Bose QC Earbuds Review: The World’s Most Effective Noise Cancelling Earbuds
Rumor has it, they are now officially available. The Bose QC Earbuds first noise-canceling wireless headphones, are available. The American manufacturer, yet inventor of noise cancellation technology, is one of the last manufacturers to offer it on its products. We were therefore entitled to hope for an exceptional product as its development seemed to have taken time.
Does the manufacturer manage to match or even exceed the tenors of the discipline: Sony, Sennheiser, and Apple? To find out, we screwed a pair into our ears to assess them. What we found is interesting, to say the least …
This “technical sheet” includes all the characteristics that Bose designs to provide to its potential customers.
Microphones: 4 total
Bluetooth version: 5.1
Bluetooth range: up to 9.144 m
Supported codecs: SBC and AAC
Battery life: up to 6 hours
Earphone battery charging time: 2 hours
Charging case battery charging time : 3 hours
Fast charging time: 15 minutes for 2 hours of listening
Headphone dimensions : 39mm x 26mm x 27mm / 8.5g
Charging case dimensions : 89mm x 51mm x 32mm
Price: 280 €
Design and Feel of Bose QC Earbuds:
What strikes most during the first contact with Bose QC Earbuds is the size of their case. Where the competition is making desperate efforts to make it as compact as possible, Bose takes its ease by giving it dimensions for the least generous: 89 x 51 x 32 mm). For comparison, we can cite those of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 case (77 x 44 x 25 mm, already impressive) and that of Apple’s AirPods Pro (60 x 45 x 21).
The beast is difficult to fit in the pocket of slightly fitted pants. Made of high-quality plastic, it protects and recharges the two headphones, also generously sized. They closely resemble the SoundSport Free, the brand’s first fully wireless headphones released in 2018. In addition to the presence of active noise cancellation, they are distinguished by the absence of mechanical keys, Bose having replaced them with a tactile surface. Bose QC Earbuds has been equipped QC Earbuds with in-house StayHear tips.
Appeared about ten years ago on the brand’s in-ear devices, they have been gradually improved graphs with feedback and suggestions from users. Called StayHear Max, this variation takes up the basic concept: a handle fits into the convolutions of the ear pinna. It allows a silicone tip to be comfortably held in the entrance to the ear canal. Without being as intrusive as an in-ear tip, this system provides very good passive sound insulation. Another advantage – and not the least – the StayHear Max tips keep the headphones perfectly in place, even when running.
It should be noted in passing that the Bose QC Earbuds are IPX4 certified, that is to say, resistant to splashes and perspiration. We must admit here, we are fans of this efficient and comfortable device. The StayHear Max tips are the most comfortable music listening experience our ears have come across to date. We never saw any discomfort, itching, or irritation, even after wearing them for hours. So much so that it even allows us to relativize and forgive the negative aspects of Bose QC Earbuds. And these are present, as we will quickly see.
Features and Functions of Bose QC Earbuds:
As mentioned above, the Bose QC Earbuds are devoid of mechanical controls, replaced by tactile surfaces. We thought that this novelty, like what the manufacturer had done on the Headphones 700 (even if it retains some traditional keys), would give access to a nice range of functions.
We were naive.
Bose QC Earbuds each have a tactile surface. When listening to music, that of the left earphone gives access to a customizable shortcut (long press) or to change the noise reduction level (double press). The one on the right earpiece activates the voice assistant (long press) or controls the pause/playback of music (double press). The customizable shortcut can be set from the Bose Music app on an iOS or Android smartphone. You only have two choices: vocal announcement of the battery level or skip to the next track. Nothing more.
In our opinion, this lack of orders is the most disappointing thing about Bose QC Earbuds. To increase or decrease the volume or replay a musical track, you must take the smartphone out of your pocket, unlock it and access the audio player. In the long run, this maneuver quickly becomes tedious and one wonders why Bose, which has managed to produce a convincing touch interface on the Headphone 700, inflicts this thought on users.
