Final month, Bose introduced a complete revamp of its headphone and earbud lineup and launched three new merchandise on the similar time. I’ve already reviewed the QuietComfort Extremely Earbuds, which look (and sound) remarkably near their predecessors. However the QuietComfort Extremely Headphones are genuinely contemporary and never some low-effort rehash of an present mannequin. Priced at $429, these are changing Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which strayed from the corporate’s typical system after they had been launched in 2019 — and never at all times for the higher.
With its newest flagship headphones, Bose is strolling the design again to one thing extra travel-friendly whereas including a brand new spatial audio listening mode, enhancements to name high quality, and different enhancements. The corporate remains to be contending with fierce competitors from Sony, Apple, Sennheiser, and plenty of different manufacturers. However the QuietComfort Extremely Headphones are an instance of Bose at its greatest: they ship highly effective energetic noise cancellation and are splendidly snug to put on for lengthy stretches of time.
The QuietComfort Extremely Headphones deliver collectively components of the prior Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 with the DNA of Bose’s vastly profitable QuietComfort collection. The corporate did a pleasant job compiling the most effective attributes from every. These as soon as once more fold down for straightforward storage (one thing the NCH700 lacked) whereas wanting much more premium and trendy than the QuietComfort 45. I’ve one nitpick concerning the case, nevertheless: it has indentations for the place the ear cups sit, however this implies you possibly can solely fold the headphones one specific approach or they received’t match proper, which has already irritated me on a number of events. There’s loads of plastic concerned within the make-up of those headphones — that’s obligatory for the all-day consolation that Bose prioritizes — however the steel arms are cool to the contact and lend some reassuring sturdiness to the headphones.
The broader headband didn’t trigger any discomfort throughout prolonged listening classes, and the clamping drive is noticeably lighter than the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which might get fatiguing after an hour or so, in my expertise. My evaluate pattern hasn’t produced any noticeable creaking when dealing with the headphones, however this appears to fluctuate between items, and I’d be irritated if I bought saddled with a loud pair after spending $429 on them. I wouldn’t say the craftsmanship of the QuietComfort Extremely Headphones rises to the extent of one thing just like the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 or PX8, however Bose’s headphones are merely extra snug to put on.
The controls are additionally extra foolproof. The ear cup faucet gestures from the NCH700 have been changed with Bose’s standard multifunction button, an influence / Bluetooth button, and a capacitive strip you could slide a finger throughout to regulate quantity. The QC Extremely Headphones also can detect if you’ve eliminated them out of your ears and can routinely pause music accordingly. There’s nonetheless no help for USB-C audio, sadly, so the two.5-millimeter headphone jack is your solely possibility for wi-fi listening. (The usual 2.5mm-to-3.5mm cable is included within the case.) However Bose has stepped up its Bluetooth audio chops by embracing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound platform (and accompanying AptX Adaptive codec) for higher-bitrate playback — even when the tip consequence isn’t game-changing.
Contained in the QuietComfort Extremely Headphones are the exact same drivers that Bose used within the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 4 years in the past. So if you happen to had been hoping for substantial adjustments to sound high quality or some new audiophile tier of Bose headphones, that’s not what you’ll discover right here. Some folks may be let down that Bose selected to recycle the identical drivers: at this value, different headphone makers not often sit so nonetheless in the case of elements from one mannequin to the following. However there’s extra to the best way headphones sound than drivers alone, and Bose has by no means portrayed itself as a “hi-fi” model. Ultimately, we’re left with a pair of headphones that reproduce the corporate’s pleasing, clear signature sound whereas preserving lows and highs even when the amount is dialed down.
The core audio profile is in the identical ballpark because the NCH700, however in my listening to date, the newer headphones put barely extra emphasis on bass whereas sounding extra detailed and heat on the entire. These enhancements are refined, so Bose is making an attempt to distinguish the Extremely Headphones with at the least one new standout function: just like the QuietComfort Extremely Earbuds, they embody a brand new Immersive Audio mode, which is the corporate’s personal tackle spatial audio.
