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Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
September 15, 2022
17.2 x 30.5 x 22.4 mm
Whenever anyone thinks about true wireless earphones, a handful of brands come to mind—and Bose is looking to make a bigger name for itself against the likes of Apple and Sony. Though the company has had mixed success with its workout-friendly options, how does its flagship earphone offering stand up to the rest of the market?
We spent a week with Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and found out everything you need to know.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on March 1, 2023, to add a note on added functionality with February’s firmware update.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is for people who want the bleeding edge in wireless earphones, but have an affinity for Bose. It’s expensive though, so you better have deep pockets.
What’s it like to use Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II represents the company’s latest offering in the true wireless space, replacing the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds in its lineup. Having undergone a complete redesign, very little is familiar with this new iteration. Instead of a built-in concha fin, Bose offers three different sizes of wraparound fins. Additionally, the buds themselves are no longer a bulky mass of plastic, but a more thoughtfully laid-out lollipop-style unit with stems. This way, some of the size issues observed by users in the past are neatly avoided, and nowhere is that more evident than with the case.
No longer a smooth brick-shaped affair, the case of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is much smaller. On the back is a lone pairing/multifunction button, right above the bottom-mounted USB-C port. Opening the case after you’ve paired with a device previously will automatically begin the connecting process. Once the buds are in your ears, the helpful voice prompts will alert you to any status changes, mode toggles, and other alerts you may need to be aware of. However, this is generally limited to battery level and noise cancelling modes.
Wearing the earphones is interesting—few wireless earbuds have stabilizers on the earbud housings to manage fit issues like the QC Earbuds II. Most products are just built hoping the nozzle is enough to stay in your ear canal. This design is a big plus, as it will help ensure your fit remains consistent. There are also additional ear tip sizes included if the nozzle won’t go into your ear far enough to make an ideal seal.
These Bose buds have a few rough edges that are tough to ignore.
Our experience with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is one of frustration. A lot of issues from previous iterations of Bose products persist with these earphones. We often run into a “fun” problem where the concha fins sometimes rotate on the smooth plastic of the earbuds, and then prevent the contacts from meeting the case when closed. Consequently, this means pairing to new devices, getting firmware updates, and recharging can randomly fail to work as expected. If you find yourself having this issue, be sure to rotate the fins until the protrusion is locked into the notch at the back of the earbuds and out of the earbud cavity in the case.
How do you control Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
Like many of the expensive earphones on the market, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II features capacitive touch surfaces on each bud’s back. The controls are mostly similar to other products, but for your convenience, we’ve included the table below:
|INPUT||ACTION (music)||ACTION (phone)|
Play / Pause
Answer call / hold current call and answer new call
End call / Decline incoming call
|ACTION (music)ACTION (phone)|
Volume up / down
|ACTION (music)ACTION (phone)|
Of course, you can also do a little more tweaking if you install the Bose Music App. You can set the level of ANC, create custom profiles for your earphones, and even change the sound.
Should you use the Bose Music App for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
To receive firmware updates, make custom EQ adjustments, and get new features as they drop, you should install the Bose Music App (iOS/Android) for the QuietComfort Earbuds II. You can also create custom ANC settings for different environments through the app by interacting with an ANC intensity slider. Turning the slider all the way down doesn’t actually disable ANC; it just reduces the effect. Like the Bose QuietComfort 45, there is no way to disable ANC mode for a standard, non-ANC and non-Aware sound mode.
If you don’t find yourself using the app often and aren’t a fan of data being collected about you, you can just uninstall it. We still recommend figuring out whether or not there’s a firmware update every month or so, but in general, true wireless earphones don’t last long enough for multiple big updates to change much.
However, the best results for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II come from using the app, as it’s necessary for adjusting the sound and ANC modes of the earphones. For that reason, we suggest giving it a fair shake before making a final decision.
On February 16, 2023, Bose rolled out a new firmware update that enabled the use of a single bud for listening. Instead of the old primary bud/dependent bud schema the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II had before, each bud now connects to phones with compatible hardware. Before this firmware update, phones could only connect to the right bud and use that to connect to the left bud.
You can either use the Bose app to update your earbuds, or use the Bose updater client from the Bose website. Just be sure to be patient with this install, as botched firmware updates are a pain to revert.
How does the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II connect?
