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I must admit: I'm a fan of Bose's around-ear noise-cancelling headphones. Despite their bulk, I pack the QuietComfort 2 headset and additional AAA batteries in my carry-on for all my trips — whether they're via planes, trains, or budget bus lines.
I still take my in-ear headset for ease of use; once I'm at my destination I don't want to plop on big cans for a quickie phone call. The QuietComfort 20i will change that, though, since it combines Bose's noise-canceling technology with in-ear design.
The hush of Bose's noise canceling technology is a wonderful thing. Whether it's muting the roar of a subway or a jet engine, the hum of motor traffic, or the white noise of an office, the sound of quiet is in and of itself an improvement over standard headphones.
The in-ear QC 20i headphones could double as sleeping aids, fitting snugly into the ear holes (three tips sizes, included, fit all), with winged attachments anchoring them within the inner lobe. Flipping the switch on the attached battery (which also holds the exterior noise sensor) fills your aural cavities with a blankness deeper than earplugs alone could provide.
Add on to this resonant bass and clear medium and high tones for sweet, sweet music — and only music — to travel to.
To accomplish this feat of audio engineering, Bose has placed the mini-USB rechargeable battery pack on the device end of the headset's cable. This is only slightly awkward, as it means the pack-of-gum-sized attachment may dangle outside of the pocket with the iPhone already in it.
Otherwise, the headset looks a lot like the company's MIE2i headphones: The inline mic/remote control are the same, with the sole addition of a button for "Aware" mode (see below). A tiny clip for attaching to clothing stabilizes the thing — which is essential, as jostling of the earphones will produce more noise than over-ear headphones do.
The rechargeable battery is a convenience that means no extra expense for AAAs. And in contrast to the over-ear noise-canceling headphones, the QC20i headset will still play music when the battery runs out (which happens after about 12 hours) — only the noise-canceling won't work.
Similarly, switching the less cancel-y "Aware" mode via the inline remote allows ambient sound to creep in, so there's less likelihood of being hit by a bus when walking through traffic.
Bose's QC 20i earbuds have become my default go-to headphones, particularly as I can go semi-blocked with the in-between mode — thereby limiting my chances of being caught unawares.The Lowdown
Excellent noise cancellation
Comfortable, secure fit
Deep bass, solid range
Still work when the battery expires
Not cheap ($299.95)
Bottom Line: Although Bose has shrunk noise-canceling headphones with the QuietComfort 20i, it hasn't compromised on sound, and it's added an excellent new layer of convenience with Aware mode.
Images: Mashable, Matt Schneiderman
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