We think the Bose On-Ear Headphones are definitely competent when it comes to reproducing audio. A strong mid bass component gives richness and warmth to music and vocals, while treble is crisp and reasonably detailed. Lower bass trails off early in the frequency range, but this is to be expected from portable headphones which use small drivers. The Bose On-Ear Headphones are versatile enough for music like rock and dance music, but we'd probably hold off on the bass heavy electronica and classical music.
The build quality of the Bose On-Ear Headphones is acceptable but not brilliant. We're generally not fans of leatherette finishes on headbands and earcups as it tends to become quite sweaty after a short period of wear. The upside is that the material is soft and comfortable. The headband telescopes for finetuning earcup placement, although as the headphones sit on the ear rather than around them you will need to spend some time finding the most comfortable position.
We didn't find these headphones fatiguing to wear for long periods, making them a good choice if you have a long commute every day.
The left earcup of the Bose On-Ear Headphones has a male 3.5mm headphone jack that is used to connect one of two bundled 3.5mm cables. We would have preferred a headphone socket instead. These headphones do not feature the active noise cancelling of Bose's QuietComfort 15 headphones, but a small amount of acoustic noise cancellation is provided by the On-Ear Headphones' tight clamping force.
The £139 price tag of the Bose On-Ear Headphones means they compete against products like the lower-end models in Sennheiser's PX portable headphone series. They may not be as advanced as more expensive Bose models, but the Bose On-Ear Headphones impressed us with their compromise between portability and sound quality.
Bose's portable On-Ear Headphones don't have the noise cancelling of more expensive products from the company, but they do have good sound quality and are light and portable. We weren't thrilled with the cable design or build quality, but the reasonable price tag puts the Bose On-Ear Headphones in direct competition with Sennheiser's portable models.