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New high-quality earbuds offer sound, comfort

Bose is known for the proprietary technology packed into its small Wave radios and noise-canceling headphones. So when the Framingham, Mass., firm announced its new "in-ear" headphones a few months ago, audiophiles grabbed for the buds. This is a nit-picking crowd, and the price ($100) probably raised expectations. Many bloggers wrote that one of the product's chief claimed advantages – removable silicon caps meant to improve fit – were its downfall. The caps, which come in three sizes, reportedly slipped off and got lost. Annoyance took the focus off the sound. Bose came back March 15 with new tips and "enhancement accessories," including a clip meant to reduce the pull on the earphones during movement. (Owners of the originals can get the updates for free from www.bose.com/enhance.)

We compared the phones with other earbuds and were impressed with the clean sound definition of the Bose. Guitar-picking and vocals were vibrant. Hip-hop's hard-driving bass reproduced well. Classical was rendered with concert-hall richness. We can't say that the phones wrung three times more clarity from a so-so audio format (MP3) than did their $30 competitors. Where they really triumphed: comfort. The Bose perched so lightly we forgot we were wearing them. Nice aesthetics, too: Black-and-white looks better with a black iPod than Apple's standard-issue white.

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