting. Unfortunately, they are not as comfortable or as easy-to-use as the Bose Soundlink Around-Ear 2. If you prefer have customization options for your headphones and also need a headset that's better suited for commuting, then get the HD 4.50.
The JBL E55BT are a slightly worse sounding wireless over-ear than the Bose SoundLink Around-Ear 2. They have about the same build quality although the Bose feel a bit more premium. On the upside, they are a more stable option for the gym since they have a slightly tighter fit and they're considerably cheaper than the Bose despite having a somewhat close performance and a mediocre set of features. If you're on a tight budget, then the JBL are a good and affordable alternative to the Soundlink. However, if you want the more comfortable and better-sounding headset, get the Bose SoundLink. Unfortunately, they may not be the best option for their price point when compared to the JBL.
The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are a more versatile wireless headset than the SoundLink AE 2. They're comfortable, well-built headphones with an excellent wireless range and battery life. They have an exciting sound that packs a lot of bass without drowning instruments and vocals but doesn't sound as balanced as the Bose. On the upside, they are noise canceling even though they do not isolate as well as some of the more recent noise-canceling headphones. They have a simple and efficient control scheme and multiple codecs options that they support that makes them suitable for watching movies and gaming. They're easily one of the most versatile over-ear headsets we've tested and they're cheaper than the Bose but not as comfortable.
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