Skip to main content

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: The best ANC buds in the world

Adaptive sound, smarter ANC, and a refreshed design make the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 the best-ever wireless earbuds for noise cancellation

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 in black worn by reviewer
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Adaptive sound, smarter ANC, and a refreshed design make the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 the best wireless earbuds for noise cancellation.

Pros

  • +

    Unbeatable noise cancellation

  • +

    Refined and well-balanced sound

  • +

    Excellent call quality

  • +

    Great customization settings

  • +

    More compact and stylish design

Cons

  • -

    Battery life bettered by rivals

  • -

    Poor comfort levels

  • -

    Finicky touch controls and app connectivity

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Specifications

Price: $299 / £279 / AU$429

Colors: Triple black; soapstone arrives late 2022

Battery life (rated): 6 hours; 24 hours (charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (codec support: SBC and AAC)

Water resistance: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Size: 1.2 x 0.68 x 0.88 inches (per bud); 2.61 x 2.34 x 1.05 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.21 ounces (per bud); 2.1 ounces (charging case)

After weeks of leaks, the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are now official. Bose’s newest flagship wireless earbuds introduce several upgrades such as adaptive active noise cancellation (ANC), Bluetooth 5.3, and sound calibration technology for improved sound quality. Most importantly, Bose has made the new version one-third smaller than the original QuietComfort Earbuds (opens in new tab), while also developing new ear-tips to help achieve optimal wear for more users.

The next-gen buds continue to build on traditional Bose hallmarks, but they also struggle in areas where they've underperformed in the past, including battery life, special features, and touch controls. Despite these shortcomings, though, their ANC and sound quality performance carry the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 to the top spot on our best noise-cancelling earbuds list.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 in black with charging case placed on brick paving

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Price and availability

  • More expensive than Apple and Sony’s flagship models
  • Only one color available at launch

The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 have a $299 MSRP — a $20 markup from the first-gen entry. Triple black is the only color available at launch, although a soapstone option will be introduced later this year. Inside the box are a charging case, USB-C charging cable, three sets of different-sized tips, three sets of different-sized bands, and safety instructions. 

Competitive pricing isn’t much of a concern for Bose. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be selling these new buds at a higher price than the recently announced AirPods Pro 2 ($249) earbud flagship, or market rivals like the Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279) and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 ($249). Should this be too high for your budget, you can always settle for the previous QuietComfort Earbuds, which are currently discounted to $199 at Amazon (opens in new tab).

To pick up a bargain and find all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, don't forget to bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 charging case, in black on a stone surface

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Design and comfort

  • 30% smaller than first-gen Earbuds
  • Lighter and more compact charging case
  • Comfort remains an issue

Bose says it has reduced the size of the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 by 30%, which is a significant redesign that makes the Earbuds 2 more practical and attractive. The outer plastic is superior to the original so you can expect these buds to survive hard knocks and trials of regular use. The black Earbuds in this review mix glossy and matte finishes, which feels like a nice touch, while the IPX4-rating ensures they are protected from sweat and water. 

The charging case has also received a facelift with a smaller and more slender design than the one supplied with original Earbuds. It is just as sturdy though, and although it's about twice the size, it bears some similarity to the case bundled with the Google Pixel Buds Pro.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 placed amongst some grey stones

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A new alternative sizing ear tip kit helps establish a proper fit for all ear sizes. The stabilizers molded nicely into the inner part of my ears, but the new tips struggled to maintain a tight grip around the canals. Bose’s Eartip Fit Test helped to improve the fit and provided accurate feedback.

Advertisements suggest you wear the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 like the AirPods with the 'stem' positioned vertically. The companion app says differently, stating the buds must be rotated back so that they point towards your mouth. This is supposed to provide a “comfort seal.” I beg to differ. Not only did the recommended technique loosen fit, but I could feel the cavity pressing up against the concha. Those with high pain thresholds might feel some discomfort after about two hours of wear.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 worn by reviewer using touch controls

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Touch controls and digital assistant

  • Full suite of media controls
  • Tap response unreliable
  • Satisfying digital assistant experience

Tap accuracy could be better; the controls worked 50% of the time. Everything else performed much better, specifically sliding, which allowed for seamless volume adjustment.

Playback, call management, volume, listening mode activation, and digital assistance can all be activated directly on the buds. Those who like to customize the control scheme based on preference will be disappointed to hear they can only swap out the Shortcut function (long press). Everything else remains assigned to its programmed input method, which is single-, double-, triple-tap or slide gestures.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 held aloft between reviewer's finger tips

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Wear detection was OK, pausing content when taking off the buds and resuming playback when placed back on my ears. While the feature performs faster on other buds, it’s still more dependable for pausing music than the single-tap gesture. 

