CNET Executive Editor David Carnoy hands me a set of Bose SoundTrue Ultra in-ear headphones and says, "What do you think?" First impressions are really positive, so I keep listening; the sound is clear and extremely open, and these headphones are super-comfortable. It's been ages since I wrote about a Bose product, but this one demanded my full attention.
There are two versions of this in-ear headphone, a SoundTrue Ultra for Apple devices, and another for Samsung/Android devices, both are currently on sale for $129.95 with free shipping on the Bose Web site (UK pricing is £130, Australia's is AU$200).
I have to credit Bose's unique StayHear tips for the lion's share of the SoundTrue Ultra's exceptional comfort. More than any other in-ear headphone's tips, the StayHear tips provide a secure fit and seal out noise without fuss. Small, medium and large tips are included, and SoundTrue Ultra's ear pieces are sweat- and water-resistant, so you can use these headphones while exercising.
Bose doesn't provide tech details such as driver size/type, or the headphone's impedance. This much I know for sure: the cable has a three-button inline remote/microphone, and you get a handy carry case.
Looking over the user comments on Amazon, I see a number that were unhappy with the "noise" of the SoundTrue Ultra's cable when it rubs against clothing, but I don't think it's any worse or better than other in-ear headphones. You can reduce the rubbing noise a bit by using the included shirt clip to anchor the cable to your clothing.
I had a good time rocking out to Pavement and Arctic Monkeys tunes, and learned the SoundTrue Ultras aren't the shy and retiring type -- they can party. Bass isn't overdone or boomy, the low-end is full, and definition is decent. Treble is likewise clear but never grating or harsh, and voices sounds natural. Stereo is unusually broad, so it never feels crowded inside my skull. I spent many hours auditioning the SoundTrue Ultra on the New York subway, while delving deep into the Yo La Tengo catalog.
Compared to the 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphone, the SoundTrue Ultra sounded sweeter and softer, but bass oomph exceeded the Triple Driver's, and the SoundTrue Ultra's more expansive soundfield was just plain more enjoyable than the Triple Driver's. Still, if you crave maximum resolution of fine detail I'd still recommend the Triple Driver. For everybody else, get the SoundTrue Ultra.
I next tried the Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2 in-ear headphones. They were also clearer and more dynamically alive than the SoundTrue Ultra, but the C5 S2 was a lot less comfortable than the SoundTrue Ultra. As I continued to listen, I thoroughly enjoyed the SoundTrue Ultra, and never once yearned for more resolution. In fact, I found the SoundTrue Ultra rendered harsh, overly compressed music more palatable than higher-res headphones.
The Bose SoundTrue Ultra is highly recommended to audiophiles, but they're also ideal for anyone who finds in-ear headphones uncomfortable. I can't think of any other in-ear that matches the SoundTrue Ultra for comfort.
For more information on the SoundTrue Ultra, check out David Carnoy's review.