Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear Headphones Review: The hidden gem of Bose’s Lineup!
I already “Reviewed” the Bose SoundTrue Ultra’s last year…but it was more or less just a short rambling blog and not a properly formatted thing.
Let’s fix that.
The Bose SoundTrue Ultra earphones retail for $129. They come in Android and iOS flavors, and although they used to have a couple colors, now only the black model is available. They’re a fully-sealing in-ear headphone, using Bose’s patented “StayHear Ultra” tips.
They launched at a slightly higher price, back when the “SoundTrue” brand had several more products.
But this is now the last one standing.
With good reason!
The SoundTrue Ultras provide the most balanced, impressive sound I’ve ever heard out of a Bose headphone product.
I’ve liked their headphones several times in the past, so if you’re the sort of person who would scream “biased!” at me, well, that’s out on the table.
With most Bose products, you have to talk about how they’re sculpted to provide a “nice, warm sound signature.” Bose does lots of tuning on their audio gear to make things that sound pleasant and inoffensive, and support long comfy listening sessions regardless of the quality of your source material. They are made to sound good at a glance to the everyday average listener, and don’t often render detail in the way that audiophiles would appreciate.
While the SoundTrue Ultras have a touch of that classic Bose profile to them…they’re also incredibly balanced and detailed. They’re less like the warm blanket of other Bose audio products and more like a really nice pair of high-end-grade headphones with a blanket gently laid upon them. If you like flat, accurate sound, but also want a bit of fun, these are the perfect pair of earphones.
Bass is powerful and accurate, with nice deep extension. It’s not artificially boosted, so it doesn’t run into the other parts of the audio. It’s just very satisfying. Mids are prominent and beautifully flat, rendering female voices particularly well, as many of Bose’s other products do. They aren’t scooped out at all, a rarity in headphones these days. And the highs are sparkly and clean, and quick to respond, without any of the weird little crinkles that other Bose headphones like the QC35 suffer from. They’re not as dramatic as the bass or mids, but still plenty clean and audible.
They have no obvious dips or peaks that’ll color the sound or make it fatiguing.
These are probably the best-sounding headphones that Bose makes, and only the most ardent of picky people could find something to complain about in their sound profile.
Soundstage is nice for in-ears, with slight extension past the ears and a slightly intimate feel to the center. In-ears are not usually known for their expansive image. The SoundTrue Ultras imaging here is not pinpoint precise, but instead a touch “blobby” with sounds emanating from regions rather than specific places. That makes for a pleasantly ethereal sound that helps open up the traditionally claustrophobic feel of In-ear headphones just a little.
The one thing you might not like if you’re into loud music is that these are tuned to be a touch less sensitive than the average pair of headphones. Bose didn’t want people to blast their ears out with these, as their high level of isolation means you can hear plenty of detail at lower levels, and it’s hard to tell how loud your earphones are sometimes. So if you like the loudest set these might not be for you.
They can still get stupidly loud for my tastes, in spite of this safety feature. So I’m fine with it!
I don’t usually like the feel of in-ear monitors/sealing earphones. Traditionally, you jam a silicon tip into your ear canal to create the seal, which allows for proper response. Sometimes it’s hard to get a good seal, and other times the whole thing can feel a bit oppressive to your sensitive ears.
Bose takes a different approach with the StayHear Ultra ear tip. And the result is very impressive comfort.
The tip only inserts as deep as it needs to to seal the outer edge of the ear canal, preventing to comfort issues of a deeper insertion. It’s like putting a cap on a bottle. The little wing sits gently in the folds of your ear and helps keep the whole thing secure.
The result is perhaps the most comfortable fit that you can get out of an in-ear sealing design. I love it. It doesn’t totally disappear, but it comes the closest that this type of earphone can.
It might still take a little adjustment if you’ve never worn this type of earphone before, but it’s also the easiest entry-level step to take.
Isolation is exceptional on the SoundTrue Ultras, making them quite suitable to loud environments and a touch frightening to wear on a walk outside. The QC20 and QC30 use a similar ear tip and add active noise cancelling into the mix. I haven’t heard those models for myself yet, but I would imagine the silence to be downright amazing if the passive isolation here is any indication.
You probably don’t need any more isolation than these provide, honestly, and if you do you’re probably wearing ear protection or the most frequent of flyers.
Design is basic, with a barrel design for the ear capsules. This makes them stick out a little bit from the backs of your ears, and they might also gently rub the bowl of your outer ear. They don’t stick out so much that they’re obnoxious, but it’s not the sleekest look.
The build quality is acceptable for the price. There’s a nice little T-piece included where the cables come together to help reduce microphonic noises in your ears. The cable feels a bit thin and plasticky, but in my year and a half of ownership it hasn’t broken at all. The plug is straight, and while this isn’t the best for strain relief…it’s thin and low-profile enough to sneak past just about any phone case on the market, which was probably the intent.
You get a nice little cloth and leatherette case in the box.
It’s decently sturdy and should protect the SoundTrue Ultras just fine in a bag or pocket, and maybe even from a short fall.
There’s an in-line controller with three buttons and a mic on the right side wire, and it’s available in Android and iOS-compatible configurations. The buttons are decently clicky and easy to locate without looking, and the microphone is above average for this price point. In phone call testing, I was told I sounded nice and clear, with a bit of background noise.
The SoundTrue Ultras are a great pair of earphones, and worthy of being the last product to carry the SoundTrue branding. Bose nailed it with these, and they’re worth every penny of their $129 price tag. Heck, I was happy when I paid $149 at their launch.
My only regret is that I own the iOS model and now have an Android phone, so I can’t use the volume buttons any more. Also it’s weird that they took away the lighter color option at some point, but maybe it wasn’t selling.
If you’re looking for a really comfy IEM with an incredibly balanced sound profile, a decent little case, and good isolation, here you go. These provide good value for the money, and sound that’s good enough you might never need another pair.
As long as you don’t mind a wire.