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Bose 700 vs Beats Solo Pro: Which Noise-Cancelling Headphones Are Best?

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose versus Beats? In an active noise cancelling face-off? Normally, this would be a no-brainer. But not so fast. 

With Apple backing it, Beats by Dre has been stealthily evolving from a high-gloss product that placed high-visibility over sound quality to a bonafide contender. With the Beats Solo Pro, you still get the bright colors, but you also get Apple’s H1 chip which promises near instant functionality, up to 22 hours of battery life and impressive ANC.

And then there’s Bose. The company that’s been the de facto king of ANC longer than I’ve been a tech journalist. We just retired the old guard, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II in favor of the new king, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Sporting the sleekest look we’ve ever seen from Bose, the 700s are a discussion starter. More than that, they come packing premium features including slick touch controls, up to 20 hours of battery life and adjustable ANC that actually carries over into phone calls.

And both set of cans sound great. So who wins the crown of best noise-cancelling headphones, the gold standard or the cocky upstart that’s been staging a coup? We put them head to head to find out. 

Beats Solo ProBose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700
Price$299$399
Size7 inches8 x 6.5 x 2 inches
Weight9.4 ounces9 ounces
ColorsBlack, Ivory, Gray, Dark Blue, Light Blue, RedBlack, Silver
Battery Life22 hours (NC on) 40 hours (NC off)20 hours (NC on)
Companion AppYesYes

Design

The Bose of the past were something you’d picture your dad wearing. So are the Bose 700s -- if your dad is Travante Rhodes or Jason Mamoa (so hot!). The 700s have an ultra sleek, ultramodern look that shows the company is ready to step into the 21st century. The headband is made from cool stainless steel that bisects the plastic earcups. And instead of manipulating the band to create the proper fit, you simply slide the ear cups up or down.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It’s a funky twist that points towards the company’s willingness to evolve. Bose even added a USB Type-C charging port.  However, I wish Bose would embrace color a bit more. As it stands, the 700s are only available in black or silver. How cool would it be to get these in gold or even rose gold?

(Image credit: Regan Coule)

And while Bose has shown up to the design party, Beats has grown up. Yes, the headphones are available in a range of colors including dark blue, light blue and red. But thanks to artist/producer Pharell Williams, they have a matte finish instead of the usual high-gloss which looked  rather childish if you ask me. But despite being dark blue, the Solo Pro’s look, dare I say it sophisticated? However, I do wish Beats and Apple would incorporate some more metal into the mix and take their designs to the next level. 

My other gripe is that the Beats uses a Lightning port, instead of embracing the universal goodness that is USB Type-C.

Winner: Beats Solo Pro

Controls

When it comes to buttons, especially on headphones, less is definitely more. Which is why I appreciate that most of the Solo Pro’s functionality can be accessed via a single button hidden in the right earcap. Using a series of taps, you can skip tracks, play/pause, answer and end calls. Press above or below the button to adjust volume. The only other button you’ll find sits the left earcap and lets you toggle between the ANC modes.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

However, if you ever encounter any issues with the headphones, holding this button down will reset them to its factory setting. And if you want to summon Siri, just say “Hey Siri” and its ready to answer all your questions. Android owners will have to use their phone to summon the Google Assistant

(Image credit: Regan Coule)

The Bose 700 employs a mix of buttons and a touch panel which is hidden in the right earcap. The right ear cup has the Power/Pairing button and the digital assistant button, while the left has the noise-cancellation/conversation-mode buttons. Each of the buttons are slightly raised and give clicky feedback. But the star of the show is the integrated touch panel, which is quick, responsive and lets you swipe up or down, left or right to adjust the volume or skip tracks. A quick series of taps are all that’s needed to play/pause or answer/end a call. 

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700

Setup

Thanks to Apple’s H1 chip, the biggest thing about pairing the Beats Solo Pro to your awaiting device is how little effort is involved. Just like the AirPods (1st and 2nd Gen) and the Powerbeats Pro, the Solo Pro offer near instantaneous pairing. All I had to do was unfold the cans and I received a prompt on my iPhone XS Max that they were paired. With my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the headphones were paired before I managed to reach the Bluetooth section in my settings menu.

Pairing the Bose 700 with compatible devices is more traditional. You hold down the power/pair button to initiate the process, go to the Bluetooth section in your settings menu and select the headphones in the available devices list. At most, the process takes less than a minute from start to finish, but it lacks the innate flair of just working that the Solo Pro offer.

