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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Attractive charging/carrying case
Alarm and timer function built in
Three eartip size options
No onboard controls
Requires a long time to fully recharge
Limited sound library
The Bose Sleepbuds II offer a more therapeutic and permanent solution to changing sleep patterns for the better, albeit at a premium price.
Lifewire purchased the Bose Sleepbuds II for our expert reviewer to test. Read on to see our evaluation.
The Bose Sleepbuds II serve a very specific purpose: they’re aimed at customers struggling with sleep issues. While a pair of noise-isolating foam earplugs is a classic remedy for blocking out distractions at bedtime, these pricey earbuds provide a decidedly more long-term solution to sleepless nights from a company that knows a thing or two about blocking out noise. The Sleepbuds II don’t use the hallmark active noise canceling (ANC) technology you’ll find in other Bose headphones, many of which also happen to be the best noise-canceling headphones. But these tiny wireless earbuds offer some decent passive noise cancellation and access to a library of lab-tested noise-masking sounds proven to lull you to sleep.
If you find the right earbud size and tone combo, these earbuds could be well worth the splurge and end up being the nighttime sleeping aid you just can’t do without. I know that’s what happened for me after about a month of consistent use.
The Sleepbuds II are an attractive and inviting addition to a bedtime ritual for aiding better sleep. The buds themselves are quite small, about the size of a pencil eraser according to Bose, and come in a standard white tone with a soft silicone build that is round and pillowy. The medium size eartips (with fins) are standard but small and large options are included.
The elevated aesthetic continues in the round aluminum charging/carrying case that is a cross between gray and gold in color. The inside of the case features warm yellow LED indicators to alert you to the charge level by blinking and solid lighting patterns. The buds also satisfyingly click into place via a charging contact into their respect slot in the case, and the lid slides back and forth smoothly.
The only other accessory is a USB-C to USB-A charging cord, and there are no physical buttons on the earbuds or the charging case. This could take some time to get accustomed to, especially if you’re used to truly wireless earbuds with touch controls. But the lack of a need to interact with the earbuds makes the close fit of the Sleepbuds possible, which serves to offer strong passive noise cancellation and a comfortable fit—even for side sleepers.
Unlike earbuds that play music, the Sleepbuds II are constructed to rest snugly in the ears for a low-profile, comfortable sleeping experience. The eartips themselves are soft silicone and generally comfortable, but the close-fitting design was difficult to adjust to at first. The first two nights, I ended up with a sensation of feeling like I could hear my heartbeat, which was very distracting. I found that changing the sleeping tone and experimenting with the smaller eartip size in one ear helped remedy any initial issues.
By the third night, I had found a tight but not-too-close, near-perfect fit. Barring the occasional instance where I ended up with one earbud falling out (I’m a back/slide sleeper that shifts often), these stayed in place and were virtually unnoticeable. Although, on nights when I favored one side and moved little, I woke up feeling like the earbud was a little too close for comfort. Still, the earbuds did their job well and never detracted from helping me fall and stay asleep.
Analyzing the sound quality of these earbuds isn’t the same experience as a pair of Bose noise-canceling over-ear cans or wired or wireless earbuds. Though they do reach capably loud volume levels, the point is much less about the amount of sound versus the kind of noises these earbuds provide.
The noise-masking tones effectively mask noises from traffic and voices, while the nature noises and tranquility options are aimed at relaxing the mind and body for more restful and sustained sleep.
The sound library includes tested ambient and relaxing sounds broken into three categories: Noise Masking, Nature, and Tranquilities. The noise-masking tones effectively mask noises from traffic and voices, while the nature noises and tranquility options are aimed at relaxing the mind and body for more restful and sustained sleep. According to a Bose sleep study, this library of tones acts as another shield against distractions by promoting relaxation when combined with the passive noise-blocking design of the earbuds.
Sometimes the earbuds became randomly out of sync when playing sounds or when the alarm went off.
The library is limited at the moment, but Bose is committed to growing it and the various sound categories. Though I struggled at first with finding the right tones and volumes, the strong passive noise cancellation and the noise-masking sound options—which include white, brown, and pink frequencies—tended to be my go-to sounds for effectively obscuring disturbances such as noisy street traffic, neighbors, and even snoring sounds from my spouse.
