Tech Review

[REVIEW] ‘loop’ ninja loop

Recently, I was able to try out a cool little strap to protect your phone. It’s made by a little company  in Quebec called “Loop”. Essentially, it’s just a piece of fabric (your choice of satin, twill, or grosgrain) that loops under and through your phone case, giving you a handle or something to slip your fingers through to ensure steady one-handed use of your phone.

Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical at first. How often will I actually use it? But it’s been said that people check their smartphones about 85 times per day. Whether you are just checking it on a table, taking it out of your pocket, or slipping it out of a backpack, there will always be the chance of the phone tumbling to the ground. And with phones getting thinner with every new release, they can be harder to hold on to. This little loop is adjustable, so it allows you to choose how much slack it gives and how much of your hand or fingers can get through it to get a handle on your phone. You can also put the loop at a diagonal angle, or just straight down the back of the phone.

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The only ‘drawback’ of the loops is that they only work with a case, since they rely on the case to hold them on. The ends of the loop have tape applied that allows you to stick them. Because of this, you probably won’t be switching them out between phones or transferring over to a phone after you upgrade (unless you get crafty with your own way to tape or secure the ends of the loops down under the case.) Either way, they are about $5 each – and loops can make custom loops for gifts or your business.

I rate the Loops Ninja Loops five out of five stars. At only $5 Each, they are a virtually weightless thing to strap onto your phone that will also add some function. And if they only prevent one fall or drop the entire time you own it, it could save you a lot of money in costly repairs!

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[Review] Vava Voom 20 Bluetooth Speaker

Back in April of this year, I had the chance to review a Bluetooth speaker from an up and coming company in the portable speaker business. I reviewed their flagship model, which is now known as the Vava Voom 21. Read my review HERE.

After some great success, they have expanded and have introduced another speaker to their lineup – the Vava Voom 20, an ultra compact version similar to their first model, yet it is also has IPX5 waterproof protection.

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So what do I think of the new speaker from VAVA?

Well, first of all, I do a lot of outdoor work at my home, and I often worry that I will forget to bring an expensive bluetooth speaker inside at the end of the day only to find it has been ruined in a rainstorm overnight. This speaker has IPX5 protection. Not familiar with the IPX scale? Well, IPX5 means the speaker can withstand a 6.3 mm spray of water (12.5 liters per minute) in any direction for at least 3 minutes. It also offers a higher degree of dust protection than a normal bluetooth speaker would offer. This gives me some assurance that the speaker will not get damaged in the occasional rainfall that it may be exposed to.

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How does it sound? 

Well, the original speaker has exceptional sound quality. This speaker offers a very compact, yet full sound. It puts out a surprising amount of bass – and you’ll find that you can accentuate it even further by placing the speaker on a hard surface, in a corner, on a wooden shelf, etc. For the small size of this speaker, it really pumps. I previously owned the Bose Soundlink Mini, yet I sold it after finding out about the VAVA lineup. These speakers provide all the bass, portability, and acoustics that I need to throw music around my small, single family home.

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Things I really like about this speaker:

The size is just about perfect, in my opinion. It’s compact, yet hefty. The buttons are under a layer of silicone, and they press firmly. The speaker has a small tone for powering on and off, but doesn’t have any other annoying indicators. It charges with a standard micro USB cable and can also double as a phone/tablet charger. (I also use this speaker to power a small USB powered fan while I camp!) I also like that the speaker can rest on the bottom, or can stand up on either end to save space on a desk or small countertop.

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Suggestions:

I’ve noticed that the VAVA speakers connect easily to my iPhone, yet they don’t display the amount of battery left in the speaker (as many other bluetooth speakers conveniently do). While I like that the speaker doesn’t have any annoying ‘low battery warning’, it would be nice to be notified of a low battery somehow so I can prepare for more music playback during the day.

At the end of this day, this speaker gets two huge thumbs up from me. After using it for a while, I am still impressed by the bass. I have had it playing in an upstairs bedroom and heard the bass from the first floor. The design of the speaker (as well as the packaging) is sleek and attractive.

I give the Vava Voom 20 five out of five stars.

