As the name implies, the Bose’s IE2 earphones are the second-generation of Bose’s in-ear headphones. Truth be told, we weren’t impressed with the first iteration of this model, which some users complained didn’t fit securely in their ears and caused Bose to issue newly designed silicon earpieces to help rectify the problem. But the company has made some tweaks to the design and we generally like the results, though not everything is rosy.
There are actually three versions of Bose’s latest in-ear headphones:
Bose IE2 ($99.95): This is the base model, which is a standard pair of in-ear headphones.
Bose MIE2 ($129.95): Identical to the IE2, but adds a built-in microphone for cellphones and VOIP devices.
Bose MIE2i ($129.95): Identical to the MIE2, but with compatibility for iPod/iPhone controls.
Despite the feature differences, the sound–and design–of the earphones themselves are the same for all three models, so they should all exhibit identical sound quality.
The first thing you should know is that these aren’t noise-isolating earphones. You don’t jam a foam or rubber tip into your ear, effectively cutting off much of the sound from the outside world. Instead, these earphones sit slightly on top of the ear, similar the way hard earbuds do. A silicon cover directs the sound into your ear canal but the tip isn’t pushed all the way inside. As a result, you don’t get the tight seal like you do with a noise-isolating earphone but the upside is your ear canal gets some breathing room. This design will appeal more to some people than others, but it’s also important to highlight the fact that this reviewer didn’t have any trouble getting the IE2s to fit both securely and comfortable in his ears.
Part of the reason for that is Bose’s new StayHear silicon tips, which have little wings to “nestle inside the bowl of the ear while also naturally conforming to the ear’s upper ridge.” In the package you’ll find, three StayHear earpieces (S, M, and L) and three “original-style” tips (S, M, L) that don’t feature the wings. Those wings are funky looking, but they do work and you should be able to find one size that fits your ears well.
While this style of earphone may not appeal to everyone, this reviewer liked their “open” quality and found it comfortable to wear the IE2s for long stretches without feeling the need to adjust them or take them off. That said, you’ll definitely hear more street noise (or in the case of this reviewer, more subway noise) than if you were using a noise-isolation earphone.
Bose has improved the sound by adding an additional port that helps bulk up the bass, which we found pleasantly full, though not incredibly deep. That bass is probably the best thing about these guys; while the detail is OK, we thought the treble was a little on the harsh side, compressing the range between softer and louder sounds. In other words, these earphones don’t really bring out the subtleties in your music quite as well as we might have hoped. Of course, you can’t ask the world of $99/$129 earphones, but we have heard models in this price class that simply outperform the Bose.
If you’re looking at either of Bose’s mobile headset models, the MIE2 or the Bose MIE2i, we did make some calls while wearing the MIE2s and found the sound quality to be good and the people we called said we came sounded loud and clear. You’ll pay a $30 premium for the headset feature, but if you plan on using these guys with a phone, it is convenient to be able to be able to make calls and talk without having to remove your headphones (on an iPhone, the music pauses when a call comes in and restarts when you hang up). Just make sure the phone is a recent model that uses the now-standard 3.5mm jack, not the smaller 2.5mm one found on older cell phones.
Comparatively speaking, at around $100, we like the Klipsch S4/S4i ($79, or $99 for the cellphone version), Etymotic 6i Isolator ($99.99), and Monster Mobile Jamz ($99.99), which have a built-in mic for making calls. All are noise-isolating earphones that you push into your ear canal. If you’re someone who likes that type of very tight, snug fit, the IE2s may not cut it. But if you’re someone who prefers your ear canals to have a little breathing room, you’re more apt to really like the Bose.
Either way, the company does have a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can always try them and return them if the fit–or sound–doesn’t appeal to your tastes.