Travel Tuesday: Bose Sleepbuds 2 Review — A Travel Essential?

Is there anything better than a good night’s sleep? Alas, so few of us are regularly able to achieve such luxury for one reason or another. Whether you’re traveling or are at home, errant noises in the night may be among the things keeping you awake or interrupting your slumber. That’s something that the Bose Sleepbuds 2 aim to take care of.

It’s now been a few months since I decided to pick up a pair of Bose Sleepbuds for myself. Since then, they’ve become a staple of my travels while also earning a permanent place on my nightstand. So what are Sleepbuds and what do I love about them? Let’s take a look at what you need to know and some of my personal thoughts.

What Are the Bose Sleepbuds 2 and How Do They Work?

About Bose Sleepbuds 2 (and the price)

A few years ago, Bose introduced the original Sleepbuds — tiny earbuds that played various white noises and could comfortably stay in while you slept. While this first-generation product gained fans, there were apparently some battery issues that led Bose to recall them. Enter the Bose Sleepbuds 2: an improved model that keeps many of the original’s main features but fixes the issues.

Before we get to talk more about the Bose Sleepbuds themselves, it’s imperative to note the price. Currently, the Sleepbuds 2 go for $249 on the Bose site or at various retailers. However, Bose does have some refurbished models on their site for $179. Plus, there is a “90-night, risk-free trial” offer.

What they aren’t

Another important thing to mention in regards to the Sleepbuds 2 is that they are extremely limited in their functionality. In fact, be aware that these do not play any music or podcasts. Instead, the Sleepbuds can only play a selection of noises found in the Bose Sleep app and nothing more. You can think of this as a white noise machine but in earbuds form — which can be great, as long as you know what to expect.

The Sleepbuds are also not active noise canceling (ANC). This means that, when used on a plane (for example), they’re unlikely to truly block the engine noise the way a pair of Airpod Pros or other ANC buds would. Bose describes the Sleepbuds as “sleep-masking,” instead, but be aware that they might not block out everything.

Sleepbuds design

Each Sleepbud is incredibly small. In fact, if you remove the tip, you’ll see that the device itself is about the size of a dime (albeit thicker and with an offshoot). This allows them to sit flush in your ear so that they are comfortable even when pressed against your pillow.

Since comfort is so key in this case, the Sleepbuds come with three different tip sizes. This allows you to find the one that fits best and provides the best seal. On the other end of the bud, the silicon winged tip helps it stay put in your ear without creating discomfort.

Connecting the Sleepbuds

As I mentioned, the way to use your Sleepbuds is through the Bose Sleep mobile app. And, just as the buds only work with the app, the app is only accessible if you already own the buds. When you download and launch the application, it will ask you to remove the Sleepbuds from their case in order to sync them. When you do this for the first time, you’ll have the option to give your buds a nickname (I’ll share mine later). Then you’ll be able to start selecting sounds.

By the way, since sounds play from onboard memory on the Sleepbuds themselves, you can actually play other noises from your phone at the same time. For example, when we were on a road trip, I was able to have my Sleepbuds in and playing white noise while my wife listened to podcasts using our car’s USB plug.

Adding sounds

In the Bose Sleep app, under Browse, you’ll find a number of different sounds that can then be transferred to your Sleepbuds. These include Noise Masking, Naturescape, and Tranquilities options. Personally, I enjoy the Naturescapes best. Meanwhile, the Tranquilities might be nice for general relaxation but I’m not sure they’d be great for sleeping.

When you find a sound you like, you can select it and tap “Add to Sleepbuds.” In my experience, the transfer only takes a few moments. There is limited storage on your Sleepbuds, but I’ve been able to hold 14 different options on my device at once. On that note, if you want to remove one, go to the My Sound tab, swipe to the sound, tap the ‘i’ icon in the upper right, and then select “Remove Sound.”

Volume warning

While the Sleepbuds are meant to mask annoying noises you want to ignore, the truth is that there are some noises you’ll still need to hear during the night — this could mean smoke alarms, storm sirens, your child crying, etc. Because of this, when you’re selecting your sound to play, you’ll see a line on the volume bar advising you what Bose believes to be the top setting you should use safely. Of course, you can go beyond that if the situation dictates, but be sure to keep this in mind and stay aware of your surroundings.

Playback options and alerts

If you only want to listen to noises as you fall asleep, you can set a timer on your Sleepbuds. Alternatively, you can select “Play all night” to ensure that your sounds of choice continue (as long as the buds have power, that is). On the topic of power, you can also toggle on an option to have the Sleepbuds wake you up if the battery is low. I’m not exactly sure who might want such an option, but it’s there.

