Bose has a knack for creating audio products that perform to the highest level and stay around for lengthy time periods, which is why we're super excited about the potential for new Bose noise-canceling headphones just around the corner.
The company's four-year-old Bose 700 currently ranked top as the best noise-cancelling headphones, and the Companion Series multimedia speakers have been the best computer speakers for over two decades. Active noise cancellation gems like the critically acclaimed QuietComfort 35 II headphones are still highly coveted, and are one of few models that I consider to be better value than their next-gen version.
I’m adding the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds to the list, which can still be found for $199 at Walmart. At launch, Bose’s first-ever wireless ANC earbuds were a solid pickup that won over critics and consumers with their stellar noise neutralization, and is still top-tier and out ranks many rivals. Certain characteristics have not aged well though, such as their gigantic design and poor battery life. But after a month of testing them again, I think there's still much to appreciate about Bose's first-gen QuietComfort Earbuds.
Read on to discover why I believe the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds continue to rank as one of my top 5 noise-cancelers.
Bose's original noise cancelation still going strong
The original AirPods Pro may have put wireless noise-canceling earbuds on the map, but the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds legitimized the true wireless earbuds sub-category. I had the pleasure of reviewing them at launch and commended Bose’s ANC technology for its “phenomenal job of blocking out ambient sounds across the frequency spectrum.” My opinion hasn’t changed.
These buds made working from home convenient and abated distractions around my work space. Bose’s algorithms and powerful, properly positioned mics worked their magic in rowdy settings. ANC blocked out 90% of unwanted noises and zoned me out to whatever tracks I had playing on Tidal, one of the best music streaming services, which sounded fantastic thanks to the well-balanced soundstage delivered by Bose's first-gen QC Earbuds.
I always set ANC to level 10 for maximum results. Reducing it to level 0 automatically enables transparency mode, which allows for clear-sounding conversations and increased awareness in busy environments.
Newly developed technologies like CustomTune elevate the QuietComfort Earbuds 2’s noise cancelation by automatically calibrating ANC and the sound frequency profile to the unique properties of your ear. The original QC Earbuds could have benefitted from this feature, but its exclusion doesn’t hurt their value.
In my tests I found that the QC Earbuds’ noise cancelation performance was stronger than industry favorites such as the AirPods Pro 2, Sony WF-1000XM4, and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3. I need more time comparing these buds to the all-new Sony WF-1000XM5. However, I can confidently say that Bose’s biggest ANC rival comes from the company's own QuietComfort Earbuds 2.
New software updates have enhanced ANC
The QC Earbuds didn’t have the smoothest transition to market. Bose’s Connect app was buggy and affected connectivity. Other issues arose a year after their release, with some reddit.com users complaining about distortion on the left bud and software updates causing problems with battery life and noise cancelation. Bose finally got these buds operating at full capacity.
Downloading the latest version of the Bose Music app gets you features that weren’t available at launch. These include an EQ with bass/treble presets and Auto Transparency to automatically set noise cancelation to level 0 when using one bud. The biggest addition is Modes. Here’s where you can choose from four different ANC settings: Aware, Quiet, and two custom profiles you can create by assigning an ANC level and name. Most people may prefer the slider on the home page for noise-canceling adjustment, but Modes is the more versatile option for personalization.
Aware runs on ActiveSense, a proprietary technology that was announced with the QC Earbuds 2, and is also apparently engineered on the original QC Earbuds. ActiveSense does a tremendous job adjusting to high-frequency environments for minimal interference and keeps sound quality consistent at the same time.
Bose’s best calling headset
When it comes to voice and video calls, the QC Earbuds deliver better clarity and noise cancelation than the QC Earbuds 2. Clients and friends praised how loud and clear I sounded, never once mentioning background or wind interference. Using the Self Voice feature also boosts call quality to hear yourself louder for natural-sounding conversations.
I like the QC Earbuds 2 as a calling headset and have received positive feedback from different callers; Bose’s upgraded mic array demonstrates superb vocal capture. Unfortunately, these next-gen buds don’t block out external sounds or wind as well as their predecessor.
Are the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds still worth buying?
That’s a tough call. The original QC Earbuds have their fair share of flaws, but they excel at call quality and noise cancelation in a way that's unmatched by rivals. If these two hallmarks are your biggest priorities, then yes, the QC Earbuds are worth looking at… if you can find a pair. They’re discontinued by Bose but some stocks are still with online retailers, and the soapstone color option can currently be found for $199 at Walmart. Additionally, refurbished QuietComfort Earbuds options are available for $169 at Bose’s online store.
Splurging on the $299 QC Earbuds 2 will get you class-leading ANC and more features in a sleeker design. Even so, there’s no denying the QC Earbuds position as one of my top 5 noise-cancelers, which should be comforting to any owners considering an upgrade to one of the readily available models ranked in the best noise-cancelling earbuds.