Bose QuietComfort Ear Buds
“The best noise-canceling buds we've tested with remarkable sound quality.”
- Best noise-canceling buds
- Excellent call quality
- Exciting audio quality
- Solid battery life
- Secure fit
- No multi-point connection
- A bit bulky
I somehow doubt Dr. Amar Bose could have foreseen that the active noise-canceling tech he developed in the 1970s would one day find itself in what might have been considered back then as magical, glorified earplugs. Yet, here we are. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds have arrived and they are brawny, a little bulky, and fashionably late to the party. Also, I really like them.
Competitors have been cranking out ANC earbuds since 2018, and the past year has seen some excellent options coming from companies like Sony, Jabra, Sennheiser, 1More, and plenty of others. I presume the reason we’ve had to wait this long to see Bose’s answer is that, in true Bose fashion, it wasn’t going to come to market with true wireless ANC buds until it was convinced they were the best.
The good news is that the $280 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are excellent in many ways. The bad news is: They aren’t for everyone. Read on to find out if Bose’s buds are a good fit for you.
What’s in the box
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds come nestled in their charging case along with a short USB-C charging cable, small and large pairs of eartips, and some product literature. Simple.
Build and battery life
The charging case is large, bulbous, and not easily pocketable. One would hope the larger case would translate to more charge capacity, but the case is rated to provide just 12 hours of additional charge as opposed to, say, the 18 hours the AirPods Pro case provides. The case’s battery life is indicated by five LEDs on the front of the case. I should also point out the case does support Qi wireless charging as well.
Like the case, the buds are also quite large. Bose claims they will perform for 6 hours on average, but I have found that I usually get 7 hours or just a bit more per charge, which is not bad considering that is with the buds’ ANC on its highest setting and with reasonably loud volume for music and movie playback. I love it when products outperform their specs.
The build quality of both the case and buds is top-notch if a bit on the bulky side. Aside from the case being bulky, I also found it a little difficult to open. The case has a rectangular button that is placed flush enough in the case that it won’t open for me with a simple thumb press. Instead, I have to use my fingernail to press it in far enough that it will open.
Connecting and range
Once flipped open, the case reveals a Bluetooth pairing button situated between each bud. If the earbuds aren’t already paired to a device, they come out of the case in pairing mode. If the buds have been previously paired to a device, pressing the button will put them in pairing mode. The QC Earbuds always attempt to connect first to the most recently paired device.
This would be a good time to mention that the QuietComfort Earbuds do not support multi-point connection. That is, you can’t connect to two devices at once and switch between them seamlessly. The buds do store up to seven devices in their device list, but you have to unpair from one device to pair to another.
As for connection stability and range, I’ve found the QC Earbuds perform very well. With clear line-of-sight outdoors, I got about 60 feet away from a Samsung Galaxy S9+ before the connection broke up. Indoors, I got about 25 feet away and had begun to round a corner before the signal dropped out. I have never had a problem with signal dropout while my phone was placed in my pants or jacket pocket.
Fit and comfort
While fit and comfort are subject to the user’s ear, I can say with confidence that these buds take a little getting used to due to their larger size. Compared to the Jabra Elite 85T or even the Jabra Elite 75T, the larger Bose bud size is something you notice, though my sensitivity has gone down over time and I think it will for others who have medium to large size ears.
The QC Earbuds don’t just feel large on the exterior, the tips on the inside make their presence known as well. Even the medium-sized tips, which almost always work just right for me, felt a little bit large. Again, I’ve grown accustomed to the feeling over time, but that initial feeling can be concerning. Part of this is due to the wide, oval shape of the eartip, and part of it is due to the security “fin” that is attached to the tip and not removable.
The non-removable fin may seem like an odd move at first, but when I think back to how clunky optional security fins have been for me in the past, I think I prefer it, even if it does make for a more complicated process of inserting the earbuds in your ears.
I also appreciate that the earbuds are designed with such balance that I’ve never experienced ear canal pain or fatigue. That’s not something I can say about most true wireless earbuds.
Overall, and with the benefit of extended use at this point, I would score the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds an 8 out of 10 on the comfort scale. Bulky, sure, but comfortable on the long haul. It’s fit I’m concerned with. I lucked out, but I’m just not sure these buds will be a good fit for everyone, especially those with petite ears, where the aesthetic may also be a concern.
Touch controls and app
I’m not going to dive deep into this section because, frankly, I almost never use the app, and my use of touch controls is limited. All I need to do is adjust noise-canceling levels, play/pause music, and answer calls. The touch sensors on each earbud allow me to do all of the above.
