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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
March 29, 2019
20.3 x 16.5 x 5 cm
Bose took active noise cancelling (ANC) and made it mainstream but eventually, the market caught up. Sony has released consecutive ANC hard-hitters, with better features, better noise cancelling, and better sound quality than the old Bose QuietComfort35 II. Well, it seems like Bose was listening, because the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is a complete redesign of its iconic product (and yes, that’s actually the name). The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have a new design, improved sound quality, a touch-sensitive gesture pad for playback controls, and even USB-C charging, but should you get one of the best Bose headphones around?
We spent two weeks with the Bose NCH 700 and have kept up with its updates to find out if this is the headset for you.
Editor’s note: this Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review was updated on July 15, 2022, to address an FAQ about how the NCH 700 compares to the AirPods Max. We also updated the formatting.
- Travelers. If you want to block out the sounds of planes and trains, these have fantastic active noise cancelling.
- Students. While they’re expensive, the ANC is top-notch. If you’re tired of the noisy people in your library, these are the way to go.
- Anyone who wants the best. You can’t go wrong with either the Sony WH-1000XM4 or these. However, if you choose to spend your money you’re getting a great pair of ANC headphones.
What is the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 like?
In short: these headphones are a delight to use. There are a few issues but overall the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is a great and powerful headset. The NCH 700 is lightweight, easy to use, well-built, and gorgeous. The Bose QC 45 and the Sony WH-1000XM5 are newer and outperform the NCH 700 in various ways, but if you want a gorgeous package with great sound and ANC, you’ll fall in love with this expensive pair of Bluetooth headphones.
The ear cups rotate a full 90 degrees so you can rest the headphones around your neck, but Bose swapped out the notched adjustment mechanism (still found on the QC 45) for one that lets you slide the headphones into place instead. There are no folding hinges, so you should use the included hardshell case when traveling. Unlike previous Bose headsets, the NCH 700 is made of more than just plastic. The headband has a metal construction that will make it much harder to accidentally break. But this is where the praise for the redesign ends because the Bose 700 headphones aren’t nearly as comfortable as the older QC 35 II.
The main reason for this step backward is the change in materials used for the padding. While the ear pads still use comfortable padding, they’re stiffer than the QC35 II cushions. This is great when it comes to isolating outside noise, but wearing the NCH 700 at my local cafe for a few hours results in my ears getting pretty hot. It gets to the point that I’m sweating when I remove the headphones. On top of that, the padding on the top of the headband has been changed as well.
However, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is now rocking a soft rubberized plastic similar to the one found on the Beats Studio3 headphones. Thankfully, the padding here is way more comfortable than Beats‘, but I have the same problem where the plastic occasionally pulls my hair. Again, it’s still comfortable but that level of comfort that’s always present with the Bose QC35 II and even the QC25 before it is missing here.
Unfortunately, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is not waterproof. That said, it is water-resistant and can withstand some sprays of water. According to this post on the Bose community forum, the headset has an IPX4 rating. This should keep you covered if you get caught in light or even heavy rain, but we still recommend using your best judgment when you should stash them in a dry place. Electronics and water tend not to mix very well and these headphones aren’t cheap.
How do you control the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700?
The minimal design is reflected all over the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. There are a total of three buttons on the headphones and two of them don’t have any icons or labels, which I don’t mind since you can’t see labels when you’re wearing them anyway. Only the power/Bluetooth pairing button on the right ear cup has a small Bluetooth logo so you can tell it apart from the other two when turning them on. You won’t find any playback buttons here as they’ve been replaced with a touch-sensitive gesture pad on the right ear cup similar to that of the Sony WH-1000XM4.
Bose also made it so that pausing the music takes two taps on the touchpad, which is great. One of my biggest annoyances with touchpads is when the headphones accidentally register a touch and pause the music when you don’t want it to. By making the pause/play function a double-tap, it ensures that the music won’t pause unless you want it to.
Below are the controls of the headphones, laid out in a table for easy reference.
Play/pause. Answer/end call.
Decline incoming call
Power, voice assistant, noise control
Yes, Bose Music app
Should you get the Bose Music app for the NCH 700?
To get the most out of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 you should download the Bose Music app (iOS/Android). It’ll walk you through the setup process and is surprisingly simple to use which is rare with headphone apps. If you’re on Android, you’ll get a little drop-down card to quickly pair with and hook up the Google Assistant all in a few screens. Once connected, you can do everything from adjusting the level of active noise cancellation (1-11) to renaming the headphones if you want.
