The Bose QuietComfort Ultra might be one of the worst kept secrets of 2023. Leaks surfaced online earlier this year with experts predicting a launch window of September through to the end of the year — predictions that were then corroborated by a leak on French website Dealabs.
If all the renderings and leaks are true, then the QuietComfort Ultra will look like a crossbreed of the ultra-chic Bose 700, one of the best noise-canceling headphones overall, and the minimalist QuietComfort 45. It's safe to say that enhancements to active noise cancelation, audio quality, and battery life can pretty much be guaranteed. All other features, however, have remained a mystery.
What we do know is that class-leading ANC won’t be enough for these next-gen cans to outperform current category leaders such as the Sony WH-1000XM5 with its versatile all-round performance, or the Sennheiser Momentum 4 with its outstanding battery life. Bose must add more features and functionality into the mix to be a serious challenger to the market’s best headphones overall.
What can Bose do to bring heat back to the competition? I have a few features I'd like to see added to Bose’s latest flagship that would win over the critics, consumers, and skeptics. With that in mind, here are 7 class-leading features I want to see on the Bose QuietComfort Ultra.
1. Hi-res audio support
The best Bose headphones only support standard audio codecs: SBC and AAC. Both serve well for streaming media on iOS/macOS and Android devices, but they lack the faster bit rates and hi-res audio performance that more enhanced codecs deliver.
A new partnership between Bose and Qualcomm was set to bring aptX Lossless Audio to the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 sometime this year, which will allow for higher-quality audio transfers when streaming. It’s also said that Bose will incorporate Qualcomm’s S5 Sound platform into future wireless audio devices. Has any of this happened yet? I'm not entirely sure, but I'm hoping to find out more when the QuietComfort Ultra headphones are finally announced.
2. ActiveSense and CustomTune
If Bose wants to win over enthusiasts, it's going to need some in-depth customization features. ActiveSense and CustomTune would fit the bill perfectly.
ActiveSense automatically adjusts ambient listening to your surroundings and creates customized ANC profiles, while CustomTune calibrates ANC and the sound frequency profile to the unique properties of your ears. The combination worked flawlessly, giving the QC Earbuds 2 refined ANC without compromising sound. It’s a given that we see both on the QC Ultra’s spec sheet.
3. Spatial Audio
Apple set the standard for 360-degree sound on wireless headphones when bringing Spatial Audio to the AirPods Max. The feature has become so popular that rivals like Samsung, Sony, and Yamaha have developed their own renditions. Should Bose follow suit? Not exactly.
If there’s one thing that Bose does best, it’s stick to its strengths, and implementing cutting-edge sound formats has never been one. It makes no sense for them to create their own 3D audio format. However, that doesn’t mean the QC Ultra should be released without some form of spatial audio. Our suggestion is to license 3D audio technology from a competitor or form a partnership with Dolby Atmos to give these headphones more immersive sound.
4. Adjustable ANC
The highlight of any pair of Bose headphones is the noise cancelation. The Bose 700 comes with 10 levels of adjustable ANC, giving listeners full control of how much noise they want to block out or let in. Meanwhile, the QC45 comes with two ANC modes – Quiet (ANC) and Aware (Transparency) – each operating at its maximum level. Both are good, but we're hoping that the Ultra will follow in the 700's footsteps.
Why shouldn't the Ultra follow the QC45? For one, there’s no option for minimizing pressure produced by noise cancelation. There’s also no way of gauging how powerful ANC is at max level; you can hear the difference in noise neutralization between every two levels on the 700 headphones. Lastly, the 700 lets you assign and save three noise-canceling settings that can be selected via ANC button, whereas the QC45 leaves you with the same two modes.
Bose, if there's still time, the Ultra need the 700's ANC settings.
5. Touch Controls
Details on the QC Ultra’s control scheme are non-existent at the moment, but if we’re going based on the renderings, they will have an all-button setup similar to the QC45. Let’s pray that isn’t the case.
Bose nearly perfected touch controls on wireless headphones with the 700. The sleek matte touch panel on the right earcup accurately registered swipes and taps, making playback and call management a breeze to operate.
The blueprint is already there, now the Ultra just needs to follow it.
6. A desktop app
One of the best and most undervalued features of any AirPods models are the ability to customize controls and enable features on macOS devices. Assigning playback commands via shortcut menu or toggling on ANC modes directly from the menu bar are amazing perks. Why is it that no other competitor offers a way to personalize their headphones on desktop operating systems?
Bose previously had the SoundTouch app available for PC and Mac, but it was only for setting up their soundbars. They should strongly consider making a desktop version of the Bose Music app or maybe a Google Chrome extension that grants instant access to app features like ANC adjustment and Self Voice to adjust and hear your voice more naturally on calls.
7. Turn off ANC
Bose insists that the noise-canceling technology on their headphones and earbuds always remain on. That’s absurd. Even models with adjustable ANC like the 700 headphones can’t turn off the feature; lowering the levels from 10 to 1 automatically enables transparency mode. All that translates to is quicker battery drainage.
It’s time we call an end to it for the sake of battery life preservation.
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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.
- Lee DunkleyAudio Editor