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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
In late 2023, Bose surprised the headphone community by refreshing its entire line of active noise canceling (ANC) products rather abruptly. While there were some new products, others, like the Bose QuietComfort Headphones seemed to simply recycle old stock and call it new. But is that the case for the new Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds? Let’s find out.
Editor’s note: this article was published on October 31, 2023, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
What’s it like to use the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds compared to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
Given that the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds took a lot of its design from the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, you could be forgiven for mistaking one for the other. Really, the biggest outward sign that you’re grabbing the newer earbuds is the metallic plastic backing that they have. That’s about it.
Despite the similarities in outward appearances, there are a couple of new features in the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds to talk about here — mainly the addition of Snapdragon Sound compatibility and a little nub to hold the ear fin in place. You might scoff at that last feature, but we had one heck of a time with the concha fin rotating in the charging case when we reviewed the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. This led to annoying things like the earbuds not fitting when we wanted to use them, and the earbuds not charging when we replaced them in the charging case because the fin material would bunch up and push the earbuds away from the contacts. That’s not something that should ever happen with wireless earbuds, and any redesign that keeps these out of the landfill is okay in our book.
Both sets of earbuds have an ovoid nozzle that fits a wide range of ears extremely well, which assists in remarkably good consistency with ANC and how they sound — but we’ll get to that a bit later. Even without listening to the earbuds, this kind of shape will help you worry less about the earphones falling out, and they should be a fair bit more comfortable assuming you have the correctly sized ear tip.
Additionally, both sets of earbuds have an ingress protection rating of IPX4: not enough to take a shower with them every day, but enough to withstand a rainy city or sweat. You could work out with either set of earbuds if you wanted to, but a large gym is probably not the place to bring easily lost, $300 earbuds on the reg.
How do you control the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
As the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds is a direct successor to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, it should not surprise anyone that the controls are virtually the same, customized by the exact same app. Touch controls are a favorite around here because they don’t require you to apply too much force to the earbud — an act that can damage fit and therefore, performance.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds controls:
|Gesture||Playback function||Call function|
Play / Pause
Answer call / Answer second call
End / Reject call
Mobile device control / User control preset
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II controls:
|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)|
Should you use the apps of either Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
For both the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, you’ll need to use the Bose Music app for controls like sound customization, immersive audio, firmware updates, and control customization. Though you can use the Bose Updater tool for firmware updates on the company’s website, that alone isn’t sufficient for any advanced features.
If you’re more privacy-minded than most, the app might give you some pause — especially since Bose does ask for a fair bit of permissions. If you’d rather not share anything with a third party for advanced features, earphones that require app help may not be for you.
How do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II connect?
Though the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II can connect to your source devices over Bluetooth via AAC and SBC, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds can also do so — but with the addition of aptX Adaptive (and supporting aptX Lossless with Snapdragon Sound). Though it may seem like a jumble of letters, this added capability allows the earbuds to make use of a much higher bitrate than the previous version can, meaning less compression in your music. Compression has gotten quite good in recent years, but there will always be purists chasing better. The improved connection capabilities of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds bring its users closer to that. However, iPhone users will be limited to SBC and AAC just like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. The advanced codecs and performance are only available on Android phones with the correct Qualcomm chipsets.
If you do have an Android device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 or newer, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds will enjoy the lower latency, higher bitrate, and more codec options afforded by the platform. While it’s incompatible with the future XPAN update, this level of higher-bitrate support should be a big step up over the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.
Is battery life better on the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
Under the same conditions, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds lasted 6 hours and 11 minutes, while the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II was able to play back music for 7 hours and 15 minutes. Though that extra hour may seem like a lot, it’s really only going to be a big issue on super-long flights or travels, as most people simply place the earbuds in the charging case when they’re not using them. Should you take any breaks from listening, you won’t have any issues with a charge unless you exhaust the battery in the case. Neither the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds nor Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have less than 24 hours of recharge capacity in the case, so this point is effectively moot.
Do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II block noise better?
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The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are slightly better at canceling noise than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, but they’re both pretty great at this task. Both have great ANC, and both isolate you from the outside world really well.
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There is a weird sort of dip in the ANC effectiveness above 500Hz for both earphones, but that’s one of those things that merely looks bad on a chart and not something that translates poorly to real life. As both earphones still reduce outside noise by over 50% in those ranges, it’s really not something you need to worry too much about.
Do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds sound better than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
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But because the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds support better codecs, you’re far less likely to suffer any ill effects, or (if compared to SBC) latency on Android. It’s not lossless listening, but the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds is as close as you get with wireless earbuds as of 2023. The EQ presets… aren’t an improvement. Though you can theoretically make adjustments in the Bose Music app, the three-band equalizer just isn’t granular enough to address the shortcomings of the earbuds directly.
If you’d like to check out the equalizer presets, we have a more comprehensive breakdown in each dedicated review. However, we don’t imagine you’ll find them useful. You may want to use a third-party EQ app if you don’t particularly like the extreme bass and/or treble.
Do the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have a better microphone?
When it comes to microphone performance, we prefer to let you hear for yourself before deciding which product to buy. However, because each of these products are virtually identical in many ways, it’s no surprise here that the differences aren’t all that great.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds microphone demo (Windy conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Windy conditions):
Which microphone sounds best to you?
Remember that the results above are recordings played under test conditions, and your results over chat clients and telephone networks will affect the sound. What your conversation mates hear will likely differ slightly from the above due to factors outside the earbuds’ control.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: Price and availability
Because the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds has superseded the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, you can probably find the older earbuds on sale or on clearout at your local electronics vendor, or online. At the time of publication, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is a full 20 dollars cheaper on Amazon — which seems a bit light when you consider the fact that those earbuds are now two years old, and lack some fairly important features for the long haul.
Given that the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are going to be available just about everywhere that sells Bose headphones, and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II will start to become more and more rare. After a couple of years, they’ll be all but gone.
Should you get the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
Considering the price hasn’t fallen enough for us to recommend the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II over the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, we have no issue recommending the newer earbuds. If you’re not saving a bunch of money, then what’s the point of buying something outdated? There isn’t one.
Of course, the calculus changes if the price of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II ever decreases even more. You might have some luck with holiday sales this year or next, but keep in mind that the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds may also see a discount as well. Unless you can save yourself a lot of money with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, we will almost always recommend the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.
Frequently asked questions
No, products with the IPX4 rating are only able to withstand indirect moisture.
Yes. See the article for comparison samples.
Yes, but you will be unable to make use of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon sound, necessary for use with aptX Adaptive.