Few things are more rewarding than a high-value buy, and few things are offer more value than yesteryear’s flagship. This applies to all corners of technology, and today we’re looking specifically at noise cancelling headphones. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II may appear outdated next to the Shure AONIC 50, but this old dog knows some modern tricks. Time to do some digging and see which headset offers the better value.

Editor’s note: this Shure AONIC 50 vs Bose QuietComfort 35 II article was updated on October 13, 2020, to include a microphone quality poll, and address an FAQ about Prime Day pricing.

Shure AONIC 50 vs Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Design differences, similarities

A picture of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II lying on an open book.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II remain competitive, thanks to software updates through the proprietary app.

Both the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Shure AONIC 50 rely heavily on plastic for their construction. Shure’s is sturdier as it uses metal for its headband and hinge-reinforcements, while Bose’s ear cups use plastic pivot points. However, the QC 35 II is nearly 100 grams lighter than the AONIC 50, which is important when every gram counts for your carry-on bag. Bose’s headphones are more versatile, too, because they fold flat and collapse into themselves, while the AONIC 50 can only lie flat.

Don’t miss: Ultimate guide to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Shure’s plastic resin ear cup housings look and feel much nicer than Bose’s, but both seem durable. The AONIC 50 uses a circular ear cup design and very thick earpads; this contrasts with the Bose QC 35 II’s oval-shaped ear cups and thinner, softer earpads. Both headsets are comfortable with glasses, but you’ll be able to wear the QuietComfort 35 II for longer. Neither set of earpads are breathable, per say, but the QC 35 II allow for more airflow than the AONIC 50. This optimizes comfort, but also reduces isolation performance.

A woman wearing the Shure AONIC 50 noise cancelling headphones and using the Shure PlayPlus headphone app.

In order to adjust noise cancelling and ambient mode intensity, a user must download the ShurePLUS Play app.

Thankfully, both Bose and Shure’s teams decided to retain the headphone jack, so high-resolution audio will be at your disposal either way. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II have received big software updates to keep pace with modern headphones, but the micro USB charging input reveals its age. The Shure AONIC 50, on the other hand, uses the standard USB-C input for charging which doubles as a USB-C passthrough for audio.

Onboard controls

Bose and Shure both make their respective noise cancelling headphones easy to operate and stick to tactile controls only. Listeners who want to remain on the bleeding edge of tech and use touch controls will have to look at either the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 or Sony WH-1000XM3.

A picture of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and the Google Assistant button is located on the ear cup.

Both Shure and Bose use tactile controls for playback, volume, and ANC adjustments. Only Bose’s headphones support hands-free access to virtual assistants.

Bose took a stepped approach to its controls: the multifunction button is set beneath the flanking volume buttons. This makes it easy to differentiate between controls even with gloves on, something I loved about the Bose SoundLink On-Ear headphones. Bose is also great about updating its firmware—the 2017 QuietComfort 35 II support modern features like hands-free access to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, along with Bose AR compatibility. While you can still use your virtual assistant of choice with the AONIC 50, direct voice access isn’t yet available.

The Shure AONIC 50 noise cancelling headphones surrounded by film cameras in a green and brown cabinet.

The ear cups don’t rotate up towards the headband.

Shure’s headset has a toggle that allows users to cycle through listening modes: noise cancelling, ambient listening, and off. It’s easy to find and use compared to the Bose QC 35 II, which requires listeners to download the Bose app and remap the Action Button for onboard active noise cancelling control.

Winner: Shure AONIC 50

Shure AONIC 50 vs Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Microphone quality

You can use either headset’s microphone system and get very good results, but neither headset will sound as good as something with an external boom mic.

Although this is a smart design, some systems take it to far and can make low voices, males in particular, sound “distant” or “unnatural.” With the Shure AONIC 50’s firmware version 0.4.9, the company decreased the dramatic high-pass filter, and the mic now has a more accurate frequency response. Both  microphone arrays effectively reduce background noise, which is a must-have when it comes to regular hands-free calls.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II microphone demo:

Shure AONIC 50 microphone demo (firmware 0.4.9):

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Winner: TBD

The Shure AONIC 5o has better Bluetooth codec support

A picture of the Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling headphones headband adjustment mechanism.

The earcups rotate flat to more easily stow the headphones in a backpack.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II uses outdated Bluetooth 4.1 firmware, while the Shure AONIC 50 uses Bluetooth 5.0. Don’t let that fool you, both headsets boast reliable connection quality regardless. However, the Shure headphones support every major Bluetooth codec (aptX Low Latency, aptX HD, LDAC, aptX, AAC, and SBC), while Bose’s headphones are limited to AAC and SBC. iPhone users will benefit the most from Bose’s wireless streaming because AAC is stable on iOS, but it struggles to remain consistent on Android. Anyone who streams a lot of video to their Android device should get the Shure AONIC 50 for lag-free videos.

 Shure Aonic 50Sony WH-1000XM3Bose Headphones 700Bose QC 35 II
aptX HD
aptX LL

Both headsets support multipoint connectivity, which is when one headset is connected to two or more devices at a time. This functionality is considered a premium feature, and lets listeners engage in desktop video chats while simultaneously keeping an ear on incoming mobile notifications.