Google Assistant, Siri, and Bixby are all compatible and work well. Every voice command was registered precisely, thanks to Bose’s intelligible mic array that snatched up every syllable and long-winded inquiry. Google’s AI bot needed time to warm up, misinterpreting basic commands like “what is my next event” for “what is my next alarm” at the start, but found its verbal footing after several tries. 

Maybe a future update will add voice activation, so you can fire up Alexa or Google Assistant using their respective wake-word phrase (“Alexa,” or “Hey Google”).

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 paced on a stone surface and alongside a smart phone playing music

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Sound quality

  • Active EQ with balanced sound
  • Built-in presets come handy for bass/treble customization
  • No spatial audio or aptX support

Bose uses a new proprietary technology called CustomTune that automatically calibrates ANC and the sound frequency profile to the unique properties of your ear. The overall effect is positive, giving the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 a punchy, sharp soundstage. 

The kick drums on Prince’s “Kiss” landed hard and were nicely balanced, never overshadowing high-end elements such as the skittish hi-hats and singer’s vocals. Even the smooch sounds on the hook were more pronounced and lifelike, as if Prince himself performed them just a few feet away from my ear.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 with charging case alongside smart phone streaming music

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

These buds handled the bass drums and guitar on Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” much better than I anticipated. Separation was impressive, which made both instruments more distinctive once the soft-tuned piano entered the soundscape. 

Frequency range was better demonstrated on orchestral tracks. John Coltrane’s “Spiral – Mono” offered up some great lows (double bass), mids (piano), and highs (cymbals). However, the QuietComfort Earbuds 2’s soundstage could only handle so much boom, as experienced on Hans Zimmer’s “Time,” where the deep rattling bass was slightly muffled.

Smart phone showing music app for Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose’s equalizer isn’t as expansive as Sony’s, nor does it host a high number of presets. Still, it’s sufficient for increasing/decreasing bass and treble. You can also manually adjust the three bands to get a bit more high-end presence on music tracks.

3D audio (aka spatial audio) is not available. This is highly coveted feature that some luxury models (e.g., AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4) support. Competitors like the AirPods Pro 2 are also taking the feature up a notch, offering a personalized version that lets listeners create their own custom profile for a greater sense of immersion.

Codec support is limited to SBC and AAC – both operate smoothly on iOS/macOS and Android devices. No Bose wireless headphones or earbuds come with hi-res wireless audio codecs such as aptX and LDAC.

Close up image of reviewer wearing Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Active noise cancellation

  • Best-in-class noise cancellation
  • Create your own ANC modes
  • ActiveSense automatically adjusts ambient listening to your surroundings

The market’s best true wireless noise-cancelling technology just got better. CustomTune emits a tone used to map the contours of your ear canal for more effective ANC. From there, an algorithm is formed that “custom tunes” the QuietComfort Earbuds 2’s noise-cancelling filters and provides better cancellation in midrange tones. I immediately noticed a decrease in vocal presence when surrounded by talkative family members. 

Bose also enhanced ANC to give listeners a more personalized noise-cancelling experience. You can choose from the two standard modes – Quiet (acoustic noise cancellation) and Aware (aka transparency mode) — or pick from 2 of 10 custom modes that save to your profile.

Showing ANC controls on Bose app for QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Quiet worked best for blocking out low and mid-range frequencies, while still allowing me to hear details more clearly on tracks. The custom modes gave me more freedom to adjust between the 10 ANC levels; keeping it at max level handled high frequencies better. According to Bose, Quiet should be roughly the same as level 10, but my ears pegged them at level 8 or 9, which is still fantastic. My modes were tailored to my surroundings, completely silencing my toddler during work hours and most outdoor distractions, while also minimizing wind presence.

Aware Mode is engineered to let you hear external sounds without compromising audio quality. I wasn’t the biggest fan of it before, and my opinion hasn’t changed. Yes, it works well, and I could hear most of what transpired around me both indoors and outdoors. I just prefer a transparency mode that lets me adjust how much noise I want to keep out or let in.

Close up image with side profile of reviewer wearing Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Thankfully, ActiveSense improves ambient listening by automatically adjusting the feature to hear music and ambient noise equally well. Once enabled, I was able to have clear conversations with my wife when sharing office space; disabling the feature made it tough to hear her. 

