Pros: Musicality, Bass Impact and Extention, Unfatiguing, Detail Seperation
Cons: TImbre, Speed, Bass Quality, Treble Extention, Transparency
First off, there are counterfeit Bose IE flooding ebay like crazy, so buyers beware. It would be smart get yours from an authorized dealer. (In my case, I bought them used from a local friend who got them at best buy).
The comfort is great and I dont find them falling out of my ears. No isolation to speak of, the tips dont seal, and they arent designed to isolate. The build quality uses relatively cheap plastics and thin wire, but everything seems tight fitted and sturdy. Havent broke on me yet...
These headphones have a little circuit board near the headphone jack. It is probably some form of passive EQ or an overload protection of some kind, I dont know. Bose is known to use processing and psychoacoustic enhancements, and its part of the reason Bose products sound the way they do.
The sound of the Bose IE is very strange but good. Bose sounds good, much like how fast food tastes good. But fast food isnt even quality or real food. Its tasty junk. Audiophile stuff would be a 5 star restraunt in comparison. 2 very different and uncomparable things.
The sound is very colored on purpose, to get a sound thats pleasing to the ears and mind. Bose products tend to give the impression that the music your hearing is a live performance or your in a concert hall, where the room your speakers are in becomes a part of the sound intentionally.
The IE has a big bass emphasis, and a generally powerful type sound that pushes lots of air, but its somehow unharsh and relaxing at the same time. Its got a big midbass hump, which makes it sound tubby. You can really feel the impact of a kick drum, and the rumble of a low bass tone. The bass extension goes right down to the 20 hz region. The bass is loose sounding and is not fast. It does sound muddy, loose, and slow.
The bass almost never sounds distorted, even if the recording calls for it, because the distortion is blocked out by a layer of mud.
The midrange is smooth sounding with no edges, everything seems softened but powerful. Lots of added warmth and a suprising amount of detail, its not too recessed. But there is a strange layer of fog to the mids, which I will try to explain: It sounds like a heavy blanket covering the musicians, its a murky type of sound that I cannot explain. Whats weird is this layer of mud does not limit the details. What it does is cover up distortions, clicks and pops, compression in mp3's. Then, the headphone somehow amplifies the "desirable" details to cut through through this mud. Its like all the details, naunces, and ambience effects are forced out of this headphone with brute power and impact, pushing lots of air. These impact induced details are effective at letting you hear low level imformation, and the detail seperation is very good. But the timbre sounds murky, too warm and muddy. And the flaws of the recording are smoothed over. The midrange does sound rich and lush, very easy to listen and follow the music, but just wrong.
The muddy mids are not caused by the bloated bass necessarily. Its caused from the mids themselves. Its like the mud was designed to hide flaws in the recording, like the harsh "sssss" in a mic, or the loud "pop" of a snare. This makes for a pleasurable sound, but ultimately innaccurate.
The treble is the worst part of these headphones. The extension is very weak and there is no detail to the highs. It seems again Bose tried to hide the flaws of the recordings and low bitrate MP3's by putting the highs through a layer of mud and cutting off the extention early. The treble deffinitly takes a back seat to the rest of the spectrum. It does not have the authority to match the bass and mids and purposefully masks distortions, even if it is on the recording. On the plus side, there is no 7-8khz treble peak found in most headphones.
The soundstage is spread wide left to right (for an earbud), but every thing seems stretched out and imaging is not very good. It does a good job at putting the voice directly in the middle without the "hole in the head" effect some headphones have.
The musicality is very good IMO. These headphones add much of its own personality and emotion to the music. It is purposefully colored to sound pleasing with any recording. Anything sounds good on these, and always sounds the same. It does this by hiding flaws in the recording, via the mud, then amplifying the desirable sounds. The "desirable" sounds are what Bose thinks you should hear, based on their psychoacoustic research. Its an artificially engineered sound that is addicting. I tend to ignore the faults of these headphones simply because they draw me into the music so much.
Another thing I noticed is its easy for my brain/ears to put all the details together to complete the "story". It makes you concentrate on the music as a whole. Other headphones feel like your analyzing each instrument seperately with a scalpel. These headphones are great at letting you hear the pitch of each detail and notes being played, instead of the start and stop of a detail with nothing in between.
This headphone makes it easy to listen to music in the sense that, it does the listening for you and its very easy to stay interested in the song, and follow it. Its a "consumer friendly" sound. I notice details on them that I dont on my other headphones, because they tend to exite certain things and amplify the good parts of the recording while blocking the bad. Even a telephone recording sounds really good on them, better than the actual telephone.
I will be upgrading to the IE2 soon hopefully. I recommend these headphones for bassheads looking for bass slam and extention (not quality), and even non critical music lovers who dont really care about uncolored sound or flat frequency response, but still want something that sounds good.
Most audiophiles will hate them, because they dont perform at all when it comes to: frequency response, speed, accuracy, transparency, micro detail, etc.. However, the average consumer will love the hyped up bass and artificially enhanced sound that is built into these headphones. Most average consumers, and even some folks at head-fi actually prefer a colored sound vs. a boring neutral sound. For those people, there is Bose.