Winner: Shure AONIC 50

Battery life is almost identical between the headsets

An aerial picture of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II on a gridded surface next to two smartphones.

iPhone users will experience better, more consistent high-quality audio via Bose’s headset than Android users.

We subject every audio product to a constant 75dB(SPL) output until the batteries were drained. Anytime we test ANC headphones, we make sure to max out noise cancelling during testing. The Shure AONIC 50 affords 19 hours, 46 minutes of constant playback, while the Bose QuietComfort 35 II last 15 hours, 46 minutes on a single charge. Both support fast charging, and Bose’s technology is slightly more efficient than Shure’s.

Winner: Shure AONIC 50

Shure AONIC 50 vs Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Noise cancelling performance

A chart showing the active noise canceling performance of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II with low frequencies slightly reduced and mids/treble notes moderately reduced..

It may not block out a lot of noise, but the Bose QC35 II does a good job in the low end—the most important frequencies.

If you’re in search of the absolute best noise cancelling headphones, go for the Shure AONIC 50. Low-frequency sounds like train rumbles and airplane engines are more effectively filtered out than with the Bose QC 35 II. Upper-bass frequencies are rendered quieter with Shure’s technology than Bose’s. Midrange and treble frequencies, which cover the sound of human voices and ambient noises, are also more effectively filtered out by the AONIC 50 than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and it’s done so with greater consistency.

A chart depicting the Shure AONIC 50 noise cancelling performance (firmware 0.4.9), and low frequencies are heavily attenuated making them four times quieter with ANC enabled than when it's disabled.

The Shure AONIC 50 noise cancelling performance is stellar, particularly when it comes to combating low-frequency sounds. This was measured with firmware 0.4.9.

Although noise cancelling performance varies greatly between the two headsets, you’re investing in your auditory health regardless. When our environment is loud enough to make hearing music harder—a phenomenon called auditory masking—many decide to increase the volume to drown out the noise. Over time, repeating this behavior can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Active noise cancelling technology reduces that risk by reducing outside noise.

Winner: Shure AONIC 50

Related: Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Do the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Shure AONIC 50 sound better?

The Shure AONIC 50 noise cancelling headphones' onboard controls used by a woman wearing the headset.

Shure placed all of the controls on the right ear cup.

Both companies offer stellar budget and premium audio products, but sound quality preferences are subjective. Just as with the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Bose QC 35 II comparison, this comes down to a matter of personal preference.

Right from the jump, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II sound wonderful: they accurately reproduce notes across the entire audible spectrum. The sub-bass emphasis adds a bit of oomph to your music, which most consumers enjoy, without making it hard to hear vocals and accompanying instruments. Despite the stellar response, the headset only supports SBC and AAC. This means high-bitrate playback isn’t possible, and you may notice signs of compression during loud music.

With the firmware version 0.4.9, the Shure AONIC 50 no longer de-emphasize sub-bass notes. Shure’s headphones also emphasize upper-bass notes. This add presence to more important musical tones such as vocals and fundamental notes of popular instruments (like guitars and drums). Midrange notes are also reproduced accurately, and the lightly emphasized treble allows for greater perceived clarity.

The bass bump makes the AONIC 50 more consumer-friendly than the Bose QC 35 II without going overboard. What’s more, the wide Bluetooth codec support means listeners can enjoy higher-quality audio across platforms—a huge advantage over the QC 35 II.

Bose only supports one high-quality codec, so Android listeners are likely to notice compression artifacts at high volumes.

Again, what an individual enjoys is highly subjective. Some listeners look for extreme accuracy, while others deem that “boring”—all that matters is that the headset sounds good to you. This section is difficult to call, but we’re giving it to Shure. The strategic amplification of bass and treble frequencies is immediately pleasing.

Winner: Shure AONIC 50

Shure AONIC 50 vs Bose QuietComfort 35 II: What’s the best?

An picture of the Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling headphones in brown leaning against a coffee carafe.

The Shure AONIC 50 is available in black and brown, while the Bose QC 35 II is available in black, silver, and rose gold.

As you can see, the Shure AONIC 50 handily won this versus. That doesn’t preclude the Bose QuietComfort 35 II from being a top-notch headset, though.

Bose has done a commendable job keeping its former flagship updated. Plus, there’s value to consider: the Bose QuietComfort 35 II cost $300 now, a whole $100 less than the Shure AONIC 50. While Shure’s noise cancelling makes a huge difference compared to the QC 35 II, both are great headphones. Listeners who don’t care for extreme ANC performance should get the QuietComfort 35 II and enjoy the $100 saved on something else. Alternatively, if you want a nice middleground pair of ANC headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are fantastic.

Next: Best headphones for commuting

Frequently Asked Questions

Will there be a comparison between the AONIC 50 Vs the Sony WH-1000XM4?

There already is! You can find our Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. Shure AONIC 50 comparison here.

The Shure and Bose headphones are Prime Day deals, which is the better bargain?

Shure's audio products very rarely go on sale, and the 25% Prime Day price reduction is significant. If you need premium features like USB-C charging, USB-C passthrough audio, a slew of high-quality Bluetooth codec support, and a comfortable fit, splurge on the Shure AONIC 50. If, however, you're okay settling for older technology at a significantly reduced price, you'll be extremely happy with the Bose QC 35 II, which remain some of the most comfortable headphones around.

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Shure AONIC 50