Bose SIE2/SIE2i review: Sweet but expensive sports headphones

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MSRP: $149.95

The Good The Bose SIE2 and SIE2i earphones fit securely and comfortably, are sweat-resistant, and their "open" design has its appeal. They also offer pleasantly full bass and include a Reebok "fitness" armband for wearing your portable music device.

The Bad They're pricey. The included armband won't house the iPhone 5 or new iPod Touch, they let in sound, and no carrying case is included.

The Bottom Line While they're no bargain, the Bose SEI2 and SEI2i have an appealing, sweat-resistant design, are very comfortable to wear, and offer decent sound.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

Hoping to tap into the somewhat underserved sports headphones market, Bose has introduced a couple of sporty in-ear models, the SIE2 and SIE2i, which are basically rugged, sweat-resistant versions of its popular IE2 earphones.

The new models come in orange and green and feature Bose's StayHear tips, which I can confirm do a good job of keeping the earphones securely in your ears. Not surprisingly, these new, more rugged models cost more, and their elevated price tags are my only serious gripes against them.

According to Bose, these guys have "acoustic ports positioned to resist sweat and water and are covered with a hydrophobic cloth to keep moisture out while letting sound pass through." Also, the inline remote and microphone included with the step-up SIE2i has "watertight button housings and a hydrophobic acoustic windscreen to reduce the effects of wind noise and moisture." It's also worth mentioning that Bose has teamed up with Reebok to include a "fitness" armband, so you can strap your phone or digital music player to your arm. But since this product hit stores before the release of the iPhone 5, that armband won't work with the latest iPhone and iPod Touch, which have longer bodies, just with earlier iPhone/iPod Touch models and other smaller smartphones and MP3 players.

The earphones come with three different sized sets of 'wings.' Sarah Tew/CNET

The first thing you should know is that these aren't noise-isolating earphones. You don't jam a foam or rubber tip into your ear, effectively cutting off much of the sound from the outside world. Instead, these earphones sit slightly on top of the ear, similar the way hard earbuds do. A silicone cover directs the sound into your ear canal but the tip isn't pushed all the way inside. As a result, you don't get the tight seal as you do with a noise-isolating earphone, but the upside is that your ear canal gets some breathing room. This design will appeal more to some people than others, but it's also important to highlight the fact that I didn't have any trouble getting the SIE2s to fit both securely and comfortably in my ears.

Two colors are available: green and orange. Sarah Tew/CNET

Part of the reason for that is Bose's StayHear silicone tips, which have little wings to "nestle inside the bowl of the ear while also naturally conforming to the ear's upper ridge." In the package you'll find three StayHear earpieces (S, M, and L). There's also a short extension cable included along with a clip to attach the cord to your clothing (I ended up using it because the cord has a tendency to flop around when you're active -- even walking). Those wings are funky-looking, but they do work and you should be able to find one size that fits your ears well.

An armband but no carrying case is included. Sarah Tew/CNET

While this style of earphones may not appeal to everyone, I liked their "open" quality and found it comfortable to wear the SIE2s for long stretches without feeling the need to adjust them or take them off. That said, you'll definitely hear more street noise than if you were using a noise-isolation earphone design -- which is good and bad. When I was running with them outdoors on a country road, it was good to be able to hear traffic coming toward me, particularly when I made my way up a hill and couldn't see over to the other side (and cars couldn't see me coming).

While these work quite well as everyday headphones (just like the IE2s), when I used them on the New York City subway, they did let in a lot of noise, which affected sound quality. (I prefer the Monster iSport Immersion earphones for my daily commute because they offer a very tight seal and secure fit).

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