I have a love/hate relationship with in-ear monitors. As an audio producer and engineer, both live and in the studio, I love when musicians I'm recording or mixing use them, but I hate to wear them myself. I have two different sized ears and they always feel uncomfortable. I also think they sound very unnatural.
That all changed this weekend. While I was killing time in the Mall of America in MN, I wandered into the Bose store. When I saw the IE2's I told the clerk I didn't know Bose made in-ears. I tried them on and found they fit both my ears in a comfortable way. That's a first. Playing music from my Iphone I was able to play songs and mixes I knew very, very well. I was surprised to hear them much the way they should sound with just little bass boost. With in-ears a little extra bass is a good thing. These were mixes I did and knew how they should sound. I figured it had to be some kind of trick or smoke and mirror event, they couldn't actually sound that good and natural. When I heard the price - $99 I figured I could always try them against my Shure 310's and Westones UM-1's when I got home and return them if they didn't stand up to comparison. When I asked the sales person if I could wear them while working out and he said, no problem. I was in.
The next day at church I had various members of our band try the Bose IE2's, the Westtone UM1's and the Shure 210's and 310's. Hands down we liked the Bose. Matt Riley, our band leader, exclaimed, "Bass! I can hear bass. It's been years since I heard bass. These are like a million times better." He then used them with the Aviom for the rest of the morning.
I listened to Bose first and the the Westtone UM1's. I asked my assistant if the UM1's were blown as they sounded so bad. Kyle replied, no they sound normally. I felt the Shures had some low end but it was undefined and muddy. The IE2's really were much, much better.
I'm very convinced these are the best in-ears I've ever tried.
Here is what I like.
1. Easy fit, even for my uneven ears.
2. Great natural sound. Just a little bass boost with a smooth, not boosted top end.
3. They don't completely cut off the ambient sound around you, so you get some room sound.
4. Nice thick cord, doesn't tangle easily.
What I'd like Bose to fix next time.
1. I could really use one more foot of cord.
2. They are meant to be worn with the cord in the front and don't easily fit with the cord going behind like we like to wear our in-ears during performance. That way the cord doesn't interfere with our playing. A longer Y in the front would help that.
3. Maybe see if they could squeak out a little more top end around 15k - 20 k. The response is nice and linear, I just could use a little more in the very top.
For $99 it is a no brainer. Try em' out. We're buying a whole bunch. I'll let you know if they break.
Update day 5.
I am actually losing weight because of these things. Since I can wear them when I workout I've gotten back to listening to music while I'm on the machines and everything sounds so good I find myself working out harder. I guess that's a side benefit I hadn't thought of. Weight loss through better headphones.
Rob Barrett, Jr.
Emmy Award winning composer and producer.
Third Street Music