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Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones): The Subtle Update of an Iconic Headset

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Based on the chassis of the old QC45, the QuietComfort headset (or QC Headphones) retains many features from its predecessor. While Bose isn’t highlighting any new features, the QC Headphones do offer a slightly different sonic experience.

Technical Specifications of Bose QuietComfort

Specification Details
Headphone Type Closed
Earcup Circumaural
Weight 238 g
Cable Length 1.2 m
Detachable Cable Yes
Wireless Connection Bluetooth
Supported Bluetooth Codecs AAC, SBC
Bluetooth Multipoint Yes
Connectors Sub-mini jack, USB-C
Active Noise Cancellation Yes
Ambient Sound Listening Yes
Hands-Free Kit Yes
Measured Autonomy (with ANC) 26 h
Measured Autonomy (without ANC) 26 h
Measured Bluetooth Latency 175 ms

Presentation

Presented alongside the new earbuds and the Ultra headset, the QuietComfort, or QC Headphones, replaces the QuietComfort 45. Despite two years between the two headsets, Bose hasn’t made fundamental changes. The QC Headphones and QC45 share the same structure, the same speakers, and no major updates have been announced.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones)

Price & Availability

The QuietComfort (QC Headphones) was released in September 2023 at a price of $349 and are now available at $249.

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Review Conditions

The QC Headphones were reviewed with firmware version 1.0.6 and the Bose Music app version 8.1.3.

Construction & Comfort

Unlike the QC Ultra Headphones, which received a significant facelift compared to its predecessor, the Headphones 700, the QC Headphones are nearly identical to the QC45. Only a few purely aesthetic touches—insignificant ones—have been made to differentiate the two headsets. The black color isn’t exactly the same, and the printed Bose logo is now black instead of the previous silver. And that’s about it for the meager list of aesthetic changes.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) (1)

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Was it necessary to change the design of a headset known for its robustness and optimal comfort? Certainly not! This proven design still works just as well. We particularly appreciate its ability to fold and fit into its case, as well as the excellent comfort it provides. A true delight for everyday use.

Bose QuietComfort User Experience

The QC Headphones offer the same user experience as their predecessor. The same control buttons are present, assigned to the same actions, and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity with a latency of 175 ms is available, supporting SBC and AAC codecs and multipoint connectivity. We regret the absence of a presence sensor and the inability to use the headphones while charging.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) (2)

The Bose Music app is also almost identical. However, it’s now possible to adjust the level of noise reduction, a feature that wasn’t possible with the old QC45.

Audio Quality of Bose QuietComfort

Unlike the nearly unchanged design and user experience, Bose seems to have tweaked the sound signature of this model a bit. Already quite expressive in the bass, the QC45 is significantly surpassed by the QC Headphones, reproducing bass with abyssal depth. However, this emphasis can be overwhelming at times due to its tremendous impact. The heartbeats at the start of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” are absolutely deafening. It’s advisable to slightly reduce this liveliness using the equalizer in the app.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) Frequency Response Curve

This emphasis in the bass, however, has an advantage: reducing the strong presence of highs that could be too fatiguing on the QC45. The latter indeed has a very clear and sharp signature that doesn’t suit everyone, exacerbating precision issues and a sense of proximity. The QC Headphones take a softer approach than their predecessor. While the level of precision is still debatable and the soundstage still seems a bit compressed, it’s far less evident than before.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) Harmonic Distortion

Smoother sound doesn’t necessarily mean the QC Headphones reach the smoothness of Sony’s competing headphones. The sound output remains quite demonstrative. Additionally, the headset benefits from excellent midrange reproduction with vocals, particularly female ones, always taking center stage. The timbres are also well-preserved. Ultimately, the QC Headphones present a vibrant and energetic sound signature, quite close to the QC Ultra Headphones, although the latter is a bit more precise in reproducing highs.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) Frequency Response Curve

Isolation

With similar performance to the QC45, the QC Headphones stand as one of the best noise-canceling headphones on the market. They even slightly outperform the higher-end QC Ultra Headphones with more refined passive isolation. However, the headset is quite sensitive to wind and suffers from the same weaknesses as the QC Ultra Headphones when it comes to door slams, leading to a rapid feeling of pressure.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) Sound Isolation

However, the QC Headphones are much less adept than their elder sibling, the QC Ultra Headphones, in terms of listening to surrounding sounds. Ambient sounds are too muffled and lack naturalness, making interactions challenging when the headset is worn.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) Environmental Listening

Hands-Free Kit

We noticed no improvement in voice capture quality compared to the QC45. The voice tone still lacks naturalness, and its intelligibility suffers when external noise interferes. In noisy environments, we recommend directly using your phone.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) (4)

Bose QuietComfort Battery Life

Promising 24 hours, the QC Headphones reach around 26 hours with a fixed sound volume set at 60% and using the AAC codec. The headset slightly surpasses its predecessor, which only confirmed the initial promise. The QC Headphones, therefore, sit slightly below the current market average of 32 hours but remain capable of enduring any long-haul flight without issue.

The QC Headphones also feature fast charging, providing 3 hours of autonomy in just 15 minutes of charging.

Bose QuietComfort Review (QC Headphones) (3)

Pros and Cons of Bose QuietComfort

Pros

  • Very rich sound, generally well-balanced.
  • Excellent active noise reduction.
  • First-class comfort.
  • Very user-friendly and easy to use.
  • Careful construction, compact design, lightweight, and foldable.

Cons

  • Unnatural highs, excessively pumped bass.
  • Poor passive sound output.
  • Noise reduction sensitive to pressure changes.
  • Limited customization and advanced features.
  • Mediocre hands-free kit.

Conclusion

The QuietComfort (or QC Headphones) captures much of what made the QC45 exceptional, offering formidable active noise reduction and particularly enjoyable wearing comfort. Bose has also taken the opportunity to revise the sound output of its iconic headset for a less aggressive sound. However, one cannot help but regret the lack of evolution in the hands-free kit. Similarly, some advanced features are still reserved for the higher-end model, the QC Ultra Headphones.

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