Bose SoundTrue review

Stylish over-ear headphones that simply cost too much

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Our Verdict

If you're in the market for a set of over-ear headphones that are cozy as all get-out, you've found your match. However, if industry-leading sound performance is your priority, you can get more for your money elsewhere.

For

  • Sleek design
  • Comfy and lightweight
  • Inline controls and mic

Against

  • Excessively long cord
  • Weak mids
  • Too costly

Having a set of over-ear headphones on your head should be a comfortable experience. It should also be a fun one, complete with the sound isolation and strong performance you expect to be put forward by a set of cans in 2015.

For $179 (£149, AU$179), the Bose SoundTrue over-ear headphones hit nearly all the marks of what makes a set of headphones good. It's even got some extra goodies included that I'm smitten to see in a set of wired headphones.

Even so, the sound quality just isn't quite up to par compared to what other headphones in its price range can handle. But boy, are these stylish.

Design

The design of the SoundTrue helps to round out the Bose headphone offering as a sleek, sporty look for on-the-go listeners. These over-ear cans borrow much in the way of looks from their bigger and more expensive sibling, the Bose QuietComfort 25. But the SoundTrue knows when to split off to forge its own path, rocking some moves of its own that I prefer to its noise-cancelling kin.

Bose SoundTrue review

The thin, lightweight metal frame of the headband is padded to make the SoundTrue comfortable. On its top, a leatherette material makes for a stunning first impression and is smooth to the touch. A softer felt material coats its underside to make for a soft pillow against your head.

Moving down toward the sidearms, the plushy touches make way for plastic, making it easier to grip – in case you want to increase or decrease the size adjusting mechanism. There are several notches built into the SoundTrue, so even those with heads on the larger side (much like myself) will still be comfy.

Bose SoundTrue review

Arriving at the sidearms, Bose stamps a 'R' and a 'L' facing outward, which makes putting them on your head the right way easy – much easier to see here than on the QC25 headphones. The sidearms are comprised of a few pieces of matte-textured, curved plastic that stretch down to the ear cup hinge.

Speaking of the hinge, mobility of the ear cups is one key area where design influence from the Bose QC25 was lost in translation. The cups on the SoundTrue can only twist 90 degrees, which unfortunately nixes laying them flat out on your chest. It's a minor gripe, but their stiffness made me opt to take them off completely when not in use instead of looping them around my neck. That said, the cups have enough flexibility to wiggle around, helping most to find the right fit.

Bose SoundTrue review

The ear cups rock a look that is both flashy and minimalistic, with more of Bose's favorite material for the SoundTrue: matte-textured plastic. On the outermost section of each cup, Bose planted its logo front and center.

And on their insides, the cups boast a hearty helping of leatherette-coated padding that yields that same comfort benefits of the headband. The cushions against your head also provide isolation, keeping your music in and sound out. If you take a look inside the cup, each color variation of the SoundTrue offered by Bose has a different design.

Bose SoundTrue review

Lastly, stretching down from the left ear cup is the 5.5-foot 3.5mm cable. Most of the time, the more cable, the better. But I found myself routinely holding this one up while I walked upstairs so that it wouldn't catch on my knee. It's too long.

On the plus side, it features a set of inline controls and microphone to make skipping songs, taking calls and adjusting volume easy without having to touch your phone. Also in the box is a carrying case for the SoundTrue. It's nothing too tough (just more of the leatherette material), but it's an appreciated perk.

Performance

It's difficult not to mention the SoundTrue and Bose's QuietComfort 25 noise-cancelling headphones in the same sentence. They look very similar, but it goes deeper than that. The two sets of headphones sound just about the same, and that's both a good and a bad thing for listeners.

Bose SoundTrue review

Regarding comfort, the SoundTrue takes the cake as probably the lightest over-ear headphones that I've ever worn. This makes wearing them for extended periods of time all too easy. And despite being closed-back cups, my ears weren't suffocated in heat.

In terms of features, I was also pleased, as the SoundTrue are more capable than your average wired headphone. The inline controls and microphone work flawlessly for making on-the-fly adjustments to music or phone calls. But unfortunately, the volume functionality is limited to iOS devices exclusively. It's a darn shame.

Bose SoundTrue review

The sound performance though, where it counts the most for some, is hit or miss. It feels strange typing those words regarding a Bose product, which I've had mostly positive experiences with.

I'm the same person who said that Bose's QuietComfort 25 offered "unparalleled audio performance" when I reviewed them months ago. So what's my deal with the SoundTrue?

Like the QC25, they offer a sweet spot of comfort, performance and features that can be hard to find. Yet, when you begin to hone in on sound performance, the SoundTrue gets outclassed by a few of its competitors.

Opting to go wireless with the $199 (about £176, AU$256) Koss BT540i will get you a warmer, full-bodied sound. The $150 (£129) Sony MDR-ZX770BT are also wireless and give the SoundTrue a run for its money with a comfortable build and balanced audio presentation.

Bose SoundTrue review

By no means do these Bose cans sound bad. They sound quite good, with accurate bass response backing music of any genre. Highs are crisp and well-defined.

It's the mids that can't hold it together and sound muddled at times. When put against some competition in the price range, like the $229 (£179, about AU$299) Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus, the Bose SoundTrue just can't play ball.

Verdict

Bose has created a worthy addition to its line of well-constructed headphones, balancing comfort, features and performance well. My biggest problem with the SoundTrue isn't the sound performance, it's the price, which places it within a bracket of competition it simply can't hold its own against.

However, if style is your biggest concern, there's a lot to enjoy here. You'll also be buying into a set of headphones that's ultra-light and knows a thing or two about pumping out some sufficient sound.