Time in the lab revealed that these Bose buds are worthy spotters with a firm grip—on your tunes, that is.
Whether you're planning on jogging, jumping, javelining, or just jiving, the SIE2i ear buds will stay firmly in your ears, providing pretty decent sound for the price.
Just don't buy these headphones if you need something for the gym and the office, they just aren't that versatile. Letting in some outside noise is great for safety while you're out on a jog, but that just won't translate well on a plane or in a waiting room. These are gym buddies only.
Feel free to color coordinate with your Gatorade.
These colorful, sports-focused ear buds come in a variety of hues: green, orange, purple, and blue. Our test unit is the green version, which features gray highlights along the cable and in-line controller. The included Reebok armband matches the green-gray aesthetic, and though it's fitted specifically for an iPhone 5, the SIE2i's in-line control should work with any Apple device. There's also a small, plastic shirt clip in the box, and an extension adapter cable. The in-line remote is a standard 3-button affair, with controls for play/pause and volume.
While the cable is wrapped in rubber, and both the jack and the controller split feel fairly sturdy, nothing here feels more "exercise ready" than other options. It is ready to become horribly tangled, though, so don't just chuck it into your gym bag on the way home. Though if you do, you'll be glad to know the sweat-resistant SIE2i is safe beneath your sweat-soaked socks.
If you happen to meet the strict criteria to get into the armband club (i.e., your arms aren't too big or too small and you own an iPhone 5), you're good to go. If not, prepare yourself for the "Goldie Locks" syndrome: If the armband doesn't fit your phone, you'll find that the cable is far too short to reach the device in your waist pocket.
Yes, Bose include an extension cable, but there's a catch: Without the extender, the cable is far too short, and with the extender, the rig is just a little too long. Even worse, the extension connector isn't gold plated—which could spell durability issues down the line.
As for the buds themselves? A great fit. Bose includes three different sleeves in small, medium, and large. Personally, the mediums fit my ears superbly, and don't come loose even when I'm jumping around (which is adorable, by the way). Take note, though: If you prefer the snug feel of in-ear headphones, you'll want to keep shopping. Although the SIE2i does use a rubber lock to accomplish a firm fit, the earbuds do not lodge fully into the ear canal, which can feel disconcerting during exercise.
♫ It's the... eye of the tiger / It's the thrill of the fight! ♫
If you're like me, you've got this one pair of headphones that you bring to the gym. You probably didn't pay much for them. You keep 'em in your gym bag, under your dirty socks. And you don't expect much, you just need your music loud enough to block out Joe Legday—that guy that's always grunting away in front of the mirror.
The Bose SIE2i are not that pair of ear buds. They provide a very consumer-friendly sound, with healthy bass support and plenty of mid/high range emphasis.
These buds don't over-emphasize bass the way that many consumer headphones do, but neither do they provide a flat, studio sound; instead, they take a balanced approach. Besides lab testing, I listened to a number of CD-quality MP3s, including Survivor's famous mantra about tiger eyes. The SIE2i ear buds sound great, preserving the integrity of the bass sixteenth notes, the splashing treble cymbals, and everything in between.
That's not to say the SIE2i is a perfect product, though—there are a couple of issues intrinsic to the design of ear buds.
The fact that these don't lodge fully into the ear canal means it's easy to hear everything around you—easier than other headphones, anyway. I'm wearing the SIE2i while I write this review, and even while listening to music, I can still hear every keyboard click. The co-worker across from me can hear my music just fine, however, so cranking it up over the keyboard doesn't mesh well with an office setting. Depending on how private you are—or how shoulder-to-shoulder you are with Mr. Legday—these drawbacks could prove bothersome.
Finally, you can expect the SIE2i to remain distortion free unless you crank them all the way up to max volume—which you shouldn't do, no matter how audible those bicep curl-related grunts are.
Great sound, and everyone will know it
If you're looking for something with a lot of bass emphasis, or something that caters to more than just Apple devices, Monster's iSport Victory (MSRP $169) could be a good choice. If you want something extra durable that blocks lots of ambient noise, the Westone Adventure Series (MSRP $199) is also a solid option.
That said, the Bose SIE2i earbuds have a lot going for them. Solid overall sound and a comfortable fit are just about all you need from exercise-focused headphones, after all. While they're a little pricy at $150, Bose's balanced sound profile is a rare treat amongst earbud-style headphones, and will please gym-goers in search of a balanced sound.
I tested a solid, balanced frequency response from the Bose SIE2i (MSRP $149.95), optimal levels of harmonic distortion, average channel tracking, and good overall impulse response. This product's only drawbacks stem from its design: Poor isolation and a somewhat high degree of leakage both owe to the earbud form factor.
We test a speaker's frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz to determine how much credence it lends to each audible pitch. These Bose perform well in this category—their frequency response somewhat resembles an equal-loudness contour (ELC), which equalizes the volume of all frequencies for the human ear.
Expect an ample foundation of sub-bass and bass notes, and a midrange that holds its own. There is a slight drop in volume between 2kHz and 4kHz, so that details throughout the high mids may be harder to distinguish at times. Largely, though, there are no drastic issues here—this is a fine test result.
Tracking refers to the balance between sound output for the right and left channels, or speakers. Headphones with poor tracking can have audible discrepancies in channel volume for particular frequencies, which can be both distracting and bad for your hearing. Fortunately, the SIE2i tested with no major tracking errors—no sudden shifts in emphasis over 2 dB in volume, which is practically perfect.
Attenuation is one area where the SIE2i are not the best of performers—and for obvious reasons. Attenuation refers to a set of headphones' ability to block, reduce, or dampen outside ambient noise. Obviously, a pair of active noise cancelers is going to do a much better job than these buds, which sit in the ear and block almost nothing of the sub-bass, bass, and midrange frequencies. They do, however, reduce some high midrange sounds to as much as one-quarter of their original volume.
THD (or Total Harmonic Distortion) refers to the sum of electrical/mechanical audio interference a loudspeaker exhibits during playback. Typically, we like to see less than 3% total distortion, and fortunately the SIE2i tested within that acceptable range.
Users should note, however, that the maximum volume for distortion free playback is a little lower than usual for these ear buds—about 98 dB—but you shouldn't be listening to music louder than 100 dB for extended periods, anyway.
Meet the tester
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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