Bose On-Ear Headphones

The Bose On-Ear Headphones are compact headphones with a comfortable fit, but you can get better sounding models for half the price.

CNET Rating
User Rating

View more from Bose »

About The Author

CNET Editor

Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury

Bose has a reputation for its speaker systems, but in recent years we think this has been supplanted by its good work in noise-cancelling headphones. The On-Ear Headphones are the company's first passive pair of headphones, and come at a significant discount on its siblings. However, this in no way means the set is cheap — as is the Bose way. But are they worth the money?

Build quality is very good indeed — the ear cups are incredibly comfortable and the headband is quite rigid, even if this means it's also hard to adjust easily. The set's closest rival in this arena — the AKG K 414 P — look and feel plasticky in comparison. But appearances aren't everything, as one of our other favourites — the Grado SR60 — could have been used by the original Dam Busters.

Though the headset is only a passive model the degree of natural noise reduction is quite good. This is due to the memory foam and rubber seal combination, but it also means it's a little warm in there.

The Bose phones are designed to be portable and fold up into a tight bundle — if not as compact as the K 414 P. They come with a carry case that will keep them from damage but it does take up a lot of space. Imagine a portable CD case and you're there.

Though these appear to be sealed headphones, they are actually semi-closed with a small bass port. This means there is some sound leakage as a result. The extra capacity for bass delivery means that the ear cups will actually vibrate with bassy music at high volumes.

The cans come with two different detachable cables — one short and one long — which gives them a little flexibility and a possible upgrade path to a better quality cable.

According to the manufacturer, these headphones are "designed to deliver high quality, balanced sound and deep, low notes without the need for any artificial enhancement".

While we criticised the AKG K 414 P headphones for being too bass heavy, we were ill-prepared for the amount of wallop the Bose cans deal out. These are bassy headphones.

We tried the Bose on a number of different portables and a PC, and on all the systems there was a distinct emphasis on bass and reticence in the upper register.

While Creative's soundcards are generally excellent, on-board AC'97 sound is not — it's horrible. But the Bose headphones were able to retrieve a usable amount of information and fill-in the missing bass and treble.

However, given the headphones' lack of sparkle, any music with a larger than life sound — classical, 60's pop, garage rock — comes out sounding a little flat.

Using a Sony Walkman really brought out the bass on The Flaming Lips' Do You Realize?? (wait, there's a bass line?), and also served to making the vocals more intimate. The downside was that there wasn't any real sense of space, just a centre channel, and immediate left and right.

Overall, we found the On-Ear headphones tames a lot of high frequency information which means while they flatter badly encoded MP3s, they can also sap rock music of much of its excitement. Guitars lose their edge, and cymbals lack bite. Bass on the other hand is deep and effortless and as a result, the Bose would suit smooth R&B or soul listening. Rock fans, on the other hand, should stick with AKG or Sennheiser.

Add Your Review 9

* Below fields optional

Post comment as

LRRSPVUP posted a comment   

for some reason it blocked bass in caps


LRRSPVUP posted a comment   

The Good:B****

The Bad:broke at connector twice, could be more comfortable

I personally like almost OVERpowered bass and think it one of the headphones strong points


James posted a review   

The Good:comfortable and easy to travel with

The Bad:bass, bass, bass and more bass

Basically a subwoofer in your ears but they are quite comfortable


FORD posted a review   

The Good:Quality of the Build and fold up

The Bad:Sound Quality

I am a multi-platinum record producer and recording engineer. I just got a pair of these headphones as a gift and I am sorry to say I am extremely dissappointed in the sound quality. These headphones are WAY TOO BASS HEAVY, leaving almost no room at all for any kind of dynamics. I'm in the process of having my new album mastered, so I am comparing the sound of everything I can. By far the Bose headphone sound the worst.


Ikeda posted a review   

The Good:After comparing to cheaper better sounding competitors there's no pro I can think of

The Bad:Easily bites the dust after you hear the competition's offerings

Bad value; better quality can be had for a lot less. Grado SR80 sounds way better, not just a bit but a lot. Also Sennheiser (forgot model # but was about the same price as the Grado SR80) sounded much nicer. I guess the Bose is OK if that's all you know but when you listen to some competition it's as though you hear your music for the first time all over again. Both the Sennheiser and the Grado had more control and gave more details of the music. Bass was not as blurry as the Bose (at first it seems as though the Bose has deep bass but in fact it's just undefined which makes it appear as though there's more bass when in fact there's less). Highs were more extended than on the Bose. The Bose makes it sound as if there's a curtain between you and the music. Again, this is in comparison with those two models. But still, they are like less than half the price... So it shouldn't be that way. I ended up with the Grado as it gave a more realistic sound, the Sennheiser was also very nice but more laid back (too soft for my taste viz the Sennheiser but YMMV). The Bose is fine untill you audition other brands, but what struck me the most was that it's easily beaten at a fraction of the cost.


sepiideppi posted a review   

love to listen to them, however i really get have lack of bass on my vaio sz7 compared to the itouch.


LeroyP posted a review   

The Good:comfy. compact. handy detachable cable

The Bad:semi open/closed is dumb. price. bass. connection to jack a bit flimsy

Sound is good. Absolutely agree with this review, excpet that high freqs arent sacrificed in the bass. Just loses a bit of edge. Spend your money on a pair of Shure's


seikojin posted a review   

The Good:Very comfortable, Cut out 80% of Outside noise, great bass.

The Bad:Break down in less than 1 year, very disappointing for $200. Silver paint chipped easily. Losing sound for no apparent reason is very frustating.

Great Sound, until it breaks.

Bill Coleman

Bill Coleman posted a review   

The Good:Amazing Sound.

The Bad:Price
Could do with just a touch more mid range punch

It is bassy, but i disagree that high notes suffer. In fact I was relieved to find the absence of that artificial ultra-high twinkle that so many modern speakers invent.

Sponsored Links
CNET's latest

User Reviews / Comments  Bose On-Ear Headphones



    "for some reason it blocked bass in caps"



    "I personally like almost OVERpowered bass and think it one of the headphones strong points"

  • James



    "Basically a subwoofer in your ears but they are quite comfortable"

CNET Speedtest

More Headphones

Recently Viewed Products