If you are an audiophile like me, you are probably very sensitive to the sound quality of the music you listen to. Every part of the equation in the experience is important – the medium itself – whether a digital recording like an MP3, WAV or OGG file, or a physical medium such as a CD or a vinyl record. Any imperfections of these are hard to overcome. The next layer – the media player is very important. For example, there’s a big difference in the sound quality coming from a CD player from the late 90’s, versus one you would find on the market today. Finally, your speakers or headphones are going to make or break the sound.
My focus today is on the headphones’ part of the equation. I love to listen to music while I’m working at the office. It helps me focus, stay calm and tune out the annoying background noise around me. I can tell you from firsthand experience that a cheap pair of poorly made headphones are going to provide a terrible listening experience, often very tinny and distant, while a high quality pair can provide an amazingly rich, immersive experience.
Funny short story – we had a health fair at work, and one of the insurance companies was giving away little grab bags for free. I was excited to open the bag and find a pair of earbud headphones inside of a neat little plastic carrying case. It was truly great timing because I happened to leave my normal headphones at home that day. I didn’t expect much from the freebies, but I assumed I could get by for the afternoon. Boy was I wrong.
These were the cheapest headphones ever – well yeah, they were free. I mean the quality was just pathetic though. Tinny is not even the best word. If you lay a pair of headphones (cheap ones) on a table, crank the sound up and then walk across the room and try to listen from there, then you will experience something similar to what I did when I put these things in my ears. It was truly shocking, but I am spoiled when it comes to sound and headphones. I spent that afternoon working without music and threw them in the trash. I couldn’t even fathom giving them away, because it would be a disservice to the receiver and any artist’s music or spoken word.
Bose has been my main go to brand when it comes to mid-price range headphones. If you truly want to hear music as it was intended, it pays to invest in a high quality pair of headphones. They will last for years with good care and treatment. I highly recommend having separate pairs/types for workouts or situations where the environment may be less than ideal – dusty, extremely cold, extremely hot, etc. For those activities, I feel it’s perfectly okay to spend less on a “beater” pair (pun intended), since you will likely end up replacing ones that are not designed for these conditions, more often. I plan to review and recommend suitable headphones for those types of situations in future posts.
The focus here is more on a mid-priced higher end pair you will use at home, while traveling or at an office – pretty temperate climates for the most part. It’s good to have a “home” for them when you aren’t using them – this way they are safe from danger – a pet who likes to chew, a child who may drag them around the floor, etc. For me, I consider them an investment.
Lets get to it. Before we proceed, please note that this post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I may receive a small compensation if you make a purchase on Amazon after clicking a link. See more here (affiliate disclosure).
Bose SoundLink around-ear wireless headphones II
First up are the Bose SoundLink around-ear wireless headphones II model. They come in two different color options at time of writing (Black or White). They feature the latest Bluetooth and NFC technology for seamless pairing with a range of devices. They also have a built in microphone, so you can use them for hands free phone calls.
- Good for phone calls, even in windy or noisy environments.
- Pair and switch easily between two connected Bluetooth devices (e.g., smartphone and tablet).
- Up to 15 hours play time on a charge with rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
- They come with a case for safekeeping when not in use.
- Can either use as wired or wireless headphones with Bluetooth (no need to charge if using them with the wire).
- You can’t use the headphones while you are charging them.
- No noise cancelling technology (but the design inherently blocks out a significant amount of background noise).
- Quite large and somewhat heavy, due to the wireless functionality.
- Somewhat weak in the bass/low end range.
All in all, these are a pretty solid pair of headphones, especially for commuters and people who like to make hands free calls and those who listen to music at work. If you’re one who loves very deep and rich bass, these may not be the best pick for you.
Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Wired)
Next up are the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. These look slick, if looks count for anything (they do a bit, in my book). At time of writing, these are available in several color options. I personally like the Black and Blue combination. These are wired and feature an inline remote for controlling Apple or Android devices. They have specific models for each type so I’m not sure of the inter-compatibility if you happen to have and use both.
- The noise cancelling feature is awesome – these are great in noisy environments (planes, subways, noisy offices).
- They are fold-able and come with a matching case. The ear cups pivot allowing the storage to be quite compact.
- Powerful and rich sound in all ranges – good for any taste.
- Several reports of issues with quality control online – Bose Support seems to be decent though.
- Given the quality control issues, the warranty is only good for one year. This may be a concern.
I want to recommend these due to the superb sound quality and noise cancellation, but am hesitant to do so because of so many reported issues of one side failure and disintegration of the ear cushions. If you do purchase these, I’d recommend buying either the 3 or 4 year protection plan from Amazon. Their customer service is unparalleled.