Bose QuietComfort Headphones review

    The new Bose QuietComfort Headphones are as cunning as they are beautiful. They have a modest demeanor, yet they are really skilled and constantly entertaining. Based on Bose’s popular QuietComfort 45 over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, this new and simpler-named model does justice to everything musical and spoken, from albums by your favorite musicians to podcasts and mobile phone chat-ups that rival in-person talks.

    If you prefer stereo to the spatial audio experiences provided by Bose’s more expensive QuietComfort Ultra, you might select these less expensive cans.

    Design & Build

    If it weren’t for a new color choice (Cypress Green) and a different tone and texture of brand embossing on the headphones and travel bag, the Bose QuietComfort Headphones would be mistaken for their predecessor, the QuietComfort 45, which was released for $349/£319. A true detective would also notice a somewhat grainier (and evidently more durable) grade of vegan leather wrapped around the ear cushions.

    The longer I listened to the Bose QuietComfort, the more I came to appreciate their neutral, coloration-free nature.

    This updated edition comes with a 3.5mm-to-2.5mm analog audio connection that has an inbuilt microphone. When you plug the connection into your smartphone, tablet, or computer, the Bluetooth radio and inbuilt microphones of the headphones are turned off.

    Bose QuietComfort
    Bose QuietComfort Headphones come with a 3.5-to-2.5mm analog audio cable (with an inline mic), a USB-C to USB-A charging cable, and compact hard sided carry case. You’ll need to supply your power adapter to charge them.

    Both ear cups have hard buttons (yay!) that operate just as well as they did on the QC 45. (Give me a separate volume control or I’ll die!) However, the left-hand cup’s Action button now has a new optional function: Spotify Tap. When you press it, your Spotify app launches and begins playing music, even if you’re using the free version of the service. When I tested it, it didn’t restart the last item I’d listened to on Spotify, which was an episode of late-night TV presenters’ joint schmooze session Strike Force Five.

    Sound Quality

    To be honest, I was a little unimpressed when I first heard the new QuietComfort Headphones. They aren’t razzle-dazzlers that knock you over the head with gobs of bass or make you squirm from vocalists who are so aggressively front they appear to be sitting on your nose. They also don’t evoke a high-end response crisp enough to scrape the wax straight out of your ears.

    But the more I listened, the more I appreciated their bland, colorless character. Some may even characterize their reaction as “flat,” yet this is deceptive. The new QuietComfort is fully engaged and merely trying to keep it cool.

    The 2023 version of the Bose QuietComfort Headphones got me going while listening to great recordings from Joshua Redman, Bruce Springsteen, the British musical Operation Mincemeat, and a seriously restored and expanded Who’s Next.

    They follow, present, and fill out the music in a genuinely realistic, warts-and-all approach, from sublimely exquisite to dark and hammering. What they don’t do is impose a club-you-over-the-head “signature sound,” or any other personality that would contradict the artist’s goal. Beats, I’m looking at you.

    Indeed, these comfortable headphones whisked me away on stress-free, long-distance, long-play musical trips as I saxophonist Joshua Redman’s beautiful Where We Are to Bruce Springsteen’s The Live Series: Songs of New Jersey. The latter breathes new life into some of his classics with modest, scaled arrangements that effectively showcase the QuietComfort’s subtlety and presence. The piano keys and accordion buttons were even clicking.

    Bose QuietComfort
    The new Bose QuietComfort Headphones are available in a limited-edition Cypress Green (worn by the author in this shot) as well as White Smoke and Black.

    This sonic traveler then found a joyful British sonic connection, allowing the West End London cast of Operation Mincemeat to sing and rap their way through a silly yet real story of Nazi misinformation that helped win the war during WWII. Through these headphones, I felt as if I were at the theatre where it all happened—the show—and could understand practically every word. There was no need for any British-to-American translations.

    When you turn up the volume to 11, the well-engineered Bose QuietComfort Headphones don’t compress or distort the audio. Credit goes to Bose’s active equalizing circuitry, which alters frequency response in relation to loudness without the listener perceiving. At high listening levels, the processing dampens the loudest bass frequencies, which would otherwise dominate the party if left unchecked.

    If you don’t like the Swiss-like sound neutrality, you can always apply custom EQ adjustments in the Bose Music app by moving the bass, mid-range, and high-frequency sliders up and down in 0.6dB increments. Alternatively, you can use the more extreme bass and treble-shifting settings.

    As a detail freak, I was delighted to turn up the treble to highlight the lovely, old-world musical sweep of “Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” when listening to the Springsteen live set. I also did a little touch-up work to enjoy oldies like “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which I streamed through Qobuz as a 24-bit/96kHz Life House deluxe version of Who’s Next. Details may be heard in Pete Townshend’s slash-and-burn guitar work and Keith Moon’s frantic drumming.

    Active Noise Cancellation Performance

    Active noise reduction from Bose helps to expose minor elements in music in a natural way. There’s no need to turn up the volume to hear the background noises on a recording, which would otherwise be muffled by ambient/environmental noise.

    Active noise cancellation, which is new to this model, may be fine-tuned to let more (or less) of the outside world into your ears. And the wind reduction mode, which I set up for one-button access, does an excellent job of eliminating the wooshy wind sounds that attack the microphones of most headphones on walks.

    Apart from the color, it’s hard to tell the new Bose QuietComfort Headphones QC Headphones (left) apart from the QC 45 they replace. The bulk of the updates are under the hood.

    I only encountered one cog in the machine, which I assume is connected to the way Bose accomplishes active noise reduction, the way it suspends the drivers in its headphone assemblies, or both.

    These new QuietComfort Headphones, like the Bose sounds Cancelling Headphones 700 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, seem to emphasize, rather than reduce, creaking bus suspension sounds. This has been obvious when I’m riding the Megabus between Philadelphia and New York and the wheels hit a pothole. Solutions? Move to the top deck, which is less reverberant. Take the train next time!

    Battery Life & Charging

    According to Bose, the battery on this new model will last 24 hours on a charge, compared to 22 hours on the QC 45. Bose claims that it can be recharged in 2.5 hours. However, on my first and only try, the battery was only recovered to 70% (I used an Anker IQ Nano II power adapter).

    In retrospect, I believe a different charger (one with constant rather than variable output) and/or a different connection would have produced better results. This isn’t the first time a product has refused to connect to one charger but not another.

    The Price :

    The Bose QuietComfort Headphones cost $349/£349. You can buy them from Amazon in the US, and Amazo in the UK.

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