Another option you have is setting the ANC level anywhere below Level 3 on the custom modes. When placing Home mode on Level 0, the mics opened wider and made noise more transparent.

Show fit test app for Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Bose Music app and features

  • Clean-looking, user-friendly interface
  • Decent number of features
  • Wonky connectivity

The Bose Music app is the hub for nearly all special features. It isn’t loaded with extras like the Sony Headphones Connect app, but what’s here is serviceable for enhancing the user experience. Top features like Quiet (ANC)/Aware mode, ActiveSense, EQ, Eartip Fit Test, and Shortcut are already accounted for. 

The other big feature is Self Voice to adjust how loud your voice sounds on calls. Rounding things out are a media player, power-saving mode (enable motion detection), volume slider, battery level indicators, product tips, and a Bluetooth Connections setting that shows previously paired devices. A future update is confirmed for end of year that brings independent single bud use.

Showing self voice feature on Bose app for QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If only the app didn’t suffer from terrible connection issues. I’m not exaggerating when saying it took me more than an hour and numerous tries to pair the buds with Bose Music, and this was after establishing a connection with my Google Pixel 6 Pro

Performance issues are common with apps before launch, though keep in mind that I was using the latest version and received the newest software update.

Quick charging is the only other feature outside of the app. Speaking of which…

Showing charging option for Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Battery life and charging case

  • Disappointing battery life
  • Weak quick charging
  • No wireless charging

Battery life remains the same at 6 hours per charge. For comparison, this is the same as the AirPods Pro 2 and less than the Sony WF-1000XM4 (8 to 12 hours). Don’t ask what the playtime is with ANC off because there is no way to disable the feature. I got about 2 days of moderate use (2.75 hours daily) before recharging, which I wasn’t happy with. 

The charging case helped soften the blow, which has been increased to 24 hours when fully charged. Having the same playtime capacity as the first-gen AirPods Pro’s case isn’t anything to brag about. Also, the AirPods Pro 2 case gives you up to 30 hours and the WF-1000XM4 case achieves up to 35 hours.

Showing aware mode with in Bose app for QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A 20-minute quick charge generates 2 hours of playtime. That doesn’t sound quick at all, especially when other in-class rivals perform much faster; the AirPods Pro 2 gets you 1 hour of listening time in 5 minutes.

Adding more insult to injury is the lack of wireless charging, something Apple, Sony, and plenty of other wireless earbuds makers already offer.

Showing reviewer making a call using Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Call quality and connectivity

  • A top-tier calling headset
  • Stable wireless performance
  • No Bluetooth multipoint or Google Fast Pair

We consider the original QuietComfort Earbuds the best earbuds with a mic voice and video calls. Its sequel is just as great of a calling headset. Bose’s mics demonstrate superb vocal capture, making conversations loud and crisp on your end. The Self Voice feature comes in clutch when speaking in rowdy settings.

Where I’m a bit torn is the ANC performance during calls. The QuietComfort Earbuds put a muzzle on most noises across the frequency spectrum. I didn’t get that same effect out of QuietComfort Earbuds 2. During calls with my wife, she could hear the whisking effects produced by speeding cars, as well as incidental sounds around the house. However, she did mention my voice was prominent over any background interference.

Bose Quietcomfort earbuds II

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bluetooth 5.3 comes part of the package, giving you faster wireless performance, instantaneous connectivity with previously paired devices, and extending range up to 100 feet.

For a moment, I swore the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 supported multipoint technology because it did pair to two of my devices at the same time. That dream was short-lived when the connection broke on my secondary device one minute later. If it’s any consolation, these buds keep track of the last 7 devices they've been paired with.

I was hoping to see one-tap Google Fast Pair, but it didn’t make the cut.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review: Verdict

The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are a remarkable follow-up that delivers better sound, great call quality, and unrivaled ANC. Proprietary technologies like ActiveSense and CustomTune balance sound and noise neutralization extremely well. Bose’s redesign also makes these buds less of an eyesore compared to the original. 

Not every performance factor hits its mark. The touch controls are less reliable this time around and app connectivity is very buggy. In addition, these buds lack popular features like aptX, spatial audio, and wireless charging that are becoming increasingly standard and readily available by ANC rivals across all kinds of price points. 

I have faith Bose will fix their app experience and touch accuracy, because they’ve done it before on the previous version via firmware update. If you’re fine without having certain features, then the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 will keep the tunes playing and put the rest of the world on mute.

Next: See how the top ANC earbuds right now compare in our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 vs. AirPods Pro 2 face-off.

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.