While very comfortable, the AE2s offer limited cable options and give no maintenance options.
When talking about the construction of the Bose AE2s, the general theme is overall cheapness: The materials used are cheap, the overall construction is cheap, and what you get is far different than what you pay for. The band in particular is cause for concern, as cheap plastic will withstand some bending and pressure, but don’t go testing its tensile strength.
Additionally, the cord of the Bose AE2s is 3.93 feet long, and really does not have any other connectivity options outside of its standard plug. That’s it. There’s no more. There's also almost nothing you can do to clean or maintain the AE2s outside of being very careful with them. This could cause you great frustration in the future, so take note.
Included in the packaging for the Bose AE2s is a carrying pouch, but that really doesn’t do much aside from protect your cans from dust. Aside from that, the AE2s are very lightweight, so they won’t weigh your bag or purse down if you decide to store them there.
Plopping the AE2s on our heads, the majority opinion was: “Wow, these are comfortable.” Given their light weight, adjustable band, and soft padding, this comes as no surprise. Still, we must make note that, because all craniums and ears are of different shapes and sizes, they may not be for you! See if you can try them on first before you buy.
The Bose AE2s tested with disappointing frequency response and poor attenuation.
The AE2s from Bose are entry-level headphones, and they sound that way. Their frequency response—how much "attention" they give various frequencies—was fairly poor. They don't give proper volume leveling to higher frequency sounds like a violin or a female vocalist, meaning those specific instruments will be lost in the mix during playback. Your music is not going to sound the way it should.
While it’s no secret that on-ears typically don’t attenuate sound well, the Bose AE2s do nothing to buck this trend, as they seem to only block out a short swath of higher-end frequencies, and absolutely no bass at all. The practical problem here is that they'll do little to block most ambient noise around you, and you'll be forced to turn your music up to hear it well—potentially to dangerous volume levels.
In terms of compatibility with smartphones, the Bose AE2s have just about the right impedance and sensitivity to work with almost any mobile device well enough that you will not have to worry about it. If those terms are new to you, feel free to check out our article on impedance for a better understanding.
Overall, the Bose AE2s aren’t a bad entry-level bet, but you can definitely do better no matter what you’re looking for in headphones.
The cost is a little hard to swallow for the performance they give, but if you can find them for cheaper than their MSRP of $149, they warrant a look—assuming you’ve weighed your options and still decide that these cans are worth it.
Be advised though: while they are ultra-light and portable, the AE2s are, by no stretch of the imagination, world-beaters. In regards to other cans designed for better audio performance in this price range, they're on the wrong side of the fence, and you can definitely get more bang for your buck elsewhere.
For an entry-level set of cans, the Bose AE2s performed decently, though not without some glaring errors which I'll discuss below.
There are numerous factors to take into consideration when shopping for a pair of headphones. Many of these factors are subjective—individual head size, for instance, plays a much bigger part in headphone audio quality than most people realize.
However, there are four objectively measurable performance areas that we test: frequency response, tracking, distortion, and isolation.
Frequency response is the meat and potatoes of headphone performance. Unfortunately, the AE2's have a dry and tasteless first course.
Frequency response is "the quantitative measure of the output spectrum of a system or device in response to a stimulus, and is used to characterize the dynamics of the system." In other words, our frequency response test determines how much credence a pair of headphones gives to the frequency spectrum, with the lowest numbers representing the lowest frequencies, and the highest representing the highest frequencies.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the AE2's frequency response: in short, it was not ideal. We want to see a flat response between around 700Hz to around 10KHz, as this area is concerned with the majority of sounds directly produced within the majority of audible content. If we're mentioning this now, you can probably guess that the AE2s do not do this, and go so far as to make the highest half of a grand piano's notes sound about half as loud (-10dB) as the rest of your music, and that can get distracting. Other affected notes include: the upper level of fundamental frequencies in human speech, high notes from woodwinds and stringed instruments.
In terms of tracking and channel preference, the Bose AE2s fall flat yet again, with erratic shifts from the left channel to the right.
Our tracking test determines how well a pair of headphones balances sound output between the left and right channels. This is important to create the proper balance between channels, so that neither the left or the right channel overpowers the other, and true stereo sound is achieved. You want to forget you're wearing headphones, after all, and ideal tracking contributes to that illusion.
The Bose AE2s showed erratic, uneven shifts between channels. In the worst case, a 7dB shift occurs at roughly 3K-4KHz. This means that the left/right channel will take turns overpowering one another in loudness, resulting in an unbalanced and—what's worse—annoying, unconvincing experience.
Take a gander at more data we collected in our labs.
If you're a fan of loud music, the AE2s can output a maximum level of 113.29dB before reaching the magic 3% level of acceptable distortion. Be wary though, as these headphones also leak a small bit of sound at volume, so controlling your listening will prevent this problem.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.
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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email