Bose Soundlink On-ear review

Bose goes Bluetooth with some success – these headphones are a very decent shout Tested at £220

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Bose go Bluetooth with some success – these headphones are a very decent shout


  • +

    Good build quality

  • +

    Nice to use

  • +

    Clever features

  • +

    Balanced, detailed and solid sound

  • +

    Excellent battery life


  • -

    The class leaders deliver better clarity and dynamics

  • -

    Ears can warm up quickly

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The first thing that strikes you about the (deep breath) Bose Soundlink on-ear Bluetooth headphones is their colour.

A few members of the test team were certainly put off by the flesh coloured fabric on the earcups and headband, but you can always opt for an alternative, darker finish if you think it’s a bit much. Thankfully, the fabric feels good quality, as do the plastics used.


The Soundlinks are a surprisingly compact pair of cans, designed to sit on your ear instead of enveloping it. They fold up into a petite package and come with small carry pouch so they can slot into a bag or case and not take up too much space.

Flick the power switch on the side and you’ll start hearing voices. Don’t worry - a female assistant chirps up to help guide you through the set-up process. She’ll tell you the battery level; the source connected, and can also let you know who’s calling before you pick up. This kind of interaction is above and beyond what many rivals offer. A big thumbs-up.

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Build and design

Illuminated Bluetooth and battery logos are on the right earcup, plus three controls for playback.

The volume buttons are raised either side of the play/pause button, which also allows you to answer calls through the built-in mic. It’s a simple but effective arrangement, as is sliding up the power button to start pairing. These Bose headphones make everything straightforward.

Battery life is impressive too. Bose claim around 15 hours of playtime and that a full charge only takes an hour-and-a-half; with a 15-minute charge providing around two hours. Those cushioned earpads are ridiculously soft. There is quite a lot material in contact with your ears, though, and they can heat up rather quickly.

The fit is generally good; they’re not as easily disturbed by head movements by some rivals, such as the JBL S400BTs.

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Play Jay-Z’s Big Pimpin’ and there’s real intent and swagger. Bass sounds solid and weighty but all that power is well judged too. There’s a good sense of clarity and an even, tonal balance, which lends itself well to all manner of music.

Play Tori Amos’s Winter and there’s a good level of detail. Her vocal is detailed and expressive, oozing emotion. Similarly, the piano and strings flow smoothly in the background, riding peaks and troughs with good precision.


The Philips M2BTs have the edge in terms of overall clarity and dynamics, but these Bose headphones still do a lot of things well. They’re talented and deserve to be taken seriously.

MORE: Best Bluetooth headphones 2015

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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