Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs. Bose QuietComfort 45: What's changed?

This Bose QuietComfort Headphones vs. Bose QuietComfort 45 face-off compares the all-new model with the popular 2021 model they replace to see what's changed and which are the best value.   

With the arrival of two new noise-canceling headphone models joining the 2023 line up, Bose has been discounting older models. The new QC Headphones replace the QC45, but they're still available at plenty of online retailers, making them a great option for consumers seeking high-quality ANC cans for less. 

Unlike the new Bose QuietComfort Ultra flagship that received much fanfare, the QC Headphones quietly appeared at the same time with a tweaked design and several upgrades.

Here I explain the differences and compare the two strikingly similar models to find out what's changed and which are the better value model. Keep scrolling to read my thorough breakdown to learn more.

Bose QC Headphones vs. QC45 placed side-by-side, listing image

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Specs compared

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Header Cell - Column 0 Bose QuietComfort HeadphonesBose QuietComfort 45
Price$349 / £349 / AU$649$329 / £319
Size6.18 x 3.15 x 7.68 inches7.68 x 3.15 x 6.18 inches
Weight8.3 ounces8.5 ounces
Battery life (rated)24 hours22 hours
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.1 with SBC and AACBluetooth 5.1 with SBC and AAC
Special featuresAdjustable ANC, ambient listening mode, Bluetooth multipoint, customizable EQ, multipoint technology, Self Voice, SimpleSync, smart controls, Spotify Tap, voice activationActive noise cancelation, ambient listening mode, multipoint technology, Self Voice, SimpleSync, smart controls

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Price & availability

The QC Headphones are priced higher at $349 / £349 / AU$649. That is $20 higher than the QC45 (currently listed at $329). We’ve seen the QC45 sell for as low as $229, so look out for them as part of this year’s Black Friday headphone deals.

There’s plenty of value to gain from both models, especially the QC45 when on sale. Don't forget to bookmark our best headphones deals page to keep track of all the biggest bargains.

Winner: Tie

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Design

Bose QuietComfort Headphones packaging

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When unboxed, it's unlikely that many consumers will be able to tell the QC Headphones apart from the QC45. Both pairs of headphones have the same carrying case, control layout, dimensions, materials, ports, and silhouette. They’re also equally comfy.

Before you confuse one for the other at the Best Buy kiosk this Black Friday, pay attention to the few aesthetic changes Bose made to the QC Headphones. The branding is darker and embossed on the earcups (it’s light gray and laser-etched on the older QC45). The QC Headphones are also available in an attractive cypress green colorway and the outer packaging is also flashier.

There are no substantial factors to favor one design over the other.

Winner: Tie

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Controls

Bose QuietComfort 45 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Buttons and digital assistance (e.g., Google Assistant, Siri) make up most of the QC Headphones and QC45’s control schemes. Tactile feedback is positive and helps reassure commands are being met with every press. Bose’s mic arrays demonstrate excellent speech recognition for executing voice commands with precision. The QC Headphones come with the shortcut feature to either hear battery levels or enable Spotify Tap for instant access to the streaming service when performing the press-and-hold gesture on the action button.

Winner: Bose QC Headphones

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Sound quality

reviewer wearing Bose QC headphones testing sound quality

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When the launched in 2021, the QC45 noise-canceling headphones offered strong performance, and very little has changed on the updated model. Bose’s proprietary TriPort acoustic architecture and volume-optimized Active EQ give these cans engaging, crisp sound. Contemporary tracks receive plenty of boom from the low end. Mid-range instruments and vocals are sharply focused and detailed. Listening in wired mode will also increase bass response and midrange.

The QC Headphones take advantage of new DSP changes, resulting in deeper bass and more natural sound when listening on the best music streaming services, and my streams from Tidal were spot-on. Bose’s Active EQ is part of the QC Headphones sound architecture and automatically tweaks sound on the go. Bass is robust, vocals are striking, and highs are transparent. What will draw you most to the QC Headphones is the customizable EQ via Bose Music app that allows you to create and store your own sound profile by adjusting bass, midrange, and treble to your liking.

