Review: Bose SoundTrue on-ear headphones

The name “Bose” generally brings with it a solid audio heritage, sending the message that what you’re about to listen through won’t just be great for your ears, but high quality across the board. But high quality often comes with high prices, and Bose’s SoundTrue on-ear headphones could do away with that.

Features

Two models of the SoundTrue have been made available, with the around-ear style relying on a small circumaural can design where the pads sit around the ears, while the on-ear design (the ones we’re reviewing) is supra-aural and sits immediately on top. Both designs rely on memory foam to conform to the shape of your ears.

Over on the headband, consumers will find some light cushioning on the top, making the handset easy to grip with a slight hug on the head.

The cable is replaceable and plugs in using a 2.5mm headset jack on the cans, executing in a 3.5mm headset jack for the media player, with a three button microphone-equipped remote near the top of the cable Only one cable is included in the package.

A carrying case is also included, capable of storing the Bose SoundTrue on-ear phones when they’re folded up.

Performance

When you’re talking about headphones, portability doesn’t always necessarily mean small. Rather, it just means it has to fold up and fit nicely in a backpack or handbag. Small, though, isn’t the same, with mid-size headphone cans that can sit on the ear, but still occupy a relatively large set of space.

Bose’s SoundTrue on-ear headphones are a little different, though, providing a very small headphone made for smaller ears, with a look reminiscent of the Bose brand and less that of the celebrity headphones we’re beginning to see more of.

Going by the look alone, these are very easy on the eyes, though not necessarily as fashion-conscious as the Beats, Monster, or Soul headphones penetrating the market.

In fact, if you’ve ever seen the Bose silver noise cancelling headphones, these take on much the same approach, with a single colour on the headphone casing and the “Bose” name printed in a different block colour. For us, that means white headphones with a blue Bose printed, a name that tells the world yes, you’re listening to what should amount to a good pair of cans.

Put them on and you’ll find the comfort level matches that last observation, with no clamping or heavy pressing against the skull.

While the surface area of the headphones is relatively small, and your ears won’t necessarily be covered (unless you have small ears), the SoundTrue have a rather light touch, making them one of the comfiest pairs of headphones we’ve felt to date.

In the past few years, we’ve even met people who will find this a welcoming thing, as some people seem to be particularly sensitive to heavy headbands. If this is you, consider trying a pair of the SoundTrue on-ears, as they seem built specifically to get around this problem.

Over to the sound quality, because that’s the part that really matters, and really, we couldn’t be more delighted.

While the SoundTrue headphones lack the warmth of the KEF M500 or the detail of the Aedle VK-1 (the last headphones we reviewed), they are very balanced across the board, with excellent lows, mids, and highs.

Testing with our regular headphone track test, we only needed to run the headphones at a little over half the volume amount on our test handset, the Sony Xperia Z2.

There, with Dave Brubeck’s jazz take on the West Side Story piece “Maria,” the trumpet in the highs was detailed and clear over the piano in the mids, with the double bass still evident in the lows. Very clear sound, and very balanced through the range.

Over in the world of rock, the balance continued, with heavy bass drums and loud electric guitar working with each other in Muse’s “Supremacy,” while the pop rock sound of Panic At The Disco’s voice could be heard over the instruments in “New Perspective” without any clash from the other parts.

Pop and electronic held their ground just as well, with Sia’s “Chandelier” only sounding a little empty over the synthetic drums, but otherwise fairly clear. There was a touch of fuzz as this track began to blow out in volumes, and that may have been attributed to the track, as Mooro’s heavy electronic track “M66R6” showed no signs of the same which produced solid bass hits interchanging with high keyboard sounds.

A quick change into something a little more top 40 was also clear, with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis very clear over the mix of lows and mids in “Can’t Hold Us” with a recreation that would make any casual listener smile.

Overall, the Bose SoundTrue seem to make themselves ideal for anyone that listens to music, with no real genre or category preferred by these cans, which is our favourite style of headphone, since it doesn’t play to specific bass boosts or styles of music.

But we do have a few niggling concerns, though, not least is the build quality.

While the comfort level on the SoundTrue on-ear headphones is excellent, without any hugging of the head at all, the construction is not.

Even though there’s a backbone of metal in the mostly plastic design, we can already hear some rattling after a few days of use. We’re not sure what it is, or precisely where it’s coming from, but the rattling is noticeable when you move the headphones, and that doesn’t bode well for the long term build.

We’re not totally confident in the light weight plastic either, as it feels like it won’t take much for the headphones to snap off, so we’re guessing it will happen at around the year mark, either just before or closely after. If we were skeptics — and we are — we’d say probably right after the warranty ends. You know, Murphy’s Law and all.

Also a bit of a concern for us is the cable, and there’s only one of them in the box.

Sure, that might be just enough, but it’s also not a very well made cable, and does feature a 2.5mm headset jack at one end, the side that connects with the headset itself. That’s a design we’ve seen once before with a pair of KEF headphones, and we complained about it then, too, as it makes replacing the cable more of a chore since 2.5mm to 3.5mm cables are rarer, and will probably require a trip to the Bose store.

That is likely intentional, and while Jaycar or another electronics store will likely have something you can use, most people will end up walking into a Bose store and walking out with another cable, thereby completely the cycle.

From our point of view, Bose could have kept the cycle by sticking with the standard 3.5mm cable, which consumers would have preferred since it’s easier to find.

Conclusion

If you’re after a pair of headphones that’s compact and comfortable, Bose has definitely nailed the formula with the SoundTrue headphones.

We wish the build quality was a little better, though, and we’re a tad worried they won’t make more than a year, but otherwise, if comfort, excellent sound, and portability is what you’re after, the SoundTouch should totally be considered.