For the longest time, if you didn’t want to mess around with wires, folks who wanted noise cancelling and a nice, unspoiled, hairdo were out of luck. That is the exact market the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds cater to. At $399.95, these Bose QuietComfort Earbuds aren’t cheap, and seem specifically priced to compete with the AirPods Pro. However, rather than focussing on style, functions and weight, Bose’s priority here is sound above all else.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
WHAT IS IT?
Bose's noise cancelling earbuds
Fantastic sound and noise cancellation
Not the best for rigorous exercising
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Design
First of all, full points to Bose for doing something different with the design. Then let’s take some points off that for the different not necessarily being good.
We’ll start with the buds themselves. They’ve followed the design of the SoundSport Frees with the ear tip and wing, which is fantastic. That provides good, comfortable grip.
Where it diverges from the SoundSport is in the shape of the body, which is where the confusion creeps in. When you pick up the bud, you see the Bose logo horizontally on the long side of and assume it goes in your ear with the tip pointing towards your mouth like an old school Bluetooth headset. But no. The way the wing is pointed, that orientation is impossible.
It goes in the ear in portrait, not landscape, so the logo is rotated 90 degrees. This was presumably to fit more music making bits in the bud and have gravity be a little kinder, but it doesn’t look as good as it could.
However, even with the extra body and orientation, it’s still light and comfortable.
This new orientation, though, does mean that you can’t run with them in without them falling out. They’re ok for exercises where you don’t move your head much, but they kept falling out of my ears when I sprinted to catch some lights. Then again, with the noise cancelling making the loud whooshing sound when you run, they’re not designed for that use anyway — that’s where the SoundSport Frees come in.
They’re nowhere near as light as the AirPods Pro, but the fins are better at keeping them in your ear.
The Qi Charging case is pretty big and chunky (2-3 times the size of the AirPods Pro case), though not excessively so. It’ll fit easily in a handbag, and less easily in the pocket of a pair of women’s jeans. The case holds an extra 12 hours of charge on top of the 6 built-into the buds and has a USB-C port on one side and five charge indicator lights on the other.
Of course, like all true wireless buds, these aren’t repairable and will become landfill within a few years when the battery dies. But that’s a design fault with the entire category, not just these.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Sound
Here’s where things get good. They don’t hold a candle to the over ear QuietComfort headphones, yet have some of the best sound quality of any noise cancelling true wireless buds I’ve tried. This includes the AirPods Pro, which can distort pretty easily.
Normally I’d test noise cancelling on a plane or crowded train, but since this is 2020 I took them to the park where there was a flock of very noisy birds. And look, that’s basically the same thing.
They did a relatively good job of cancelling the birds and the loud picnickers. Perhaps not enough to fully silence a crying baby, but enough to deal with the person ten rows behind you who won’t be quiet during nap time on a long-haul flight.
Doing the click test, I couldn’t hear the click of my fingers in front at all, could hear a little behind me, and could hear very clearly beside, so directionality seems to be a bit of an issue.
The sound on music is very full. On Don’t Break Me by Montaigne the big thudding bass in the pre-chorus has a little mud at the bottom, but the synth hi-hats in the background of the chorus are clear and sharp.
The anguish in her voice is apparent, and the emotion of the song is nicely conveyed. The bass doesn’t overwhelm, and the vocals are left to be clear as a bell.
Think About Things by Daði Freyer sounds really crisp. There’s no mud on the bass, the high tones are lovely, and his voice shines.
Blank Space by I Prevail has plenty of distortion, high notes, double kick bass, and deep-voiced men screaming. Yet still, amongst all of that, nothing gets lost and things that are meant to be clear, are.
It’s easy to pick out individual instruments and elements even in the cacophonous bridge, which is a feat of engineering in ear buds this small.
Controls and App
The controls on these are significantly lacking. You can double press the right ear to play/pause, and tap and hold the left ear to either discover the battery percentage or skip a song.
It’s not great, but, frankly, touch controls on true wireless usually suck. Tapping an ear bud is uncomfortable and makes a weird echoing sound in the ear and that’s what smart watches are for.
The app is pretty good. You can adjust the volume, check the battery percentages, adjust the noise cancelling from 0-10, which will suit a range of comfort levels and environments, and set favourite noise cancelling levels that you can activate through shortcuts on the ear if you’re ok with sacrificing skipping songs.
The Bose QuietComfort EarBuds sound fantastic. They’re one of the few pairs of true wireless earbuds music lovers might fully fall in love with, without feeling like they have to sacrifice too much quality for the form factor.
Yes, they’re expensive, but not unreasonably so for this style and quality, and they sound better than the AirPods Pro on every test. If you’ve got the cash and want good noise cancelling headphones that won’t ruin your hair or get tangled in your bag, these are an excellent choice.