Winner: Bose QC Headphones

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: ANC

Bose QC45 worn by reviewer testing ANC performance

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Expect signature Bose noise cancelation on both sets of headphones. There really are no significant differences in performance. Quiet mode does a great job of eliminating most incidental sounds across the frequency spectrum. I’ve used the QC45 in the past on airplanes and was never bothered by constant in-flight disruptions (e.g., crying babies, engine rumble, intercom announcements). 

They’re just as effective on the ground, and prevent everyday noises such as ambulance sirens to loud TVs from interrupting your listening. Aware mode is just as versatile. You’ll hear high amounts of ambient noise loudly and clearly from several feet away, enabling wearers to keep an open ear on what's occurring in their vicinity.

The only thing that the new QC Headphones have over the QC45 is adjustable ANC. You can choose from 10 different modes and assign an ANC level (1-10) to each one, which can then be favorited and selected when cycling through listening modes via action button. There’s even a Wind Block for reducing wind presence.

Winner: Bose QC Headphones

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Call quality

Testing call quality on the Bose QuietComfort Headphones

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Voice calling on the QC45 and QC Headphones is solid, but a step down from the exceptional performance we’ve experienced on the Bose 700 and QC35 II. Using the QC45 in quiet settings produced loud, clear vocals. Their noise-rejecting mic system struggled with wind and whisking effects, and certain background sounds crept onto calls. 

The QC Headphones offer slightly better noise reduction and come with an aux cable that has an inline mic to hear music and take calls in wired mode. You’ll want to use the cable for outdoor chats, as the inline mic does a surprisingly good job with vocal capture and minimizing external noise. Something else to consider is the Self Voice feature in the companion app to boost vocal volume on calls with either headset.

Winner: Bose QC Headphones

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Connectivity

Bose QC Headphones and QC45 handing off the arm of the reviewer

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Very little separates these two models on the connectivity front. They both operate on Bluetooth 5.1 that delivers reliable wireless performance across all devices. SimpleSync lets you link either headphone to a Bose smart soundbar and use it as a volume remote when watching TV. Multipoint technology allows for pairing to two devices simultaneously, though the QC Headphones has a toggle to switch to single point connection. Neither headphone comes with a Find My Headphones function.

Winner: Bose QC Headphones

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Battery life

Battery life is slightly higher on the QC Headphones. A full charge gets you 24 hours of ANC playtime instead. The QC45 is capped at 22 hours. Quick charging is slightly higher on the QC Headphones (15 mins = 4 hours) than it is on the QC45 (15 mins = 3 hours). These are substandard ratings when compared to luxury rivals like the Sennheiser Momentum 4 (up to 60 hours) and Sony WH-1000XM5 (30 to 40 hours).

Winner: Bose QC Headphones

Bose QC Headphones vs. Bose QC45: Verdict

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Header Cell - Column 0 Bose QuietComfort HeadphonesBose QuietComfort 45
Price and value (5)44
Design (15)1111
Controls (10)87
Sound quality (25)2220
Active noise cancelation (20)1818
Call quality (10)87
Connectvity (5)43
Battery life (10)87
Total score (100)8377

These are two of the best noise-canceling headphones money can buy, but the QuietComfort Headphones are the superior offering. Audio advances along with the multiple new features and playtime boost make them more appealing model. 

Although a definite win, the market has shifted with the arrival of the best-ever noise-canceling tech in Bose's all-new QuietComfort Ultra Headphones flagship. By comparison, the QC Headphone model hasn't upped the ANC game, and has near-identical performance as the model it replaces.

The QuietComfort 45 are still a bargain worth bagging when discounted (we have seem them drop as low as $229), but not at the full asking price. Sadly, the QC45 lack modern features common among the best wireless headphones, like customizable EQ and voice activation, and as such are outclassed by the newer Bose QuietComfort Headphones.

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Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.

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