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Best Bose headphones
There are a few audio companies that rise out of audio forums and become a part of our culture. For a long time, when people referred to active noise canceling (ANC) headphones, it was synonymous with Bose headphones. For many consumers, that same sentiment rings true even today. Still, other companies, such as Sony, have made strides in noise canceling capabilities, and the competition has kept Bose on their toes to continually innovate and refine their offerings. Whether you’re a long-time Bose enthusiast or a newcomer to the brand, we’ve rounded up the best Bose headphones currently on offer.
- This article was updated on January 22, 2024, to ensure the timeliness of the information within.
- Check out our picks for the best headphones for more options from other brands.
It doesn’t get any better than the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
If you want the best noise canceling Bose headphones, look no further than the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. They emphasize comfort over flashy aesthetics and are packed with future-proof features to last you for several years.
The ANC can reduce noises like bus engines and airplanes by approximately 87%, and you can switch to an Aware Mode to let the sounds of your surroundings in when needed. But these headphones really stand out with their support for aptX Lossless and Snapdragon Sound; if you have a device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor or newer, that is.
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Sound quality is rock-solid if not a bit bass-heavy, but you can tinker with that in the Bose Music app’s equalizer. You can also opt for the immersive audio setting, which utilizes head tracking to make it sound like there is a speaker set up right in front of you. Battery life nets over 27 hours of playtime with ANC and conveniently charges using a USB-C cable.
The price point of $430 is a bit steep, but for those seeking advanced ANC with cutting-edge features, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are a smart investment that will stay relevant for the next few years.
Bose’s microphone system is quite good on the NCH 700. The mics pick up voices and reject background noise with ease.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones microphone demo (Ideal):
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones microphone demo (Office):
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones microphone demo (Street):
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones microphone demo (Wind):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The Bose QuietComfort 45 is the best bang for your buck
The Bose QuietComfort 45 is now a few years old, but it is still one of the best value buys for adequate ANC and comfort, with the flexibility of both wired and wireless playback. At the time, they were the first headphones in Bose’s lineup to sport a USB-C port and have received considerable improvements over firmware updates since it was released, such as an in-app equalizer.
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The default sound profile tends to overemphasize the high end, which might not be suitable for all music genres but works well for vocal-heavy tracks and spoken-word content. There’s no aptX support, but you get a solid battery life of nearly 25 hours with ANC on and quick charging for more playtime with just a 15-minute charge.
However, the new lower price tag takes these headphones from a “maybe” to a “must-consider.” Now retailing around $279, the QC 45 makes a strong case for best value. In a market teeming with high-end options, the QuietComfort 45 offers a well-rounded package for those willing to compromise a bit on sound.
Get the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds if you want something portable
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are the company’s top-end set of noise canceling wireless earphones, and Bose hit it out of the park. Noise canceling is stellar, audio quality has improved over previous iterations, and even the rough edges we noted (like the free-floating ear fin) have been addressed. This is a complete product, befitting its price.
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Bose’s earphones use Bluetooth 5.3 and support AAC, SBC, and aptX Adaptive for phones that support it. Like the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, these buds also support aptX Lossless if your phone has a Snapdragon 888 processor or newer.
Bose’s microphones pick up voices decently well, but you can hear some distortion in the demos below.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds microphone demo (Office conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds microphone demo (Street conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds microphone demo (Windy conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
You can find the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 for less
As the predecessors to the current top pick, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 still hold considerable value in today’s market. While not the latest model, they offer a balance of quality features and a now more affordable price point for those who don’t necessarily need the newest technology.
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They feature a sleek, modern look with a metal headband and touch-sensitive gesture pads on the earcups. Battery life is adequate, offering around 21 hours with ANC on, and USB-C charging is convenient.
If you’re just looking for headphones that can cancel noise and playback music, these headphones are perfectly capable for the price. Now that these headphones are a few years old, you can regularly find them for around $225 online.
The Bose Sport Earbuds are best for athletes
The Bose Sport Earbuds are as comfortable as it gets. The slick design means you can use this outside the gym without looking like you’re about to deadlift double your weight. The StayHear Max ear tips work extremely well and keep the earbuds in place during rigorous movement. Just like Bose’s debut true wireless earbuds, these have an IPX4 water-resistant rating, so you can sweat to your heart’s content while wearing them.
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Battery life is average for earbuds of this variety, and we measured just over 5 hours of playtime from a single charge. The case can fast charge the earbuds when you’re in a pinch. All you have to do is place the buds in the case for 15 minutes, and you’re met with 120 minutes of playtime.
These use Bluetooth 5.1, and the connection strength is good but imperfect. They also support AAC and SBC, the former supplying consistent, high-quality audio from iOS devices. If you want to stay well under $200 and need a pair of earbuds for everyday use, we recommend the Bose Sport Earbuds.
The microphone quality isn’t perfect, but it’s improved since the previous generation. Bose packed in a four-mic array, which does a fabulous job of canceling out low-frequency background noise during calls.
Bose Sport Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Bose Sport Earbuds microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you get the Bose QuietComfort Headphones?
The new Bose QuietComfort Headphones share many similarities in design and comfort with their predecessor, the QuietComfort 45. However, despite being from the same line and having a similar price point, they fall short in the crucial area of sound quality. The new headphones have a troublesome frequency response, including an over-emphasized sub-bass and inconsistent highs, which muddles the audio experience.
