If you're looking for noise-isolating earbuds, the Bose TriPort In-Ear Headphones ($99) are not for you. Although they have silicone tips that protrude slightly into your ear canal, they are not meant to protect your ears from screaming children on airplanes--nor from the drone of the engine. They provide far better bass than your MP3 player's stock headphones, but the overall sound isn't a match for similarly priced in-ear 'phones. If you have a tough time sticking things deep into your ear canal or are paranoid about walking around without hearing much of what's going on around you, these are worth a listen, despite some physical design flaws.
The Bose TriPort In-Ear Headphones have an unusual if not unique design. They resemble the earbuds that come with the Samsung Yepp YP-K5; they look like regular earbuds but with silicone tips that funnel the sound directly into your ear canals. The symmetrical cables have an antitangle slider and terminate in a 3.55mm gold-plated straight plug. The plastic plug housing is oddly bulky and rectangular--seemingly just so the company could fit its logo on it.
Bose's tips are very soft and comfortable with no rough edges. They snap onto small tubes that protrude from the earphones, but they don't stay on very tightly--you're virtually guaranteed to lose them, and you only get one set each of small, medium, and large tips. (Replacements cost around $5 per set.) Of course, as one user recommended, you can always superglue the tips to the earphones. Bose also includes a padded leather case that has an integrated cable winder and magnetic flaps. It's a must if you want to avoid having to wash the silicone tips constantly, since they pick up every last bit of lint and dirt in your pocket.
Compared with canalphones, the Bose TriPort In-Ear Headphones feel very unstable--they won't fall out easily (provided you've got the correct size tips on), but they feel as if they might. On the other hand, they feel significantly more secure than most stock earbuds, such as those that come with the . Since they don't form a true seal with your ear, they don't block out enough noise to make a noticeable difference. And although they're better for running than stock 'buds, they tend to slip part-way out, reducing sound quality.
In the company's ads, Bose calls the sound "lifelike," but that's a bit misleading, since it implies sonic accuracy. The headphones are very heavy on the bass--comparable to the Sennheiser CX-300--which some listeners will like. But the bass tends to overwhelm the midrange, creating a somewhat boomy overall sound on first listen. After spending some time with them, you can hear that the highs extend nicely, despite taking a backseat to the bottom end. Since there's no seal in your ear, the bass actually needs to be quite powerful, but Bose overdid it a little in that regard. You also have to turn your portable player up quite far to get decent volume, which will drain your player's battery faster than with more efficient models.
At nearly $100, the Bose TriPort In-Ear Headphones cater to a very niche market. If you're a die-hard Bose fan, you've probably already bought them, but if you're looking for something in between canalphones and standard earbuds, these are a viable option. With a few design tweaks like more secure attachment for the tips and perhaps extralarge tips for listeners who actually do want to block out some noise, these could be even better. The overall sound quality is good but not as well balanced as that of similarly priced in-ear 'phones, such as the Creative Zen Aurvana.