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Bose QuietComfort 45 review

Same look, better noise cancellation and sound

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones being held aloft against a backdrop of a coastal street with palm trees
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Our Verdict

The $329 Bose QuietComfort 45 is an excellent upgrade with enhanced ANC, sound, and battery life.

For

  • Elite active noise cancellation
  • Refined sound signature
  • Increased battery life
  • Fantastic comfort and connectivity
  • Bose Music app support
  • Can use ANC in wired mode

Against

  • Can’t turn off ANC
  • Lacks several features found on previous Bose headphones
  • Dip in call quality
Bose QuietComfort 45 specs

Colors: Black, White Smoke

Battery life (rated): 24 hours (ANC on)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1

Processor: Not stated

Size: 7.25 x 6 x 3 inches

Weight: 8.5 ounces

The Bose QuietComfort 45 isn’t the brand’s prime offering (that honor belongs to the Bose 700), but it’s a solid upgrade in the popular noise-cancelling headphones series. 

You’re getting enhanced active noise cancellation, sound, and battery life at a lower price point than its predecessors. Add Bose Music app support, newer Bluetooth technology, and special perks like SimpleSync to pair the headphones with any compatible Bose Smart Speakers to the list and you have a compelling package.

This is awesome news for Bose fans looking to replace their older ANC headphones, in particular the critically acclaimed QuietComfort 35 II. Not to mention consumers who want something close to the 700, but less expensive.

While Bose worked hard on improving certain areas compared to past releases, they neglected others, such as special features and the ability to turn off ANC. The minor decline in call quality is also worth mentioning. Despite these flaws, the QuietComfort 45 stands out as one of the best noise-cancelling headphones, and the QC series’ top performer. 

Find out what we like and don't like about it in our full Bose QuietComfort 45 review. And you might also want to check out our full Bose QuietComfort 45 vs Bose 700 face-off if you're torn between which of these headphones to buy.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: Price and availability

You can purchase the Bose QuietComfort 45 for $329 at major online retailers, or directly from Bose. It is sold in two colors: Black and White Smoke. Bundled with the purchase are a carrying case, USB-C charging cable, and an AUX cable.

This version not only launched at a lower MSRP than the QC35 II ($349), but is also less expensive than the flagship 700 ($379), as well as current category leader the Sony WH-1000XM4 ($349). If this price is out of your budget, we recommend checking out the exceptional Cleer Enduro ANC ($129)

For all of the latest headphone sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: Design and comfort

One can easily confuse the QuietComfort 45 for any QC over-ear model. The minimalist, collapsible design composed of glass-filled nylon, synthetic leather, and impact-resistant materials was left untouched, along with the button and logo placements. However, Bose did implement certain changes, which are present in the details.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones resting on their case on a gray floor

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

First, there are now metal hinges at the pivot points that give these headphones more durability. Plus, no longer does the logo have a debossed and reflective look — instead, it's also laser-etched. 

What else? Well, more mics were stuffed into the earcups, as you can see with the multiple dimples on each side. On top of that, the headband padding is covered in leather instead of suede. Some changes are welcome and others not so much, but the overall look remains chic and professional.

The reviewer wearing the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones in a residential street

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The QuietComfort 45 is listed as being heavier than the QC35 II (8.5 ounces to 8.2 ounces). You can feel the difference when holding each model in hand, but they're equally comfortable when worn. The plush padding was gentle on my ears and skull; it wasn’t until about the four-hour mark that using the headphones felt fatiguing.

Fit is reliable, too. Adjust the extenders to the proper setting and they won’t slip off your head. The earcups also have decent grip control and stick to your ears, plus the cutouts are wide enough to allow for some breathability and reduce moisture buildup.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: Controls and digital assistant

Bose copied and pasted the QC35 II’s control scheme onto these cans. Again, the three-button module on the right earcup manages most commands. A multifunctional button is flanked by volume rockers to play/pause/answer call/end calls (1x press), skip track (2x press), play previous track (3x press) or activate the native assistant (long press). The power/pair toggle remains on the front. 

Then there’s the Action Button on the left earcup, which is now limited to one function: switching ANC modes. No longer can you assign it to the digital assistant.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones lying on a windowsill

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

I’m not mad at the decision to stick with physical buttons, especially since they are highly responsive to presses. That doesn’t mean I’m thrilled with Bose not attempting to give the QuietComfort 45 new controls, especially when the 700 combined touch sensors and physical buttons so superbly.

Google Assistant, Siri, and Bixby are all compatible for hands-free voice commands. They operate well, and Bose’s mic array delivers solid intelligibility, picking up vocals and lengthy inquiries with precision. Unlike the 700, the QuietComfort 45 does not come with wake word integration.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: Sound quality

Both the 700 and QC35 II have satisfying sound signatures that lean toward the warm end of the frequency spectrum, but also produce plenty of detail and crisp mids. Bose upped the audio ante on these noise-cancellers, employing proprietary TriPort acoustic architecture and a volume-optimized Active EQ for a more refined listening experience. 

The jazz guitar flips and walking bassline on The Roots’ “Dynamite” ride smoothly over the bouncy production, while the strings and brass sounds on Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” are handled so delicately, you can hear the fingertip-friction on instruments. Vocals are also sharply focused and detailed, which is exemplary on the background adlibs in both songs. Hearing how clean and vibrant the lows and mids sounded on these hip-hop classics showed me Bose’s commitment to fine-tuning their signature with every new release. 

