It's been a busy few months for Bose. Without warning, the consumer tech giant updated its wireless headphone and soundbar line up in October 2023 and introduced two new QuietComfort models, plus the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and the Smart Ultra Soundbar.
Of all the new additions though, it's the $429 Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones that are the most interesting.
As the replacement to the long-running Bose 700 — which took the No 1 spot as the best noise-canceling headphones for three years and continue to rank as the best value option — the new Ultra Headphones bring the new flagship right up to date.
As you might expect from the noise-canceling headphone king, the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones take their noise blocking capabilities to the next level while introducing new Bose Immersive Audio tech and increasing the price.
Keep scrolling to find out the 5 things I love about the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones and the one I don't, or head over to our Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones vs. Bose 700 face-off for a full breakdown on how they compare.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: What I love
1. Best noise-canceling Bose headphones ever
There's no doubt about it, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are the best noise-canceling headphones I've encountered. Set to Max, I could barely hear anything of what was going on around me and I'd say that nearly 95% of unwanted sounds were silenced during my testing. They completely silenced the world around me to the point where I couldn't hear anyone in the office. My keyboard taps were non-existent, as was the sound of the kitchen faucet when I turned it on to top up a glass with cold water. Any blaring noises that caught my attention sounded like background effects on songs.
To find out how they stand up to the strongest non-Bose noise-canceling headphone rival, check out my Bose QC Ultra Headphones vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 face-off.
2. Immersive Audio
Immersive Audio is the headline feature of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. The universal spatialized audio is made possible by proprietary digital signal processing software, so whatever music source or streaming platform you use, you'll benefit from immersive listening on Bose's newest flagship.
Immersive Audio gave a phenomenal first impression. With the "Still" setting, I felt like I was listening to live music. Sounds appeared to have more space around them and felt like they wrapped around my head. I wouldn't say that it always felt entirely natural, and some elements of music that I know well were less prominent with Immersive Audio enabled. But it gave an impressive sense of spaciousness that stays anchored to a fixed point no matter where I moved my head.
The "Motion" setting delivers the same dynamic listening experience while on the go but keeps the immersive sound experience equally balanced to the same level in each earcup.
3. Bluetooth 5.3 with aptX Adaptive support
A partnership between Bose and Qualcomm was confirmed earlier this year, and while the promise of aptX Lossless audio support hasn't arrived, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones have Bluetooth 5.3 with aptX Adaptive support.
This advanced audio codec delivers higher-quality audio transfers when streaming content from compatible playback devices including many of the best Android smartphones. I’ve tested the feature on multiple smartphones and I've enjoyed the uplift in audio quality over standard Bluetooth audio quality. Clarity was given a noticeable lift, more details are unraveled thanks to the greater amount of audio data being transferred via the sophisticated codec.
Movie and gaming streams also appear to be latency free when playing from my Sony Xperia 1 IV smartphone.
4. Design and comfort
The new Bose Ultra Headphones appear to take design cues from rival models to create a chic and well-crafted headphone. Their superior craftsmanship, blending the 700’s sharp-looking aesthetics with the QC series’ pleasant wearable design, adds twistable and foldable earcups.
The headband is substantial and has softer padding. The sturdy aluminum frame allows the earcups to slide out or retract to get the right fit, while the premium leather wraps around the headband and earcups provide impressive long-term comfort. Even the bundled carrying case has gotten a facelift, featuring cutouts to collapse and stow the Ultra Headphones securely when on the move.
5. Touch controls and new volume strip
Physical buttons and voice activation continue to be part of the new Bose flagship headphones. Tactility is responsive and solid, ensuring all intended commands are properly executed. The advanced mic array gives excellent speech recognition and vocal capture when using the digital assistant. Firing up Alexa or Google Assistant with their wake-word phrase was instantaneous, and voice commands were addressed as quickly as they were received.
Touch controls are on the right earcup for both models to navigate playback commands. Wear detection is supported on both, but the Bose Ultra has a new volume control strip on the right earcup that feels accurate and is a great addition.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones: What I hate
Actually, there are several areas where the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are outperformed by rivals. Although the Bose QC Ultra Headphones give listeners 4 hours more battery than the Bose 700, you only get 24 hours of continuous listening on a full charge, and enabling Immersive Audio brings that estimate down to 18 hours. That's lower than the 30-hour battery life with ANC enabled for the Sony WH-1000XM5, which also cost less.
More annoyingly is that they don't perform in terms of voice calling quality. That may sound shocking given the QC Ultra’s flagship status and price, but that doesn’t make them an inferior calling headset. They performed well with wireless video and voice calls, eliminating background noise, but some high-frequency sounds and wind did enter conversations. This is contrary to our findings for the Bose 700, which continue to rank top as the best headphones with a mic for calls.
The pros definitely outweigh the cons here — and I still highly recommend the Bose QC Ultra — but these minor issues are worth considering before buying a pair.
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As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.