What's the best-sounding wireless headphone available today? That's a tough question to answer, but Bose is staking its claim on the title with its new SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone II, which comes in black or white for $280, £240 or AU$379.
Bose's earlier over-ear AE2w -- now called the SoundLink Bluetooth Around-Ear -- simply added a removable Bluetooth component to an existing wired headphone (the AE2, which is now called the ). We gave high marks to that model, but the Bluetooth module does look a little grafted on and doesn't make for the sleekest design.
Thankfully, the new SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone II doesn't have any such Frankenstein qualities and looks a lot like Bose's active noise-canceling headphone, the.
As you might expect from a Bose headphone, the SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone II has a very comfortable fit. Weighing in at a touch over 7 ounces or 200 grams, it's lightweight and has plush, memory-foam equipped earpads. While it doesn't look particularly sturdy, Bose says the headphones were tested in its labs to "survive drops, bumps and grabs," and use impact-resistant materials, including "glass-filled nylon and corrosion-resistant stainless steel." At times, you barely notice you're wearing the headphones.
By comparison the QC 25 weighs 6.9 ounces (196g) while the more compactweighs 5.4 ounces (153g). All these models are at the top of their respective classes as far as comfort goes, and while this headphone does not feature active noise cancellation -- headphones that generate soundwaves that literally negate the exterior environmental noise -- the around-ear design does a good job passively sealing out a lot of that same ambient noise to begin with. The only issue is that like most around-ear headphones, your ears will steam up in warmer environments, but they do work great as earmuffs in the cold.
The remote control buttons are well placed on the right earcup and to answer calls, you tap the middle control button, which also allows you to skip tracks forward and back when you're playing music.
Like its on-ear Bluetooth headphone, Bose has equipped this model with a two-way microphone system and something Bose calls Adaptive Audio Adjustment technology, which automatically changes volume based on speech level and ambient noise. Whatever it does, it does well, because I had no problem making calls on the noisy streets of New York. I also had no problem pairing the headphones with both iPhones and Android devices. Moreover, I only experienced a few wireless hiccups (there were some, but that's par for the course with Bluetooth).
The headphone also connects to Bluetooth-enabled computers, though the sound didn't seem quite as good when I streamed music from an iMac and a MacBook Air instead of my iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S6 (I also streamed from an iPhone 6).
Unlike the QC25, this headphone folds flat but doesn't have a second hinge that allows it to fold up and further reduce its footprint when stowed in its included carrying case. That carrying case has a pocket to store the USB charging cable and a headphone cable to use in case the battery dies and you want to listen to the headphones in wired mode (that cable doesn't have an integrated microphone, but that's a minor omission).