The Bose AE2W are the Bluetooth version of the extremely popular AE2 headphones. They are full-size headphones with a detachable Bluetooth module that has its own battery. This means you can switch between using them as wireless or wired headphones in a few seconds.
Thanks to slightly clumsy design choices they don’t have the impact of some recent Bose products like the excellent QC20i. But they are some of the better-sounding Bluetooth headphones if you don’t mind paying a fair bit extra for wireless.
Without the wireless dongle attached, the Bose AE2W look just like the AE2 and AE2i. The core design is the same, there’s just a slight variance in finish.
They come in black only this time around, and there’s a mix of matt and glossy finishes on the back of the earcups. We could live without the glossy bits, but (without the wireless module attached) these are fairly low-key, fairly attractive headphones.
It’s all ruined when you attach the Bluetooth part. It slots into the 2.5mm jack port on the left earcup. It’s chunky and makes your Bose AE2W look more like a call centre headset than a pair of headphones.
While we don’t image the average Bose buyer is hugely obsessed with style, it’s not a good look. Most other wireless headphones incorporate Bluetooth much more subtly.
However, functionally it’s actually very good indeed. The Bluetooth module incorporates a multi-function button, volume control, power switch and microphone. Like any handsfree remote, these control playback of music and calls. And they’re a dream to use as they sit just in the right place to be operated with your left thumb and forefinger, and the volume rocker buttons are contoured enough for flawless blind use.
It’s just a pity they sacrifice looks in order to attain such usability. We may seem to be shallow in these observations, but headphones are all too obvious pieces of head furniture for us to feel completely comfortable with the Bose AE2W design.
Like the Bose AE2, though, these headphones are extremely comfortable. With or without the Bluetooth module they’re light, the pads are exceptionally soft and the headband pressure is almost perfectly judged. It’s enough to keep them in place while jogging, but nowhere near strong enough to make your head feel ‘clamped’.
Forgetting the clumsy-looking Bluetooth dongle, these are great commuter headphones. However, they are not nearly as good as the QuietComfort-series headphones in terms of blocking out outside noise. The Bose AE2W don’t use active noise cancellation, and their noise isolation is just average.
Their raison d’etre is, of course, wireless. Pairing with a phone is easy, and thanks to Apt-X support there’s not a great loss in audio quality when streaming from an Apt-X compatible device. However, we did find the play/pause button on the Bluetooth module slow to respond at times.
The Bose AE2W headphones, predictably, offer sound quality similar to that of the AE2 and AE2i sets. This makes them some of the better-sounding wireless headphones you can get.
Sound is slightly less warm than the top-end QuietComfort headphones, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different.
Detail is good, and the impression of clarity and separation is decent. These are clean and clear-sounding headphones. However, as we noted with the AE2i, you can get better treble fidelity elsewhere – especially given that the Bluetooth functionality pushes the price up to £200.
Like most Bose headphones their sound is not perfect. There’s a good amount of bass here, but bass impact is quite limited. If you want slamming, hard-hitting headphones, the Bose AE2W are not what you’re after. Mids are also somewhat recessed.
If you definitely need a pair of wireless headphones and don’t mind quite how odd the Bluetooth module makes the Bose AE2W look, this is a solid pair of wireless headphones. Sound quality is good, comfort is excellent and while a bit ugly, the functions of the Bluetooth remote are super-intuitive. We also like that you can plug-in a cable if the battery dies.
At £50 over the Bose AE2i, the AE2W feel like reasonable value. However, if you’re willing to forego wireless, you can get better sound for £200. And we feel a little more comfortable with the sound you get here in the basic, £109 Bose AE2.
They look a bit odd thanks to their chunky Bluetooth module, but these comfortable, good-sounding Bose AE2W headphones are worth considering if you’re out for a pair of wireless cans.
Next, read our best headphones round-up