Bose bills their Tri-Port Acoustic Headphones as the “only in-ear headphones with the rich audio and comfortable fit not available from conventional designs“. I’ve been testing a pair in various locations – mainly while sitting still at home, on the elliptical machine at the gym and out walking around the neighborhood.
The headphones are not terribly expensive at $ 99. At least not by today’s standards. Are they worth the money?
I purchased my Bose In-Ear headphones from Best Buy for $99. They are not the most expensive set of headphones that I’ve ever owned. That award goes to my Etymotic ER-4 headphones which for $299 lived up to their billing for many years – until one fateful day in the gym the ear piece came off in my ear. And stayed there. An hour later at my house, with needle nose pliers in hand I was FINALLY able to extract the tip from my ear.
After that harrowing experience, I was not too eager to stick anything deeply into my ear again. Time for a new pair of headphones.
My iPod Touch of course came with the standard set of Apple headphones. The sound is actually pretty good. I was curious whether the Bose In-Ear headphone might make the sound even richer and a tad louder for use at the gym.
The Bose In-Ear Headphones come packaged with:
- Lanyard attachment
- Medium and Small Ear piece Replacements
First I was off to the gym. On several occasions I used the Bose with my iPod. This is where I first learned that although these are billed as in-ear, they have minimal noise canceling ability and keeping them in my ear (even as I tried the various sized earpieces that ship with the headphones) was no small feat.
I was used to the extreme noise canceling ability of my Etymotic ER-4. While not seeking a total replacement I was hoping for something to drown out the noise of the occasional gym chatterbox. No such luck with the Bose. It canceled some surrounding noise, but not any more than the regular iPod headphones.
Grading this headset strictly on noise canceling ability (which users could logically assume would accompany an in-ear headphone), I give it a C-. It just didn’t block out enough noise.
Now onto my biggest pet peeve. The fit of the headphone into my ear.
I tried the large and the medium headphone adapter pieces. Both of them produced an awkward “this is going to fall out” at any time feeling.
Although the headphones felt like they were going to fall out – they never did. Instead they’d push out of my ear and rest on the outside of my ear. When this happened I’d notice the sound quality and the amount of bass in that side of my headphone would remarkably decrease. This happened to me almost every time I used the headphone, so I’m sure it was not just a case of putting them in wrong one time.
When I workout I’m usually walking or using the elliptical equipment. I don’t know how runners or those with more extreme workout routines would fare with these headphones.
Bose ships an accessory that acts as a lanyard and is meant to attach to the headphones to “stabilize” them. I did not try using the attachment because I do not think any extra “doo dads” should be needed for proper use of a headphone. Quite honestly the sound quality was just so-so and the extra effort of attaching a lanyard to stabilize the headphone wasn’t worth the aggravation. Plus you have the “another cord to get tangled up in my drawer” factor. Blech.Blech.Blech.
Update 4-19-2008: It’s been almost 6 months and I still have the Bose earphones. I use them mostly when I’m doing light physical activity like walking. I have not found a way to get them totally comfortable in my ear. The sound quality seems a little better and I think that’s because I’ve tried a few competitors on the last 6 months and have yet to find anything great. I think if I were to repurchase headphones for gym use I’d go again with the Etymotic ER-4P which sound great while staying put in your ear (getting them out can be another question all together).
Bottom Line: Save your $ 99. The headphone quality is good but nothing special. I judge the fit into my ear as poor even when I tried the included other sized earpieces. While doing light workouts I was always concerned about having them fall out – though as note they never did. When the headphone moves out of position in your ear, the sound quality diminishes greatly.
Site URL: http://www.bose.com
MSRP: $ 99
What I liked:
- Some improvement to sound quality
- Cord seemed less prone to tangling than my iPod headphones
What Could Be Improved:
- The way the headphone fits may be uncomfortable
- Headphone is too bulky/heavy and tends work its way to your outer ear, which diminishes sound quality
- Use of an extra lanyard should not be required with headphones
If you’ve used the Bose, or found a better sounding set of headphones for use with the iPod, I’m all ears (pardon the pun).
Let me know your thoughts on what I can try next. I may just pick up one of the headphones that Chris tried out in October in his Sometimes Isolation is a Good Thing review.