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While both models offer competent noise cancelation, the QC 45 is slightly superior in this department. Given that they are now more affordable and the QC 45 provides better sound and comparable noise canceling, it’s hard to recommend the newer model over its predecessor.
So, if you’re contemplating which to choose, the QC 45 still provides a more balanced package in terms of sound quality, comfort, and noise cancelation. It remains the more compelling choice. Of course, this could all change with sale pricing, so don’t take the above as a hard and fast rule.
What you should know about the best Bose headphones
Bose headphones are like any other in that they use a set of drivers and fit on, around, or in the ear. While the feature sets are similar compared to other flagship headphones, there are some technical terms and things to be aware of before buying your next Bose cans.
What is active noise canceling, and how does it work?
For commuting to school or elsewhere, noise canceling headphones are an excellent choice for young people’s auditory health. Bose headphones use active noise canceling, which uses basic physics to eliminate unwanted noise. The gist of it is due to something called destructive interference.
Why is isolation so important?
If you’re not listening to your music in a car, you’re probably listening in crowded buses, gyms, loud city streets, or rumbling trains with your Bose headphones on. In these less-than-ideal situations, you’re surrounded by loud sounds. When there are sounds of a similar frequency, your brain will ignore the quieter one and just focus on the louder one. This is called auditory masking, which was great for our ancestors who had to survive in the wild and listen for predators.
Does the music sound worse over Bluetooth?
You may have heard that Bluetooth sucks, and you should totally never buy wireless headphones. But is Bluetooth really that bad? Well, kind of. While Bluetooth quality and codec technology have improved greatly over the last few years, you still won’t get the same level of quality that’s attainable with wired headphones.
We tested a few of the major Bluetooth codecs (the technology responsible for transferring higher amounts of data between your headphones and source device, thus resulting in higher quality). We found that they don’t all live up to their claims. In our testing, even AAC can be slightly inconsistent on Android phones — but near-perfect on iOS devices. Luckily, your old ears most likely won’t even be able to hear the frequencies that are lost during the transfer. So, while it’s technically true that wired headphones sound better, you’ll need to be a very keen listener to pick up the differences in most cases.
How we test Bose headphones
At SoundGuys, our testing methodology for Bose headphones is comprehensive and rigorous, ensuring that every pair is evaluated on a level playing field. Our process includes a series of standardized tests designed to assess various aspects such as sound quality, battery life, active noise cancelation effectiveness, build quality, and comfort. These evaluations are conducted in controlled environments to guarantee accuracy and repeatability. For a detailed insight into our testing protocols, visit our in-depth explanation at How We Test.
How we choose the best Bose headphones
Selecting the best Bose headphones involves a careful, criteria-based approach that considers a wide range of factors. We scrutinize each model based on its performance in key areas such as sound quality, comfort, durability, feature set, and value for money. Our team also takes into account user feedback, expert reviews, and any unique features or technological advancements that set a particular model apart. This analysis ensures that our recommendations reflect the highest standards in audio performance and user satisfaction, helping you make an informed choice.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Each writer at SoundGuys has accumulated years of experience reporting on the consumer audio market, and our staff is not permitted conflicts of interest to recommend one product over another. SoundGuys’ survival depends almost exclusively on readers enjoying their purchases. We pride ourselves on transparently outlining objective facts while accounting for the subjective experience to contextualize an audio product’s performance. When we do misspeak, we correct and own up to it.
Frequently asked questions about Bose headphones
Bose has a reputation for high-quality noise canceling products. Another perk of Bose’s headphones is that they often go on sale throughout the year. If you’re patient, you never have to pay full price for the company’s headphones or earbuds.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 connectivity is improved upon with the updated USB-C charging, as opposed to micro-USB on the QC 35 II. ANC is better than its older sibling and the Noise Canceling Headphones 700. The reason to opt for the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is that it sounds better with a more reasonable, customizable frequency response and very good ANC.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 now comes with a rudimentary equalizer, so the reasons for picking it over the older QuietComfort 35 II are now limited to price. If you absolutely must save as much money as possible, the older headphones mainly fall short by having a micro-USB port instead of a USB-C port. That’s it.
Now that there is a newer version out, you might be able to find the QC35 II for quite a bit cheaper, so if you’re hoping to save some cash, this is the way to go. Both QuietComfort headphones fold down, making each more portable than the sleeker Noise Canceling Headphones 700.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 are great noise canceling headphones with a consumer-friendly frequency response that you can EQ from the Sony Headphones Connect app (iOS/Android). These outperform Bose’s headphones regarding both passive isolation, though the Bose QC 45 noise canceling is so close. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal style preference, but we pick the Sony WH-1000XM5 over the QC 45. You can fully disable ANC and transparency mode on the XM5, which you can’t do on the QC 45.
If you want to save even a bit more, the Sony WH-1000XM4 offers almost everything the XM5 does but with less effective microphone and ANC systems. You can read all about how the WH-1000XM5 compares to the XM4, but if you have any of these Bose headphones, it’s hard to justify buying Sony’s newer (albeit fantastic) headset.
If you hang around audiophiles enough or find yourself down a rabbit hole of audio forums on the internet, one phrase you’ll hear tossed around is “burn-in.” This is the belief that your new headphones need to be used for a certain amount of time before they can reach their peak performance. I’ll save you the hassle of trying this for yourself and tell you that it’s not true.
Bose headphones work with both iPhones and Android phones. However, none of the company’s Bluetooth headsets support the aptX Bluetooth codec. Of course, anyone can use lossless wired audio with any of Bose’s over-ear headsets.