Winner: Beats Solo Pro

App

Both pairs of headphones have a free companion app available on Android and iOS. Each app has the clean design and ease of use you’d expect from their parent companies. Unfortunately, neither offers an equalizer or a pair of custom audio profiles, which is a shame. Still, each app offers functionality to improve the headphones’ ease of use.

(Image credit: Regan Coule)

For example, the Bose Music app allows you to adjust between the 11 levels of noise cancellation, set three favorite ANC levels and choose your default digital assistant depending on your connected device. You can even set how much of your voice you hear during phone calls. You can also control your music and volume using the app.

As cool as that all is, I want Bose to give listeners the power to create their own listening experiences through either an EQ or presets. Also, there needs to be a “Find my Bose” feature. If I’m shelling out $400 for these bad boys, I want a way to track them in case I misplace them or some sticky-fingered bandit makes off with them.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Beats app offers less functionality than Bose’s software. While you can control your music and volume similar to the Bose. Outside of that, you can switch between the three ANC modes (On, Off and Transparency), rename and register your cans. There’s also a helpful tutorial to help you master all the controls. Since I reviewed an early model of the Solo Pros, some of the functionality wasn’t available, so I’m not sure the headphones have a “Find my Beats” feature. Stay tuned for more info on this feature.

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 

Active noise cancellation

The Beats Solo Pros are Beats by Dre’s first noise-cancelling on-ear headphones. But remembering the poor quality of the ANC on the business-traveller targeted Beats Executives, I wasn’t too hopeful about the Solo Pros. It’s good to be wrong (sometimes). Somehow, Beats and Apple managed to create ANC that rivals the Bose and honestly, I’m shook.

(Image credit: Regan Coule)

When ANC is enabled on the Solo Pros, I don’t hear the negative noise from the integrated microphones working to keep ambient noise out. It’s actually quiet. Wearing the headphones without music on a crowded subway made my fellow occupants sound like they were in the next car and of course, when I turned the music on, I couldn’t hear them at all. And best of all, I only needed to put the volume at 50% so I wasn’t potentially damaging my hearing. 

MORE: Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

But Bose is Bose and when I put on the 700s with the ANC cranked to 10, the headphones were noticeably more quiet than the Beats. The 700 reduced the noise in that noisy subway car to mere mumblings, while setting the ANC to 7 put me in the range of the Beats. And when it came time to drown the din out completely, I played my music at 40% volume and bopped along contentedly.

Winner Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700

Transparency vs Conversation Mode

Sometimes I work best when I’m listening to music. But in a busy open office like Tom’s Guide’s, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes to disturb your music-driven workflow. That’s why I’m glad that both the Bose and the Beats have a Transparency Mode, which the former has dubbed Conversation Mode. Both features allow you to chat with someone without having to remove your headphones.

(Image credit: Future)

Transparency Mode on the Solo Pros means the headphones allow more ambient noise to filter into the headphones. That meant I could continue enjoying to H.E.R.’s “Slide” while giving my staff writer directions about his next assignment. I definitely had to focus on what he was saying because his words starting mixing with the music, which was weird but cool.

In an office setting, Conversation Mode is the better option. When enabled, the 700s quickly paused the music, allowing me to give my staffers my undivided attention. And when we were done, a quick button press sent my music flooding back in, cutting off the office chatter.  

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700

Audio quality

Over the years, Beats and Bose have had some issues with audio quality, but with this current line of headphones, it seems both companies have ironed out those issues. For Bose, that means overcoming the rather cold, distinct audio profile created by the company’s powerful ANC that seemingly put a wall between you and your music. For Beats, years of tuning targeting Hip-Hop heads and bass junkies created a sound profile rife with overemphasised bass that overshadowed the mids and highs. This time around, Beats has a more balanced audioscape.

(Image credit: Regan Coule)

But in the battle of audio, Bose is the clear victor. The 700s consistently delivered a warm audio profile that had clear details, a large soundstage with rich bass and full mids and highs. That meant when I was listening to Maxwell’s “Bad Habits” the swelling organ filled the soundscape, but not so much that Maxwell’s falsetto didn’t take center stage, singing a wistful song of love lost. The percussion was crisp and clear and when the saxophone and horns came in, it was powerful, but overpowerful.

