Bose’s authentic true wi-fi earbuds, the SoundSport Free, sounded unbelievable however had been foiled by connectivity issues and audio / video sync points that the corporate by no means absolutely resolved. They additionally lacked lively noise cancellation, which is the characteristic that Bose constructed its total model round. This allowed Apple, Sony, and others to grab the market with merchandise just like the AirPods Pro and WF-1000XM3 earbuds.
But Bose is uninterested in ceding floor to its rivals, and it’s returned with the QuietComfort Earbuds. Thanks to their fully redone design, the QuietComfort Earbuds are free from the frustrations that got here with the SoundSport Free buds. They nonetheless sound terrific — and now, they’ve acquired ANC. It took Bose some time to get right here, however the QuietComfort Earbuds ship the most effective noise cancellation you will get in true wi-fi earbuds proper now.
The huge query is how a lot that’s value to you. At $279, the QuietComfort Earbuds are a $30 improve over the AirPods Pro and in placing distance of Sennheiser’s $300 Momentum True Wireless 2. And whereas Bose has averted any inherent flaws with the earbuds themselves, there are nonetheless minor annoyances like an awkwardly massive carrying case and restricted onboard controls that lack a lot customization.
At 0.3 ounces (8.5 grams) every, the QuietComfort Earbuds weigh about the identical as Sony’s 1000XM3 buds within the ear, however the AirPods Pro (0.19 ounces, 5.4 grams) have them beat for all-day consolation. Bose’s earbuds are additionally bigger than the AirPods Pro in each dimension and stick out farther from the ear — although to not the identical foolish diploma because the SoundSport Free.
But even when they’re not probably the most discreet or svelte, the QuietComfort Earbuds nonetheless really feel excellent in my ears, due to Bose’s StayHear Max ear suggestions, which have an built-in, versatile silicone wing that tucks into the ridge of the ear for added stability. Both the medium and large-sized ear suggestions labored for me and created a decent seal, however I in the end discovered that mixing the 2 led to the most effective prolonged consolation. (There’s a purpose producers recommend making an attempt that!)
Once they’re in place, the QuietComfort Earbuds aren’t going wherever, and I’d be assured taking them for a run or by an intense fitness center routine. They’re rated IPX4 for water and sweat resistance, so sweat and the occasional splash of water must be effective, however keep away from rainstorms. One factor value mentioning is the occlusion impact; since Bose didn’t go for a vented design just like the AirPods Pro or Pixel Buds with pure airflow, when you’ve got a very tight seal with the QuietComfort Earbuds in, your inside voice would possibly sound louder than regular, and in silent environments, you possibly can hear your self respiratory. I observed this after I first began utilizing them, however it’s since gone away — both as a result of the match modified barely or I’ve gotten used to it. Some individuals are extra delicate to these things than others.
The charging case for the QuietComfort Earbuds is… quite a bit. It’s nowhere close to as compact because the AirPods Pro case or the circumstances for Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus or Google’s Pixel Buds. (The aforementioned Sennheisers additionally win out right here.) I notice that is largely because of the Bose earbuds’ bigger measurement, however it nonetheless makes for an ungainly bulge in no matter pants pocket you set them in. The case’s chonk issue isn’t a deal-breaker for me, as I all the time have a backpack with me for stowing it in. But at twice the thickness of an AirPods case, it could possibly be for some.
Opening the case is extra of a course of than normal since Bose put in a latch that you just’ve acquired to launch by urgent the button on entrance. This takes firmer strain than anticipated and may get annoying at occasions. On the plus facet, you gained’t have to fret about your expensive earbuds skittering throughout the ground if you happen to drop the case. The entrance of the case has 5 LEDs to point battery cost degree; Bose estimates as much as six hours of steady listening time for the earbuds themselves, plus two extra prices from the case. Those numbers are all very par for the course. The case helps wi-fi charging and has a USB-C port if you happen to favor to plug in for quicker top-offs. (Fifteen minutes of charging can provide you two hours of playback time.)
Bose retakes the noise cancellation crown
The audio high quality and noise cancellation of the QuietComfort Earbuds simply outweigh the complications from coping with their awkward case. Bose has taken a noticeable lead over rivals and is nearing the noise cancellation effectiveness of full-size headphones. Instead of a easy on / off toggle just like the AirPods Pro, Bose enables you to select between 10 ranges of noise canceling. At 10, these earbuds do an astonishing job of hushing the world round you — higher than Apple, Sony, and different rivals. Street noise simply fades away; the fixed hum of an air conditioner or the whir of a fan all however disappears. I’m not touring a lot by airplane in the mean time, however I’m sure these would do a greater job at muting cabin noise than different earbuds. You may even use the QuietComfort Earbuds in noise-canceling mode even when there’s no audio enjoying if you happen to’re simply in search of some peace and quiet.
