The market for wireless headphones is extremely tough these days, with all competitors pushing to provide the best sound quality while meeting other important criteria for the wide-ranging demands out there. After testing and using numerous headphones and earphones, I am left convinced that the Bose AE2 SoundLink, now available at around $150 or less, stands out as the best option and investment in this field for most of us.
For a Bluetooth headphone, the SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone II version provides excellent sound, is comfortable to wear even for long hours, and delivers good battery life of around 15 hours. The AE2 also responds to phone calls with easy-to-operate feel buttons and comes with an excellent carrying case that takes up little room for you travelers.
Bose has been able to provide a mixture of great comfort and performance, in a sleeky design, and available now at a decent price. Originally coming out at approximately $275, it is now more pocket-friendly at a decent $150. However, for those who prefer loud and bass-heavy music, this may not be the model for you.
One major improvement in the AE2 is the care and quality taken into its design, a feature becoming even more important these days as a growing number of people listen to music from their phones while on their way to work using public transportation.
As seen in all Bose headphones, the AE2 is extremely comfortable and weighs only 200 grams, or seven ounces. The memory foam used for the earpads provides a plush feeling and, parallel to its great sound quality, at times I literally forgot there was a headphone on my head.
To my surprise, the SoundLink is quite sturdy despite its finesse display. Using impact-resistant materials, these headphones were tested in Bose’s labs to “survive drops, bumps, and grabs.” I honestly don’t know what “grabs” means but being quite clumsy myself and having dropped the AE2 quite a few times, even from my car window onto the pavement, these headphones have surpassed all my expectations.
Although the AE2 does not provide active noise cancellation—a feature generating soundwaves to negate exterior environmental noise—much of the ambient noise around you is adequately sealed out by Bose’s excellent around-the-ear design. Unfortunately, similar to the plight of nearly all around-the-ear headphones, warmer environments will lead to your ears steaming up.
The right-side earcup is where you’ll find the remote-control buttons used to answer calls. Skipping tracks back and forth while enjoying music is another feature provided in these buttons.
The AE2 comes with a two-way microphone system along with what Bose describes as “Adaptive Audio Adjustment” technology, able to automatically change volume according to speech level and ambient noise. Although I personally have no idea how this technology works, I do know it works perfectly well. While taking walks I have come to realize that people’s conversations, dogs barking, and cars passing by do not disrupt my phone calls or any music. Although it may backfire in the office, when you don’t realize your boss is standing right behind you while you’re busy goofing around and listening to music.
Pairing was quite a breeze with both iPhones and Android devices. Although you might find it a bit tricky, but nothing too hard, to pair the AE2 with a PC laptop. While pairing, slide the power button up to the Bluetooth symbol and hold it for about ten seconds. You’ll see two headphones in the Bluetooth devices list, one as an unknown type of device called “Bose AE2 SoundLink,” and another as headphones called “Headphones” which changes to “Bose AE2 SoundLink” later. Afterwards mine are working just fine with my Windows 11 laptop.
For you travelers, note that the AE2 does fold flat, but lacks a second hinge to fold up yet another step and reduce its size when placed away in its carrying case. The USB charging and headphone cables are creatively placed in a pocket designed inside the carrying case. Do note that headphone cable does not come with an integrated microphone; a slight, but trivial omission.
The AE2 SoundLink provides around 15 hours of battery life that will carry you through any grinding ordeal. If necessary, a mere 15-minute charge delivers two hours of battery life. However, overusing this capability and failing to properly charge the headphones to full capacity can lead to a shorter battery lifespan in the long run. Each time you turn on the headphones a female voice informs you of the AE2’s remaining battery life and the same voice guides you through the initial pairing process. Another plus is the fact that you’ll see your devices automatically re-pair with the AE2 SoundLink without any hiccups.
Bose has apparently used Bluetooth 4.0 technology in these headphones, which I’ve found to work fine with the latest iOS, Android, and Windows 11 updates. The AE2 also supports multilink technology, meaning you can pair the headphone to multiple devices and switch back and forth, while keeping in mind that you can only stream audio from one device at a time. Personally, I’m still looking forward to a headphone that would stream audio from one device into my left ear, and from another device into my right ear. This would be especially helpful for those simultaneously monitoring two audio newsfeeds.
The debate about what is the best sounding wireless headphone is a hot topic, although I do dare say the AE2 SoundLink provides an excellent Bluetooth headphone option for many. Bose delivers well balanced and “clean” sound, if you will, along with adequate bass. Of course, a wired headphone would generally have better sound quality, but the AE2 has achieved an exceptional smooth sound that nearly everyone can relate to and enjoy.
Bose goes one step further in this Bluetooth headphone by equipping the SoundLink with Active EQ and volume-optimized EQ designed to provide better-sounding music at lower volumes. This is especially important because our smart devices are warning us, for good reason, when we raise volumes on various devices. Furthermore, Bose uses specific digital process to make your audio sound richer and more precise at lower volumes, letting you enjoy your audio while going easy on your ears.
And what is Active EQ? This technology makes sure the incoming signal you receive is accurate and complete, and not distorted. Bose is seeking to provide the best possible transmission without raising any other levels, such as bass, that could be irritating for some. While the quality of the audio files you stream to your headphones understandably differ, Bose has done a good job—and is continuing to upgrade this feature—in smoothing all the different noises and making everything sound far better.
Undeniable is the fact that all Bluetooth headphones come with their limitations and there will definitely be some audio gurus who will find something to be unhappy about in the AE2, as with all other headphones.
At the end of the day, the AE2 provides fuller and broader sound. We can certainly agree that there may never be the perfect headphone or earphones. The SoundLink goes as far as delivering good sound quality comparable to wired headphones.
For what it’s worth, the Bose AE2 SoundLink is arguably the best Bluetooth headphone in the market today that goes the distance in meeting the needs of nearly all of us.