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[REVIEW] VAVA Voom Bluetooth Speaker

A few things I read online had me really excited to try out the VAVA voom speaker. It won the Red Dot Award for product design in 2016. It has built in EQ settings, including a surround sound option. It uses the same power amplifier chip as JBL, Bose, and Creative speakers.

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But I was still prepared to be disappointed. Why? Because I have tried SO MANY Bluetooth speakers in the past 2 or 3 years, and I have found so few that I feel are worthy of keeping. They so often fail to deliver the impressive sound quality that they claim to have. That’s why my main speaker for the past 2 years has been the Bose Soundlink Mini. It delivers amazing sound in a tiny little package, and have since been looking for another brand that can compete with it.

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After opening the heavy duty, yet cleverly designed, packaging, I was able to pair the VAVA Voom with my phone in less than a minute. The manual said to use the passcode “0000” if a code was requested, but I didn’t need one. I turned on some Hippie Sabotage – great music for testing out new speakers because it has a good mix of bass, treble, and different tones of audio samples. I listened for about 15 minutes and was very underwhelmed. And then I remembered the EQ settings! With one click, I was sold on the VAVA Voom. Once ‘standard’ mode switches to “party mode”, the bass kicks a little harder and the sound is just louder and punchier. One more click turns the “surround sound” mode on, which allows the sound to travel in every direction, instead of just out the front of the speaker.

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With any Bluetooth speaker, placement is going to make a big difference in what you hear. I usually try to place mine on a wooden counter, in front of a wall. This ensures that the sound will sound rich and warm, and will allow the sound to bounce off the wall and travel around the room better.

After my first couple days with this speaker, I was completely sold. As far as I am concerned, this is a solid competitor to the Bose Soundlink Mini – at half the cost. It has similar build quality and also has the heft of the Bose speaker. It is very well constructed, solidly built, and even some of the small features such as the rubber base that set it apart from other speakers in the same price category.

From my experience, the “standard” EQ mode works great for softer music, podcasts, or videos. The “surround sound” EQ mode is great for keeping the speaker in the middle of a room and trying to create a lively atmosphere. I use the “party” EQ mode the mode, as it provides a very full sound – it really emphasizes all aspects and really sounds like a small entertainment system.

Other things I love about this speaker:

· It can charge using the supplied power cord OR with a micro USB cable. The power cord will charge in about half the time as the USB cable, though.

· The 6700 mAh battery gives 10 hours (maximum) of music playback. There is also a port on the back of the speaker to charge your phone or device with the speaker.

· The audible notifications are soft and subtle (for powering on, connecting and disconnecting to Bluetooth, etc).

To be honest, I haven’t found a speaker that sounds quite as good as the Bose Soundlink Mini. But the VAVA Voom sounds incredible, and the price cannot be beat. If this were around (and I had heard it) a couple years ago, I would have bought this instead of my Bose speaker.

I give the VAVA voom 5 out of 5 stars. It’s the best bluetooth speaker I have heard in years, and the company stands behind their well-built product with a 180 day money back guarantee. They know they’ve made something great, and it’s nice that it’s not wildly overpriced!

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First, check out the VAVA voom on their website HERE, and then

youu can purcahse the VAVA voom on Amazon HERE.

Full disclosure: I was sent a sample of this product to test and review. This hasn’t influenced or changed my rating or opinion.

[Review] Ausdom MO5 Bluethooth 4.0 Headphones

This is my first experience with Bluetooth headphones, so I am made sure to use these for quite a while before posting my review so that the novelty of wireless headphones didn’t skew my review.

These headphones came packaged very nicely. A small instruction book is included, which I read over quickly. Using these instructions, I was able to pair the headphones with my phone in about 20 seconds. They did not require a passcode to pair, although it said they may.

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So I put them on and cranked up my music. The sound quality is very impressive. I can see these being great for gaming, music, and for watching videos. If anything, I would say that they lack a certain ‘crispness’ to the sound clarity that very high end headphones will be able to provide. But all in all, I feel that the cost of these is fair for what you are getting. They have three buttons by the left earpiece – a power button, and volume up and down buttons.

