Bose QuietComfort 20i Noise-Cancelling Headphones Review: The Sound Of Silence

There’s nothing worse than having to turn up your giant can headphones to the point of deafness to drown out the idiots sitting around you. You’re ears are now safe from siege thanks to the tiny, handy Bose QuietComfort 20i headphones.

What Is It?

A pair of acoustic noise-cancelling in-ear headphones from Bose that won’t mess up your hair.

The QuietComfort 20i headphones measure 132cm in length, 44 grams in weight with 2.5cm-wide in-ear earbuds.

The cable is interrupted at two points: one by a control box containing a battery, on/off switch and some added audio science to bring the sound up to Bose-standards, and an in-line mic/remote for iPhone and iPod users. There are two models of the 20i available: one of iOS users, and one for Android/Windows Phone users. Bose knows you’re going to be on the go and doesn’t want to leave any platform out, which is nice.

What’s Good?

The active noise cancellation works a treat by essentially taking the bass out of your surroundings. They listen to the sound around you and fold the sound back to create a pocket of serenity inside your ear canals. I stood at some of the noisest parts of Sydney on a windy day and found that the roar of the world around me was reduced to a sound that could easily have been mistaken for a tap politely running in another room. Same with a plane: screaming children be gone! These things are amazing.

The control box is a little clunky, but you’ve got to put the science somewhere I guess. On a positive note: it could be much, much clunkier and much less stylish. The control box on the 20i is slim, low profile and sits comfortably in your pocket, leaning against your iPhone, Android or Windows device without fuss.

That control box is the home for the battery, which keeps the cute little noise-cancellers keeping on for around 10 hours of continuous play.

The bass on the QC20i is fabulous. You feel immersed in boom when you listen to big, brash tracks. It’s lacking a little when it comes to treble but not enough that it deserves to be penalised for it. The sound from these little Bose headphones is super-smooth and reasonably well-rounded.

The Bose QuietComforts also come at a very reasonable price. For good, noise-cancelling headphones, you can expect to pay upwards of $400. The QC20i comes in just on that mark. Hell, even some non-noise-cancelling earbuds can set you back that much.

What’s Bad?

Bose has invented what it calls StayHear+ ear tips to keep the actually buds in your ears. They look a bit like a medical implement, and truth be told, they’re a little uncomfortable. From the looks of things, Bose is trying to replicate the shape of the Apple Earpods, by making them less rounded and more abstract to try and fit into more people’s ears comfortably.

Having said that, they are extremely functional at keeping external sound out and locking music in, even when the active noise-cancelling is switched off. There’s also a few different sizes included in the carry pouch if you feel like your ears aren’t being well taken care of.

Another little gripe is the positioning of the control box and the in-line mic on the headphone cable itself. Both feel like they could have used a little more slack so as not to pull at your ears a little.

Honestly, these are really little things: overall, these are great headphones.

The Best Part

Besides the sound? Bose actually lets you use these headphones just as normal headphones when the control box is turned off. We’ve had a bunch of noise-cancelling headphones through the office this year that won’t even pump your sound unless the noise-cancelling feature is turned on and chewing power.

That’s perfect for travellers and commuters who just want to use their headphones after the battery runs out. Bravo, Bose.

The Worst Part

It’s the Australia Tax all over again.

Bose is charging $US299.95 for the QC20i in the States, but as discussed earlier Aussies will be forced to pay $399.95 to buy it from local stores. It’s still a reasonable price for these headphones, but paying roughly $30 more (after currency conversion and GST addition) is a bit annoying.

While this isn’t an absurd, Adobe-style rip-off, it is a bit excessive when you look at the sticker price in isolation.

Should You Buy It?

If you want great noise-cancelling headphones from one of the best audio brands in the world, but don’t want to lug around giant freaking over-ear headphones, then these are the gizmos to soundproof you’re head. Sure, they’re a bit pricey in Australia, but you certainly get what you pay for.

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