With best in class noise cancellation and great sound quality, do Bose justify their premium price tag at $280?
Bose recently announced their new range of their music-playing Frames sunglasses and earbuds. The QuietComfort Earbuds are Bose’s new flagship noise cancelling earbuds, among three new truly wireless earbuds, including a $180 sports pair without ANC and a $250 sleep pair.
QuietComfort Earbuds are Bose’s successor to their first truly wireless earbuds, SoundSport Free. Suffering with connectivity problems and lacking ANC, they were largely ignored. At $279.95, QuietComfort Earbuds are certainly not a budget pair, coming in at more than AirPods Pro ($249) or Sony WF-1000XM3 ($228) initial retail prices. Now they’re released, can they take the crown from AirPods Pro or any of our top 5 competitors from the likes of Samsung, Google or Sony?
Bose have long been king of noise cancellation in over-ear headphones. Bose’s first attempt at shrinking down this technology works better than the rest of the earbud competition and is near the level of the over-ear headphones. QuietComfort Earbuds have no problem blocking out all ambient noise from the office, public transport, gym, cafe, etc. Active noise cancelling can be switched between full quiet, full transparency or any of 10 levels in between. Full transparency mode lets in all outside noise, making it feel as though nothing is in your ears. Microsensors note when one earbud is removed, automatically pausing the music and setting the other to transparency mode. Noise cancelling can also be used when no music is playing.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds use Bluetooth 5.1 for a reliable wireless connection at up to 30 feet. Unlike the SoundSport Free, the earbuds suffer no audio dropouts or audio/video sync issues. A four microphone array will pick up your voice and reduce noise around you, for solid calls and voice assistance. The self voice feature allows your to adjust how much of your own voice you hear during phone calls. Only the right earbud can be used independently for calls and audio. Battery life is about average for earbuds, at 6 hours of playback on a single charge, with 2 additional charges in the bulky case. The case supports Qi wireless charging or USB-C for 2 extra hours from 15 minutes of charging. Five exterior LEDs show the battery status. Unfortunately, despite being available on their over-ear headphones range, the QuietComfort Earbuds lack multi-device support, meaning only one device can be connected to at a time. AirPods’ new automatic switching feature makes them very appearling for Apple users.
Sound quality is grade-A, with great sounding music of any genre, at any volume. High-efficiency drivers paired with an acoustic port design, produces a great sounding low end and wide soundstage. Bose proudly colour the sound, boosting the low and high end at lower volumes. The app lacks any EQ adjustments, which are adjustable on their over-ear headphones.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are available in two colours, Triple Black or Soapstone. The buds themselves are a little heavier and larger than AirPods Pro and a similar weight to that of the Sony WF-1000XM3s. The buds stick out a notable amount, but less than the original SoundSport Free. The soft silicone wing and three tip size options should provide a secure and comfortable fit for all, even for sport use. The buds are rated at IPX4 for sweat and rain resistance. The rugged case is very large. More compact cases such as AirPods Pro, Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus or Google Pixel Buds have no problem slipping into the smallest of pockets, but you may end up resorting to a bag for the QuietComfort Earbuds case. A latch operated door and magnetized interior will keep the buds in place, but the firm release button can be an annoying extra step.
The touch controls on the earbud surface offer some level of customisation from taps and presses. A double tap on the left earbud switches between three levels of set transparency – 10 (full ANC), 5 and 0 (full transparency). Levels can be adjusted in the app. A long press on the left bud will give you your battery status or skip tracks, a double tap on the right earbud play/pauses music or answers calls, a long press on the right earbud activate Siri/Google Assistant or rejects calls. Previous track and volume controls are missing, but can be accessed by the voice assistant. Bose have promised more features and are said to be looking at adding volume controls in a future firmware update. Firmware updates and settings such as noise cancellation, Bluetooth connections and controls can be altered in the Bose Music app on iPhone and Android.
At $280 recommending these earbuds to the masses is difficult, as they fail to tick every box. If all you’re after is the best sounding and noise cancelling earbuds, these are the best you can get right now, however you need to consider how valuable minor feature such as a more compact case, multi-device support or on-board volume controls are to you.