One slight hiccup with sound quality is that I noticed that the earbuds sometimes became randomly out of sync when cycling through the sound library or even when the alarm sounded in the morning. It wasn’t consistent, and it seems to be an issue other users (with both Android and iPhones) have experienced, according to the Bose community forum. As of this writing, there doesn’t seem to be a known cause or fix.
The Bose Sleepbuds II are heavily reliant on the Bose Sleep companion mobile app, which is required to make the initial connection and Bluetooth pairing to your smartphone and perform other actions such as: setting and disarming alarms, changing the tone, and setting a timer for how long it will play, making room for new sounds in the sound library, and turning the earbuds on when you’re ready to go to sleep.
Connectivity wasn’t super speedy: I noticed that the app consistently took up to 8 seconds to recognize that my earbuds were out of the case (required to register a connection and turn the earbuds on).
Once a connection was established, I didn’t encounter any connectivity issues, though I did choose to use the earbuds in phone-free mode, meaning that when I turned them on and chose the sound for the night, they were good to go for the duration.
On certain nights when a sound or the volume wasn’t working for me, it was a slight annoyance to have to reach for the phone. It’s also not as easy as just playing any of the sounds from the sound library; they have to be loaded onto the earbuds. Rather than having the freedom to select and remove and replace certain tones at will, however, the app only makes this an option when there’s not enough room to add a new sound.
Despite these slight flaws, the most successful feature is the alarm. As a result of sleeping more restfully, I found that the alarm noise more effectively (but gently) woke me in the morning and resulted in moving away from my tendency to hit snooze. Instead, I often ended up removing the earbuds and placing them back in the case almost right away, which effectively turned off the alarm, the earbuds, and got my day started.
Battery life can be an issue with any pair of headphones, but the Sleepbuds II will require more battery vigilance to ensure you have enough power to get you through the night. Placing the earbuds in the case automatically turns the earbuds off for battery conservation and charging. But if you’re not mindful of the case battery life, you could be left stranded waiting for the case and the earbuds to charge—which is what happened to me one evening. An hour or so of plugged-in charging replenished them enough so that I could use them through the night, but I’d recommend checking charge levels early in the day.
The case itself provided about three nights of power before requiring a recharge, which is exactly what Bose claims, but it does take a solid six hours to get there. Based on the battery and connectivity failures of the original model and what led to its discontinuation, I’d say that the battery consistency in the Sleepbuds II is a welcome and solid improvement for new and old fans of this luxe sleep aid.
There’s really no way around it: The Bose Sleepbuds II are expensive at around $250. For some, that price could be a tough pill to swallow given that these earbuds lack true ANC, the ability to play or download music or additional sounds, and lack the battery longevity of some Bose and other earbud models.
The Sleepbuds II earbuds are an investment that could pay dividends in quality hours of sleep.
Still, for anyone struggling to find a solution for feeling more relaxed and less stressed by distractions and external noise at night, this is an investment that could pay dividends in quality hours of sleep.
The Bose Sleepbuds II aren’t alone in the sleep earbud space, but the QuietOn Sleep Earbuds come the closest in form factor and performance. For $174, the QuietOn earbuds offer a similar low-profile, in-ear fit that resembles your typical foam earplugs. They come with three sizes of soft foam eartips that, rather than sitting in the ear canal with tips that have an earfin extension, sit right in the ear more like an earplug. These buds contain active noise-canceling technology that’s best for neutralizing low-frequency sounds from snoring, voices, or airplane cabin noises.
Essentially, unlike the Sleepuds II, the QuietOn are noise-canceling earbuds, but they don’t play any sort of relaxing sounds to add to the ANC. They also don’t require a smartphone to pair or use, and the battery lasts considerably longer between charges, up to 20 hours reportedly. The QuietOn could be a better choice if ANC is more of a priority, but it’s hard to overlook the science behind the Bose Sleepbuds II, the reputable brand in the noise-blocking and canceling space, and the sound library that the brand is committed to growing.
A splurge-worthy audio accessory for struggling sleepers.
The Bose Sleepbuds II earbuds offer the promise of a better night's sleep at a premium price point. While cost alone could dissuade some, many struggling with sleeping issues could find these earbuds a comfortable, noise-blocking, and go-to accessory to help achieve sounder sleep and more productive days.
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