Listening to the same track on the Beats, it felt like I was listening to the old-school Bose in some ways. Although details on the song like the gentle guitar strums and cymbal strikes were nice and clear, the rest of the song, particularly the vocals sounded cold and somewhat distant. And that beautiful horn section didn’t have the same oomph as the Bose. 

MORE: Best Bose Headphones of 2019

And while Beats has definitely dialed back the overprocessed lows on the Solo Pros, some of the bad habits persist.  The bass on Megan Thee Stallion's "Big Ole Freak," was boomy, which intruded into other components of the soundstage. However, the delicate electronic wind instrument and Megan's commanding vocals managed to shine. The lows on the 700s were better balanced, so not only did you get the thumping bass, but you also got it without any of that pesky distortion.

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700

Battery life

As great active noise cancelling is, it can be a drain on headphones’ battery life. Luckily, both Bose and Beats offer fairly long battery life with estimated battery lives of 20 and 22 hours, respectively with the ANC on. Beats claims 40 hours with ANC disabled.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I managed to squeeze about 16 hours of battery life out of the 700s over the course of 8 days with 3 hours of battery life remaining at 20%. When I used the Solo Pros, I got about 12 hours out of the headphones with 56% of battery life left. If you want to get the most out of the Bose battery, you’ll want to turn off the Auto-Off feature so it automatically shut down after several minutes of activity. The Solo Pros don’t offer such a feature. If you want to turn them off, you have to physically take them off and fold them, which is a bummer for someone who considers their headphones a legitimate fashion accessory. 

MORE: Beats Headphones: Top Wireless and Wired Picks

Both sets of cans offer fast charging with the Beats offering three hours of battery life after 10 minutes of charge thanks to its Fast Fuel technology. Conversely, the 700 will give you 3.5 hours of charge in 15 minutes. 

Winner: Beats Solo Pro

Call quality

Not only does the 700 offer excellent ANC, it also brings the feature over to phone calls. Out of the eight microphones embedded in the headphones, two amplify your voice during calls. That meant that when I called my coworker on a busy New York City street, both ends of the call were clear. He only heard background noise when I was talking and even then, it was faint.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn the Solo Pro could actually hold its own against the Beats. Calls were clear and crisp and background noise was at a minimal. However, several of my callers could tell I was using headphones to talk instead of just the smartphone.

Winner: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700

Value

The Beats Solo Pro are available in six colors and priced at $299 while the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700s are available in two shades and cost $399. With the Solo Pros, you’re getting a colorful, stylish pair of headphones that delivers great audio and active noise cancelling technology. Plus, you get the benefit of Apple’s H1 chip, which offers longer battery life, hands-free Siri and near instantaneous pairing.

In the case of the Bose, well, you’re getting a pair of Bose headphones. That means you’re getting a sleek, modern design with best-in-class ANC that works with music and calls. You can expect at least 20 hours of battery life and the audio quality is clean, crisp and well balanced. It’s a hefty price tag, but then again, you pay more for quality.

Winner: Beats Solo Pro

Beats Solo ProBose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700
Design (10)87
Controls (5)45
Setup (5)54
App (5)34
Active Noise Cancelling (25)2025
Transparency vs Conversation Mode (5)34
Audio Quality (20)1518
Battery Life (10)98
Call Quality (10)710
Value (5)53
Total7988

Bottom line

This was a close one, but the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700 managed to pull out the win. The 700s continue to be the gold standard for active-noise cancelling technology using its eight integrated microphones to block out ambient noise without affecting audio quality. 

Even better, the ANC carries over to phone calls, so you can have a conversation just about anywhere. And thanks to the app, you can even adjust how much or how little of yourself you can hear on call as well as toggle 11 levels of active noise cancelling. But for $399, I wish there was more color variety and that the battery life was just a little longer. Still, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700 is the best choice for anyone who wants to create an oasis of quiet wherever they are. 

Beats has come a long way. Back in the day, I would have scoffed if someone recommended investing in a pair of Beats by Dre headphones. Now, I’m recommending the Solo Pros, especially if you’re an iOS fanatic. The headphones are colorful and have an adult premium aesthetic. 

And speaking of grown up, Beats has matured the audio profile, which could still use some work, but is good enough to be counted among the established heavy hitters. Apple just sweetens the pot with its H1 chip that offers longer battery life, near instant pairing and hands free Siri. Plus, at $299, the Solo Pro is $100 cheaper than the Bose 700. Ultimately, the Solo Pro is great for people who want a compact, colorful pair of headphones with good ANC and audio quality at  a more reasonable price point.