You can customize the touch controls to some extent using the Bose Connect app, which will also let you rename the buds and check battery levels at a glance. That’s about all you need the app for.
Simply put, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds offer the best noise-canceling I’ve experienced from a true wireless earbud. I have yet to compare the buds’ noise canceling in a meaningful way to the Bose NC 700 headphones, but the tests I was able to complete indicate the buds are just as effective at blocking out a wide range of noise as Bose’s flagship noise-canceling cans. The solid seal of the eartip is a huge help, but the ANC processing is second to none.
The best noise-canceling I’ve experienced from a true wireless earbud.
Compared to the AirPods Pro, which are no slouch in the noise-canceling department themselves, can’t stand up to the Bose QC Earbuds. The Bose block far more high-frequency noise, meaning street sounds like cars passing by on pavement, the hum of an air conditioner, and, yes, even screeching children, are more effectively blocked out. With music playing, you hear nothing but the music.
I don’t know when I’ll be getting on an airplane again, but when I do, I look forward to putting Bose’s buds to the ultimate noise-canceling test.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here: I’m smitten with the way the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds sound. Not because they have a dead-on accurate sound signature, but because they have a fun and engaging sound profile.
Make no mistake, the QC Earbuds yield a generous helping of detail, lightning-fast transient response, and punchy bass that can start and stop on a dime — all hallmarks of a quality headphone, and the stuff that audiophiles trip over. But Bose has sculpted the sound in the QC Earbuds to offer deep, punchy, rich bass that is pushed up just enough in the mix to be more than accurate, but to just to the extent they will satisfy those who like a little extra down low.
Midrange frequencies remain transparent, even with the slight boost in the bass, while the top end yields just enough sparkle and shine such that the treble sings.
I spent perhaps too much time listening to both sets of Cory Wong’s The Syncopate & Motivate Tour and enjoyed every minute of every hour. The interplay between the drummer’s kick drum and the bass player’s syncopated rhythms was a punchy and tuneful treat for the ears. Wong’s insanely tight articulation paired with iconic guitar tone came through clear as a bell, with just the right amount of room noise coming in around it to give a sense of the venue space. All the while, the band’s horn section was played back with remarkably accurate overtones, giving the band all the brassy zeal a professional trumpet player (that’s me) could possibly want from a live recording.
It is fair to say I enjoy the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds’ sound quality very, very much.
Are there better sounding buds? I have an affinity for the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, and they really do sound excellent. But I have to say between the two, I’d probably end up buying the Bose for everything else they do better than the Momentum 2.
So, yes, I think it is fair to say I enjoy the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds’ sound quality very, very much.
With such stellar sound quality, does call quality matter that much? These days, I would argue yes. I can see these buds being used to get through days on end of working from home, switching between music listening, phone calls, and Zoom meetings. Good news, folks: You can enjoy all three without ever removing the earbuds.
The QC Earbuds call quality is excellent. Your voice will always come through with clarity and with precious little of that digital, robotic sound that comes from audio signal compression. Plus, noises surrounding callers are remarkably well suppressed, and that includes wind noise.
But perhaps the most important aspect for solid call quality is to be able to hear yourself speaking without hearing outside noise, and again, Bose pulls this trick off better than any competing earbud or headphone I’ve tested to date.
Bulky as they may be, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are class-leading true wireless earbuds. Their noise-canceling is the best among earbuds we’ve tested, the audio quality is exciting and deeply satisfying, and call quality is the best we’ve had outside of Bose’s own full-size headphones. If you can put up with the slightly larger buds and rotund case, the QC Earbuds will reward you handsomely.
Is there a better alternative?
You won’t find better noise-canceling anywhere else, but I will say the Jabra Elite 85T are an extremely competitive headphone for a lower price, with effective noise canceling, excellent sound quality, good call quality, and solid battery performance. The Elite 85T are also smaller, so if bud size and budget are of concern, they make a great alternative.
How long with they last?
My experience with Bose headphone products leads me to believe the QC Earbuds will last well into the future. I think the only limiting factor here is the battery, which will ultimately die and render the buds useless, but this is true for just about every true wireless earbud out there.
Should you buy them?
Yes. With the best noise-canceling tech, excellent call quality, and extremely fun sound, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are both a delight and practical.
- The best noise-canceling earbuds for 2020
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming review: Lost in translation
- The best Cyber Week headphone deals for 2020
- The best headphones for 2020
- The best earbuds for 2020