Like most true wireless earphones, these noise cancelling buds connect to your source device via Bluetooth. Sporting the latest Bluetooth 5.3 version, they should be able to make the most of new phones as they come out. However, you’ll see no high-bitrate options here: the only codecs available are SBC and AAC. That’s really fine, though, as both have made great strides over the years. If this is a problem for you, we suggest looking elsewhere.
- Enable Bluetooth on your source device.
- Open the charging case of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and hold the pairing button.
- Find the “Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II” entry in the list, and tap to pair.
Currently, the app takes a second to apply changes you make with custom profiles, but this really isn’t something you’ll do often. Instead, you’ll likely set up your earphones once or twice and roll with those settings for the rest of your time with them. Additionally, the earphones may or may not need a firmware update on first listen; if your firmware version isn’t the most recent one listed on the site, make sure to see if there’s an update available in the app.
Just be aware that Bose products can sometimes fail to update their firmware, but still report the new version in the app. If this happens to you, we had to run some troubleshooting with our loan unit, and have confirmed the below process works to remedy the issue:
Bose is famous for firmware updates failing, which can cause issues when trying to use the product. However, it’s a problem easily fixed.
- Put the buds in the charging case.
- With a computer, navigate to the Bose Updater page online. You may have to install an updater program.
- With the included USB-A to USB-C cable, connect the case to your computer.
- Follow the update instructions and allow the site to update the firmware of your charging case.
Historically, botched firmware updates with a smartphone have accounted for poor ANC, weird sound, and broken features. If you find yourself wondering if this has happened to you, a reinstall of the firmware takes about 3 minutes.
How long does the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II battery last?
In our testing of constant real music playback peaking at 75dB(SPL), the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II lasted 7 hours and 15 minutes on a single charge (at a reasonable listening level)—better than Bose’s claimed 6 hours. For wireless earbuds, this is a solidly respectable result, but if you need more you’ll probably going to want to upgrade to a set of over-ears instead. Truth be told there’s only so much you can do to design around the space requirements for batteries in earphones, so don’t expect to be able to use your earphones for a full workday or anything. Additionally, true wireless earphones also will not last long due to the tradeoffs inherent in small battery cells.
Yes, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II supports a quick charge feature. According to Bose.com, placing the earphones in the charging case for 20 minutes will grant you roughly 2 hours of playback time.
How well does the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II cancel noise?
Just like the previous iteration of QuietComfort Earbuds, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II offer excellent ANC performance—some of the best you can buy. Though the earphones themselves don’t really offer a ton of passive isolation (perhaps owing to their shape), the ANC feature makes low-end noise half to one-eighth as loud as it would be without the product in your ears.
Of course, this is very fit-dependent, and the better fit you can get, the more noise you can prevent from reaching your ears. Still, among true wireless earphones the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are matched only by their predecessors, the Google Pixel Buds Pro, and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in the noise attenuation department.
How does Aware mode with ActiveSense work?
When you want to hear your surroundings, enable Aware Mode; this is Bose’s name for what other companies dub “transparency mode.” With Aware Mode on, the earbuds will pass background noise through the headset to keep you aware. ActiveSense uses ANC to reduce the loudness of certain unpredictable sounds as they happen. This way, when you walk past a construction zone with Aware Mode enabled, you won’t be deafened by the sound of workers’ tools.
How does the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II sound?
One of the coolest things about the latest generation of audio products is the ability to tailor the performance to their wearer. While we often hit this point in our other reviews, a target curve is not a “one size fits all” thing, but a general guideline. Many people have different anatomies and preferences, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear it may take some adjustment to get your earphones to sound how you want. To this end, Bose adopted a concept to automatically adjust its performance to your ear canal (a bit like the AirPods Pro series).
The earphones will “chirp” your ear canals with a short test signal, and then use the returning signal to calculate how to adjust the sound for your ears. At least, what it thinks fits your ears anyway. Once you remove the earphones, they’ll clear the calibration and do the whole process over again the next time they’re used, which is a good thing. Ensuring an identical fit every time with in-ears is difficult, and even slight changes can make the sound noticeably different.
Once this process is done, and you’ve linked your earphones to the Bose Music app, you have a number of EQ modes to select from. Interestingly enough, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II sounds very different from its predecessor, as well as the company’s other current products. Specifically, it has much stronger bass than any previous Bose headset.
