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The Bose sleepbuds are incredibly comfortable earbuds that mask ambient noise in an attempt to help you sleep better. That’s at least what Bose designed them for. For this review, I have slept wearing the sleepbuds, but I also set out to discover additional use cases for them. I was particularly interested in finding out if the Bose sleepbuds could replace or augment my noise-canceling headphones for traveling.
|Bose QuietComfort 35|
|Bose QuietControl 30|
|Plantronics Voyager UC 8200|
When Bose announced the sleepbuds, I got super excited. Not because, I needed help sleeping, but because I immediately thought about using them while traveling, as a much more comfortable alternative to the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Noise-Canceling headphones I have been using. But before we take a deep-dive into this particular use-case, let’s find out how good the sleepbuds performed for what Bose designed them for.
The Bose noise-masking sleepbuds look like the earbuds of regular headphones, but they are a bit smaller and much softer, which is why they are so incredibly comfortable. Of course, they are completely wireless, so you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up with a cable at night.
When I first put them into my ears, I could barely feel them. Additionally, their thin profile ensures that they don’t stick out of your ears. That’s important because that means, you can comfortably rest your head on a pillow without the Bose sleepbuds getting in the way. To fit various ear sizes, Bose provides three different, what Bose calls, StayHear® + Sleep tips:
For the size of my ears and my ear canal, the medium ear tips fit best. Bose assumes that if you have, for example, larger ears than you also have a wider ear canal. In other words, the part of the ear tips, that goes into your ear canal is fused together with the wings. If one is larger, the other one is too. As a result, if you have small ears but a wide ear canal, you may have troubles finding Sleep tips that fit.
As I have mentioned, I found a perfect fit with the medium ear tips and I enjoyed wearing the Bose sleepbuds overnight as well as on a recent flight to Tampa. In both cases, I could barely feel the sleepbuds and never developed any sore spots or pressure points.
The Bose sleepbuds mask ambient noise using a two-layer approach:
The tips of the Bose sleepbuds provide passive noise cancellation by sealing off the ear canal. That’s why it’s essential to use the right-size ear tips that create a perfect seal inside of your ear canal.
Additionally, Bose has pre-loaded the sleepbuds with ten soothing sounds that you can choose from and play in a loop, including:
Depending on the loudness of the amount of ambient noise, you can change the volume of those sounds. During my tests, I used the Downstream loop on the default volume. You don’t want to raise the volume too high because it may provide extra stimulation to your brain and you won’t hear the noise you may want to hear, such as your partner yelling that the house is on fire.
The sounds Bose has chosen for its sleepbuds include frequencies that can mask the sounds of voice-based frequencies, such as:
The trick is to play those soothing sounds a tad louder than the volume of the sound you are trying to mask. As a result, your inner ear and your brain won’t be able to detect the disturbing sound anymore.
During my tests, I felt isolated from the environment as far as ambient noise is concerned. But I have to admit that there aren’t many sources of sleep-disrupting noise in our bedroom. The only thing that produces a constant, albeit soothing and humming noise is our ceiling fan. Of course, I knew that before going into this review. The only reason why I wore the Bose sleepbuds at night was to test how comfortable they would be.
What’s great about the Bose sleepbuds is that you can set both a timer, which stops playback of the noise-masking sounds, as well as an alarm to wake you up.
The sleep timer is great if you want to use the sleepbuds to help you fall asleep. By default, the sleepbuds are set to “Play All Night,” but you can change the timer using the mobile app to stop playback after:
Instead of those pre-defined values, I would have preferred if Bose allowed me to set a custom timer of X minutes or hours.
If you take the noise-masking sounds out of the equation, one would think that the Bose sleepbuds are just expensive ear plugs, albeit amazingly comfortable ones. But one of the primary issues of regular foam earplugs is that you may not hear your alarm clock while wearing them. The Bose sleepbuds have a built-in alarm that even works if your phone runs out of battery or if your sleepbuds disconnect from your phone.
The battery of the Bose sleepbuds lasts for up to 16 hours. If you wear them overnight, that means you should get two full nights out of the sleepbuds before you have to recharge them. As a sleep solution, I think 16 hours of battery life is plenty because you can put them back into their charging case when you wake up. The charging case features a built-in battery to recharge the sleepbuds while you are traveling, but Bose recommends keeping the case connected to power using the provided micro-USB cable and AC adapter.
In case you wonder, it takes approximately three hours to charge the empty case without the sleepbuds inside. With the sleepbuds inside the case, charging times varies, according to Bose.
What’s convenient about the charging case is their magnetic connectors that hold the sleepbuds securely in place while they are charging. That reduces the risk of losing the sleepbuds if the case cover slides open while in your backpack. Additionally, the case has a non-slip rubber bottom to prevent it from sliding off your nightstand.
The Bose sleepbuds come with a compact, battery-powered charging, and storage case, different-size ear tips (S, M, L), a soft storage pouch, and a micro-USB cable with matching AC wall adapter.
The main reason why ordered the Bose Sleepbuds was because I wanted to find out if they could replace my noise-canceling headphones while traveling. I have been using the Bose QuietComfort 35 for the past years as the gadget of choice to suppress ambient noise aboard airplanes. While those headphones have done an incredible job of canceling background noise, you can’t comfortably sleep with them, they can get hot because of the large earcups, and the headband produces the occasional pressure points on my skull.
That’s why I was looking forward to the prospect of wearing tiny earbuds that would allow me to sleep or work in peace aboard an airplane. On a recent flight, I had a chance to test the sleepbuds to find out how well they would perform to cancel out the engine noise aboard a plane. To my satisfaction, the Bose sleepbuds performed incredibly well, even without playing the noise-masking sounds from the Bose Sleep app (iOS, Android).
By playing one of the ten soothing sounds from the mobile app, you can suppress the background noise on an airplane almost entirely, albeit not as well as with active noise-canceling headphones, such as the Bose QuietComfort 35 or QuietControl 30. In fact, during a recent review, the ability of the QuietComfort 30 to cancel background noise impressed me so much during my tests, that I decided to keep them instead of the sleepbuds as my gadget of choice for traveling.
The Bose sleepbuds are an impressive, albeit not a new, piece of technology that does what Bose claims they would do. Noise masking has worked incredibly well in my tests, both while wearing the sleepbuds overnight as well as aboard an airplane. I almost decided to keep them because they felt so comfortable to wear. If only they could stream music, I’d be all over the sleepbuds. In the end, I decided to return them to Bose because I already own the QuietComfort 35 over-the-ear headphones, the QuietControl 30 as well as the Plantronics Voyager UC 8200 noise-canceling headphones. Between these three pairs, I don’t think I would have used the sleepbuds very often.
What do you think about the Bose sleepbuds? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
I was born and raised in Austria. I speak German, English, and Spanish. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived and worked in the greater Atlanta area. In my twenties, I was a professional 100m sprinter. These days I do mostly CrossFit. I'm a technologist and Apple fan. I love science and don't believe anything unless there is proof. I follow a Ketogenic Paleo diet and intermittently fast every day. I'm married and have two trilingual kids. My goal with this blog is to share what I learn so that you can spend time on something else. Check out my latest Diet, Fitness, and Technology articles.
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