Comparing the Bose QuietComfort 35 II to the Bose QuietComfort 45 is like comparing oranges to oranges—there’s very little difference between these two active noise cancelling (ANC) headsets. True to the series name, both QuietComfort headsets are very comfortable and great for travelers. However, Bose includes some new hardware and a unique sound to its latest headset.
Bose took four years between the QC 35 II and QC 45, so it must have cooked up something good in the lab, right?
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II and QuietComfort 45 share nearly the same design
The Bose QuietComfort 45 is a clear descendent of the QC 35 II with its oval ear cups and plastic finish. There are small modifications between the two designs: Bose traded the tiny microphone slots on the QC 35 II for a matrix of dots on the QC 45, and the new version has better hardware like a USB-C input, rather than microUSB input on the old model. Bose keeps the power switch and controls on the right ear cup, so older QC headset owners should feel at home with the QuietComfort 45.
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Clearly separated, you can operate the multi-function and playback buttons without any guesswork on either headset. To access your phone’s native assistant, just press and hold the multi-function button. Both QC headsets have an action button on the back of the left ear cup that executes slightly different commands. On the QC 35 II, the action button cycles between noise cancelling modes. With the QC 45, you have the added function of an Aware mode toggle, which the QC 35 II lacks altogether. Aware mode is just another name for audio passthrough, and it amplifies external noises through the headphones to keep you aware of your surroundings.
Bose redesigned the ear pads on the QuietComfort 45, and they have a smoother finish than the padding on the previous headset. The headbands look nearly identical and durability is the same: neither Bose QuietComfort headset has a water-resistant rating, but each is made of sturdy plastic. You can rotate the headphones on either the Bose QC 35 II or Bose QC 45 to lay flat against a table, or you can fold each headphone toward the band and throw it into the included protective case.
No matter which headset you buy, Bose includes a zippered protective case, 2.5-to-3.5mm cable, charging cable (microUSB or USB-C), and wireless noise cancelling headphones.
How is the Bose QC 45 experience on the Bose Music app different from the Bose QC 35 II’s Bose Connect app?
The Bose Music app is a newer mobile application than the Bose Connect app, and both are available for free on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. You can’t really do much with Bose Music app (version 5.0.2) aside toggle between ANC on and Aware mode on. You can’t choose to disable ANC and Aware mode for a standard listening experience, something we’ve seen with the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2. Another missing feature: a custom EQ, or just a handful of EQ presets.
The Bose Connect app lets you choose between three noise cancelling modes (high, low, off), and program the action button. You can either set it as the ANC toggle or to your preferred smart assistant. You can also share music from the Bose Connect app simultaneously to two compatible Bose headphones and set an auto-off timer for the QC 35 II (the Music app also has a standby timer).
Neither app is supremely useful, but you may want to keep it around for firmware updates down the line. Bose does a pretty good job of adding important features to its products, though one could argue those updated features should just be included from the start.
Does the Bose QuietComfort 45 have better noise cancelling than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II?
The Bose QuietComfort 45 has better noise cancelling than the QuietComfort 35 II, but this is to be expected given how QC 35 II came out in 2017, four years prior to the QC 45. With the QC 45, you get excellent gross attenuation from the combined passive isolation and active noise cancelling. It quiets midrange and high-frequency sounds that most headsets don’t affect to an extreme degree. The newer Bose headset effectively mutes sounds from 2-11kHz, should you achieve a good fit.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II still dulls the 2-11kHz range but not to the same level; your ears may register particularly loud incidental sounds. While the active noise cancelling on the Bose QC 35 II isn’t as impressive as with the QC 45, the QC 35 II more consistently attenuates low-frequency sounds.
Bear in mind that noise cancellation generally affects sounds below 1kHz more than those above 1kHz. To get active noise cancelling performance that falls in line with our measurements, it’s important to make sure you get a proper fit with the headphones. The ear pads must fully encircle your ears without any gaps between the synthetic leather padding and your skull.
Does the Bose QuietComfort 45 sound better than the QuietComfort 35 II?
Sound quality is where the Bose QuietComfort 35 II comes back swinging: its default frequency response is much friendlier than that of the QuietComfort 45, which boosts treble notes so much that they sound unpleasant. The boosted high-end on the QC 45 is great for speech intelligibility—podcasts sound good—but poorly mixed punk and pop music aren’t enjoyable to hear. Now, that’s subject to change should Bose release a firmware update that allows users to customize the sound, which is likely—it did just that for the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
Still, we don’t expect you to bet on a “maybe.” The Bose QuietComfort 35 II lacks an EQ module in the Bose Connect app, but at least its more versatile frequency response makes treble-heavy music sound good still. In fact, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II very closely follows the SoundGuys Consumer Curve V2, which we posit as the ideal sound for the general market.
