Just when you thought Bose had a pair of earphones for every occasion, it went and launched the brand's first pair of ‘Noise-masking Sleepbuds’ - basically earphones designed for sleeping in.
Taking advantage of the company’s experience in noise-cancelling technology, the Sleepbuds aren’t made for listening to your Spotify playlist under the covers; they’ve been specifically designed for bedtime, all with the goal of helping you sleep better.
However, when Bose unveiled the buds, the firm made clear that there was more to their launch than just helping people sleep. It had spent the previous year conducting research that showed how not getting enough proper rest can be attributed to poor overall health and well-being, and substantial sleep is “just as important to wellness as exercise and nutrition”.
And so Sleepbuds were made to fulfil Bose’s mission of improving our health by getting us off to a pleasant, dreamy state.
But are they worth the hefty $250/£230/AU$380 price? Especially with cheaper options around like the QuietOn Sleep. And do they really even work? Sleeping in earphones has never been comfortable, so the company had its work cut out in solving this pretty basic but hard-to-solve problem.
- Small, lightweight and comfortable
- Look like a quality, expensive product
In true Bose style, the earbuds are brilliantly crafted and definitely designed with 'premium' in mind.
The Sleepbuds come in a sturdy brushed-aluminum case that charges the buds and provides an additional 16 hours of charge when away from a USB port, which - we were surprised to find - is a micro USB port, not the Type-C connection.
Nevertheless, the case slides open in a smooth action to reveal the Sleepbuds, each of which weighs just 1.4g and measure 1 x 1cm, although that’s excluding the rubber StayHear+ Sleep tip, which works as a noise isolator to block out external sounds.
Taking them out, you’ll immediately notice how small and lightweight they are, which will no doubt lead you to wonder what on earth you’ve spent all your money on. However, when you put them in your ear all will be forgotten. They are extremely comfortable, and after no time at all, you can't really tell you're wearing them.
This compact design has been made possible by the Sleepbuds’ laser-etched antenna, which is placed on the outside of each bud and connects them to an external device (in this case, a smartphone or tablet). This apparently helped Bose save space on the inside and thus keep the buds small and virtually weightless.
Placing the Sleepbuds back in the case is strangely satisfying. They slip into their charging spot with a magnet, which aligns them perfectly with the charge connector. It’s these small design features which, while pleasing, remind you how expensive they are.
Bose says creating the Sleepbuds was a "massive engineering effort" as it involved ensuring they not only work for blocking out external sounds but were also comfortable enough to wear for long periods while actually lying in bed, even on your side.
You can’t deny this. When they’re correctly placed in your ear, which is done in the same way any other wireless earphones are (by pushing the sleep tip underneath the contours of your ear), they are completely unobtrusive, perfectly comfortable, and unnoticeable when sleeping, even for long periods such as a full night (and even a lie in).
- Bose Sleep app is easy to use
- Battery lasts just under 16 hours
- Can only listen to soothing sounds through them
As we mentioned earlier, the Bose Sleepbuds aren’t meant to be used in the same way as normal Bluetooth earphones that are designed for music playback. Instead, they are all about helping you to drift off in a more relaxed way by masking unwanted, external noise and replacing it with soothing sounds.
As a result, Bose doesn’t allow you to hook them up to your usual music streaming platforms, and they only work via a companion 'Bose Sleep' app.
Just like the Sleepbuds themselves, the Sleep app is really well designed, and is very easy to use. So much so that we were expecting a few more customizable options in the settings tab upon first inspection, but after a closer look, we soon realized that everything you need is already there.
For example, the battery level indicator for each Sleepbud is displayed nice and clearly in the Battery tab. You'll also find product information and a guide to fitting your buds correctly to ensure they fit correctly in your ears.
To get you off to sleep, the Sleep app offers a variety of what Bose calls 'soothing sounds', including nature sounds and other familiar audio that's related to relaxation.
The 10 sounds are divided into those made for noise masking and those for relaxation. For example, for the former there’s an airplane engine noise listed as 'Altitude', and the latter a recording of crashing waves named 'Swell'.
You can choose how long you’d like these sounds to play for in the app’s Sleep Timer setting, from 30 minutes to 'all night long', if you need it.
You can also decide whether you’d like to set an alarm, so the earphones can gently wake you up in the morning with a more traditional beeping clock-style sound, meaning you don’t have to set this separately on an external device (in case you’re worried the Sleepbuds would mask that, too).
In our opinion, the masking sounds cover external noises very well, to the point where you can’t hear them at all. Although the environment in which we tested them isn’t known for being exceptionally loud. But saying that, they did ensure the early morning garbage collectors went unheard, which never usually fail to cause a stir.
You can also adjust how loud you want these sounds to be; which soon becomes a balancing act between how undetectable you'd like any potentially offending noise to be and how loud you can go without the ongoing sound potentially keeping you awake.
We found putting them up too much wouldn’t be conducive to a good night’s rest, but thankfully Bose has indicated a suggested ideal volume for you in the app in case you’re not sure where to start.
While there are only ten soothing sounds right now, Bose has said it will also be adding more of these sleep tracks to the app's library over time.
In terms of battery performance, the Sleepbuds’ juice declined on average by just over half when used for a full night’s sleep.
That’s when going to bed at midnight, choosing to switch off the soothing sounds after 1.5 hours of sleep and opting for them to wake us up again in the morning at 7:30am. This is just below Bose’s projection of 16 hours use per charge, but only just.
Exceptionally comfortable and beautifully designed, the Bose Sleepbuds’ small size and lightweight construction means they're not only ideal for sleeping in, but they are able to replace busy city street noises, loud neighbors or a snoring partner - all with soothing sounds to help you drift off.
The only real problem here is the price. Retailing for $250/£230/AU$380, they are rather expensive. The premium build quality helps, but it doesn’t make up for the feeling that you’re not getting a lot for your money.
And while some might say that you can’t really put a price on a good night’s sleep, they should be aware that the Sleepbuds can’t guarantee they’ll send you off into a blissful slumber night after night.
Yes, they definitely aid in that process by helping to relax you with the comforting sounds that cover up any annoying distractions outside, but they are by no means a magical cure in stopping sleep deprivation, for example. Especially if this is something you’ve been suffering from for a long time.
Instead, the Sleepbuds are perhaps better aimed at those that have never really had any issues in drifting off in the past but have perhaps more recently started experiencing disruption to what would normally contribute to a good night's sleep, such as a new noisier apartment, or perhaps as a travel companion when sleeping away in unfamiliar places or to take on the plane.
Whichever it is, the Bose Sleepbuds are remarkably well made, extremely comfortable and do what they say on the tin.
First reviewed: August 2018