The headphones are listed as “Over Ear” headphones, yet I would say they are actually AROUND EAR. The ear cushions have cutouts in them, so they wrap around your ears and sit over them. My criticism of this is that if your ears are too large, they won’t fit inside these cutouts. I am lucky that my ears are juuuuuust right and I’m able to slip these over my ear lobes entirely.

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While wearing, these feel very comfortable. They don’t move around, even if I am walking around or doing tasks that require moving my head and body a lot. They have a snug fit. However, when I remove them after wearing them for a while, my left ear feels irritated, as if there has been too much pressure on it.

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The build quality is high quality and seems very durable. If anything, I’d like the ear cushions to have a softer cushion and make for a more comfortable wear for longer durations.

One of my favorite things about these headphones are the gentle little beeps it gives for notifications. If you are connected to a device, you’ll hear little beeps when you have an alert, email, text message, or call. Of course, you can also use the included headphone cord to use these as non-bluetooth headphones.

Something I noticed is that the earpieces do have a hinge above them so they can collapse and fold in, yet they are both too large to fold in together. Even so, it’s nice that they can fold in to make for easier packing.

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I am giving these 4.5 stars since I really am torn between 4 and 5 stars. However, I think the ear cushions could use a material upgrade to make them more comfortable and a little less bulky. I wear these while working around the house, while commuting, and while relaxing and watching movies. All in all, these are an absolute bargain considering the price and value!

You can find these on Amazon. They are currently $55.99.

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[Review] Urban Armor Gear iPhone 5s composite case

Having just tried out the iPad Mini 4 folio case by Urban Armor Gear, I was thrilled that they were willing to send me an iPhone 5s case to review as well. I was really impressed by the quality and protection of the iPhone case and was looking forward to testing out some more of their products.

  

The specs for this phone case are listed as:

  • Armor shell and impact resistant soft core
  • Feather-light composite construction
  • Over sized tactile buttons
  • Easy access to touch-screen and ports
  • Scratch resistant skid pads and screen surround
  • Meets military drop-test standards (MIL STD 810G 516.6)

My first impression is that the case slips around the phone easily and perfectly. The buttons are easy to press, unlike some other highly protective cases that I have tried out. The volume buttons also stick out a little bit so they are easy to press in case you have gloves on, or are pushing them while mulit-tasking. I have a tempered glass screen protector on my phone, and this case has no problems fitting around it.

  

Since the case is so slim-fitting and sleek, it’s quite surprising that it meets military drop test standards, but I have no doubt that these claims are correct.

  

I really like the slightly rubberized parts of the case that keep the phone from sliding around on a desk or table. I actually wish the entire back of the phone had more of a grippy material to it – similar to the back of the iPad Mini case I recently tested out. As a matter of fact, I think my dream iPhone case would just be a smaller version of this iPad Mini case! I would really like a super high quality folio case for the iPhone.

  

Overall, since this case is SO protective and SO light, I would recommend it to just about anybody looking to provide some awesome protection to their phone and doesn’t want the bulkiness of an Otterbox case or the high price of a LifeProof case. The only thing that keeps me from giving this case an absolute perfect rating is the fact that the majority of the case is so smooth, which could make it slippery in a lot of conditions.

Also, I really like the clear version of this case because it allows you to customize your phone a little more, putting anything behind the case (and covering up the apple logo!).

You can purchase this case from their official website HERE. It comes in a couple different color options. Expect to pay about $35.

[Review] Urban Armor Gear Folio case for iPad Mini 4

IMG_5994Over a year ago, I was the proud owner of an iPad Mini 2 and treated myself to the Folio case by Urban Armor Gear. Read that review HERE. I almost loved it. It was incredibly protective, had an awesome grippy material, and a soft and flexible TPU that protects the back and the sides of the iPad. The thing I didn’t love, however, was that the front part of the case kind of just flipped around and if I ever dropped the iPad, it could easily flip open and expose the screen.

It seems that Urban Armor Gear realized this little flaw and fixed it for the iPad Mini 4 series. And the result? A Perfect Case! (In my opinion). The stitching on this case is well done and strong. The front cover of the case doubles as a stand. The front cover has a STRONG magnet clasp that keeps it from flipping open and closed.