While the QC 35 II clearly has the better frequency response, the QC 45 still sounds decent. Plus, most smartphones have some kind of onboard EQ adjustment embedded in the settings app, so you should be able to make changes to how the Bose QuietComfort headsets sound either from your smartphone or from your streaming service’s settings.
Which headset has the better microphone?
Both the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and QuietComfort 45 have great microphone systems, though neither are studio quality. What matters most is that you can use either headset for a conference call, and definitely for any personal calls.
Take a listen to the samples below and help other readers by casting your vote!
Bose QuietComfort 35 II microphone demo:
Bose QuietComfort 45 microphone demo:
Which Bluetooth codecs do the Bose QC 45 and Bose QC 35 II support?
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Bose QuietComfort 45 share the exact same Bluetooth codec configuration, with SBC and AAC support. This gives iPhone owners a reliable, high-quality codec to use for music playback, but not all Android users will experience the same consistent output from AAC. Unfortunately, AAC’s performance is variable across Android hardware, but SBC has come quite a long way since its inception and sounds much better than it used to. You can also hardwire either pair of headphones to your device with the included 2.5-to-3.5mm cables for lossless listening.
Bluetooth 5.1 powers the QuietComfort 45, which is more energy-efficient than the QC 35 II’s Bluetooth 4.2 firmware. Neither headset will support Bluetooth LE Audio when it becomes widely available, but at least both headsets support Bluetooth multipoint for simultaneous connections to two devices.
Does the Bose QuietComfort 35 II have better battery life than the Bose QC 45?
The Bose QuietComfort 45 has a longer battery life than the Bose QC 35 II; the former has an official battery life of 24 hours, while the latter has a battery life of 20 hours. While this difference in playtime is important, some prospective buyers may be more interested in the QC 45’s USB-C charging port, which is more modern than the microUSB input on the QC 35 II.
Learn more: How to make wireless headphones last longer
Charging the QC 45 for 15 minutes yields 180 minutes of playtime, whereas the same 15 minutes of charge time for the QC 35 II provides 150 minutes of playtime. It takes anywhere from two to two and a half hours to charge either headset to capacity.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II vs Bose QuietComfort 45: Which should you get?
For all intents and purposes, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II remains the better headset for most listeners: it sounds better, has very good ANC, and costs less than the QuietComfort 45. Unless you loathe carrying around a microUSB cable and actively enjoy boosted treble, the Bose QC 35 II is a great contender in the wireless headphones space.
There are still plenty of reasons to get the QuietComfort 45, chief among them is the unparalleled passive isolation and active noise cancellation. Anyone who flies a lot or commutes by train and bus will greatly appreciate how well the QC 45 quiets virtually all sounds. No matter where you are, you’ll have the option to enjoy a quiet space with the Bose QC 45. While we don’t want you to bank on the possibility of features coming down the pike, Bose could very well add an in-app EQ to the Bose Music app and other features for the QC 45 with an update.
What should you get instead of the Bose QuietComfort headphones?
If you don’t want either headset, you may want to consider the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which has a custom EQ, very good noise cancelling, and a great sound profile. The Bose NCH 700 does well against the newer QC 45, though its design is less comfortable. You get USB-C charging on the NCH 700 along with an IPX4 rating, making it an option (albeit not a great one) for working out.
Another alternative is the Sony WH-1000XM4, which is absolutely packed with features you can use to customize the sound and streaming quality. It also supports Sony 360 reality audio and auto-pause when you remove the headset. Bass notes sound much louder through Sony’s headset compared to the QC 45 but, again, you have the power to change that. Sony’s headphones do very well compared to the Bose NCH 700 and even the Apple AirPods Max.
Listeners on a budget should investigate the Sennheiser PXC 550-II, which often retails for less than $200 USD and has very good noise cancelling for the price. This pair of headphones makes all music sound good and the microphone is pretty good for phone calls, too. It’s not as comfortable as the QC 45 and QC 35 II, but you can still easily wear it for hours at a time with or without glasses. Like the QC 35 II, the PXC 550-II charges via microUSB, but it’s a small price to pay for such a great pair of headphones.