Review: Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Bose's best earbuds

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds carries on the legacy of its predecessor. Much is the same, but some smart upgrades make the overall package even more appealing.

Published 2024-01-30 - 8:00 am
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Geir Nordby

When it comes to brand awareness in headphones, Bose is at the top of the list. However, in the earbud segment, the American manufacturer has struggled at times to live up to its reputation. Fortunately, they succeeded in 2022 with a pair of really good earbuds, the QuietComfort Earbuds II. Which fixed almost everything that was wrong with its predecessor.

Earbuds II didn’t last long, however, as they have now been replaced by the new flagship QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.

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The new top model from Bose with extra features like Immersive Audio. (Photo: Bose)

In terms of appearance, the design continues with oval earbuds in impact-resistant plastic. In the black version we’ve tested here, both the charging case and the plugs are identical to its predecessor, with a silver-coloured logo on the black case where there was a glossy black logo on its predecessor. The earbuds have a titanium-coloured plate with a black Bose logo, where the predecessor had a black plate with a white logo.

QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are available in black or grey/white colour combination.

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Photo: Bose

Immersive Audio

New to Ultra Earbuds is Bose’s new 3D audio technology called Immersive Audio. This is Bose’s version of Spatial Audio, but instead it sounds like Bose only uses crosstalk between the left and right channels, so it’s supposed to sound like there are two speakers in front of the listener. It’s certainly a far cry from a Dolby Atmos effect, a format that is not supported.

Also check out Much better than its predecessors

Bose has improved their horrible QuietComfort Earbuds. The Earbuds II are much better in every way.

You can choose whether the sound image should move with your head, as with regular headphones, or be fixed to “the same spot in the room”, as with a pair of speakers. I prefer the first, everything else feels very strange.

Although Immersive works okay for video content, I prefer to listen to music in the usual way.

EQ

The sound can be adjusted with a three-band tone control: Bass, midrange and treble. There are also four presets with more or less bass or treble. Bose then adapts the room correction to the selected sound curve to make it as good as possible.

Noise cancellation and speech quality

The earbuds are quickly connected to Android as they automatically pop up on your mobile phone when you press the connect button on the back of the case.

The noise cancellation in QC Earbuds II was already among the best, and the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds continue the success. It’s among the best I’ve heard, but it’s similar to its predecessor. Bus and office noise vanishes like magic. The ambient mode also works brilliantly. Sounds are let through in a natural way, which is ideal for conversations or paying attention to traffic.

Also check out Good news from Bose

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

Speech quality is good, although not as full-bodied as with the Sony WF-1000XM5. I had no problems being heard in noisy environments.

Overall, the noise management and microphones are very successful, although Sony is slightly ahead on speech quality.

Unfortunately, you can’t switch off the noise cancellation, so you get either noise cancellation or ambient sound, which can be adjusted with a virtual slider in the app. Still, battery life is around 6 hours in the plugs with an extra 18 hours from the case. Which is fine with noise cancellation enabled. But if you also switch on Immersive Audio, you’ll have to settle for 4 + 12 hours, which is a bit on the short side.

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QC Ultra Earbuds continue the familiar and elegant design, now with titanium-coloured plates. (Photo: Geir Gråbein Nordby)

The sound of the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Plugged into my iPhone 15 Pro Max, there is little or no sonic difference between the QC Earbuds II and QC Ultra Earbuds. The Earbuds II may be a bit sharper in the upper midrange, but they’re both quite energetic up there. So is Brandi Carlile’s voice, which can get a little too much in the most powerful passages of the country ballad Dear Insecurity in a duet with Brandy Clark.

Connected to an Android phone (Asus Zenfone 9) that supports aptX – and in this case also Lossless – something important happens in favour of the Ultra Earbuds. I was expecting to hear a more fine-meshed treble, and I do. But more importantly, the hard midrange is more refined. The difference is not dramatic, but clearly audible. Brandi Carlile retains her rawness without being annoying.

There’s a good drive in pop music, and acoustic songs work well too. It does sound a little flat compared to the very best, but there’s no doubt that we’re in the premium class.

I still don’t think the sound is quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM5 or Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2, not to mention the JBL Tour Pro 2 with its superior EQ.

So no, Bose is still not the best for sound. But the overall package is really good.

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Photo: Bose

Conclusion

The QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are the best Bose earbuds yet, although the upgrade from the QC Earbuds II is marginal. However, Android users will benefit from the aptX Adaptive / Lossless support, which gives the sound image a boost. Immersive sound mode, on the other hand, we think is more of a gimmick and not something to throw your wallet at.

But the overall package, including speech quality, noise cancellation and a natural and beautiful ambient sound, is really good. We have no problem recommending these Bose plugs, especially if you have an Android phone that supports aptX Lossless.

Karakter
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Premium

We think

Great and powerful sound, and even better with aptX Lossless. Comfortable, with good speech quality and noise cancellation.  The midrange can get a bit coarse and the bass a bit woolly. Battery life is okay without being impressive. Sometimes sluggish app. Faint noise on the BT connection. Noise cancellation cannot be turned off. "Immersive" has nothing to do with Dolby Atmos.

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