Charging case

With the Bose Sleepbuds charging case, you can apparently get up to three charges for your buds. As for the case itself, it’s a well-designed metal puck with a rubberized bottom to keep it put. The lid of the case slides open to access the buds, which charge via magnetic attachments. That latter feature means that nine times out of ten my Sleepbuds will snap into place when I put them in.

Elsewhere on the case, when you open the lid, you’ll see up to five lights, indicating how much charge is left. When the Sleepbuds are placed in, lights on the left and right will pulse to show that the corresponding buds are charging as well. Speaking of charging, the case uses USB-C and comes with a USB-C to USB-A cord.

Alarms

Finally, another feature of the Sleepbuds is the ability to set an alarm. Keep in mind that this is separate from any alarms you might have on your phone and those won’t play through the Sleepbuds. On that note, to set an alarm, tap the icon in the lower left of the app screen once your Sleepbuds are connected. You can create one-time or recurring alarms, select one of four alarm noises, and set the preferred volume. Of course, like with adding sounds, you’ll want to make sure that your alarm is sent to your Sleepbuds — otherwise, things could get… less than ideal.

My Experience with the Bose Sleepbuds 2 So Far

Thunder Buddies

Now it’s time to admit why I thought about buying the Sleepbuds in the first place. As I may have mentioned before, I hate being startled awake by thunder — which is unfortunate since I now live in the midwest. Prior to having the Sleepbuds, I’d often end up putting on regular headphones on a stormy night and listening to podcasts to drown out some of the noise. Of course, seeing as those earbuds were a bit bulky, I’d have to lay my head on my pillow just right to avoid them being jammed into my ear. And then there was the matter of the cord to deal with as well!

That’s why I had often dreamed of a product akin to the Sleepbuds and was excited to see that they actually existed. Thus, when I purchased mine, I nicknamed them my Thunder Buddies. Yet, I’ve actually found myself using them more for travel, for which they’ve definitely been useful.

Comfort

Having owned (and loved) a pair of Bose wired earbuds for years, I had high hopes for the Sleepbuds seeing as my regular earbuds were already super comfortable. Sure enough, I’ve been really impressed with how the Sleepbuds sit in my ear, avoid rubbing against the pillow, and present no pain even after multiple nights in a row of wear. I’ll admit that I did worry a little bit about that lattermost point, so I’m glad it hasn’t proven to be a problem so far.

Keeping them powered

One annoying element of the Sleepbuds that I’ve found involves the power. The good news is that the buds can remain in use for a full night’s sleep without issue and the case can last several nights without a charge. That said, the issue arises when the case does exhaust its charge. As I’ve found, even if the buds themselves are still at 100% power, you may not be able to connect them to the app unless the case has some juice.

Luckily, if you can plug in the case for a moment and the buds still have a charge, it seems you can then connect your Sleepbuds and be on your merry sleeping way. Still, if you reach for your Sleepbuds in the middle of the night only to discover the case is dead, it’s pretty annoying to then have to fumble for the plug and get enough of a charge to use them. I suppose I could just leave my case plugged in… but my point stands.

Waking up

On the nights when I decide to use my Sleepbuds, I found that I really like waking up to their alarms. In particular, I appreciate the option to fade in the sound so it’s a nice, gentle wake-up. This option is also great if you need to get up before your partner and don’t want to disturb them. Thus, this is a nice bonus to what’s already a pretty awesome product.

My new travel companion

The first time I used my Bose Sleepbuds 2 on the road was in Las Vegas… and what a lifesaver they were. I suppose I’d gotten used to all of the annoying noises you encounter in hotel rooms — from neighbors next door and above to sirens and car honks below. Thus, it was so nice to drown out all of that and listen to the sounds of the ocean or rain on cobblestone instead. I’ve had similar success on subsequent trips as well, making them one of the first things I now pack when preparing to travel.

Final Thoughts on the Bose Sleepbuds 2

Make no mistake that $250 for a pair of earbuds that only play a few select sounds is steep. As a result, it’s hard to recommend the Bose Sleepbuds 2 just on their face value. However, now that I own them and that initial purchase is in the rearview mirror, I can definitely say that I’m glad to have the Sleepbuds. Beyond the stormy night use case I imagined when I decided to look into them, the Sleepbuds have proven to be vital on trips where the hotel walls might be a bit thin or other imperfect conditions could prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Going back to the price, if you’re only using them for travel, they may be even harder to justify. But, if you plan on making them a more regular part of your sleep routine and they are truly helpful to you, then perhaps that $250 cost may be worth it. Either way, I hope Bose continues to explore this concept further and comes up with other great options for the future.


Also published on Medium.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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