Right here’s what I wrote about Immersive Audio on the Extremely earbuds lower than a month in the past:
Inside immersive audio are two subsettings: you possibly can select nonetheless, which permits for side-to-side head monitoring whereas the music stays at a hard and fast place in entrance of you, or movement, which reduces head monitoring and retains the audio candy spot the place it ought to be regardless of which course you flip. Bose says it has developed new digital sign processing (DSP) software program that makes your music sound extra multidimensional and layered “whatever the audio platform or system.”
It makes no distinction if you happen to’re listening to stereo content material or an precise Atmos tune from Apple Music or Amazon Music: Bose’s processing treats them the identical approach. As ever, there are examples the place immersive audio works splendidly — like on The Nationwide’s new tune “Smoke Detector” — and others the place the vocals can sound a bit distant and the music has this fake stay efficiency really feel to it.
The story stays the identical with the QC Extremely Headphones. Immersive Audio can generally give sure tracks noticeable depth and a much bigger, extra immersive presentation — particularly for you classical followers on the market — however the outcomes are sometimes inconsistent from one tune to the following. When it’s good, it may deliver out every layer of vocal concord. However within the worst instances, it may make instrumentation and vocals really feel squished into the middle of your head as an alternative of giving all the pieces extra room to breathe. The top monitoring side comes throughout as gimmicky, because it does with different headphones which have comparable options. Exterior of all this, I’m confused as to why Bose is totally disregarding Dolby Atmos music and happening its personal path with proprietary processing to realize spatial audio. (Apple is responsible of the identical with its choice to “spatialize” stereo content material, and I want everybody would solely keep on with Atmos mixes for these items as an alternative of faking it.)
To this point, my feeling on Immersive Audio is that it’s high quality however removed from some killer function that may promote anybody on Bose’s top-tier headphones. Folks will purchase the QC Extremely for his or her chic consolation and top-notch ANC. Similar to AirPods, they’re better than the sum of their components. Noise cancellation is up there with the easiest. If there have been any beneficial properties over the NCH700, they’re marginal, however you’ll undoubtedly have the ability to discover peace and quiet on a flight, crowded prepare, or in a loud espresso store if you’re making an attempt to focus. A brand new wind block setting prevents any disagreeable mic distortion from reaching your ears if you happen to’re strolling round on a blustery day. Bose’s transparency mode (which the corporate calls “Conscious”) continues to get extra natural-sounding and is inside a stone’s throw of the AirPods Max however not fairly on the identical degree but.
I’m not somebody who has prolonged voice calls whereas sporting headphones; if I’m on a Groups assembly or one thing else essential, I’d take a wired set of USB-C earbuds any day over Bluetooth. However Bose’s claims of improved name high quality do appear to bear out, with the QC Extremely Headphones doing a greater job than the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 at isolating my voice, in line with folks I spoke with.
Battery life is rated at as much as 24 hours of steady listening, though that drops to 18 hours if you happen to’re utilizing Immersive Audio with any regularity. Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 headphones are nonetheless on the high of the mountain on this division with a hard-to-fathom 60-hour runtime, however as long as your headphones will final by means of an prolonged flight, that’s actually all that issues. The Extremely Headphones supply multipoint Bluetooth connectivity for pairing with two gadgets on the similar time, and so they’ve been up to date to Bluetooth 5.3, with Bose promising LE Audio help down the road.
By almost any standards that matter to the corporate’s longtime prospects, the QuietComfort Extremely Headphones are an unlimited enchancment over the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. They’re exceedingly snug — extra so than alternate options from Sony, Apple, and different rivals — and proceed to offer highly effective noise cancellation. Sound high quality is establishment and what I’ve come to anticipate from Bose headphones, and Immersive Audio might be very hit and miss. But when you will get over their increased value, the QuietComfort Extremely Headphones really feel like a a lot better match on the high of Bose’s lineup than their predecessors.
Pictures by Chris Welch / The Verge
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