Bose released the SoundTrue ear phones last year and they have been a big hit because of two reasons. First, they had almost a natural audio response and second, they did not feel like you have stuffed cotton balls in your ear holes, they felt comfortable because of the StayHear tips. This year, Bose has come out with SoundTrue Ultra in-ear headphones which were released in the month of September. In case you are interested in a more sports friendly pair of earphones, you can read the Bose Freestyle review.
The most noticeable difference in comparison to the previous versions comes with the physical design. You will find the ear tips are a hybrid of the 2014 SoundTrue in-ears and the standard ear tips that plug in your ear. The shark fin design really ensures a firm fit while ear piece sits gently in your ears. The 2014 SoundTrue did not have the tips that sealed the ear canals well. They just sat there and let all the weight go on the shark fins. There was some issues with noise isolation which seems to be eliminated with this year’s release and now they call those improved tips “StayHear Ultra” but its simply a rebranding of “StayHear+” that come with the original QC20 noise cancelling earphones. You also get an extra pair of small and large StayHear Ultra ear tips with the package.
Another noticeable difference is the point where the left and right cables split from the main cable. That junction was designed to be a simple on the last years design. With the SoundTrue Ultra, Bose has made this junction to have a ‘T’ shape. Users have already complained about this design because there is no firm support at the point where cables split. It just makes this joint more prone to internal breaks. Even I would prefer the simple junction design rather than the ‘T’ shaped split. Speaking of joints, the headphone jack is a straight design and does not have an elbow.
The cables have no difference in comparison to last years model. They are thin yet feel strong enough to last a long time. Again, they are not the non-tangling cables that we all get these days. Bose has claimed that apart from the mentioned physical differences, SoundTrue ultra now offers more resistance to sweat and water. However we can’t find any information that says what IPX rating they are.
The package also comes with a carry case, which may appear a little bit smaller than the one came with previous model. The case is quite stiff although it does not seem to be made from a hardshell material, but be assured that it won’t bend and damage the contents inside.
The original Bose SoundTrue offered respectable audio performance to please enough audiophiles around the world. I, personally do not find any significant flaws in the last year’s model taking into account the sound performance. Even though the noise isolation was not great it still managed to make a lot of users happy. With the Ultras, Bose seemed to have focused entirely on the physical aspects of the earphones whilst paying very little attention on improving sound quality. That raises the question of whether the 2015 model is really worth buying.
The sound coming out is definitely quite clear but there is a lack of bass on the Ultra model. Mids and the highs remain balanced and warm. The noticeable clarity becomes very pleasing while watching movies on a phone because the human dialogs stand out but the lack of balanced bass is enough to spoil the experience. Not that this will be of any importance to an average user, but considering the fact that Bose has an audiophile consumer base, this is indeed raising concerns for potential buyers.
An ideal bass should be inline with all the other frequencies. It should sound punchy and give a feeling of depth. The SoundTrue ultra earphones would definitely fail at keeping your expectations. If you are thinking of making a move from the 2014 model to 2015 model, you are better off buying another 2014 SoundTrue for $89 and putting on StayHear Ultra ear tips over it.
Another annoyance that becomes significant if you love running and working out while wearing earphones is the cable noise. The tapping noise that occurs due to cable brushing against your body is very significant on the Ultras. Some users even heard their own breathing become significantly louder when they wore the earphones. So, being water and sweat resistant is of no use if you cannot wear them while working out or while running. I believe that this noise became significant because of the tight seal made by the StayHear Ultra tips.
Bose has made a disappointing product by focusing solely on physical design and not really getting the audio right, not that the audio is altogether poor but considering the price we are paying for it, they should have offered a balanced if not near balanced audio response, something that Bose is known for. They could have even slapped in the same drivers used on older model and that would have made this product better.
The Bose QuietComfort 20 earphones review looks at extra features such as active noise cancellation. The magic being, ANC blocks unwanted background noise electronically, the Soundtrue Ultra in-ears don’t have this feature!
SoundTrue® Ultra headphones (including cable and StayHear® tips):48″ L (0.63 lbs)