One thing I really like is the ability to switch between devices in the app. As long as you can create an account with Bose, you can then switch between saved devices if the headphones are having trouble figuring out which one you want to listen to. If you’re listening to music on your phone and want to instead start watching a video on your iPad, you can select the iPad in the app. It’s been seamless and beats going through the settings of your devices every time. In the app, you can also choose which Assistant you want to activate when you click the custom button. You can choose between the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Siri if you’re on iOS.
Just like the QC35 II before them, there have been some complaints about a firmware update giving the newer Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 some issues. While there haven’t been enough complaints to get a guaranteed fix, we figured it’d be a good idea to put the instructions that worked for most people last time in the hopes that it will similarly resolve this issue for most people as well. If none of these work, then at least you can tell Bose customer support that you’ve already done the “basic” fixes.
- Turn off the headphones. It sounds simple, but just restarting the headphones can fix a lot of issues.
- Plug the QC35 II into your wall charger for at least 5 seconds, then remove the cable
- Connect the headphones to your computer via USB, and go here in a browser
- Download and run the Bose Updater app on your computer
- Update the headphones using your computer to the latest firmware manually
However, it should be pointed out that despite their exhaustive efforts to recreate the problem, Bose was unable to rule out other factors like earpads coming undone, and poor fits. Ensure that your earpads are all the way clicked in before contacting Bose support.
Should you upgrade to firmware version 1.8.2?
According to Bose, the bug fixes added to firmware version 1.8.2 address a few small improvements to improve the overall quality of the product. You’ll get:
- General improvements to the Bluetooth connection to make it more reliable and to provide better voice assistant responses.
- Bug fixes to maximize the battery level.
While we generally take the view that you should wait and see what problems people have with firmware updates before making the leap yourself, this is an update that enables some helpful features that might be worth updating for.
Similarly, if you use an iOS device the company recently pushed an update to the Bose Music app that lets you add a Spotify shortcut to the headphones. If you toggle on the setting, you must tap and hold the right ear cup to quickly activate Spotify.
How do you connect the Bose NCH 700 to a phone?
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 connects to your iPhone or Android phone via Bluetooth 5.0 and supports just the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. You can opt for wired listening with the 2.5-to-3.5mm aux cable when you need to enjoy some lossless audio playback.
How long does the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 battery last?
When it comes to battery life, Bose remains on the conservative end of very good. While products like the Sony WH-XB910N can push upwards of 37 hours in our battery tests, Bose claims only 20 hours and we measured 21 hours, 25 minutes under these same standardized conditions. This is with active noise cancellation on the maximum setting too, so you might be able to squeeze some more if you lower the ANC.
In the app, you can also set a timer to have the headphones automatically turn off after a pre-designated amount of time. So if you take advantage of that too, you should be able to go a long time before you need to throw this back on the USB-C charging cable.
How long does the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 battery last?
The Bose NCH 700 has very good noise cancelling that is at the top of the pack, however, it can’t compete with newer headsets from Sony and, well, even itself. That said, it’s impressive just how much the NCH 700 does to affect frequencies from 20-300Hz as this is typically pretty hard to nail. This range of frequencies will sound anywhere from one-half to one-sixth as loud as they’d sound without the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
Passive isolation is also quite good here and will take care of incidental, unpredictable sounds like the clang of your roommate washing dishes or chatterboxes next to you at the cafe. Be sure to stay on top of software updates, because you’ll need the newest version to get the most out of your ANC with these headphones.
Yes, the Sony WH-1000XM5 has better noise cancelling than the Bose NCH 700, and you can really see this in the 50-200Hz range. Here, the Sony WH-1000XM5 quiets these frequencies by up to 15dB more than the NCH 700. Passive isolation is also much more impressive with Sony’s headphones. But if you don’t want to shell out $399 USD for Sony’s latest and greatest, Bose’s headphones will still serve you well.
You can see a full rundown in our Sony WH-1000XM5 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 article.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 also has better ANC than the Bose NCH 700 is also better, more consistent ANC performance than the NCH 700.
Compared to the Sony WH-1000XM4, the Bose Headphones 700 has very good ANC and better passive isolation. However, the Sony WH-1000XM4 does a bit more to attenuate upper-bass and low-midrange frequencies, so you’ll notice a bigger difference when toggling ANC on/off on Sony’s headphones.
What do the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 sound like?
Now we can talk sound quality because even though the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 doesn’t have aptX—it still sounds really good. I find the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 to be a little more pleasant than the Bose QC 35 II before it because the NCH 700 treble response more closely follows our ideal house curve. You can adjust the frequency emphasis in the Bose Music app through a basic equalizer. Some people find this a little too simple, in which case you may want to get a third-party EQ app.
