Review: Bose QuietComfort Headphones

Good noise cancellation, but disappointing with music

The Bose QuietComfort Headphones are positioned below the Ultra and are the direct successor to the QC45. We wonder if we really needed this successor.

Published 2024-02-12 - 8:00 am
Bose QuietComfort Headphones
Geir Nordby

It was about time Bose launched some improved headphones in the form of the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. But with increased quality came increased price, and many might consider 300 euros too much for a pair of wireless plastic headphones.

Therefore, Bose launched another headphone model at the same time, simply called QuietComfort Headphones. The improvements from the Ultra version of the predecessor QuietComfort 45 have been omitted, such as the aptX Lossless codec (or aptX in general), and there is no Immersive sound mode. What Bose mistakenly calls room customised sound, which is supposed to simulate a pair of speakers in front of the listener. It only works “somewhat” in any case, so it seems reasonable that you can also get a cheaper pair of headphones without this feature. However, I would have liked to see the lossless sound quality preserved.

Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs QC Ultra Headphones in cases
Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones (right) have a square case, while the Ultra model has an oval case (Photo: Geir Gråbein Nordby)
Also check out Good news from Bose

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are really good and also support lossless audio via Bluetooth.

Where the Ultra model has a touch control on the headphone itself, QC Headphones use a physical power button that also switches Bluetooth on and off. As on the QC 45 and the older QC 35 models. Song start/pause and volume up and down are also done with physical buttons like their predecessors. Overall, there’s not much that looks new about the QC Headphones.

Bose QuietComfort Headphones GeirNordby
Bose QuietComfort Headphones sit comfortably on the head and also work for spectacle wearers (Photo: Geir Gråbein Nordby)

Same electronics?

The fact that QC Headphones is an old headphone in a new box is emphasised by the slightly older Bluetooth version 5.1 compared to 5.3 in Ultra. We don’t get any LE-Audio (LC3) features that use less power. Let’s face it: this headphone is identical to the QuietComfort 45 in every way, and I can reveal first as last that the noise cancellation is also the same. Not that that’s a bad thing, since it’s excellent. Admittedly not quite as good as the Sony WH-1000XM5, but it’s certainly up to the task.

Speech quality is also acceptable, although it can be perceived as a little thin. The user’s voice will also sound flat and thin in noisy environments due to the way the noise cancellation works. Bose is by no means alone here; if you need a pair of headphones for the hybrid office, I’d rather recommend some that are made specifically for the job.

Bose_QuietComfort_Headphones vs QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones (left) have more elegant hinges than QuietComfort Headphones (right) (Photo: Geir Gråbein Nordby)

The sound of the Bose QuietComfort Headphones

Where the Bose QC Headphones differ from their predecessors QC 45 is in the music reproduction. Here, there is significantly more energy in the deep bass. Just listen to how the piano pedal swells in Brandy Clark’s country ballad Dear Insecurity. The undertones resonate like I’ve hardly heard before, and every pedal wire demands your attention.

That may sound positive, but unfortunately, it’s all too much of a good thing here. While the bass rhythms in electropop have plenty of energy, it takes too much focus away from the midrange. The treble is also non-linear, with some parts of the treble range muted while others are emphasised. So, QC Headphones manage to be perceived as both woolly and sharp with sibilants at the same time.

Also check out Bose QC45: Old friend in new packaging

QuietComfort 45 is essentially a QC35 II with ambient sound - and USB-C.

I can’t get the in-app tone control to work either, as it’s not precise enough with only three bands: bass, midrange and treble. Of course, turning the bass down a bit can go a long way, but no matter what I do, it never sounds natural.

I’ve seen others describe the sound as strange, and I have to agree. The QuietComfort 45 has much of the same sound curve, just not in the bass. It’s better balanced in its predecessor, which also sounds better overall. To my ears.

Bose QuietComfort Headphones SPREAD 2
(Photo: Geir Gråbein Nordby)

Conclusion

The Bose QuietComfort Headphones are priced one step lower than the Ultra model, and some features have also been removed. Fortunately, the noise cancellation is almost as good, in fact, excellent. Calls also work well.

The sound quality for music, on the other hand, is not particularly good. You can make the headphones sound acceptable in the app, but here we’re in a price range where it’s simply not good enough. Before adjustment, there’s far too much bass, too little midrange and too uneven treble to be good enough for acoustic music.

It’s far from a disaster, but we’re not moved by the sound. And considering that its predecessor sounds better out of the box and is also cheaper while still available, we’d rather recommend the QC 45.

Karakter
Bose QuietComfort Headphones

We think

God støjreduktion, klar stemmegengivelse under opkald, og du kan høre din egen stemme. Gode muligheder i appen. Disappointing sound quality, no aptX support.

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