amazon Bose QuietComfort Earbuds reviews
The Bose QuietComfort true wireless headphones offer the most powerful sound performance and noise cancellation we’ve tested in the category to date.
Since the founding of the QuietComfort brand, Bose has been a leader in noise-canceling headphones and headphones. QuietComfort Earbuds, however, remain largely untapped for QC products, as they are included in the category that already has a leader — the $249 Apple AirPods Pro — a role Bose has often played in the past. At $279.95, the QuietComfort Headphones not only sound great to compete with the AirPods Pro, but they also need to offer good or slightly better noise cancellation to justify the cost insurance premium of 30 dollars. From an acoustic standpoint, both pairs offer solid sound quality with rich bass and virtuosic highs. As for ANC (active noise cancellation), the QuietComfort In-Ear Headphones offer the best we’ve heard in this category to date.
Available in beige or black designs, the QuietComfort In-Ear Headphones are bulky but lightweight. The fit is super secure and comfortable, although the earbuds take up a lot of ear space in a way that the AirPods Pro doesn’t. All of this, though, in the name of a secure in-tube seal, sure, that’s ANC’s secret trick in quality in-ears: A good seal will passively handle most of the ambient noise before it does. Even electrical circuits need to be recruited. So QC Earbuds offers three combo pairs, all-in-one silicone earpads and earpads in small, medium, and large sizes so that you can find the perfect fit and best for your ears.
Like the AirPods Pro, the QuietComfort In-Ear Headphones have an IPX4 rating for water resistance. That means that the headphones are essentially protected from light rain and splashes but cannot be submerged or exposed to intense water pressure. There are plenty of truly waterproof IPX7 wireless models on the market if that’s a priority—we’re fans of the $170 JBL True Wireless Flash X and the $180 Jaybird Vista. But there are fewer quality ANC options available, so we’ll take any level of water resistance as a plus in this regard. QuietComfort Earbuds will be suitable for sweaty workouts, light rain, and wiped with a damp cloth. However, the water resistance rating does not apply to the charging case, so do not get the earphones wet or wet inside.
Each headset has a touch panel double-tapping the left headset switches between the saved ANC preset modes. Double tapping on the right ear will play or pause the sound. Pressing and holding the surface of the left ear will default to showing battery life, which you can toggle to forward a track in the app (and this will be the more obvious default setting). Pressing and holding the right ear will invoke your device’s voice assistant. Double-tap to answer or end the call. What’s missing? Volume control and an option to go back to the track. It feels like Bose was trying to reinvent the wheel with these controls when a simple, straightforward solution would have worked.
The included charging case works with the Qi wireless charging dock or with the included USB-C charging cable. Unlike the AirPods Pro case, the QuietComfort Earbuds case is quite large. The bulkiness is necessary because the earphones are large, but it’s a bit annoying that the large frame doesn’t result in more battery life than is stored in the box, holding an extra 12 hours of charge.
The Bose Music app for Android and iOS guides you through the pairing process — even if you try to pair manually on your device’s Bluetooth menu, you’ll be prompted to download the app, which will complete the process pairing/activation. Once the connection is established, the app guides you through the in-ear fittest, which is just a quick way for those unfamiliar with ear tips.
You can control simple settings in the app, such as creating quick-press shortcuts for touch controls, adjusting how much of your voice you hear during calls, and switching ANC levels — more on that in the next section. You can also turn off autoplay so you won’t be surprised by the music when you put on your headphones on second. All in all, the app is essential and nicely designed, but it doesn’t offer an adjustable EQ as many other true wireless apps do. The AirPods Pro doesn’t offer this either.
QuietComfort headphones are Bluetooth 5.1 compatible and support AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs. Bose estimates battery life to be around 6 hours, with an additional 12 hours from the charging case, but your results will vary with your volume level.
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QuietComfort headphones offer excellent active noise cancellation. The first thing to note is that they have adjustable ANC, and the AirPods Pro doesn’t. You can easily dial the ANC up (10), go into full transparency (0), or blend the two on a 0-10 scale.
