Bose SoundLink Bluetooth On-Ear Headphone review: The on-ear wireless headphone to beat

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The Good The Bose SoundLink Bluetooth On-Ear is compact, comfortable and sounds excellent for a Bluetooth headphone. It also works well as a headset for phone calls, its buttons are easy to operate by feel, and battery life is good at 15 hours.

The Bad It's somewhat expensive and the sound in wired mode isn't great.

The Bottom Line The Bose SoundLink Bluetooth On-Ear is pricey, but it's also one of the best -- if not the best -- on-ear wireless headphones to date.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

Bose fans have been waiting for the company to release a noise-canceling headphone that also has wireless capabilities. The SoundLink Bluetooth On-Ear isn't that headphone, but it is the company's first model with Bluetooth truly integrated into it and is one of the top -- if not the top -- on-ear Bluetooth headphone currently available. Even so, it's pricey: $250 in the US, £220 in the UK and AU$329 in Australia.

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 SoundTrue Around-Ear ). The AE2w is an excellent Bluetooth headphone, but the Bluetooth module does look a little grafted on and doesn't make for the sleekest design.

Thankfully, the new SoundLink Bluetooth On-Ear doesn't have any such Frankenstein qualities. It's basically the wireless version of Bose's SoundTrue On-Ear wired headphone , but it isn't quite as compact and doesn't fold flat in its carrying case, so the overall package is bigger.

Still, at 5.4 ounces (153 grams), it's quite light for a Bluetooth headphone and like its wired siblings, quite comfortable to wear, with memory foam earcups that conform comfortably to your ear. I wouldn't say those earcups are incredibly durable, but the fabric at the center of the pad seems a little thicker than the fabric found on Bose's earlier on-ears.

The headphones fit snugly on your head, but will move around if you shake your head vigorously or jump up and down. They're not really meant to be used while running, but you can certainly use them at the gym while you're lifting or doing lighter cardiovascular exercise. I wouldn't sweat on them too much, though.

It's currently available in two colors. Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

There's a new 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 iOS and Android devices and experienced a minimum of wireless hiccups.

Along with the carrying case, you get a cable for using the headphone in wired mode, plus a Micro-USB charging cable. Battery life is rated at 15 hours, which is good (by comparison, the Beats Solo2 Wireless is rated at 12 hours).