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If you are an Apple Smart Cover fanatic, it may be hard for you to adjust to having to use a clasp, but I personally think the added security is nice – especially since the front cover is made from a nicer, slightly more protective material than the Apple Smart Cover.

I can recommend this case to anybody who wants full protection for their iPad Mini. Of course, it isn’t waterproof or dustproof, but it will be more than protective enough for the average conditions you will likely be using or taking your iPad Mini, whether it be to school, work, a hotel, or to the park.

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I give Urban Armor Gear’s updated version of their folio case 5 out of 5 stars. I normally like to try out a bunch of different cases when I first get a new device to make sure I have exactly what I want – but I won’t be looking any further!

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You can purchase this from their website HERE. It’s available in blue, red, or black. Expect to pay about $50.

[REVIEW] Urban Armor Gear Scout Folio Case for iPad Mini

In the past, whenever I got a new device, my go-to case to protect it was always the Otterbox Defender series. I’ve owned this case for several iPhones (see the iPhone 4/4S review here) and most recently for a Kindle Paperwhite (see that review here). They’ve always provided the protection I’ve wanted for my devices, however, they’ve always been a bit bulky and heavy, especially with any device bigger than a smartphone. Needless to say, when I got an iPad Mini about a month ago, I was ready to shop around for a new case. Urban Armor Gear offered to send me one of their iPad Mini cases to review for them, and I was really excited to try out this rugged case, as it is something that would normally catch my eye when shopping for cases.

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So what do I think of this case?

First off, here are Urban Armor Gear’s stats for the Scout Folio:

  • Designed for Apple iPad mini, iPad mini 2, & iPad mini 3
  • Feather-light composite construction
  • Impact resistant soft core
  • Over sized tactile buttons
  • Water resistant grip material.
  • Easy access to touch screen and ports
  • Glare-free photos and un-compromised audio
  • Smart cover and water resistant grip material
  • Meets military drop-test standards (MIL STD 810G 516.6)

So, after using this case for a couple weeks, here are my thoughts!

The case has very high quality construction. The stitching is very strong and I wouldn’t ever worry about the stitches wearing out or falling out. The texture of the case isn’t slippery at all – it’s a bit grippy and is pleasant to hold in your hands.

All of Urban Armor Gear’s products meet or exceed military drop-test standards, yet they are still have a sleek and streamlined appearance. They recently gave an iPhone 6 a 101,000 foot drop test with one of their cases! Watch it here.

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The material that the iPad itself sits in is a soft, flexible plastic. This means that the iPad is easy to pop in, and you don’t need to worry about the plastic cracking over time if you tend to take your iPad out of its case often. With that said, however, the iPad can be a little tricky to get out of this case. You just need to get used to prying the corners down to extract the iPad. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, though – I’d rather have a high quality case that holds my iPad securely than one that loosely holds it in!

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As I said already, the stitching is very secure on the back of the case — which is entirely necessary because it is only held together by the two flaps that you can see in the photo. The materials are all rigid enough that I don’t worry about them bending or creasing with normal use.

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The cover for this case is a ‘smart cover’, meaning that the iPad will wake and sleep as you open and close the cover. The cover is also very rigid, which puts my mind at ease when placing my iPad in a backpack with other big or heavy things. As long as the cover is over the screen, it is fully protected. One of my biggest (and maybe my only) complaints about this case is that the cover doesn’t magnetically hold when it is closed. This means that it if you drop it from waist height, the cover could potentially just flap open and then unprotected screen could hit the ground first. In the weeks that I’ve used this case, this is the main thing that sticks out to me as the only ‘design flaw’ of a very high-quality, protective case.

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The tactile buttons are easily accessible, and would be easily usable with gloves on, as well. The lightning port is unobstructed, so you’ll never have to remove the case to charge it. The sound coming from the speakers isn’t blocked at all.

IMG_3412The Scout Folio cover has two sets of notches in it, so that the case can stand up and ‘rest’ in one of the two, offering two different viewing angles to choose from. For table use, it is perfect. For lap use, you might need to fiddle with it a bit more to get it how you want it (depending on your legs, posture, chair, etc.)

