Tech review. Bose noise-masking sleepbuds.

For those people that read my blog regularly, they might notice the one item that accompanies me on all of my travels – my Bose QC20 noise cancelling headphones. They’re brilliant.

Firstly, let’s get over the in-ear vs. over ear debate. I like to sleep on my side on aeroplanes, which means that I find over-ear headphones are generally too bulky to sleep in. They’re great for day-time use, but I don’t want to invest and carry two pairs.

Bose has two options – the wired QC20s, which I have, and the wireless QC30s. These have a sort of plastic necklace thing, which is where some of the electronics are stored, as well as I’m assuming the power. Either way, I find them too bulky, so have stuck with my QC20s.

So I was quite excited to see that Bose have introduced some noise-masking sleepbuds.

Bose noise-masking sleepbuds case

They come in a nice metal case, with a the lid that slides backwards to reveal the two earbuds.

Bose noise-masking sleepbuds

There’s two large light indicators to show that they are correctly seated in the case. The five lights in the middle indicate the level of charge.

On the reverse of the case is a micro-USB socket for charging.

Rear of the Bose Sleepbuds case

The buds themselves are pretty small, but do fit comfortably in my ears.

Bose sleepbud

A crucial part of the package is the software as these devices have to pair with a smartphone to work. When they are outside of the charging case, they show up on the app, which also indicates how charged they are.

Essentially, the buds play a variety of different types of white noise, which you can select via the app.

Bose sleepbuds app

There’s a good ten or fifteen different options, plus you can download further sounds to them.

Bose sleepbuds relaxation sounds

Which brings us to the key constraint of them. For use on-board an aeroplane, I found them useless. They play exactly the same white noise that you get on an aeroplane itself, as well as a variety of other different types of white noise. Essentially, you’re layering white noise on more white noise, which just leads to a headache.

This is the total opposite to typical noise cancelling headphones that get rid of the background white noise, and allow you to play music on top of the quieter environment.

However, that said, for use on the ground, if you’re trying to sleep in a noisy environment then they are very effective indeed. I also find them very effective when I can’t sleep and I need some sounds to distract my brain and help me drift off – especially useful if there’s a lot going on a work and my mind is struggling to stop.

The other problem with travelling with them is that the lid of the case opens too easily. On more than one occasion, I’ve found one of the buds (which are quite small anyway) at the bottom of my rucksack.


They’re definitely a version 1.0 product in that there are a number of design issues to be ironed out. Bose do make clear that they mask noise, and don’t cancel it, but I was still disappointed at how ineffective they are for flying. That said, when you get to your destination and can’t sleep, then they are useful.

I won’t stop travelling with my QC20s, but I will also bring these along with me too.

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