Bose OE2 headphones review: Bose OE2 headphones

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MSRP: $149.95

Bose OE2 (Black)

(Part #: OE2 HEADPHONES BLK)
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars 4 user reviews

The Good The Bose OE2 Headphones are more compact than the original OE ("on-ear") headphones. They're lightweight, very comfortable, and feature a fold-up design with an included carrying case and a detachable headphone cord. They also offer very good sound quality.

The Bad The fidelity comes up short on bass resonance.

The Bottom Line You can debate the price, but the Bose OE2s are very comfortable everyday-use headphones with a compact frame and balanced, detailed sound.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 8.0

Here's something you don't see every day: a pair of white Bose headphones. Yes, it's the company's second-generation on-ear headphones, the OE2 ($149.95) and OE2i ($179.95), each offered in black or white.

That "i" in the step-up OE2i adds a microphone for cell phone calls along with an Apple-friendly inline remote compatible with more recent iPhone, iPod, iPad, MacBook, and MacBook Pro models. (Some Android smartphones also recognize the remote functionality, but volume control from headphones that carry the "Made for iPhone" stamp doesn't always work).

These headphones are smaller and lighter than Bose's original OE headphones that launched in 2008 and earned my approval for their excellent fit and comfort. Your ears will still get a little steamy under the OE2s in hot weather, but the material is plush for equal weight distribution, and just as importantly, they fold up to fit into a compact carrying case (included).


The headphones are very comfortable, but the on-ear design doesn't block out all external noise.

While they don't isolate noise as well as an over-the-ear model, they do pretty well muffling the sound. (If you want better noise isolation, go with the Bose QuietComfort series --which require batteries to cut out atmospheric sounds--or the Bose AE2 "around-ear" headphones.)

Bose claims that the newly redesigned earcup ports produce a more balance and natural sound without the manufactured "boost" across the frequency range. CNET contributor and audiophile Steve Guttenberg and I both listened for those improvements and agreed that the OE2s sound more natural and don't suffer from "Bose bloat," a term we coined for the obtrusive bass boost. Of course, some folks like the extra bass, so you may not enjoy these as much as the original OE headphones.

I also compared the OE2s to a pair of on-ear BlueAnt Embrace Headphones that have similar sound qualities and retail for slightly more.

The OE2's balance from bass to mid to treble is excellent--the top-end isn't harsh or edgy, and they exhibit good detail with slightly more accurate tones than the Blue-Ants. If there's a pair of Bose headphones more geared toward audiophiles (compared with your typical Bose headphones), this would be it.

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