I give the Scout Folio by Urban Armor Gear 4 ½ out of 5 stars

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This is a very high quality case with excellent construction. It isn’t too heavy (although I’d hesitate to call it feather-light, as Urban Armor Gear does!) and the soft, flexible plastic and the grippy texture of the case make it a pleasure to hold and use. My only real complaint with it is the lack of a magnet to secure the cover and offer complete protection in case of a drop. 

I’m very impressed by this case and plan to use it for a long time!

Purchase the Scout Folio from Urban Armor Gear HERE

You can also purchase the Scout Folio for the iPad Air 2 HERE

Expect to pay about $50 for this case.

[REVIEW] Maxboost 10,000mAh Portable Charger

Last time I reviewed a handy little portable power pack by Motorola. This week my review is a similar product by a different manufacturer. I first heard of Maxboost when I had been browsing phone cases on Amazon. From there I ended up looking at their Portable Power packs which I had been in the market for at the time. I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in their VIPU Reviewer Program, and was sent this 10,000mAh charger for free in exchange for writing an honest review of it.

Maxboost 'Electron' 10,000 mAh battery pack

Maxboost ‘Electron’ 10,000 mAh battery pack

So how does this one stack up to the previous external battery pack I tested?

Right off the bat, you can tell this one is much bigger. Bigger in terms of physical appearance and also battery-capacity. This one has 10,000mAh of battery power in contrast to the 4000mAh that the Motorola one has. Keep in mind, however, that bigger is not always better. You may want an external battery pack to be as pocketable as possible, and this one might be a bit too large to comfortably carry around in your pants pocket. 10,000mAh DOES mean, though, that you can keep your devices juiced for a much longer time. You could charge most phones and small devices up to 5 times with the battery power in this.

This one is also great because it has 2 USB output ports. And they are both different charging speeds — one is 2.1A (suitable for tablets and larger phones) and one is 1.0A (suitable for iPhones, Kindles, etc.)

Another thing that sets this battery pack apart from most others on the market is the digital display on the front.

Digital Display shows the percentage of power left.

Digital Display shows the percentage of power left.

The display not only indicates how much power is left inside the battery pack, but it also denotes whether power is flowing OUT of the pack (something is charging) or INTO the pack (you are charging the battery pack up).

The 10,00mAh of battery power does come with a price, though. Once you’ve drained the battery pack, it takes quite a long time to charge up! (because it’s like charging your phone 5 times in a row, really!). This might not be a problem for travelers or backpackers who will keep the pack plugged in, charging, while they are sleeping at night. But if you are getting this to have a quick charging, little battery pack, you may want to look elsewhere for something in the 3,000mAh – 5,000mAh range that will still provide you with enough battery power on-the-go to give you a quick charge when traveling or in an emergency.

The pack also includes a few little adapters so you don’t have to carry around bulky wires and cables, which is nice.

Adapter Kit

Adapter Kit

Flashlight?

Flashlight?

The unit also has a little flashlight on the side of it. It’s a unique idea, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever actually use it. More features are always better, though!

If I could think of anything for Maxboost to improve upon for the next generation of this product, I would recommend losing the shiny, glossy housing the battery is in. It looks cheap and just gets smudged and full of fingerprints. A nice matte finish or a more rugged, grippy finish would be more practical and could appeal more towards outdoorsy folks, instead of just being another battery that sits on a shelf at home.

If you’re in the market for a 10,000mAh battery, though, I would strongly consider this one. It’s well-built and also includes a nice little cloth carrying bag.

I rate the Maxboost Electron 10,000mAh Dual Port Portable Battery 4 out of 5 stars.

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[REVIEW] Motorola P4000 Portable Power Pack

Motorola P4000 Battery Pack

Motorola P4000 Battery Pack

Something that has been getting wildly popular in the past couple years as the presence of tablets and smartphones has grown is external battery packs. A few years ago, when they were first starting to show up on the market, I didn’t really think too much of them because I didn’t really have many devices dependent on USB charging. Fast forward a few years, and these are super handy little external battery packs that more and more people can get tons of use from!