On the other finish, dropping all the way down to zero places the earbuds into full transparency / ambient mode. Bose has managed to tie Apple at making it virtually really feel such as you’re not sporting earbuds in any respect. The transparency mode on the QuietComfort Earbuds sounds extremely pure and can attraction to individuals who need a greater sense of their environment when outdoors. When you’re taking out both earbud, the one in your different ear mechanically goes into full transparency — since Bose figures you’re in all probability making an attempt to listen to one thing. (Music additionally mechanically pauses when an earbud is eliminated.)
You can double faucet on the left earbud to modify between three “favorite” ranges of noise cancellation. The defaults are 10, 5, and 0. I didn’t see any want to modify these up, however you possibly can set them to no matter you need within the Bose Music app. Bose additionally enables you to select your most well-liked motion for a long-press of the left bud: it could both announce battery standing or skip to the following music. Unfortunately, that’s the place customization of the controls finish. These are the controls you’re left with:
- Double faucet on the precise earbud to play or pause audio / reply a telephone name
- Touch and maintain the precise earbud to activate Siri or Google Assistant / decline a telephone name
- Double faucet on the left earbud to modify between noise cancellation presets
- Long press on the left earbud to test battery degree or skip to the following music
And that’s it. There’s no approach of going again to the final music with the onboard controls, and extra irritating is an entire lack of quantity adjustment. Eagle-eyed Redditors noticed swipe-based quantity controls in an early model of the QuietComfort Earbuds’ consumer handbook, however Bose pulled it from the transport product. The firm tells me it’s nonetheless wanting into including quantity adjustment by a firmware replace, however no selections have been made. I’m undecided what’s so laborious when different corporations are getting it proper in earbuds that value a lot much less. But must you purchase these, achieve this underneath the idea that nothing’s going to vary. If that proves to be the case, I can stay with altering the quantity on my telephone (or by way of Siri).
In my time testing the QuietComfort Earbuds, connection stability between the buds and my telephone has been largely flawless. Maybe that’s the results of upgrading to Bluetooth 5.1 or different inside modifications, however both approach, it’s a serious enchancment over the SoundSport Free, which suffered frequent audio dropouts. That’s not a priority this time round. Nor did I discover any audio / video sync mismatches when watching content material from YouTube, Netflix, or Prime Video on my telephone and laptop computer. Bose has efficiently tackled the principle flaws of its authentic true wi-fi earbuds.
Sound high quality continues to be prime notch. Bose isn’t shy about sculpting the audio; the corporate’s Active EQ boosts high and low frequencies at decrease volumes in order that music nonetheless feels dynamic even if you’re not cranking it. The QuietComfort Earbuds are very bass-forward and pack a wallop for hip-hop and EDM tracks. But the highly effective low finish additionally interprets nicely to different genres. To my ears, these have a wider, richer soundstage than the competitors (maybe except Sennheiser).
Regardless of what style you’re enjoying, the highs are detailed with out ever coming off as harsh or shrill. Unfortunately, Bose’s app doesn’t provide any method to modify the EQ for individuals who don’t love the default sound signature. Custom EQ is an choice on the over-ear Noise Canceling Headphones 700, so it’s a bummer to not see it on these premium earbuds.
The QuietComfort Buds additionally deal with voice calls nicely. They have a “self voice” characteristic that permits you to modify how a lot you possibly can hear your personal voice on a name so that you don’t find yourself talking too loudly, and so they do a pleasant job of selecting up your voice and lowering background noise in order that others can clearly hear you. Only the precise earbud can be utilized standalone for calls and audio.
Unfortunately, Bose didn’t embrace multipoint in these earbuds, to allow them to solely pair with one system at a time. Simultaneous pairing continues to be uncommon for earbuds — and a singular power for Jabra — however when you think about that Apple’s AirPods Pro can now mechanically and immediately swap between Apple gadgets, the QuietComfort Earbuds undoubtedly take a usability hit. Multipoint is a longtime characteristic on Bose’s headphones, however for no matter purpose, the corporate’s engineers couldn’t make it work right here.
So sure, Bose’s new, almost-$300 QuietComfort Earbuds nonetheless have downsides. The earbuds are on the bigger facet, and their case is an absolute unit. The onboard controls want enchancment. They lack multipoint. But there’s additionally loads of good: Bose has leap-frogged everybody in noise cancellation (establishing itself as a pacesetter as soon as once more) and give you great-sounding earbuds that work reliably. Once the world is again to workplace life and boarding planes commonly, I believe that’ll be a compelling combo — assuming you’re not already carrying round a pair of AirPods Pro or Sony 1000XM3s, that’s.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge