'Prototype' Bose Sleepbuds are selling for $800 on eBay

Some of those lucky enough to purchase an early-bird version of Bose's Noise-Masking Sleepbuds are flipping them online for a lot more than they paid.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read
Enlarge Image

A few Sleepbuds made their way onto eBay at high prices.

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Back in November audio specialist Bose did something unusual -- for Bose, anyway. To get feedback on a new product it was creating, in-ear wireless headphones called Noise-Masking Sleepbuds, it presold "prototypes" by way of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

"They're tiny, comfortable and replace the sounds of busy city streets, noisy neighbors or a snoring partner with soothing sounds to help you fall asleep -- and stay asleep," Bose said. "By crowd-sourcing real feedback from real people like you, who are living the problem, we can work together to ensure we're delivering on our promise."

Sleepbuds -- one of a new wave of augmented hearing and "hearable" devices that do more than improve sound -- are due to hit stores later this year for $249, but Bose was offering several tiers of early-bird pricing with a limited supply of units available. The lowest $150 tier sold out very quickly. Nearly 3,000 people got in on the deal and Bose raised $450,000.

The prototypes were estimated to ship to backers in February. Like many crowdfunding campaigns, the date slipped. But after a near two-month delay, the prototypes shipped out to backers in the last few days.

A CNET reader tipped us off to the fact that the Sleepbuds were officially out in the wild.

"Now that the Indiegogo Bose Sleepbuds have been sent out, several people have begun selling them for a kinda big markup," the email read. "Some are at over $800 with shipping."

Enlarge Image

The Sleepbuds pipe soothing sounds into your ears.


I promptly dug up a handful of Sleepbuds listings on eBay, confirming what the reader said. But before you buy one, you should stop and consider this.

While Bose said it was selling "prototypes," that's not really true. As you can see from the picture, what backers got looks like a final production unit, complete with sealed packaging. And it is. Except for one small technical snafu: Bose couldn't get the firmware completed that enables you to swap new sounds in once Bose makes them available.

"We're working on it now, but it's not as simple as sending you all a firmware update," an update note on the Indiegogo campaign page reads. "This particular firmware needs to be written to the on-board flash memory, which can only be done during manufacturing. This means that the units we're shipping you will never have this functionality. I know, this sucks. We didn't want to hold up shipping to you for an indeterminate amount of time until this is fixed."

To make things right, Bose has promised to replace for free every prototype with final shipping units once they become available. But the company will not replace a unit that's been resold on eBay.

"People should be aware that any Bose Sleepbuds listing on eBay is a prototype unit, specifically marked with a prototype serial number, and doesn't include final hardware or software," a Bose spokesperson told CNET. "If we're able to determine the reseller, they won't get the upgrade.  And if we identify any prototype unit as resold and purchased through eBay (or any other third-party site), it's flagged in our system accordingly, and ineligible for the upgrade as well."

Bose SoundSport Free review: CNET's full review of Bose's answer to the Apple AirPods

Hearing aids are getting smarter: The next generation of "hearable" devices do more than improve sound.