Typically, I'm no fan of on-ear headphones. They're pinchy, uncomfortable and have a tendency to bleed sound like a stuck pig. That being said, I'm pleasantly surprised with just how good the Bose OE Soundlink headphones are as my new 'daily driver' for sound.
What Is It?
- Headphone Type: On Ear
- Bluetooth: Yes (3.0)
- Noise Cancelling: No
- Playback Controls: Yes
- Battery Life (claimed): 15 hours
- Charging: microUSB (cable included)
Designed for lightweight portability and ultimate connectivity, the Bose OE Soundlink headphones are designed for on-the-go listening in a tiny and comfortable package.
The headband is smaller than what you'd expect on a Bose product, and the cups are even smaller still, but it's incredibly-well padded, making it super comfortable to wear.
The ear cup arms telescope out to be comfortable for slightly larger heads like mine, and the cups themselves rotate at a 45-degree angle to be comfortable when worn around the neck.
The OE SoundLink is designed using the same construction as the Bose SoundTrue headphones we looked at a little while ago.
The plastics used in the rest of the construction of the SoundLinks are great — typical hard-wearing, solid and light Bose fare. The headband is flexible not only outwards but also in twisting, so you can easily move one earcup in front or behind of your ear if that’s how you tend to wear headphones. As well as the earcups’ hinge that lets them fold more to a more portable state, there’s a second pivot point that lets them fold flat.
The audio cable’s inline remote control is designed for iOS devices, although Android can also use the play/pause/skip central toggle. (You’ll still need to change volume on your Android device directly, though.) The cable is a little thinner than the thick Kevlar-coated cord of the QC20i’s or other high-end Bose, which is a little disappointing, but it doesn’t often get tangled.
The only real difference in construction between the SoundTrues and the Soundlinks is size. The cups and headband are smaller on the latter, making them wonderfully portable and discreet. There's nothing worse than going outside looking like the Nova mascot with your giant headphones. These are the 'phones you wear when you love sound but don't want to look like a bell-end.
Despite their diminutive size, the sound from the Soundlink headphones is impressive. Bose's audio profile is usually fair to both treble and bass notes without peaking either, but the Soundlink features a full and rich sound that surprised me. The volume isn't as loud as I'd like it to be but that's probably for the best seeing as how I'm sending myself deaf with loud headphones and louder dance music.
The range is something we're prepared to be disappointed on with a lot of Bluetooth headphones, but the OE Soundlink shines at a distance like a light on a hill. Leaving my phone charging on my bedside table, I was able to walk around my apartment and still have perfect connectivity with no issues whatsoever. No stuttering, no loss of signal. Nothing.
The battery life on the OE Soundlink is impressive too. With normal use, you'd easily get a week out of them no problems. And you'll almost never forget to charge them either: the friendly Soundlink voice reminds you whenever you flick the headphones on what your battery level is like so you'll never be surprised when it runs out, plus a bright LED illuminates either green, orange or red telling you when you should throw a MicroUSB at it to refill the juice.
That Soundlink voice is just one part of what is a very clever connectivity system on these headphones. It connects super-quickly to your device and if it can't find the last one you had it connected to, it cycles through your previous devices while telling you with a friendly voice what it's doing. If after about 20 seconds it can't find a device, it drops back into pairing mode so you can connect something new without having to remember an obnoxious button combo.
The OE Soundlinks are also fairly priced, too. They'll run you $329 in Australia, which means that there's almost no Australia Tax to be found. For what it's worth, the US price tag is $US249, which means that when you convert for the Australian dollar and factor in GST, you're left with a price that's only $10 cheaper than the local model. Shipping it from the US to Australia would cost far more than that, too, meaning you're coming out on top buying it in an Australian store.
Bose crows about its premium microphone quality on the Soundlinks, but try as we might there's no way to get the microphone baked into the headset itself working.
It's as if there's no integrated mic inside the headphones at all when it comes to the Soundlinks. As a result, you have to use the cable with its microphone and music control buttons. That can become a pain pretty fast, especially when a call comes in and you have to either fumble for a cable or switch your audio source with the speed of a Texan gunslinger to take the call.
There are music controls on the headphones themselves, however, but they can be hard to press. The play/pause button is especially problematic: double-tapping it skips a song, but you're never sure if you've tapped once or twice. Annoying.
The Soundlinks also bleed an uncomfortable amount of sound at higher volumes. Anything above two-thirds volume and you start leaking sound into what is meant to be a quiet office or a cramped public transport vehicle, and everyone hates you for that.
The Soundlink headphones are also slightly expensive too when you think about it.
The advantage of the Soundlinks over something like the Soundtrues is a premium build quality, smaller cups and slightly better sound. Whether that's worth $329 is something you'll have to decide for yourself, but we think it's just a touch too expensive for these 'phones. If they bled less sound or featured noise-cancelling gear, things might be different. But they don't, and things aren't.
For an extra $80, for example, you can get the Bose QuietComfort 25's, which are legitimately some of the best headphones I've ever used.
Should You Buy Them?
If you're the sort of person who walks to work, loves to wear headphones while milling around the house or just needs a pair of high-quality, compact 'phones to stick in your messenger bag, handbag or backpack as you roam around these mean streets, the Bose OE Soundlinks are the headphones for you.
With range and battery life that makes other headphones cry, and a price that won't absolutely destroy your wallet, we're loving the OE Soundlinks.
If you can't justify the price of these great headphones, but still want some Bose goodness in your life, perhaps try the Bose SoundTrues instead.