You can hear this nicely in the bassline throughout the song Sedona by Houndmouth which rumbles softly behind the vocals instead of overtaking them. Because of this, vocals in the mids sound great and are never eclipsed by what’s going on in the low end. The vocals in Mightnight Blues by UMI sounds great, and the highs are also handled nicely which you can hear from the bells playing behind her which never get harsh.
In comparison, the Bose QuietComfort 45, on the other hand, has some high-end overemphasis. This means that the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 will sound better in most situations, as it won’t make cymbals and other sibilant sounds too painful or annoying. This may end up being addressed in a software update, so check back for an update down the road if you’re still trying to compare these headphones.
Yes, but really: no. I know that’s not a good answer, but the truth of the matter is that while Bose has an EQ of sorts in the Bose Music app, it’s more or less only good for very ham-fisted adjustments, and not as granular as they’d need to be in order for best results. There’s only a bass, mids, and treble slider, with no indication of where the line is drawn.
This is especially frustrating because in order to get the headphones to reach certain profiles, you absolutely cannot move the emphasis in this way that wouldn’t cause an unpleasant swing in certain ranges.
Our best suggestion is to use your music or operating system to equalize your headphones, as those apps will give you much better control over your results. The above chart is for software EQing only, and the vertical pink lines are the bounds of what most software EQs allow you to adjust.
Can you use the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 for phone calls?
The Bose microphone does a good job with the main parts of voices, but anyone with a deep voice will be slightly cut off as frequencies below 200Hz won’t be nearly as loud.
Yes, the microphones here have clearly been given plenty of TLC by the engineers at Bose and they pick up voices nicely as well. The low-frequency attenuation is purposeful and reduces rumbles and noise.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Ideal):
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Office):
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Street):
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Wind):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you get the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700?
If you only care about owning the headphones with the best active noise cancellation, then you should get the Sony WH-1000XM5 (or XM4) because they are technically better. The Sony XM5 also has better codec support for high-quality streaming and has a much better microphone setup. That said, at least to me, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is clearly the more desirable product.
The new design is stunning, and this headset is an upgrade in almost every way thanks to the finely controlled noise cancelling, the ability to seamlessly switch between devices, USB-C charging, and the touch-sensitive control pad. The NCH 700 even sounds better than the QC 35 II. It’s the spec and design upgrade that Bose needed, and moving forward the 700s aren’t leaving my head.
iPhone owners unencumbered by budgets will reap the most benefit from a pair of AirPods Max headphones. Apple’s debut over-ear headset has the best noise canceling in town, yes, it even outperforms the Sony WH-1000XM5. In lieu of sound customization, you get the H1 chip and Apple’s Adaptive EQ, the latter of which adjusts the sound on the fly depending on your environment. We think the AirPods Max sounds quite good and it hews closely to the SoundGuys Consumer Curve.
The AirPods Max doesn’t have a standard audio jack though. Instead, you need a Lightning-to-3.5mm cable for wired playback. Even then, if you’re using the AirPods Max with a modern iPhone, you’ll need to grab a 3.5mm-to-Lightning dongle adapter. Those who are willing to overlook this cable/dongle chaos will get to take full advantage of seamless Bluetooth device switching between Apple devices and very solid build quality.
You can read all about how the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and AirPods Max compare in our versus article.
What are some less expensive options?
While the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are great, there’s no denying that it costs a lot of money. Give Sony a shot if you’re not looking to spend that much. Both the WH-XB900N and WH-CH710N headphones offer solid noise cancelling, great sound, and better battery life at around $200 USD which is significantly cheaper. Of course, you won’t have the same beautiful design or build quality, but you will still have a good chunk of change in your pocket.
Frequently asked questions about the Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones from Bose
You will be able to playback FLAC or other lossless files over the Bose 700 with no problems. However, if you’re using them wirelessly you won’t get the full benefit of the lossless file format as Bluetooth applies data compression to the audio stream. This will be the case with any Bluetooth device. To fully appreciate lossless files, you would need to use them with a wired connection. You can read more about it here.
Yes they ship with a standard 3.5-mm jack for the device side.
Yes, you can connect them via Bluetooth, USB or 3.5mm jack.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have a 10-meter (33-foot) wireless range. Bluetooth connection stability is highly dependent on your environment, though, so you may not quite reach distance if layers of drywall separate your smartphone and the headset.
Yes, you may create a custom EQ in the Bose Connect app. This functionality was made available in May 2020, with firmware version 1.4.12.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 has better active noise cancelling than the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. The Sony cans are also a bit more comfortable and offers speak-to-chat functionality. Both sets of headphones support Bluetooth multipoint, have ambient sound passthrough, and have smart assistant integration.