Since Sony bested Bose at its own game with its WH-1000XM3, I’ve been eagerly awaiting an update to the Bose QC 35 II. I did not expect such a funky name — Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 isn’t exactly catchy (and we happen to use a single “L”), but it does match up with the naming convention across Bose’s entire product line. What I did expect was USB-C charging and … well, not a whole lot else. While I would have been fine with that one simple addition, it seems Bose felt its latest and supposedly greatest headphones should offer more.
When the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (henceforth referred to as “Bose 700”) were announced, Bose played up better voice clarity for phone calls and interactions with voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. The company did not mention any changes to sound quality, but it turns out that was updated as well, and even a quick glance reveals a new physical design. Not readily apparent, however, is the addition of touch controls and the functionality brought by Bose’s new Bose Music app, which has more to do with controlling and customizing the headphones than music, really.
So, as it turns out, quite a bit about the Bose 700 is new. But are they a smart buy, especially when the award-winning QC 35 II are still available for at least $50 less? We dug deep to figure out who might want the Bose 700 and who would be just fine sticking with the tried and true QC 35 II or other entries, like Sony’s popular 1000XM3.
Out of the box
Straight out of the box you can see Bose made some design changes. The Bose 700 case is much shallower than we see from most competitors, which will help the case slide more easily into airline seat pockets for in-flight storage.
The slim form factor is owed to a slightly broader case which allows the headphones to be stored simply by turning the earcups inward and laying them flat – no complex folding technique required. Inside the protective case is a stealthily hidden compartment sealed with a magnetic flap. Lift the flap and you’ll find a headphone cable and short USB-C charging cable. Bose has ditched the increasingly unnecessary airline adapter for this iteration.
The Bose 700 take a different approach to design, most notable in the way the earcups are affixed to the headband. Rather than continue the yoke-style mount which has allowed prior models a generous amount of both pivot and tilt, the 700 are attached directly to the inside track of the headband at the outside of the earcup. There’s less adjustment potential, but I’ve found that not to be a problem for my headsize or shape – the Bose 700 feel great to me.
The comfort factor seems to be something of a debate among reviewers. I’ve seen others claim the Bose 700 aren’t as light or comfortable as the Bose QC 35 II, but by the numbers, they are actually 2 ounces lighter (8.9 to 10.9 ounces respectively). You don’t need a scale to feel they are lighter, either. Pick up a pair with each hand and you can feel the difference.
You don’t need a scale to feel they are lighter.
The difference in weight is less stark when worn, but comfort has always relied heavily on weight distribution. When the right balance of clamping force meets an amply wide and well-padded headband, a slightly heavier headphone can actually feel more comfortable than a marginally lighter option. Still, as I remarked earlier, the 700 are indeed lighter and I feel they offer the perfect weight distribution. The headband is a little squishier – if not covered in luxurious fabric – and the earcups are a little larger in circumference, placing the clamping force well around the ears rather than on them.
Of course, this is just a description of my experience. Varying head sizes and shapes along with different ear sizes will all play a role in how the headphones feel, so my suggestion is that you go give the headphones a try yourself and determine whether they feel like an improvement in comfort or a step backward.
Features and other goodies
Along with physical design changes, Bose integrated new controls for the 700. Play/pause, track advance/reverse, and volume controls are all managed via a touchpad located on the right earcup. Only three physical buttons will be found; one button on the left adjusts noise canceling intensity at levels 0, 5, and 10 with an additional option to disable noise canceling and simultaneously pause music. Two buttons on the right offer controls for power/Bluetooth pairing and calling up the voice assistant of your choice, including Alexa, the Google Assistant, and even Cortana on windows machines.
Then there’s the matter of the new Bose Music app. Typically, I don’t bother with companion apps as they rarely add value to the experience, but in this case, I’m suggest that anyone who purchases the Bose 700 should download the app, available for and . The Bose Music app allows users to pair the headphones to their phone (which can be done just as easily without the app), rename their headphones whatever they like (Bose’s suggested names are hilarious. Thunder Flash, anyone?), exert granular control over noise-canceling effectiveness from 0 to 10, and manage paired devices.
