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Posted on Friday, June 17th, 2011

Dave!One thing I've been noticing lately is a lot of cars being pulled over by the police. In an age of labor cuts and dwindling budgets, it seems like even the cops are having to justify their jobs and increase revenue. This means a lot of tickets are probably being issued where they once were not. Because of this, I've been driving a lot more conservatively over the past year or so... but not everybody has gotten the message. When I was driving over to Seattle last week, I was twice passed by cars going way over the speed limit, only to catch up with them down the road after they had been pulled over.

Today it happened again. The police are not playing around. At least not in Washington State.

A part of me is happy about this, because there are people on the road who are downright dangerous and should be pulled over. But another part of me is concerned at the thought that the police may be going too far. If people are being pulled over for going 65 in a 60, for example, I don't consider this to be ticket-worthy. Even a temporary passing speed of 70 in a 60 should not be a ticketable offense if somebody is passing safely. Hopefully, things are not getting out of hand, because there's a fine line between "To serve and protect" and "To humiliate and harass."

Personally, I'd rather pay more taxes to the police so that they don't have ticket quotas and can focus on public safety and dangerous drivers... like the assholes who are slow-driving in the passing lane AND AREN'T PASSING ANYBODY! It may cost us more money, but at least it's not affecting our insurance rates, so we're saving in the long-run.

In the meanwhile... watch your speed, citizens!

Oh... for those of you who were asking which headphones I ended up with after my rant yesterday...

   
Blogography's Bose AE2 Audio Headphones Review

Bose AE2 Headphones!

Bose is one of those companies that usually gets massacred at review sites because most everybody seems to think they are overpriced and have poor sound. This is kind of surprising because every time I've stopped at a Bose kiosk and given them a listen, I've been relatively impressed. No, they're not going to win in a contest against $1500 studio reference cans (obviously) but, for the most part, I think they're worth the money they charge.

I have four sets of earbuds, with my favorite being the Klipsch S4i. The problem is that earbuds become uncomfortable for me after a while, and I was wanting something that went over my ears like a traditional headset. Unfortunately, the three pairs I tried at the mid-low-end (JVC, Sony, and Skullcandy... each $50 or less) were not at all comfortable. It finally got to the point that I didn't even care about the sound, all I wanted was something that didn't squeeze my brain or dent the top of my head. A Google search for "most comfortable headphones" eventually led me to Bose. Target had a listening station and AE2's in stock for $20 off ($130 total). They were about $60 more than I wanted to spend, but oh well.

My thoughts on my new cans can be found in an extended entry...

Overall, I'm pleased with the Bose AE2's. If you don't want to read a bunch, I've boiled everything down to the pros and cons.

PROS...
• Lightweight and super-comfortable.
• Crisp, clean sound at "normal" volumes.
• Surprisingly good bass.
• Nice and loud on my iPhone.
• Removable/replaceable cord.
• Noise isolation is pretty good.
• Noise leakage is not bad.

CONS...
• My ears get warm after a while.
• No gold-plated contacts on the plugs?!?
• Plug doesn't "snap" into my MacBook and is easily pulled out.
• Midtones are lacking at higher volumes.
• Wearing over eyeglasses can be uncomfortable.
• Cord is whisper-thin and seems very fragile.
• Design is kind of pedestrian and boring.
• No storage case? Just a flimsy BAG?
• Expen$ive!

That pretty much sums it all up. The first thing I did was to play through five tracks that would put the AE2's through its paces (results are listed below). It was a mixed bag but, for the kind of music I like to listen to, I was pretty happy. Playing through my typical albums (like Yes by the Pet Shop Boys and Music for the Masses by Depeche Mode) revealed a lovely balance of highs and lows with beautiful, crisp sound at standard listening volumes. On top of that, they are amazingly comfortable to wear. Eventually you'll want to take a break when your ears are suffocating and hot, but that's a problem with most all over-ear cans.

Are the AE2's worth the price? I'm tempted to say yes, just because they're so comfortable, but the answer is probably more like "maybe." If they were $99, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them for pop or acoustical music fans. At $150, I'm more hesitant. There probably are better value cans for the money out there, I just don't have the patience to hunt them down. I can say that the lack of gold contacts on the plugs and absence of a case is surprising for headphones costing $150, but that's Bose for you.

If forced to give them a grade, I'd have to go with a solid B.

For anybody interested, here were the first five songs I played and my comments on them...