Worse still, the touch zone is far too sensitive: readjusting an earpiece by taking it by the edges accidentally triggers a touch command. And as these are not always intuitive, we are at first lost when it comes to reestablishing listening … when we have not accidentally ended a telephone conversation. Hopefully, the manufacturer will be able to remedy this via an internal software update.
The Bose Music application provides access to minimalist settings since it does not have an equalizer. It will be used mainly to apply a firmware update, set the noise reduction level, or manage connected Bluetooth players. In this regard, let us specify that the Bose QC Earbuds are able to memorize up to eight different devices in order to connect to them automatically. Too bad they don’t support simultaneous connection to multiple drives.
Sound Quality of Bose QC Earbuds:
True to its regrettable habit, Bose does not communicate any detailed technical information about its headphones. It will therefore be necessary to be satisfied with the shortlist of supported codecs (SBC and AAC) and the type of wireless connection (Bluetooth 5.1). Coming from a company of engineers built by an engineer, this silence has always surprised us. For several generations of products, Bose’s audio signature has evolved towards bass amplification, surely due to the evolution of contemporary music.
Bose QC Earbuds are no exception. Whether noise reduction is active or not, the bass is ample and very present without, however, erasing the mids and treble. We take pleasure in listening to songs like the very elaborate Pale Yellow by Woodkid, the headphones perfectly transcribing the acoustic subtleties desired by the artist. Justice is also rendered to the subtle accents of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side or to the subtlety of the voices of Mozart’s Requiem. Same observation when listening to the legendary Feelin ‘Alright by Joe Cocker (and the rest of the album, for that matter). Finally, the spatialization of the stereo scene is very satisfactory, as we have seen during our many hours of listening.
What about noise reduction in all of this? It is based on passive isolation, here provided by the StayHear Max tips, combined with audio signal processing. Bose offers ten levels of attenuation to allow or not the perception of the external environment. A shortcut mechanism, configurable from the companion application, allows four to be memorized. They can be selected by double-pressing the touch zone of the left earphone. In maximum attenuation, the result is more than convincing, especially on low-frequency sounds. The noise of a bus, tram, or metro is attenuated to astonishing proportions.
The highs are taken care of by the silicone tips: it is, therefore, essential to select the ones that best suit your morphology (Bose provides three different sizes). If the human voice is quite attenuated, it is however not entirely erased: it remains slightly perceptible in certain cases and depending on the listening volume. The sound of a telephone conversation is very correct. During calls made in the street, our interlocutors certainly perceived part of the sound environment, but our voice was detached enough from it to be perceptible without difficulty. The headphones transmit a detailed sound as long as the mobile network is of good quality.
A final word on the quality of the Bluetooth connection, which we consider to be very satisfactory. We were thus able to leave our smartphone in a room and move away from it about ten meters without noticing a signal cut (there were however two concrete walls between us and the smartphone). These findings were made with a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra but also on an iPhone 11.
The battery life of Bose QC Earbuds:
very good, but not exceptional Bose claims six hours of battery life from a full charge. The manufacturer sins here out of modesty since we have exceeded this autonomy of a good thirty minutes (sound at 75%, noise cancellation activated). The battery in the large box provides two additional charges, totaling almost 20 hours of listening.
Charging is done through a USB-C connection or by a Qi-compatible induction charger. While an overall battery life of almost 20 hours is satisfactory, we would expect a little more given the size of the charging case. Finally, Bose indicates that it only takes 15 minutes of charging the headphones to obtain two hours of battery life. This is true, as long as you do not abuse telephone conversations.
The verdict of Bose QC Earbuds:
It was worth the wait: Bose QC Earbuds don’t disappoint when it comes to sound quality and noise reduction. On this aspect, the manufacturer is on par with or even exceeds the major players in the market and we can only be congratulated. Good point also for very adequate autonomy, if not exceptional, as well as the integration of the charge by induction.
The only huge disappointment was the failure of the touchscreen control interface, which was largely underused and sometimes bordering on usable. Why not have taken those offered by the Headphones 700?