Around this time last year, Bose released their SoundLink On ear headphones which received great reviews around the world. This year, Bose has come out with the Over-ear model that basically sounds similar to the wired SoundTrue headphones that were released some time ago. Much of the physical design is based on their QuietComfort model that features active noise cancellation giving superb sound quality. The SoundLink II lacks the active noise cancellation feature but retains the Bose quality and it is designed to be a wireless headphone.
This is the place where things get interesting. SoundLink II is extremely light in weight, weighing only 150 grams approximately. Usually, light weight headphones have all brittle plastic parts that are likely to break if you twist them or use them harshly. Inspite of being all plastic build, it feels strong enough to take physical beating.
JimsReviewRoom has a review online where he literally pulls and twists the headphones with lot of force. That has no effect on the product, it just appears like he is playing with a large rubber band. Such flexibility only shows that the headphones has the capability to adjust to any head size with no struggle.
Much of the construction of the headphones remain similar to the Bose SoundLink On-ear headphones released last year. The ear cushions are made from very soft comfortable material with leather skin on the outside. The headband is made from an anodized aluminium ribbon frame. The top of the headband has leather material while the bottom, which touches your skull is made from soft foamy material that feels really quite nice. You can extend the length of the headband by pulling the cans downwards which will begin clicking as you do so. This mechanism does not require too much force to pull it down and it is secure enough to not move on its own while wearing the headphones.
The cans are fixed on a sturdy, rotating mechanism. The Soundlink II headphones do not have hinges to bend the cans inwards. The Inner side of the cans have fabric marked with L and R indicating the channels. On the underside of the cans you will find a bunch of buttons to control the power, volume and answer calls. There is ability to use one tap NFC pairing by press of a button. You will also find an audio jack with 2.5mm diameter where you can plug in a cable if you happen to run out of battery. The cable provided in the box measures only 3 feet long, enough to reach your trouser pockets. Some may have a problem with the cable length being too short. A micro USB port along with a small length USB cable is also provided to allow charging of battery. With the headphones you also get a soft shell cover to store your headphones.
Most Bose products are known for their well balanced, natural sound reproduction. SoundLink II Around ear headphones do not really have a flat response. The bass is slightly boosted while the mids and the highs are great. Some reviewers have compared the bass of these headphones with that of Beats Solo 2. Nevertheless, Solo 2’s performance is no where near that of SoundLink’s.
Being a wireless headphone, there is an internal DAC and an amplifier to take care of that A2DP audio stream coming from your phone and pushing it on to the drivers. Therefore, the sound will appear to be sharper and louder while running them wireless. The significant change in sound signature becomes noticeable when listening in wired mode. It definitely indicates DSP based equalisation is working inside the cans while listening in wireless mode. These headphones are obviously meant to be used in wireless mode, you will be missing out if you don’t! Wired mode is simply kept as a backup in case you run out of power.
SoundLink II handles the frequencies very well. You will not notice any kind of frequency to be overpowering over another. The vocals and instruments stay apart from each other rather than causing distortion or subduing one another. High tones appear to fall in the region of roll off so naturally they do not come out too loud. Even so, there is enough sparkle in these headphones to give a a balanced listening experience.
Since, SoundLink II around ear headphones are designed with quite some focus on calls, it is necessary to review the microphone quality as well. Most reviews have pointed out that the microphone picks up surrounding noise which can be quite annoying for the person on the other side of the call. There is noise cancellation enabled in the internal DSP which takes care of surrounding noise as well as wind noise, but it just doesn’t seem to be working the way it should. In quiet environments, the microphone picks up your voice exceedingly well. There is no ringing or distortion in the voice pick up to disturb the call.
There are only 3 buttons apart from power button to do whatever you want to do. Two of them are used as volume rocker, while much of whatever you are going to do will be with this one multi-function button at the center. A single tap plays the music or answers the call, 2 taps jump to next track and 3 taps jump to previous track.
Sound Isolation and comfort
The large, leather ear cups provide great comfort from being very soft but they do not do so well when it comes to sound isolation. At low volumes there is no apparent sound leakage but as you ramp up the volume, sound leakage can become a problem for someone sitting near you. Similarly, outside sound is blocked quite well but you will still be left with some sound leaking in to keep you aware of the surrounding.
The ear cans do press tightly against your jaw bone, but the soft leather prevents the hard parts from causing any kind of pain. The ear lobes are left free inside the cups with no real pressure to cause pain or discomfort. Much of the pressure applied by the headphones is on the outer edges of the cup. Being so tightly held against your head, you will feel the warming up of your ears and might want to take a break once in a while by removing the headphones and allowing some air flow.
Bose claims that a 15 minute charge will be enough to run the headphones for next 2 hours non-stop. This is a good for someone who wants to rush out of the house in a hurry and needs the headphones. A quick charge will be enough to offer decent playback time. A full charge of 3 hours on the other hand, provides a whopping 15 hours of playback time. Comparing this with Solo 2 headphones, it is nearly 3 whole hours extra. Again, the overall battery life may be more or less depending on the volume you use them at.
A lot of things are great about SoundLink II Around ear headphones. Its great construction (even though it is all plasticy), good quality sound signature, lengthy battery life and to top it all off, its wirelessness, makes these headphones worth having. A big turn off is the cost which will set you back by a whopping $279. If you are keen on having really good sound quality and feeling satisfied with your purchase, do have a look at Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones which only cost $20 more and come with active noise cancellation. To me, $279 on these headphones is simply a rip off.