If you've got yourself an iPod or other MP3 player then chances are that you'll want to upgrade to some decent headphones. Of course, you could go for some earphones, but for the best sound quality possible you're better off investing in some cans. And if you're planning on taking them on the daily commute then they need to be lightweight and durable as well as offering some decent audio. On paper, Bose's AE2 headphones fit the bill perfectly, but do they deliver?
Like most Bose products, the headphones sport a minimalist black and silver design that looks slick without appearing too ostentatious. Each ear cushion measures 9.6cm x 7.4cm and overall, the headphones measure 19.1cm x 15.2cm x 3.8cm while the whole package weighs in at a manageable 140g. The earcups fold flat for easy storage and transport so they don't take up too much room when not in use.
The headphones are also supplied with their own drawstring carry bag. It doesn't really offer much protection, but it should keep them clean and prevent the cable from getting too tangled. Make sure you don't lose it though, according to Bose's website, a replacement will set you back £6.95 which is a pretty ridiculous price for what is simply a cotton pouch.
Although the AE2s are slightly more compact than a full-sized set of cans, the padded portion is still big enough to fit comfortably around the ears, rather than on them. Not only does this make the earcups feel extremely comfortable, it also means that your ears shouldn't get over-heated, even if you're wearing the headphones for hours on end.
The headband enables about 7.5cm of length adjustment and is cushioned on the underside to make sure that the headphones sit comfortably on the top of your head. It's very pliable so it allows for a fair bit of flexibility making it unlikely that it'll snap unless you do something really drastic, like dropping the the headphones under the wheel of a bus or something equally daft.
The detachable cable is joined to just one earcup meaning that you've got plenty of room to move around without getting tangled up. It also means that if the cable gets caught, then it should pop out rather than breaking or pulling the headphones off of your head. Having said that, it's a pretty sturdy connection that needs a hefty yank to separate the cable from the earcup. At the other end, the 3.5mm connector is set at angle to the cable, rather than being entirely straight - a move that should stop the wire from wearing out and breaking as it means that it doesn't have to bend over at an angle.
The product has been designed to provide an acoustic seal between the headphones and your head, and it works a treat. These aren't noise-cancelling headphones but they still block out a hell of a lot of noise, even before we turned the music on. The headphones sport Bose's TriPort acoustic structure which is designed to produce tonally balanced sound with deep, low notes. What's more, the acoustic equalisation fine-tunes the frequency response, says Bose. Whether the average listener can detect the specific benefits of these elements of engineering remains to be seen, but the audio certainly sounded good to us.
Considering the lack of noise-cancelling tech, the sound offered by the AE2s is excellent. The sonics are warm and well-balanced with plenty of clarity, even on subtle sounds such as instruments being plucked and strummed. As well as a dynamic mid-range, the audio also benefits from a solid bass output that's even maintained at lower volume levels.
It's hard to find fault with the AE2 headphones - the only factor that we could really point out is that they don't offer any noise-cancelling technology. Having said that, they do actually block out a fair bit of noise thanks to the close-fitting design of the earcups.
The £119.99 price tag certainly isn't cheap and you can actually get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for the same price, albeit an entry-level pair. However, in this case, that £120 gets you a superb pair of compact, lightweight cans that offer a thoroughly decent audio performance and we can't recommend them enough. In fact, we really don't want to give them back to Bose.