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Review: 3 Bluetooth headphones for travel, work and play

Brian Nadel | March 7, 2016
These headphones from Audio-Technica, Bose and Plantronics offer private listening and calling for a reasonable price.

Despite their 7 oz. weight, the headphones felt surprisingly light and airy on my head and stayed put when I bent over, shook my head or sneezed.

The inside of each ear cup is marked "R" or "L" for easy identification; a replacement set of the protective pads costs $25. The back of the right cup has the SoundLink II's power switch and microphone, while along the edge of the cup there are buttons for raising and lowering the volume, as well as a control key that lets you switch between music and phone modes. I found all the controls to be easy to figure out and use.

On the bottom of the right cup is the headphone's micro-USB port for charging. The left cup has a standard headphone jack for using the SoundLink II as wired headphones with the included cable.

Unlike the other devices reviewed here, the Soundlink II headphones offer two ways to connect through Bluetooth. First, you can put them into pairing mode by holding down the power switch after you've turned the unit on; this took about 90 seconds.

If your tablet or phone has Near Field Communications (NFC) built in, you can also tap the phone or tablet on the back of the right cup and the connection is made. It worked like a charm with my Galaxy S6 and took all of 20 seconds.

Once paired, the SoundLink II headphones were able to stay connected for 40 feet before their audio started to break up, slightly shorter than the Voyager Focus UC's range. They automatically reconnected when I got back in range.

The unit has a computer-generated voice that tells you the battery strength, when you're ready to pair and when you're paired.

Bose has a free Connect app for iOS and Android devices that lets you monitor what devices are paired to the SoundLink II headphones. The app shows the battery level, gives step-by-step pairing instructions and shows what device the headphones are currently paired to.

Audio quality

Bose does not publish its frequency response range, but the SoundLink II's audio balance was the best of the three devices reviewed here, offering full midrange tones without losing audio details. String sections were sharp and vivid, while percussion segments were strong without booming, and guitar work was rich and lively. More to the point, the SoundLink II delivered the best audio experience of the three, regardless of whether I was listening to classical, folk or jazz.

SoundLink II's microphone is in the right cup and produced much more volume during phone calls than either the QuietPoint or Voyager Focus UC; Bose's headphones also had excellent and balanced audio that sounded even better than my phone.


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