It seems Bose has noted consumer preferences in sound, but it’s a little too far off our target, especially with the “Bass boost” preset. The response shape means you’ll probably notice vocals and guitars come in quite a bit softer than you’re used to hearing, and attack sounds like guitar picks hitting the strings and snare drum strikes will have more prominence in your music.
The other EQ options have somewhat similar sounds, differentiated mainly by just how much they overemphasize bass and treble at the expense of the mids. We recommend toning this down if you elect to make your own custom profile. If you like this kind of sound, then don’t worry about it.
Can you use the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II for phone calls?
Any Bluetooth audio product meant for daily mobile use will have microphones in them, and not just for ANC. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II has a microphone array that enables phone calls, voice memos, and the use of voice assistants. In our use, we found the microphone quality pretty standard—it isn’t amazing, but the earphones at least do a decent job rejecting faraway noise. Unfortunately, it’s not so great at handling wind noise. If you’d like to hear for yourself, please listen to the clips we captured in the lab below.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Office conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Street conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
Recommendations on high-profile earphones are always risky, given that the companies that stand behind them often update their features and firmware to improve as time goes on. Still, I personally would not recommend paying $300 USD for wireless earphones unless you have a fair bit of cash to burn. No matter how you slice it, this is a lot of money to stake on an audio product, and true wireless earbuds just don’t have the staying power that over-ears do. Those who prefer earphones and have the coin to sling around will undoubtedly find the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II an excellent companion—maybe just not the best value.
It’s very clear these earphones are intended to counterbalance the release of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation). However, it looks like Bose is still finding its footing after an ambitious redesign, and you definitely need to do some futzing with the app to get this product to sound the way you want—otherwise, I hope you like emphasized bass and treble!
We can see this product being good for gym-goers, commuters, and office workers, as the features fit those settings quite well. This is the “halo” set of earbuds in Bose’s lineup, so it attempts to do a lot and do it well.
How does Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II compare to Bose QuietComfort Earbuds?
Though the old axiom “newer is always better” doesn’t hold up to any sort of scrutiny, in this case it could. Price aside, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is quite different from its predecessor in just about every way, save for the brand name and ANC performance. Of course, price is a rather huge factor for most—so please don’t stretch your budget too thin when making a decision here. The newer earphones offer automatic equalization, less-mobile concha fins, and a bassier sound where the original does not. If any of those features are a must-have for you, then your decision is easy.
If you don’t have any strong feelings about those features, you may want to save some money by picking up the older model. While it definitely isn’t as future-proof as the newer one, saving a few bucks at the checkout counter is an easy win if you don’t need a skull-rattling bass response. That said, you may find that the relatively smaller buds of the newer model are more comfortable, owing to their lower mass (6.24 grams vs. 8.5 grams each). That’s really the main advantage offered by the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, and while that seems minor, it isn’t. Fit is everything with in-ears, and even slight discomfort can magnify over time to make for a truly miserable experience.
While the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II gets a lot of things right—features, bud design, and ambition come to mind—it will also set you back a lot of money for a product type that isn’t exactly known for long-term durability. If you’re thinking about investing in your audio products, you may want to look for something with a bit more staying power.
What should you get instead of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
Anyone looking at the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II should also have the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro on their radar. While the Samsung offering definitely isn’t the same kind of form factor, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro offers a number of differences that may appeal to you—or at the very least your wallet. Coming in at a full $80 USD less, the Buds 2 Pro offers comparable ANC, better sound, and IPX7 water resistance (buds only). You can get the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro for $189.99 at Amazon. If you’d like to save even more money, Samsung also offers a credible competitor in the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. These are also a step up in the audio quality department and offer comparable features, at the cost of advanced ear calculation. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is available for $99.99 at Amazon.
Users with iPhones will almost assuredly be better off using the latest Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), as those come with fewer headaches, similar features, and also come it at $50 USD less than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. While there aren’t many options for adjusting your sound with the AirPods Pro, they sound much better out of the box, and beg for little futzing to begin with. For a side by side between the two, check out our comparison article on it. You can pick up the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) for $229 at Amazon.
Frequently asked questions
No, it does not.
No, the QuietComfort Earbuds II does not support wireless charging.