Pros: A headset that stays on while sporting!
Cons: A bit pricy for the sound quality
The Bose SIE2i headsets target the sports market by providing a headset that promises to stay on while you are sporting (running, jogging, biking etc.). Bose offers two colors; orange and green and two configurations; with or without microphone. There is about a 30 dollar price difference between the configuration options. This review is for the headset with microphone.
Bose' SIE2i headset utilizes a soft, spring like ear piece (the "StayHear" clip) that fits your ear canal and curvature of your inner ear. The unit comes with three different sizes to fit different ear types. To aid production of low tones, bass, the headset is created with 'external port technology' which promises to deliver deep lows, something that is often times difficult to do with small loudspeakers. The headset has built-in iPhone like controls and microphone and comes with an extension cable that would give you ample length to hide your music device away in a jacket pocket. For sports activities, a Reebok fitness armband is included that holds your phone and has a small pocket for e.g. a key.
Bose' claim to fame is in general to deliver superior sound quality from any of their devices. Naturally you would expect that from this headset also. My experience is that Bose does do much better than the standard 50 bucks competitor equivalent. However, though the sound is pleasing, I didn't feel the clarity was great, in fact, the unit had a tendency to boom a bit too much for me. Perhaps they concentrated on making deep lows a bit too much.
However, for sports related usage, staying in ear is more important than audio quality to me.
Nothing bothers me more than going out for a long run, only to find yourself fiddling with technology half way in. At first, the in ear clips felt rather flimsy and too soft to provide a real good grip. But after several runs and a bit of mountain biking I am very pleased with how well these ear pieces stay in. Though being wet, they did not gradually fall out or got filled up with fluid that would cut out the audio. Not only did they stay in well, they were very comfortable after several hours.
Another important aspect for me was the quality of the microphone. Previous sports headsets I have owned before have very low quality microphones that are nearly useless. Again I was pleasantly surprised with the mic quality and participants on my phone calls reported my voice to be easy to understand though a bit boomy (too much low tones). While making a phone call, I also perceived the conversation on my side to be a bit too boomy, though certainly very acceptable.
Most of the time you will want to use a armband to hold your phone while sporting. The Reebok armband that comes with the unit fits the iPhone 4/4s but would be a bit too small for the iPhone 5. It also has a small pocket for a (small) key. The armband forms one piece of fabric that you can make smaller to fit your arm with a velcro strip. The armband is about 11 inches in circumference so might not fit your (more muscular) arm. The armband works well though I don't always have an easy time to tighten it - the velcro strip seems a bit short to me. The cable is long enough to allow for a bit of routing through your sport shirt, it also has a little clip which you can clip on your clothing as appropriate. Running noises coupled through the cable are minimal/not audible. I personally have no use for the extension cable - too long for my purposes.
The SIE2i is not a noise isolating headset. While you run, bike etc. you will hear some of the environment noises depending on how loud you set your iPhone. Hearing some of the environment noise to come through is a benefit to me when running, biking etc on the street.
What works well
This is a good headset that delivers acceptable audio quality combined with the ability to stay in ear during your exercises. On top it has a good microphone.
What doesn't work well
I have had this unit too short to speak about durability. Though it is "sweat proof" according to Bose, I have had too many headphones with similar qualities that did not hold up for more than 1 year. Hopefully Bose is different. Getting the ear piece clips in takes a bit of practice and I struggle a bit with it sometimes in particular when I need to get them in quickly - its not a major issue to me.
UPDATE JULY 2, 2013:
Sweat-proof seems Bose' achilles heel; the up/down buttons have failed and making calls is nearly impossible as the microphone connection is flaky creating all sorts of noise issues. Playing music regularly is still working. Inspecting the jack, it seems some corroding took place as the metal has worn away at the ground connection. Replacing the connector may fix the issues but at about 6 months usage I find this an appalingly low quality for a headphones priced at 150 bucks.
Note that I used these headphones connected to my iPhone with the phone upside down in the arm sleeve so that the jack goes in from the bottom. I guess this may make the problem more pronounced as all "fluids" go down and perhaps accumulate right at the connector. Just speculating...
I still like the sound and comfort but the usability is way down without buttons.
Should you buy it?
I think you should certainly consider this device if you need a good sports headset. But before you buy consider my update from June 2, 2013 above.