Bose Sleepbuds II Review: The Expensive Answer To Your Anxiety-Riddled Inner Monologue

Bose Sleepbuds II Review: The Expensive Answer To Your Anxiety-Riddled Inner Monologue
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“You and everyone you love is going to die one day.” This unpleasant (but admittedly accurate) line is a particular favourite that my brain enjoys conjuring up late at night due to anxiety. Generally the only way to suppress it is by injecting it with brain candy. My usual go to is 2am TikTok or old episodes of Kath & Kim. But over the past few weeks the Bose Sleepbuds II have been placating the Eldritch hellscape that is my mind.

This isn’t my first time with Bose’s answer to restless nights.

When I tried the first generation of Bose Sleepbuds I admitted that I was perhaps not the target demographic.

I’m one of those freaks of nature who can sleep anywhere. I don’t need earplugs, let alone noise-cancelling buds. Noise at night just doesn’t particularly bother me.

But I was right in the middle of a nasty bought of jetlag which was keeping up at night with existential dread.

And this is what I found the Sleepbuds helped with. The crackle of of a campfire or gentle pitter patter of rain in my ears was relaxing. It calmed and quieted my mind.

But now it’s 2020 and travel is off the menu, but anxiety is still running high. And I’ve found my new nightly ritual of popping the sleep buds into my gaping ear hole a comfort I didn’t realise I desperately needed.

Bose Sleepbuds II

WHAT IS IT?

Bose's second generation of sleep buds

PRICE

$379.95

LIKE

Noise masking still great, more tracks available, download time exponentially faster, comfortable

DON'T LIKE

Still pricey, smaller battery life than the first generation

Bose Sleepbuds II Design

 

The design of the buds themselves are largely unchanged, which is fine because they were already great. They are wing-tipped and fit snuggly into the ear. They also come with three different-sized tips. This is for both personal comfort and to ensure that sound doesn’t bleed out.

They’re still super comfortable to wear in bed, even for those who sleep on their side. I found that once again they would stay put during the night and weren’t irritating.

The case is also the same — a round silver disk where the buds snap magnetically into place to charge. The dotted lights at the bottom of the case show how much charge the case has left before it needs its own juicing up.

Battery

Speaking of batteries, there is one major design change that has nothing to do with aesthetics… and it’s not exactly positive. The battery life of the Sleepbuds II are substantially shorter than the first generation — 10 hours, down from 16.

But there is a reason for this.

In 2019 the original Bose Sleepbuds were discontinued after a slew of battery complaints from customers. Some said that the buds would not charge properly, while others reported them randomly shutting down.

“Based on what we knew, we believed that software and firmware updates could fix the issues. But the failures have continued, and recently, they’ve increased,” Bose General Manager, John Roselli, said in a statement.

“That led us to look more closely at each piece of hardware. And we learned that while the battery we chose functions safely, it doesn’t work as consistently or predictably as it should to meet our standards.”

These issues resulted in Bose swapping out the silver-zinc battery for nickel-metal hydride, which is more reliable but less robust in its juice offerings.

While this makes sense, offering substantially less battery life in a second generation product isn’t a good look.

Bose Sleepbuds II Sound

 

An evolution of the old school noise machine, the Bose Sleepbuds II are all about the noise masking. While they aren’t noise-cancelling buds, they do manage to block out a hell of a lot.

Just like the previous buds, a really loud sound might bleed through, but general street noise melted away when I had a track playing. I also have to take one out to hear my partner properly if he says something even when the volume is set to 50 per cent.

I also didn’t find it necessary to bump them up to 75 per cent to cover up the drag racing happening outside our main road abode. This was a necessity with the first generation Sleepbuds, so sound masking has definitely improved.

You can pop it all the way up to 100 per cent if you like but I still find this to be uncomfortably loud. But audio needs are so vast and varied I appreciate the sliding scale Bose offers here.

And even at 100 per cent you should be protected. This is because the tracks have a maximum dB level of 50 to protect against hearing loss. This is great, but is also why you can’t use the Bose Sleepbuds with your own music, ASMR/meditation tracks or podcasts.

