In fact the only disappointment here is that the cabling system isn’t modular. Headphones such as Sennheiser’s similarly-priced CX 95s have cables that can be split in two, which means if you have a mobile phone with a modular hands free extension, you can take calls without having to unplug your ears.
The principal benefit to the odd earbud-style design of these headphones is, however, comfort. The silicon tips – of which small, medium and large fittings are supplied with the phones – sit perfectly in your ears. There’s none of that burning, aching sensation that you can get through extended use of tight-fitting canalphones, and they also feel far lighter in your lugs than standard earbuds. Another plus is that there’s less of the cable-rub amplification that you get with completely sealed canal phones.
In theory, an earbud design such as this also allows much more room for drivers too, so it’s easier to achieve top level sound quality for less cash. Keen to test this theory out, I grabbed my current favourite headphones at this price – the aforementioned Sennheiser CX 95s – and settled down for an extended back-to-back listening session. I hooked each pair of headphones up to my Sqeezebox and portable headphone amp to ensure top quality at the source level.
Kicking things off with some laid back jazz – Pat Metheny’s atmostpheric album, Map of the World – and a difference was immediately apparent. The Bose phones didn’t appear to have the punch, detail and clarity of the Sennheisers. With the CX 95s you can hear the ‘deliberate’ hiss on the original recording and all the extra sounds around the edges, such as the buzz of Metheney’s guitar strings as he plucks them. In comparison, the Bose phones are far less involving, floating on top of the music rather than delving down deep into the guts of it.