Bose Tri-Port Headband Headphones - Silver/Black

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An investment that paid off in the end: The Bose On-Ears

Feb 4, 2010 (Updated Feb 4, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Sound quality, sturdy design, replaceable cords, hard shell case.

Cons:Price is overly inflated, came with no adapters.

The Bottom Line: --


Taking a minor pause from reviewing music, I thought I'd take the time to review another music-related product, and for the past few years I've been rocking out using Bose's "budget" model of on-ear headphones. This powerful set of speakers, the On-Ears, are modeled after their flagship Quiet Comfort 3's without the noise cancellation feature. I made the leap from cheap headphones to quality headphones around this time, and after using a cheap pair of Sony's, I knew exactly where to turn. Bose usually has their headphones on display at department stores like Target or Best Buy, and I had tried on countless sets before deciding on this particular model. Though certainly pricey, I loved the plushy pads, which quickly formed around my ears like one of those foam mattresses from Brookstone. I left for classes early that morning, withdrew a painful $180.00 from my savings account and skirted off to the mall to buy a pair. I don't remember if it was the end of the semester or the beginning of it, but I seem to recall it being warmer than usual, something I didn't think about at the time. Over time, the headphones have certainly paid for themselves, but are these truly an investment? With minimal features for the price, I have to say that Bose is the Apple of the headphone-world, bumping prices for a pretty piece of plastic on the side of the ear-cups.

The Bose On-Ear headphones more or less exactly mirror their popular QC3 model, and as written, it lacks the noise-canceling feature. Now, it may sound like you need that, but allow me to be honest in saying that you certainly do not. While it's something nice to have on a plane or a noisy train, you pay an even bigger cost in that they are dependent on a less-than-impressive battery power that doesn't even last a full day. And unlike other models, once the battery goes, you don't just lose the superfluous feature of white noise...you lose your music! So really, it's bang for the buck by chopping the price nearly in half and getting these models, which work battery-free. The headphones are attractively built with a silver and black set of oval speakers and a black headband. The headband has a stretchy fabric beneath it for comfort on the head and a standard pleather on the to. The soft cups are made of the same pleather on the inside with a cloth settle for a very feathered and realistic sound. And after years of use, there is not one scratch or tear in any of the material, and believe you me...I am not light on my headphones. These things have been jumbled through bags, shoved in my jacket pocket, dropped, lost, mangled, you name it's happened. And after all this time, they look like they just came out of the box immediately. The metallic silver paint on the left ear cup has just now started to scratch off (on an edge), but you'd have to have a really good eye (or be looking for that kind of thing) to notice it. Those are pretty durable headphones. Construction is rather sturdy, and though I seem to recall a compartment popped out a little as to let air leak in, it popped back in, and I'm fairly sure I sat on them or something. And I can't say it's ever happened since.

Bose's models, as they are expensive, state-of-the-art headphones, have two plugs in them, the first one leaked out of the left cup. A thick, sturdy plug juts out and connects to thinner cords which are replaceable through certain Bose stores and online. And why do people buy new headphones? Because the wires on the inside pop out of place and then channels die out. But if that happens with these models, you can pop down to the mall and buy a new one. On the downside, I'm on my third cord or something. The cords themselves are coated well and are certainly more sturdy than cheap earbuds, but the plugs (which are stiff and unforgiving) are quite easy to mess up, and the last cord only lasted me a few months. Straight of the box, the headphones came with two plugs: one a standard length for pockets; one meant for maybe a breast pocket or for use with mp3 players are the gym (that you can clip to your arm sleeve or whatnot). These can be stored in a hard-cover carrying case about the size of multiple CD holder for the car. The ear cups on the headphones fold up into the circle that the headband makes, allowing them to fit perfectly into the case. And allow the cups swing inside and lay flat, the headband does not bend. This may not be a big deal, and it certainly doesn't hinder its construction, but it does make the sides of the headphones jut out a little bit from the head. It can be a little space-alien if you don't have thicker hair, but I wouldn't call it all that alarming.

As for the function of the headphones, they sound sweet. The bass can thump if you've got the right files, and it can certainly an extreme level of volume. They leak very minimal sound once fitted to your ears (you would have to cancel out most sound around you to have your music be heard), but they can almost act as personal speakers if you leave them on your desk with the cups face-up. Classical music may sound slightly thicker than it does with other headphones, but it certainly doesn't make it muddy. Hip hop and electro sound better than ever, and rock is surprisingly clear. Even with music with tons of guitar experimentation or piano-inspiration (a la Genesis, perhaps), textures don't sound like they've been flattened. And even spoken word rings through as clear as a bell. But it's also worth stating that these headphones will very easily show pops and problems with your files, so if you download a lot of transcoded crap from Limewire, you might be bummed out when these headphones don't exactly sound better than your free iPod ones. These headphones are not miracle workers, but they are honest. Don't take them for granted, and you'll be surprised by the amazing sound quality, the sturdy design, and the multiple cord options. On the down side, Bose could have thrown in an airplane or hi-fi adapter, particularly to make up for the inflated 180 price tag. And while these headphones can make my ears clammy in the Summer, I'd rather sweat than listen through a cheap pair of 15 dollar earbuds.

And now, back to the music, because I'm not as good at reviewing crap outside my field.

DESIGN [4.5 Stars]
SOUND QUALITY [5 Stars]
FEATURES [4 Stars]
PRICE TAG [3.5 Stars]PRICE TAG (over time) [4 Stars]

SCORE: 4 STARS (4.2)

Other Headphone Reviews:
jWIN iLuvs (I353BLK)
Bose On-Ears


Recommend this product? Yes


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