The Bose SoundTrue Ultra are simple in-ear headphones. They don’t feature wireless connectivity, nor Bose’s amazing active noise-cancellation tech.
However, their comfortable, secure fit makes these neat £99 earphones a worthwhile option for runners and commuters.
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A lot of portable audio gear looks provocative. You wear it on your head, so it’s an opportunity to make a style statement. Bose headphones and earphones tend to look, at most, idiosyncratic, though.
The Bose SoundTrue Ultra are recognisable, but mostly by virtue of their odd ‘devil horns’ silicone wingtips and the candy-stripe cable decoration. I’ve never considered Bose earphones pretty, but I usually notice when someone on the train is wearing them. Mission accomplished, I suppose.
There are a number of unusual little design elements, but the most important one is the shape of the silicone tip. Proof of Bose’s obsession with comfort, they make sure that nothing remotely hard gets even close to touching your skin.
Almost like a halfway house between a regular universal earphones and a custom-moulded pair, the Bose SoundTrue Ultra want to fill your ear, in order to make the fit more stable. The most important part is the ‘wing’ that hooks under a fold in your outer-ear cartilage.
It makes the Bose SoundTrue Ultra much less easy to pull out than most earphones, even though the tips are made from super-pliant and unusually soft silicone.
You may prefer the look of a standard tip, but these ones are both very easy to fit in your ear, and remain comfortable when worn for many hours at a time.
The Bose SoundTrue Ultra earbuds themselves are pretty plain, a classic Bose two-tone mix of dark grey and light grey plastic.
Further down the cable there’s another Bose quirk, a T-shape splitter that blends into the cable much less than that of most headphones. It’s the kind of design you’re more likely to find in sports earphones. Below this is a shirt clip, which is the sort of accessory that tends to be left unloved in the box.
I found that you need to use this clip when jogging with these headphones, though. Otherwise the splitter causes absolutely loads of microphonic noise when it whacks against your clothes, transferring up the cable.
The SoundTrue Ultra are more in touch with Bose’s stiff quirky ways than something like the QuietComfort 35, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They also have a three-button remote, with different versions available for Android and iOS.
Noise isolation is just OK in these headphones, though. I’ve used them happily enough on a train journey from London to Edinburgh, but like a lot of earphones they will struggle with a very noisy environment like the London Underground.
The Bose SoundTrue Ultra are a slightly higher-end version of the SoundTrue in-ears. It seems Bose decided they don’t really sound good enough.
These headphones deliver good sound, but it’s not the best you can get at the price. You need to value comfort, too.
As the name seems to promise, the tonal balance of the Bose SoundTrue Ultra is very solid. Bass is tastefully reserved, the treble is clear and natural. I find them well-balanced but those used to bassy headphones may find the low-end a bit anaemic.
Mids are recessed, but only slightly. Bose has put more effort into tuning the SoundTrue Ultra for ‘high-end’ sound than I’ve heard from in-ear Bose sets in the past. They’ve tended to have very accessible sound that doesn’t hold up to all that much scrutiny.
This pair does much better, but they’re still only middle-weight players.
While Bose has managed to sort out the all-too overt tonal skews it used to rely heavily on, the Bose SoundTrue Ultra still don’t have quite the separation and verticality I start to look for in a more expensive earphone.
If these sound like the sort of terms only noodly sound obsessives would use, it’s all about how three dimensional a headphone makes music sound. The Bose SoundTrue Ultra have a fairly wide stereo image, but don’t do a terrific job of putting air between the elements of an arrangement that tend to crowd around the central channel.
Listening to the Bose SoundTrue Ultra, you could say these issues are just finishing touches, but such things are the currency of high-end headphones.
They are also not the most efficient headphones, which simply means you have to put the source’s (i.e. your phone or amp) up relatively high to get decent volume through the earpieces. These are pleasant headphones that sound a bit more disciplined than the Bose norm, though.
Like many Bose products, the SoundTrue Ultra need to be assessed as a full package. Looking at the sound quality up against the price, which is my natural inclination, doesn’t work here.
The Bose SoundTrue Ultra are unusually comfortable earphones that also feel more secure than the average silicone-tipped pair.
Sound quality is good, with a clear effort put into making them actually sound 'true', as the name suggests – especially compared with something like the old Bose IE2. However, in terms of sound separation and ‘airiness’, the Bose SoundTrue Ultra sound a bit more like a £50-£70 pair of earphones than ones costing £100.
Great comfort and solid sound make these a decent pick for the daily commuter.
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