Editors' note (June 13, 2014): As of April 2014, Bose is retiring the OE2 and OE2i headphones reviewed here and replacing them with the new Bose SoundTrue models. That said, if you can find a discounted OE2/OE2i (for $100 or less), it's a great deal.
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 OE2is 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).
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 OE2is 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 OE2is to a pair of on-ear BlueAnt Embrace Headphones that have similar sound qualities and retail for slightly more.