Bose’s latest Bluetooth headphones are one of the most well-rounded pairs you can buy

Photo: Bose.

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High-end Bluetooth headphones are a tricky proposition: They still don’t sound as sharp as their wired counterparts, but they almost always cost more. In addition to simply being wireless, the best of them have to earn their worth by pinning down the basics. Bose’s newest pair of Bluetooth cans, the SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, does just that.

You generally know what you’re getting with Bose headphones: high ease of use, a modest looking yet exceptionally comfortable design, and a good-if-not-great sound that isn’t all that crisp, but is persistently smooth. They’re entirely for the mainstream, and they sell accordingly. The SoundLink Around-Ear II doesn’t change any of this. Its usual $280 MSRP is a bit pricey — another common Bose trait — but at its current $250, it’s an easier buy for anyone who wants something well-rounded, and may not be the most critical audiophile.

That’s not to say the SoundLink sounds bad. For a Bluetooth headphone, its balanced, clean sound is perfectly solid. It’s neither for purists or avowed bassheads, but there’s a good chunk of low and low-mid presence, and the mids as a whole come off as pleasant and clear. It separates well, too. It just could stand to have a little more edge in the treble, and the whole signature is too obviously sculpted to sound natural. But while it’s not the most dynamic sound, it’s too easy on the ears to imagine people disliking it. Reviews from PCMag and CNET are bullish on it as well.

It’s the little things that make the SoundLink worth buying, though. That “exceptionally comfortable” line was no joke — the cushy earcups and headband are super soft, and the headphone itself weighs less than a half a pound. It’s the biggest plus here.

Besides that, it pairs (and reconnects) easily, can connect to two devices at once, and has a sizable connection range. Its 15 hours of battery life (on average) is great, and a quick charging feature that lets you get 2 hours of playtime in 15 minutes is even better. It’s not noise-cancelling, but it blocks out an impressive amount of outside noise. All of its on-device controls work just fine, and the dual microphones on each earcup make it great for phone calls, too.

If there’s a complaint here, it’s that the included cable doesn’t come with inline controls. That’s a pain at this price. (It’s also worth noting that the SoundLink does sound a bit louder and less processed when wired, though the difference isn’t too dramatic.) The headphone leaks a fair amount of noise as well. And, at least to us, it’d be nice if your $250 could buy something a little more stylish.

Taken as a whole, though, the SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless II is a people pleaser. Look to the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless for a little more bass, or the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless for a little more style, but the SoundLink should be plenty agreeable for the majority of people in the market for a upper-tier Bluetooth headphone.

Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, $251.95, available at Amazon.

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