As I said back in 2018, regardless of the legitimate reason behind this, this distinct lack of versatility is going to be a deterrent for people. It makes a niche product all the more nicher.

That being said, the available tracks are great and there are far more now what was on offer in 2018. There are three sound libraries to choose from – noise masking, tranquilities and naturescapes — and they’re all free.

The latter two categories are relatively new — the first gen sleepbuds only launched with the noise masking options. As the name suggests, the tracks in this category are actually designed to mask sleep, where the others are more for relaxation or to provide a less noise dampening option.

‘Tranquilities’ in particular are reminiscent of the light flowy music played at the beginning of a yoga class or a new age store in the Blue Mountains. ‘Naturescapes’ is similar to the regular sounds but without the noise masking.

I’ve personally found myself sticking to the noise-masking tracks that fill my ear cavities with the glory of nature. Two years later and I still find myself gravitating towards the campfire and rain tracks. They put my mind an ease and quiet the anxious voice in my head that likes to keep me up at night.

But I did make one small change. Last year I questioned the inclusion of a track that emulates the sound of a moving plane. Now, in the year of No Travel I found myself putting it on just to feel something.

App

The app is still largely the same as what you get with the previous generation.

Set up and pairing is relatively simple and the instructions are super clear and user friendly. You have the option to set the buds to play from 30 minutes to ‘all night’, which is over eight hours. You can also set an alarm, which is handy for anyone who has a different wake up time to their partner. I feel far less guilty setting an early morning alarm when it won’t audibly blast my fiancée awake, too.

From the app you can also go to the larger audio library that contains sounds you may want to download to your Sleepbuds.

Tracks are not streamed from the app to the Sleepbuds, they’re actually stored natively on them. This is quite cool because it reduces battery drain, but it was also the biggest headache in the first generation sleepbuds. This is because the transfer of a single track could take hours, and only one could be downloaded to the Sleepbuds at a time. On top of that, the buds had to be out of the case while this process took place, sucking the life out of the battery.

While that quirk remains, the download process is exponentially faster, taking under a minute. This is a huge improvement that has addressed my biggest bug bear with the OG Sleepbuds.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

The buds have to be out of the case to connect to the app

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

The buds have to be out of the case to connect to the app

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

What I listen to most nights

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Another favourite. Gotta love the relaxing sound of the rain.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Feel like pure shit, just want her back

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Transferring sounds to the Sleepbuds now takes less than a minute. The previous gen could take hours.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

There are three sound libraries to download from - noise masking, tranquilities and naturescapes. They're all free.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

There are three sound libraries to download from - noise masking, tranquilities and naturescapes. They're all free.

Bose Sleepbuds II Price

The Bose Sleepbuds II are they same price as the 2018 model, $379.95

As much as I like these things, my conclusion remains the same now — it’s a lot to ask for such a specific product. As soon as I tell anyone the price they balk at it, even when I explain the benefits.

Ultimately, it’s a hard sell regardless of whether they’re worth it or not.

Again, this is compounded by the fact that you can’t download your own tracks. I still understand why from an aural safety and noise blocking perspective. But that doesn’t mean regular customers will.

 

Should you buy it?

 

This feels like déjà vu.

In 2018 I said it was difficult to recommend the Bose Sleepbuds because of the price tag attached to such a niche product. And I feel like I am landing here again.

This isn’t because there is anything wrong with them. I actually love them. And they are quite possibly a god send for people who have sleeping difficulties. $380 could very well be a small price to pay for something that improves your quality of life.

But I’ve found I have to work really hard to justify this product whenever I explain it to people, particularly when I drop the price. It seems to be quite difficult to fathom unless you’ve actually it.

And like I said in my original review, $380 is still a lot to ask for a product with such a singular function that will have varying results from person to person.

But Bose seems to recognise this.

The Sleepbuds II come with a 90 day ‘risk free’ trial that includes free delivery and return. This is a smart move because it allows people to try it for themselves for a decent amount of time. It’s also a huge jump on the 30-day trial bestowed upon the original Sleepbuds.

So if you are interested, give it a go. You might fall in love. You might not. Either way, you get to try a cool and innovative product that is trying to help people.