Bose's headphones are best-known for their class-leading noise cancellation, but the company makes perfectly normal headphones and earphones too. The Bose AE2 are a pair of these standard cans, but in stripping out the extra tech, they cost far less than most of Bose's other over-ears headphones. Despite this wallet friendly appeal, they also pack-in several of Bose's best bits, resulting in one of the most enjoyable commuter sets around.
When a range of headphones is heavily marketed, it's easy to ascribe a demographic to them. In our heads, and many others we'd wager, Bose is a brand of the affluent, white, middle-aged, middle-class individual. You can see it in the designs of most of its headphones – conservative, sensible, not too flashy.
We're pleased to see, then, that the Bose AE2 look sleeker than most of the company's pairs, and better looking than the original Triport over-ears they are based on. Largely black, rather than the traditional Bose silver, the look is surprisingly youth-friendly.
Triport to AE2 - ugly duckling to black swan?
They look a little meaner than the average Bose pair, but we can't imagine they'd offend the usual Bose audience either – those healthy of bank balance, if not quite so healthy of hairline at times. They don't stick out too far from the head, use an inoffensively thin headband and are demure in their styling.
More importantly, though, the Bose AE2s are just as comfortable as the best of Bose – and Bose produces some of the most comfy headphones in the world. The construction is very lightweight, made of plastic aside from some aluminium reinforcement in the headband, and the synthetic leather-topped padding is sumptuously soft.
The grip the Bose AE2 exert on your head is deliberately light, to further increase comfort. To wear while walking around, few headphones get close to matching this pair. However, they're not quite as handy for use while exercising, as the light touch approach means they may move about a bit. The fabric-covered headband padding doesn't make any attempt to stick to your hair either, unlike the Beats Solo HD's high-friction squidgy rubber-topped band. For the occasional jog, they'll perform just fine, though.
Lacking a tight grip on your head and Bose's famous noise cancellation, these aren't the most isolating of headphones. They don't leak sound much, but they're not particularly adept at keeping outside noise out. If you take the London Tube on a daily basis, or spend half your time in the airplane cabins, you will have to crank up the volume a bit.
Like the Bose QuietComfort 15, the AE2 use a removable cable. The plastic fitting that slots into the cup is proprietary, but the jack itself is of the standard 3.5mm type. This cable is another design improvement over the original Triport headphones. Those oldie headphones used a cable that plugged into both earpieces, but now it only jacks in to the left side. Like the improved aesthetics, it's something that makes the Bose AE2 look and feel a lot better, and a lot more modern.
Comfort and Accessories
Bose headphones are generally thought of as portable pairs, and it's no surprise that the cable is relatively thin – although thicker than the earphone average, and slightly longer than normal at just under 1.7m. The earcups fold flat too, to slip into a bag more easily.
Bose supplies a nylon drawstring bag with these headphones. It's a little less swish than the semi-rigid case you get with the Bose QuietComfort 3 and QuietComfort 15, but then these are less than half the price. Frequent mobile users should also note that there's no hands-free housing on the remote here. If that's a priority, you should check out the Bose AE2i, which add this feature.
For at-home use, you can easily pick up a 3.5mm cable extension for pennies online. If you're just after an at-home pair, though, consider an open-back set. They tend to provide more expansive sound and heat up your ears less than the Bose AE2.