Previously, we reviewed the Solitude noise-canceling headset, and were quiet impressed. Here is a detailed, side-by-side comparison with the Bose QuietComfort2 headset.
|Music Sound Quality
|In order to test the pure sound quality, the test environment consisted of a Rhapsody playlistwhich spanned virtually all music genres, while using a TiVo to replay the same scene on a random TV show (The West Wing) for each pair of headphones. When it came to really hearing the music, I found the QuietComfort2’s presented a richer sound spectrum, although the Solitudes were just a hair behind. As the primary focus here is an in-flight type of listening environment, I’ll actually declare this a tie, however if it was for in-home use, Bose wins hands-down due to the ‘ground-hum’ issue.
|DVD Sound Quality
|My test DVD was The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, specifically a fight scene (near the end, when Aragorn and co charge the Black Gate) which had a wide range of sounds, from deep bass to very small details in the sound effects. This time, the Solitudes were actually a hair ahead, even with the ground-hum in the background. But since it was just a hair and I went even-up on the Music test, I’ll do the same here.
|Slingbox Sound Quality
|For a third type of sound, I watched the aforementioned scene from my TiVo through a Slingbox to my PC. There was no noticeable difference between the two headsets here (although they were much better than my laptop speakers). Later that day I used the Solitudes to watch a hockey game via the Slingbox while my wife watched a DVD on the home theater, but I digress.
|First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that the bulk of people are not rushing out to buy headsets that cost more than $100. In fact, on Amazon, the most popular noise-canceling headset today is from Aiwa (amazing considering the user reviews are averaging less than 3 stars – people, if you are not aware of this already: anything UNDER 3 stars is bad!), which costs about $40. That said, once we’re playing in the big leagues, the QuietComfort2’s pretty much set the standard. At a full $100 cheaper, the Solitudes are quite a value. In fact, with the exception of in-home use, there’d be no reason to shell out the extra hundo for the Bose set.
|The issue here is about how well the noise-canceling technology works when the headphones are being used with no audio source. This is important if you are planning to use them while trying to nap (or perhaps meditate). In testing, I found the Bose created a ‘more’ silent environment than the Solitude set. I don’t know if it’s a $100 worth of benefit, but when put to the test, I could tell a small difference.
|When considering the style element, I’m addressing everything from the carrying case to the finish of the leather and plastics. In my opinion, the materials used in the QuietComfort2’s have a superior, “richer” feel. This is not a ding on the Solitudes, but the Bose set felt more luxurious.
|Now we’re into a touchy subject for me. When I look around the airplane and see distinctive red light of the Bose set, it reminds me of the people sporting the signature white iPod headphones. For most people, being part of the club is what defines cool. However, since I was a dorky kid who got picked on for being different, I’m going to give my vote to the Solitudes for being distinct. Plus, the guy sitting next to me on one test flight thought the collapsing action was pretty clever (as did I), which made me feel pretty darn cool.
|Not sure what to say here. The Bose units are bigger in my Slappa backpack, but they fit better when I was using a shoulder-strap bag. The Solitudes use an extra battery, but that doesn’t make a huge difference (if you have a spare, you have room for two). What does make a difference to me is that the Solitudes can still be used when the battery is dead, unlike the Bose which turn silent.
|Personally, I found the Solitudes more comfortable over long periods of time. Maybe it’s just the shape of my head, I have no idea, and I can’t guarantee everyone will feel the same. All I know is I did successfully sleep with the Solitudes (no Ambien required) and never did with the QuietComfort2’s.
|The Solitudes would gain a big point here for the on-ear volume control, a feature painfully missing on the Bose set, but instead they’re losing ground, due to ground. The ‘ground-hum’ factor is a major annoyance to me, and if I am spending about $200 on a pair of headphones, I want to be able to use them anywhere. Now I don’t know much about sound engineering. Actually, I don’t know anything about sound engineering. But I do know that the free headphones that came with my Rio don’t hum, and I don’t know why the Solitudes do either.
|The bottom line to me comes down to this: do the Bose QuietComfort2’s offer something, in sound quality, form factor, style, or convenience that is worth an extra $100? In my opinion, no they do not. I’ll leave the $100 in the bank for now. I know I don’t agree with the statement “Solitude noise-canceling headset: better than Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones,” but I do know that I do agree that “Bose QuietComfort2 headphones: not $100 better than Solitude noise-canceling headset.”