Bose OE review: Bose OE

The only "accessories" beyond the case are two detachable headphone cables: one 43-incher and one 16-incher. (You can also daisy-chain them together if a long connection is needed.) Bose seems to have kept iPhone owners in mind when it designed the headphone plug for these headphones. The rubber casing around the base of the plug is not much bigger than the plug itself, which ensures that you won't have any problem plugging into the recessed headphone jack on the first-generation iPhone.

Speaking of phones, it's worth noting that Bose offers a version of the On-Ear headphones that includes an inline microphone that lets you use the headphones as a headset with your cell phone. Four adapters are included to ensure compatibility with various music-enabled cell phones. That product is called the Bose Mobile On-Ear Headset, and it retails for $20 more.

As for sound, we liked what we heard. The On-Ear headphones don't deliver quite the clarity or more thumping bass of the QuietComfort 3s, but users graduating from lower-end headphones will most likely be wowed by these headphones' crisp sound and ample low-end. Discerning listeners may note that the bass is a little on the boomy side (read: not incredibly detailed) and that the On-Ear's aren't quite as clean-sounding as some headphones we've listened to in this price range.

On Rihanna's top-40 hit "Umbrella," you can easily hear the differences between the On-Ears and QuietComfort 3s. The QuietComfort 3s' bass just has more punch to it (though, again, it's not terribly refined)--and when it comes to listening to hip-hop, punchier tends to be better. That said, the On-Ear headphones offer about 80 percent of the sound quality of the QC3s, which is pretty good, considering they basically cost half the price.

But what about the noise-cancellation? Well, as we said, the snug fit of these headphones manages to cut down a lot of outside noise--but it can't cut it like the active noise-cancellation circuitry of the QC2 and QC3 (or even the passive noise-cancellation offered by good in-ear headphones such as the Shure SE310). If we had to put an estimate on it, we'd say that the On-Ear headphones are able to muffle about half the sound of the noise-canceling models. Not bad, but the frequent traveler who wants to deaden the sound as much as possible--and is willing to pay the extra dough--would be better advised to look at the QC2 or QC3, if not the growing number of competing models. One caveat: as we've pointed out before, Bose's noise-canceling headphones, as with other headphones of their ilk, produce a slight sense of pressure on the eardrum, which some sensitive listeners find mildly uncomfortable. If you're part of this group, you'd do better going with the On-Ear headphones, or--if you don't mind penetrating your ear canals--in-ear headphones.

In the final analysis, while we can't call these Bose headphones a bargain--yes, they're still expensive at $180--they're somewhat of a bargain for Bose headphones. They may not offer best in class performance, but their compact size, appealing design, comfortable fit, and full sound make them easy to recommend.

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    Bose OE

    Part Number: 41215
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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. UK specs are unavailable.

    • Color black
    • Weight 5.2 oz
    • Additional Features foldable
    • Type headphones
    • Headphones Form Factor ear-cup
    • Connector Type mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm