Bose QuietComfort 35 II review

They aren't Bose’s best anymore, but the QC 35 II are a smarter buy than ever

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

“For frequent flyers, the Bose QC 35 II can’t be beat.”
  • Excellent noise canceling
  • Great sound quality
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Solid clarity for phone calls
  • Pairs with multiple devices at once
  • Quick-charge doesn’t get you much playing time
  • No USB-C

You may have heard that Bose has some fancy new headphones coming out, and there’s reason to be excited about the Bose Active Noise Cancelling 700 (lame name notwithstanding), but for my money, the QuietComfort 35 II still make the most sense for most people. They’re $50 less than the new 700, the style is timeless, and Bose’s noise-canceling tech can’t be beaten for shutting out air noise on a plane.

I would never ditch my QC 35 II headphones for the new 700 model, and I say this based on two reasons: 1. I’m not a fan of how the new pair look, and 2, I have no need for voice optimization.

If you spend a lot of time taking phone calls on your over-ear noise-canceling headphones or barking orders at Alexa or the Google Assistant, then, absolutely, go check the 700 out — they were created to serve those needs better than any competing headphone. But if you, like me, just want to shut out as much noise as you can on your frequent travels — be that a daily commute or frequent flights – then I think you’ll find the QC 35 II are the smarter call.

As an unapologetic fan of the Sony WH-1000XM3, it would be fair to ask why I’m still in love with the QC 35 II. After all, I’ve said Sony’s headphones sound better many times over. When it comes to the Bose, however, its less about what you do hear and more about what you don’t. The QC 35 II are outstanding noise blockers and noise cancelers, and as a bonus, I also find them more comfortable for extremely long wearing sessions.

Out of the box

When you unbox the QC 35 II, you immediately feel where your money went. These are well-crafted headphones comprised of high-quality materials — among the best headphones you can buy. The case is built to protect, and when you zip it open, the perfectly cradled headphones start showing off their supple leather earcups and microfiber headband padding. Lift them out, and their lightweight signals they’ll be a comfortable wear.

Available in black, silver, and rose gold, the QC 35 II come with two color-matched cables, one for plugging into a headphone jack (if you can find one anymore), and the other a USB charging cable. Gone is the dual-prong airline adapter of yore – I suppose we have finally evolved beyond it.

Features and other goodies

The QC 35 II use a dual-microphone setup to detect noise and cancel it right out. Three levels of noise-canceling are available, depending on how much you want to block out, though I must admit I’ve never used anything other than maximum noise canceling. Generally, when I want to block noise, I want to block as much of it out as possible.

The QC 35 II are outstanding noise blockers and noise cancelers.

You don’t need it for the headphones to work, but I enjoy using the Bose Connect app. Among other features, it let me name my headphones. I could have chosen any name I wanted, but I still get a chuckle every time I see “Thunder Flash” in my phone’s list of Bluetooth devices. That was Bose’s suggested name, by the way.

It also makes pairing easier and allows you to view remaining battery percentage, control your music, and toggle voice prompts on and off, but mostly, well, Thunder Flash.

The QC 35 II come with control buttons you can press. This may seem like a no-brainer, but ever since touch-sensitive tech became a thing, we’ve seen control buttons disappear in favor of gesture controls. For those of us who don’t like to fuss with gestures, the buttons are clutch. The QC 35 II allow for volume control, play/pause, track advance or reverse – the usual stuff – but the button that puts the II in QC 35 II is the one that calls up Alexa and the Google Assistant. You know exactly what those two do, so enough about that.

Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

That headphone cable we mentioned earlier? It allows for battery-free listening, just in case you run out of juice, and reduces battery draw by eliminating the Bluetooth factor. Expect 20 hours of wireless use on a charge and about 40 hours with the headphone cable in play, depending on the volume you play at, of course. Louder means shorter battery life.

Performance

I’ve logged over 100 hours on the QC 35 II on airplanes alone, 24 of which were spent alongside the Sony WH-1000XM3 for the sake of comparison. After rigorous testing, I can say with confidence that I prefer the QC 35 II for canceling airplane noise. While the Sony seem to be a little more versatile for noise-canceling in other environments (office, street, etc.), those who want a set of headphones like this for air travel might appreciate the QC 35 II acumen in this area.

Expect 20 hours of wireless use on a charge and about 40 hours with the headphone cable.

Overall sound quality for listening to music or movies is excellent. Non-audiophiles will be pleased with punchy bass, adequate midrange presence, and zesty treble – a sound profile which is made possible in noisy environments by excellent noise canceling. There are certainly other headphones that offer a more balanced, detailed sound when noise canceling is not a factor, but other than the aforementioned Sony cans, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pair of headphones that can bring significantly better sound to your ears while doing battle with roaring 737 engines at 30,000 feet. Sennheiser’s PXC 500, for instance, offer rich, balanced, and detailed sound in quiet environments – and for a lower price, too — but some of that detail and richness is lost to less effective noise-canceling.

Not that I make a habit of it, but sometimes I do use the QC 35 II for phone calls, and in this regard, they perform very well. Were it not for the new 700 model and their optimization for phone calls and voice recognition, I’d put them at the top of their class … certainly better than the Sony WH-1000XM3, which struggle in windy and noisy environments. Oh, and here’s a big bonus: The QC 35 II will pair to multiple devices at once – a claim the 1000XM3 can’t make.

Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Part of performance is comfortability, and as I mentioned before, Bose has the market cornered here. Thanks to well-apportioned padding and light weight, one can wear the QC 35 II on a flight from LA to NYC, never take them off, and feel just fine at the end of the flight.

Warranty information

Bose offers a baseline standard 1-year warranty on the QC 35 II, however this can fluctuate depending on product and region. Visit this page to learn more about Bose’s warranty on a product-by-product and regional basis.

For the frequent flyer, office worker, and pretty much anyone else who values effective noise canceling above all else, the Bose QC 35 II are an outstanding choice. Even with a redesigned model with voice optimization on the way, we still highly recommend this pair of excellent noise-canceling headphones.

Is there a better alternative?

For the audiophile who must have the best sound possible in noisy environments, I prefer the Sony WH-1000XM3. For comfort and the best airline noise abatement, the QC 35 II remain my preferred option.

How long will it last?

From my experience cramming these headphones into seat pockets, jostling them in backpacks, and repeatedly cramming them in their case, the QC 35 II are extremely durable and should last as long as their rechargeable battery holds out, which will vary based on use and charging habits.

Should you buy it?

Yes. This is an outstanding set of headphones with excellent noise canceling and satisfying sound quality.