shame on me

You now how the old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on – shame on  you – fool me……you can’t get fooled again.  Or something along those line anyway.  Well I definitely learned the real saying the hard way this past week as I tried again unsuccessfully to purchase headphones on ebay.  Here is my story the first time.

As I often do every so often, I recently got an itch for a new gadget.  My newest obsession is noise canceling headphones.  After my most recent trip to England, I decided that blasting my in-ear headphones while traveling was probably not good for the longevity of my hearing, so I thought it would be worth looking into noise canceling ones.  In this area, Bose has become legendary and I decided for once in my life it was worth looking into paying for high end audio gear.  Of course I still couldn’t bring myself to pay retail price for a pair (~$300) since I can’t imagine listening to compressed audio is really worth that.  I did the next best thing – search ebay.

Once I made the decision to go with Quiet Comfort 2 by Bose (just ask and I’ll tell you why they won over the newer QC3) I monitored every ebay auction for at least three weeks.  I paid attention to trends, sellers, repeat listings – basically everything you can think of.  I thought that I had finally found a legitimate auction for the right price.  So I got them.  They arrived in the mail, and my eagle eyes decided they may not be authentic Bose headphones.  They sure didn’t sound like 300 dollar head phones.  So thanks to the generous return policy at Amazon.com I ordered the real thing brand new just to have something to compare to.  Here are a bunch of pictures of them side by side:

Not sure if you could tell, but the brand new ones are on the left, and the ebay version is on the right in the pictures above.  They are very very similar, and I still haven’t decided if they are fake or real.  They sound the same, but I’ll get to the sound at the end of the post.  First a few more cosmetic blemishes on the ebay ones:

Chelsea picked this one out right away.  There are two different screws in this piece.  Clearly someone has been messing with the casing.  And in fact, many of the screws toward the speaker show signs of stripping / use.  This makes me suspect the guts.

If you look closely inside the speaker on the left, you can see a small bright colored square.  That is adhesive.  Someone took the mesh screen off the inside and replaced it, except they forgot some of the adhesive on the casing.

These two are shots of the real (top) and ebay version of the headphones.  The second picture doesn’t have just a lighting problem – that’s paint.  Not only did they replace the screens protecting the components of the speaker, its also been repainted.

Conclusion: These were once Bose headphones that have either been refurbished by a 3rd party (poorly) or really good fakes.  I’m honestly not sure.  I am however, going to ask for my money back.

Moving on to the sound test.  As I mentioned they sound just like the brand new ones, so that is a plus to whoever tried to give them a cosmetic makeover.  I am just not convinced that the sound is worth the money.  The only way I can describe it is “tinny”.  The highs were clear and high, the mids were a little too strong, and the lows were weak.  My Sony earbuds have a better dynamic range, and retail for $260 less.  There was also the noise canceling aspect.  There wasn’t much effect in our house which is pretty quiet, but they did do a decent job of blocking out the freezers and HVAC noise in lab.  The major problem to me was that when the noise canceling kicked in (its a switch) my ears instantly felt pressurized.  Actually, it got to the point where I had a headache and was semi-nauseous.  I had Chels try them on to see if I was imagining the force, but she said that it made her “ears feel full”.  Definitely not worth $300.

Conclusion: I am disappointed in Bose, and now against the myth of noise canceling headphones.  For now.

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3 thoughts on “shame on me”

  1. Interesting post, and thanks for the pictures. As your two-fold bad luck with headphones on eBay would suggest, I would steer clear of all audio on eBay. A better source is http://www.audiogon.com, which is an eBay of sorts but the equipment is almost always guaranteed.

    As for noise canceling headphones, I’ve always felt that Bose overcharged for those things. If pressurization is becoming an issue, consider the alternative that isn’t circumaural by Sennheiser – it’s not as effective but is only $50 (on sale, $100 normally). Due to the size, you won’t hear tons of bass…but then again, you said you wanted these to promote long-term hearing, right?

  2. Noise canceling is a waste of money. Doesn’t cancel anything out except more of your paycheck. PayPal has a pretty liberal policy protecting buys from bogus crap. If you really want to stick it to them for selling you bogus stuff, just send them back an empty box.

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