Bose QuietComfort Headphones Are As Good as the QC45s but More Expensive

Bose QuietComfort Headphones Are As Good as the QC45s but More Expensive

Having a good pair of noise cancelling headphones is essential if you travel a lot, or live in a busy area. After having the Bose QuietComfort 45 ($449.95) on store shelves for two years, Bose last year refreshed its premium over ear headphones range and overhauled the naming convention for its headphones. Pulling a ‘reboot’ naming strategy and removing the numbers, the new Bose QuietComfort ($549.95) is the standard for the range, and the QuietComfort Ultra ($649) is the new flagship. Today we’re checking out the Bose QuietComfort.

What’s new in the Bose QuietComfort compared to the QuietComfort 45?

On paper, and just by looking at them, it seems uncharitable to say that nothing’s new, but it’s also not entirely untrue. They are very, very similar headphones. They look basically the same, and on paper their specs are practically identical. But there are some improvements (which could be firmware) that I feel have elevated the experience, mostly in call quality and audio quality, but also in the extra 2 hours of battery life.

Dimensions18.4 cm H x 15.24 cm W x 7.62 cm D (0.24 kg)
BluetoothBluetooth range: up to 30 ft (9 m)
Bluetooth version: 5.1
BatteryBattery life: Up to 24 hours
Battery charging time: Up to 2.5 hours
Quick 15-minute charge: For up to 4 hours
Battery charge method: USB-C
Microphone6 microphone array for voice pickup built-in

Bose QuietComfort Quiet Comfort (noise cancelling and comfort)

Bose QuietComfort headphones on a wooden floor
Image: Alice Clarke

As with the QuietComfort 45, the noise cancelling and comfort on the almost identical Bose QuietComfort is excellent. The number of times my wife has given me a heart attack while I’ve been wearing them, despite her talking to me the whole way down the hallway is impressive. I wore them to the gym during rush hour – with loud music, clanking weights, and one guy who wanted everyone to look at him and know he was lifting weights that were too heavy for him (judging by the grunting and how hard he dropped them after each rep, poor thing). Yet with the headphones on, I couldn’t hear the terrible music, or grunting boy’s sounds. I could hear the high-pitched clanking of the guy using weights that were too heavy on the leg machine, so his shoddy technique led them to slam down as hard as possible after each rep. But I also think Hellen Keller could have heard that display from beyond the grave, so that challenge might have been a bit much for the headphones.

I haven’t flown anywhere, so I can’t speak to how they work under different air pressures, but given that they seem pretty similar to the QC45 model, my write-up from last week should give you an indication.

As for comfort, they’re ridiculously comfortable out of the box. Some headphones you have to break in, but the headband has enough give and the ear cups are soft from the get-go. Just a very comfortable pair of headphones, like trackie daks for your head, but stylish enough to wear in public.

Bose QuietComfort audio quality

The default EQ on the QuietComfort is a bit different to that of the 45, and while it won’t be to everyone’s taste, I prefer it. The bass sounds a touch fuller and the higher frequencies are a bit more present. While doing other things, the music sounds perfect.

But, just as with the QC45, when I sit down and focus to really pull apart a song, there a little bits missing, and the emotion isn’t there, particularly when directly compared to the Sony XM5s.

Simmer by Hayley Williams is missing some of the texture that gives it its magic. There are little breaths and little artefacts on the snare drum that come through on other headphones that I just can’t hear on these. The song sounds great, and if I wasn’t pausing to pull it apart I don’t think I would notice what’s missing, so I don’t think it’s the biggest problem ever, but it’s still an issue.

On a fuller song, like Goddess by Pvris, the missing elements are even less apparent. Though, normally on this song you can feel a palpable sense of rage from Lynn Gunn, and while I’m getting a song that’s fun to dance and sing along to, I’m not feeling it in my chest like I do on some other headphones.

But then on That’s Why I Am by Maggie Rogers, the way the bass is handled on these headphones really delivered that build to the first chorus like an emotional punch. The second verse lacks some of the punch because some of the grit on her voice is missing, but oh the transitions to the chorus and the choruses themselves are reproduced so beautifully on these headphones.

They’re not audiophile headphones by any means, but they’re more than enough for commuting, travelling and general listening.

Bose QuietComfort call quality

Taking calls on the QuietComfort headphones is way better than I expected. The microphone is extremely good at isolating your voice. I was typing on my very clicky keyboard and the person on the other end of the line had no idea. I wore them while in a busy street and the other person had no idea. When I got my wife to call me so I could hear her on the mic, she accidentally put them on backwards, and I couldn’t hear her at all, the directionality of the mic is that good.

That said, you can clearly tell that the person is taking a call on a pair of headphones, because the mic sounds a bit muffled and not as clear as holding the phone to your hear. But still, the mic quality is much, much better than most of my other headphones. I’m very impressed.

QuietComfort vs QuietComfort 45 vs QuietComfort Ultra

A lot of this is based on specs alone, because I haven’t heard the QuietComfort Ultra yet, and there have been plenty of times when I’ve finally gotten my hands on a pair of headphones that are more expensive and look better on paper that just sucked. I don’t think that’s going to be the case here, but it seems important to have this disclaimer.

Given that the differences between the 45 and regular QuietComfort are so minimal, if you find the 45 on sale (I can see them around the $300 mark), then I wouldn’t be spending the extra $200 to get the QuietComfort. I do prefer the sound and noise cancelling of the QuietComfort a bit, but not $200 worth. While the QuietComfort 45 did not win my noise-cancelling headphones on a plane showdown last week, they did come pretty close. And my colleague Asha rated the QuietComfort 45 extremely well in her review a couple of years ago.

If you want Bose, are an Android user, and money is less of an object, then on paper the QuietComfort Ultra will last you much longer and should give you a significantly better experience.

Bose QuietComfort verdict

Bose quiet comfort headphones on a wooden floor
Image: Alice Clarke

At $549.95, they’re perhaps a bit expensive for what they are (mostly 3-year-old tech), but what they are is still damn good. Not perfect, certainly, but so very, very good that most people will be well served by them, particularly if they can get them with a decent discount.

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