We always put ANC headphones and earphones through the same tests, both outdoors and inside. We listen to various frequencies and record at high volume to reproduce everything from airplanes and trains to the song of a busy restaurant. We also listened to ANC at super-quiet levels in an acoustically treated room with no background noise. The first test tells us how well the ANC handles loud and normal noises. The second, quiet test tells us how much high-frequency masking ANC adds. That is a common problem with poorer quality ANCs — a whistling-like white noise can often be heard when the circuit is activated. The Bose QuietComfort headphones deliver the best performance in both of these tests that we’ve experienced in true wireless to date.
QuietComfort headphones perform better than AirPods Pro when it comes to deep bass and low, mid frequencies. Whether we deliver an intense low-frequency rumble like you hear on an airplane or electronic music with powerful low-frequency content and pounding drums, the QuietComfort Earbuds remove more bass frequencies than any other pair we tested. The AirPods Pro is also quite good at reducing volume, but the most obvious difference between the two models is the low-frequency region. Perhaps partly because they’re more related to seals in the tube, QuietComfort Headphones can block out more sound. Low-frequency rumble, loud music, rowdy restaurant crowds — all these sounds are brought back to a higher level by QuietComfort Earbuds, with AirPods Pros appearing in a moment. Neither pair added any obvious hiss.
As mentioned, the app’s home screen has faders for volume and noise cancellation. At the highest levels on the ANC fader, you get the most intense ANC, and at the lower levels, your surroundings can be heard more transparently. At the lowest level, you are in fully transparent listening mode. There’s no way to disable both modes, which is annoying, but combining the two is a cool feature that most ANC models lack. It may seem counter-intuitive, but there are some benefits to combining modes — you don’t always need or want to block out all the sounds around you.
You can also set “favorite” ANC settings in the app, then double-tap quickly to switch between modes. (The settings will be 0 for transparency, 5 for blend, and 10 for maximum ANC, but you can tweak these.) Transparency mode is particularly impressive — there’s no sign of lag, the audio feed doesn’t sound soft or unnatural—it’s probably the best transparency we’ve heard so far.
As for audio performance, the QuietComfort In-Ear Headphones deliver predictable bass-rich, sculptural sound. Most users will likely find the bass response rich and full, and the clarity in the highs clear, with the lows and highs nicely balanced, is not a negative sign. Sound for the purists.
On tracks with intense bass content, such as The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the QuietComfort In-Ear Headphones deliver a powerful low-frequency response. At the highest volume, there is no distortion, and at lower, more moderate volumes, the bass is still full, delivering a powerful sound.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the overall tonal character. The drums on this track boost some bass, but things don’t move into the too thunderous territory. The drums are rounder and fuller than they would be without the amp, but many listeners will prefer this sound. Callahan’s baritone also received an added boost of low-mid richness, balanced by a crisp mid-high presence, allowing vocals to be clear and tonal ranges to remain bright and throughout the mix.
In Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum gets an ideal mid-high volume, allowing its attack to retain its singularity. The beat-splitting sub-bass synth hits are delivered with solid depth — not the direct bass boost we’re used to hearing, especially in gym models. The balance between lows and highs here is solid, and vocals aren’t carved – all three vocal performances are delivered without much of an extra tonal cue.
Like the opening scene in John Adams’s Gospel According to Another Mary, orchestral scores sound excellent through the QuietComfort Earbuds. Sure, things get a little sculpted, but not to the point of being too wild – the lower register instruments move forward a bit in the mix but never overwhelm the brass, strings, and vocals of the record higher. The key here is balance: QuietComfort headphones can dial certain frequencies and cut off others, but the lows and highs don’t oppose each other.
Microphone for clear hearing. Using the Voice Memos app on the iPhone 8, we understood every word we recorded, although there was some typical Bluetooth distortion in the mix. The microphone signal is strong, and callers will have no trouble understanding you on a clear cell signal.
The Bose QuietComfort headphones deliver superb audio performance and the best active noise cancellation we’ve tested in true wireless. That said, the AirPods Pro shouldn’t be dismissed, especially if you like its more elegant design and intuitive controls. We’re yet to test an inexpensive pair of in-ears with great noise cancellation, but for $130, the Amazon Echo Buds offer good ANC and have Alexa integration. But if you’re looking for the absolute best, this category has a new lead — the leading true wireless noise cancellation technology belongs to the Bose QuietComfort Headphones.
Best noise cancellation in its class
Rich, crisp, balanced sound
The transparent listening mode can be combined with ANC mode
Audio cues are not for purists
On-ear controls may need improvement
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