Sleep is a necessity, and missing out on it for whatever reason is never good.
That’s the reason sleep tech has been a booming business for the past few years, with hundreds of gadgets, mattresses, and wearables that promise to track your sleep or help you improve it. Bose thinks it can bring something to the category by attacking what it knows best: sound, or in this case, noise.
In urban areas, noise is one of the most common reasons for losing sleep. White-noise devices for masking noise have been around for a long time, but they tend to be big, expensive, and not at all personal.
Bose thinks it has a better solution in its noise-masking sleepbuds. These buds are seriously tiny (smaller footprint than a penny) and are designed to be worn throughout the night. They don’t pack Bose’s trademark noise-cancellation tech per se, instead relying on the isolation of the rubberized wing tips and some preselected sounds (rustling leaves, a babbling brook, etc.) to mask any noise that might disturb your sleep.
One thing these tiny earbuds don’t do: stream music or audio tracks of any kind. The soothing sounds are stored directly on the buds, and while there’s an accompanying app, it’s only to configure the product.
Sleep tech is a new category for Bose, so the company took a different approach to market. In late 2017, Bose launched an Indiegogo campaign for the sleepbuds. A rep for the company said this was an opportunity to get real consumer feedback before a commercial release. Just shy of 3,000 people received these pre-production units and while the number is not huge, the project got funding in just a few days.
From these early users, the company garnered a bountiful amount of feedback. Customers shared thoughts on the design, bugs to squash, and, most importantly, if it was helping them sleep better. Bose is sending those early backers the final product for free as a thank you.
The sleepbud itself is tiny but packed with tech, including a circuit board, storage for the tracks, a transmitter, a rechargeable battery, and a laser-etched external antenna (just there for communication with your iOS or Android device, which acts as a controller). It’s also featherlight at 1.4 grams.
The sleepbuds will play sleep tracks that don’t entirely tune out the noise but rather muffle it. Whether it’s a dog barking, screaming neighbors, or an all-night party that you didn’t get an invite to, the sleepbuds should mask it.
I got a brief demo with them today, lying on a lounger that felt like a first-class airplane seat. Bose pumped in simulated sounds of snoring, noisy neighbors and street noise. Bose first fitted me with the proper ear tip; small, medium and large come in the box. The buds themselves also have a new proprietary ear tip as the fit needs to be snug. It felt as if I was prepping to go on stage, as they fit like in-ear monitors. And even with the sleepbuds inserted without a track playing, they manage to muffle the sound.
I would consider this piece to be a bonus and shows the attention to detail, but it by no means compares to active noise-cancellation technology. Once in your ears, they connect to the Bose Sleep App on your phone through Bluetooth LE. It is here that you can choose between 10 sleep tracks, like a waterfall or other soothing nature sounds. Bose says it will update the app with more tracks as time goes on.
The sleepbuds are equipped with an alarm that will wake you — and only you — up. You can snooze the alarm, but you need to do that on the phone.
The tracks were definitely calming and relaxing; plus they did do the job of pushing out the noises that can stop you from sleeping. The buds themselves fit very comfortably into the ear and will even work for those who sleep on their side, as they don’t stick out but instead sit in the canal.
Each sleepbud has 16-hour battery life, which should be enough for two nights of sleep. Additionally, the traveling case acts as a charger and stores an additional 16 hours of battery life for both buds.
I am pretty impressed with Bose’s sleepbuds, and I think they serve as an innovative solution to getting more sleep. However, they also carry the trademark Bose price tag — $249 would be a lot to pay for real earbuds, and these don’t even play music.
However, there’s also nothing else quite like them in the realm of sleep tech, so I can see why the Indiegogo campaign was so popular. I’m excited to put them to the test in a full review, and the wait shouldn’t be long: the Bose noise-masking sleepbuds go on sale June 21 in the U.S. and Canada.