The app also lets you manage all your music services from one place and save favorite playlists as convenient presets for one-touch access. And if you own other connected Bose products, this app will allow you to manage music playback through soundbars and wireless speakers individually or in groups.
There’s no better headphones for taking phone calls.
Like the Bose QC 35 II and Bose Frames Alto, the Bose 700 work with Bose AR, an interesting audio-based take on augmented reality. Using certain AR-enabled apps and an iOS device with location data turned on, users can enjoy experiences like enhanced directions from the Walc app, which instead of telling you to turn right in .2 miles might instead tell you to turn right at the Walgreens. Or, if you’re seeking some amusing adventure while on your walk to work or home, try Komrad AR, a game which makes you a secret agent who is the only thing standing in the way of an evil computer seeking global domination. It sounds kind of gimmicky, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to trying Bose AR.
Finally, a word on battery performance: With quick charging, the Bose 700 can play for 2 – 2.5 hours on a 15 minute charge. Total play time with noise canceling on is roughly 20 hours, and without noise canceling turned on, that number goes up to 40.
Noise canceling performance
As you might expect, the Bose 700 are excellent noise cancelers, but what you might not expect is that the noise canceling effectiveness is slightly different than what is offered with the QC 35 II. What I noticed is that the 700 seem to cancel out more of the static high-frequency sounds than prior models. I can see this working well for air travel in that it will cancel more of the hiss you hear from a plane’s ventilation system.
However, I also noticed that more midrange frequencies were getting through than I’m used to from Bose noise-canceling headphones. I haven’t had a chance to test the 700 on a flight yet – I had to use a noise machine and real-life noises for this evaluation – but I am hopping on a plane in mid-August and will update this review accordingly. For now, I’m willing to say I expect the 700 will improve on what is already a formidable noise canceling technology for air travel, but for everyday use around the office or commuting on a bus or a train, I think I would prefer the QC 35 II.
Frankly, I was not expecting the changes Bose made here. The 700 have a very obvious boost in the upper midrange and lower treble regions which makes them sound very detailed with more laid back tracks, but when you get a bunch of cymbals or brass going, they become a little aggressive – some might even say harsh. I do want to note that the 700 feel more spacious and exacting with audio placement – watching movies with these headphones is a blast – but the audiophile in me can’t ignore that, for everyday use, the 700 don’t sound nearly as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3 or the Bose QC 35 II.
With all of that said, I suspect the Bose 700 will probably sound outstanding while traveling on an airplane. The forward presentation in the high end will probably help cut through any noise the cans can’t cancel, adding clarity to dialogue in movies and instrumentation and vocals within music. The more I listen to these headphones, the more I am convinced they were optimized for air travel.
Simply put: There’s no better headphones for taking phone calls or interacting with digital voice assistants. Bose’s mic technology does a remarkable job of canceling out background noise to delivered a clean, clear, and very close-sounding voice quality to those on the other end of the call. In fact, there’s a good chance the Bose 700 sound better than your phone’s built-in microphone.
For anyone who takes a lot of calls with their phone, this single feature should be compelling enough to urge a purchase.
Bose offers a baseline standard 1-year warranty on the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, however this can fluctuate depending on product and region. to learn more about Bose’s warranty on a product-by-product and regional basis.
Is there a better alternative?
For the audiophile who must have the best sound possible in noisy environments, I prefer the Sony WH-1000XM3. They offer superior overall audio quality. For the most effective noise canceling while flying and anyone who values headphones for phone calls and working with voice assistants over all other considerations, the 700 are the way to go.
How long will it last?
Time will tell, but the Bose 700 seems as well constructed as any of the company’s previous headphone models and so far they have held up well under my stress tests, leading me to believe these headphones will last as long as the battery does.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you are a businessperson who takes lots of phone calls with their headphones on, and/or you do a lot of airplane travel, then absolutely buy the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 – they will be worth the $50 upgrade.