  • Vapor Trail by The Crystal Method. This song is all over the place with some very good stereo-separated effects and a driving feedback-enhanced bass-line that completely obliterates the techno riffs in shitty headphones. Good headphones will separate out the mid and high tones without muting the bass to get there. This is the first song I use to test a new set of headphones, and the Bose AE2's handled it effortlessly.
  • People are People (Live) by Depeche Mode. Live music is very difficult to record well. The mix between the band and the audience has to be just right or you end up with an unholy mess. If the band is too powerful, the audience becomes irritating background noise. If the audience is too powerful, you can't enjoy the music properly. Depeche Mode's epic 101 (Live at Pasadena Rose Bowl) is my favorite live album of all time because I think they got the balance exactly right. You feel like you're there. Unless you have shitty headphones. Then you feel like somebody is blasting noise at your head. But the Bose does a really nice job here. Dave Gahan's vocals are crisp and defined. The many subtle background elements are perfectly presented. The driving bass doesn't fuzz out even at loud volumes. All-in-all this is a nice showcase piece for the Bose AE2s.
  • Mercy in You (Live) by Depeche Mode. Just like 101, Songs of Faith and Devotion Live is a fairly decent live recording. It's a little heavy and goes mooshy at loud volumes, but I actually prefer it to the studio version which is muddy and nondescript. The reason this song is such a great test for headphones is because of some very subtle piano notes that are sprinkled throughout the song. Bad headphones will destroy them. Good headphones will pull them out of the din and define them. The Bose AE2's are a little dead in the mid-tones, so the notes aren't as bright as they should be, but they're definitely there. I'm hoping some burn-in time will help here.
  • Block after Block by Matt & Kim. Houston we have a problem. This is a fairly straight-forward song tonally and one of my favorite tracks, so I was curious to know how it would fare. Unfortunately, the Bose AE2's make it sound brassy and cold. This could be because they're not burned in yet, but something tells me that this is a side-effect of the Bose Tri-Port design, because I noticed it on several other high-tone tracks as well. And yet when I take a listen with my Klipsch earbuds, it's back to sounding wonderful again. I guess you can't have it all. The Tri-Ports work hard to create crisp sound, and on some songs it's just going to go too far. This is something I can live with, but I admit to being a little disappointed.
  • Luka by Suzannne Vega. Go ahead and laugh, but once I noticed that the midtones had gone missing in my headphones, this was the first song I could think of to confirm things. And confirm things it does... which I easily reconfirmed by playing with the iTunes Equalizer. As this kind of music is not typical for me, I'm not too bothered, but it's a noticeable problem if this is the kind of music you listen to... especially at high volumes.

And there you have it. Fortunately, you don't have to take my word for it. Head to a Bose kiosk at your local airport or mall, or go to a listening station at Target, and experience them for yourself.

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Categories: Music 2011Click To It: Permalink
   

Comments

  1. Sybil Law says:

    I agree with you completely about the people in the passing lane – pass, or get out, aholes! Also, people who don’t use their turn signals should be getting pulled over more often.

  2. muskrat says:

    They didn’t give you some free ones for this review? What are you–new to blogging?

    I’ve thought about getting some of these for years but never would do it, thinking I don’t fly often enough or need headphones often enough to justify the cost. So, on long flights, I use the cheap all ones they give you for the movies (since I can’t sleep, and I can only work for so long before the MacBook battery dies, or I get sick of working in a confined space in “coach”). They used to cost more than this….I thought like $350 or so, so I’m glad BOSE came out with a less expensive headphone. Maybe I’ll ask for that for Christmas or get some for the flight to San Diego for BlogHer!

    • Dave2 says:

      I used to get offers for free review stuff all the time, but kept refusing. I really didn’t want to take that route with my blog. Since I kept saying “no” I rarely get asked any more. :-)

      As for the cost… you are actually correct, for the Bose Noise-Canceling cans. Those are $300+ and exactly what you want on an airplane. But I wanted these mostly for work, and the noise cancellation would have been overkill. I just want to drown out office noise. For the plane, I just use earbuds, which block out a lot of the engine noise without spending a fortune.

  3. martymankins says:

    I know the Wash St Police efforts from early on. In 1989, I got pulled over just after the 82 and 90 interchange, heading into Seattle. I was doing 58 in a 55 and was told to “slow it down, son” Fast forward to May 2010, the same spot, only this time, i didn’t get pulled over, but watched many others get pulled over in that same spot. I heard complaints from the other passengers to go faster, but I knew better. And then was praised at the end of the trip by being ticket free.

  4. kapgar says:

    Price was always a sticking point for me with Bose. And yet my dream earphones are a pair of Dr. Dre’s Beatz. Make Bose seem downright cheap.

    • Dave2 says:

      I actually tried a couple pair of the Dr. Dre Beats and loved the sound… a little bottom-heavy, but otherwise excellent. The problem for me was that I didn’t find them as comfortable as the Bose cans. What I’d like to do is take a look at buying the Beats earbuds, but they are (as you say) mighty pricey!

  5. martymankins says:

    My wife has a pair of the Bose noise canceling headphones (Quiet Comfort 3) and loves them. I’ve put them on for many albums (one of which was Depeche Mode’s “Violator”) and they do have a top notch sound quality to them. The AE2’s are much cheaper (I paid $350 for the QC3). I may have to look into these.

    I use a pair of Sony over the ear (not noise canceling) and they work for most stuff (I plug them into my iPad when I watch Netflix and Hulu).

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