Don't get me wrong, they're not bad at all - quite a pleasant listen, in fact - but they're just not as involving as the best in class. Moving on, I picked a more challenging piece of classical music, Mozart's Requiem, as the next test. The complex choral depths of this piece, as well as being one of the most powerful classical pieces you're ever likely to hear, also have the useful side benefit of stretching audio components to their limits, and in the case of the Bose headphones, it was a stretch too far.
That sense of not being too involved with the music was accentuated here. With the CX 95s, the piece made the hairs on the back of my arms stand up; the Bose phones sounded good, but I didn't care quite as much. They added a slight muffling veil to the music, which robbed it of power.
This was confirmed by shifting the source material dramatically to heavy metal and Metallica's classic black album. Again I had few serious complaints - the sound was balanced and reasonably detailed - but plug in the CX 95s and you get a whole new world of bite, attack and aggression; just what you want when listening to metal or heavy rock.
There's no doubt that Bose's in-ear headphones are a quality product. They're well-built, come with a respectable selection of accessories, work with the iPhone out of the box, and are an extremely comfortable option for those who just don't get on with canalphones.
But the sound quality, while balanced and reasonably detailed, isn't quite up there with the best in class. If you have this much cash to spend on a headphone upgrade, I'd advise choosing a pair of the superlative Sennheiser CX 95s. They're more involving to listen to, and the noise isolation design means you can enjoy that quality without having to turn the volume up too loud.