What’s so great about the Motorola P4000 Battery Pack compared to the numerous other options out there?

One of the best things about this battery pack is the fact that it has a micro USB cable built into the unit itself!

No need to bring a micro USB cable!

No need to bring a micro USB cable!

If you’re using this battery pack to charge an apple device, you’ll still need to supply your own cable, of course. But if you’re charging a Kindle, an Android device, or any other device that charges with a micro USB port on it.

The battery pack with an apple charger plugged into it.

The battery pack with an apple charger plugged into it.

Because the battery pack contains 4000mAh, it’s roughly enough battery power to charge your phone about 2 times, depending on how large your phone battery is. The size of this pack is also great (about the width, length, and height  of an iPhone 5). It’s easy to toss in a bag for a camping or biking trip when you know you won’t have access to power all day or during the night so you can still have a fully charged device for your trip!

Power Meter

Power Meter

The front of the battery pack also has a light-up power meter to show how much power is left in the pack (in increments of 25%).

Since there is a built in micro-USB charger AND a USB port, you could charge two devices at one time with this charger. (and YES, you can also charge the battery pack at the same time you’re charging a device with it!).

What could be improved?

I’m extremely happy with this battery pack. Most other external battery packs have two USB ports, but since this one has a built in cable and a USB port, that isn’t really an issue for me. It may, however, be an issue if you buy a pack like this hoping to charge 2 apple devices at the same time. Other than that, I really like the size of this battery and the stowable micro-USB cable. It also has an automatic on/off feature, so it won’t continue to run down the battery after your phone is fully charged from it.

The output of this pack is 1.5 amps — which is sufficient for most phones, but if you have a larger phone like a Galaxy Note or a tablet, you might want to look elsewhere to find something with a stronger output.

I rate the Motorola P4000 Portable Power Pack 5 out of 5 Stars for its great design and ease of use!

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You can find this battery pack on Amazon, Verizon.com, or on Motorola’s website.

Expect to pay between $25 – $80, depending on which retailer you choose!

[Review] Bose OE2 Headphones

Bose OE2 Headphones

Bose OE2 Headphones

Back in March, I posted a review of the Bose OE Headphones (See It HERE!). I loved those headphones, and I recommended them to a lot of different people. Then I sold them and ‘upgraded’ to the Bose OE2 Headphones which feature a “Lighter, Updated Design”.

And how are the Bose OE2 Headphones?

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If I hadn’t ever owned the first generation of the BOSE On Ear Headphones, this review might be just as glowing as my last one was. But what I see when I look at these headphones side by side with the previous generation, I see a sharp contrast of quality and build. The new pair feels just seems like it has way too much plastic and not enough metal/aluminum. One of the things I like best about my last pair was how high quality they felt. That feeling is completely gone with the OE2. Now they feel cheap and light.

Another thing to point out is the way these collapse to fold flat into the case or onto a table. They swivel and click into and out of place. The functionality has proved to be fine, use after use, but the clicking just feels cheap and I wonder if BOSE had any designs that they scrapped before settling on this one.

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As far as the fit goes, I don’t see too much of a difference to the old pair. These headphones have always been very comfortable to me, and I can wear them for hours. They don’t exert pressure on my ears like some headphones with inferior bands do. The cheaper materials used, however, do make a difference in the general fit. They feel a little bit lighter and don’t rest on top of the ears as solidly as the previous generation.

How about the sound quality? 

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As I pointed out in my last review — I’m not an audiophile, by any means. But I could tell at once, upon wearing the OE2, that these headphones are a step down from the old version. The difference is very subtle, but to me, the sound doesn’t seem nearly as full and rich. They still sound good, but compared to the last generation of the OE, there doesn’t seem to be as much definition in the different ranges of bass and treble.

When comparing to their predecessor, the BOSE OE, I give the Bose OE2 2 out of 5 stars.

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If this review hadn’t been a comparison to the old model, I may have given these a stronger rating. But if I were you, I’d stay away from this model and just buy the Bose OE. I mean, look how nice they were:

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They even came with a hard storage case, as opposed to the newer, flimsy, soft case provided for the OE2!