Bass lovers will get their fair share of boom. EDM bangers like Skrillex’s “Breakn’ a Sweat” serve as sonic Red Bull, feeding your eardrums growling synths and monstrous drums that are beautifully balanced, resulting in zero distortion. I found the low end to be punchier and richer on these headphones, compared to the 700 and QC35 II.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones next to a smartphone showing Spotify

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

As great as the QuietComfort 45 sounds, its audio performance isn’t perfect; these headphones struggle with complex recordings. On melodic tunes like Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair”, the soundstage couldn’t handle the harmonies and string orchestra as well as other sonic powerhouses like the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bowers & Wilkins PX7. Even the disproportionate bass on the record was off. Highs were also brighter than I would have liked. 

Frequency range is increased when listening in wired mode. Lows were punchier and mids were more pronounced.

Bear in mind that the QuietComfort 45 does not come with a customizable EQ (this remains a 700 exclusive), which may turn off some audiophiles. Also, the Active EQ doesn’t work without power, hindering sound quality when using the headphones in wired mode after the battery dies.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: Active noise cancellation

Noise cancellation on the QuietComfort 45 is right up there with the 700. However, there is no way to adjust the feature or turn it off, which is a shame since ANC swallows up battery life. At least you’re getting premium noise neutralization that can also be used in wired mode.

Bose programmed two modes into these cans: Quiet (standard ANC) and Aware (transparency). Performance-wise, you can expect much of the same as the 700, with the headphones putting a kibosh on high amounts of ambient sound across the frequency spectrum. 

During work hours, I was able to work freely and undisrupted around the house. Common noises like family chatter, doorbells, household appliances, and loud TVs went silent. Outside was very similar, with rowdy pedestrians and rumbling sounds (e.g., jackhammers, lawnmowers) failing to draw my attention.

The reviewer wearing the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones. In the background is the sea

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The QuietComfort 45 does a wonderful job of minimizing high-frequency noises at the highest level. It didn’t completely block out my baby boy’s cries or police sirens, but neither of these sounds pulled me away from my playlists. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I couldn’t test Quiet mode on an airplane, but based on my testing with these headphones, as well as past experiences with the 700 and QC35 II, it’s a guarantee that the QuietComfort 45 will effectively drown out engine rumble for peaceful listening above the clouds.

The Bose Music app displayed on a smartphone screen

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bose engineered Aware, its transparency mode, differently this time around. Aware aims to balance volume and let you hear incidental sounds without compromising audio quality. Not being able to adjust how much noise comes in, or how loudly you want to hear it, seems like a disservice — but this is still one of the better versions out there. 

I was satisfied with the amount of noise the mics picked up. It makes me wonder if Bose implemented the same strategy as they did with the QuietComfort Earbuds, blending ANC with ambient listening to make noises more distinctive and less harsh. 

Communicating with my wife as she played with the baby in the gazebo was fun. If there is one drawback, it’s wind resistance, something the 700 is better equipped for.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: App and special features

Bose has made app support confusing in the past, creating Bose Music for newer releases like the 700 and QC Earbuds, while relegating the QC35 II to the out-of-date Bose Connect. You can delete the latter from your mobile device, because Bose Music is the main app moving forward for all current and future Bose releases, including the QuietComfort 45. I just wish these headphones came with the same features as the 700.

The Bose Music app on a smartphone

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

With the QuietComfort 45, you get a volume slider, battery level indicators, firmware updates, a music player, and toggle controls for select functions. The Settings page provides access to other features like Power — for setting up an auto-off timer — and Self-Voice: a special mode to adjust and hear your voice more naturally on calls.

Bose SimpleSync also comes part of the package, letting you connect the QuietComfort 45 or other headphones to a Bose Smart Soundbar. All this does is provide independent volume controls, so you can raise, lower, or mute sound on a television.

The Bose Music app displayed on a smartphone, showing the Self-Voice mode

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The 700 allows you to adjust the ANC levels and save three of them on the headphones to cycle through via the Action Button. Other features the QuietComfort 45 misses out on include an EQ and shortcut function configuration (e.g., enable/disable wake word, Spotify Tap setup). Add the QC35 II’s Music Share feature to the list.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: Battery life

Bose rates battery life at 24 hours with ANC on, a marginal improvement from the 20 hours offered by the 700 and QC35 II. I’ve tested the QuietComfort 45 for three days straight (5 hours daily) and my unit has 40 percent power remaining. How about playtime with ANC off? As previously mentioned, you can’t turn off the feature. According to Bose, ANC is never truly off, meaning you’ll either be in one mode or the other, and it'll drain juice no matter what.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones resting on a MacBook keyboard

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Despite this inconvenience, 24 hours is sufficient for two weeks’ worth of moderate listening. A 15-minute quick charge will also earn you up to 3 hours of use. Furthermore, these headphones come with USB-C charging, whereas the QC35 II used micro-USB. 

An additional charging case was sold for the 700, but not this model. Something else worth mentioning is that rivals such as the WH-1000XM4 (30 hours) and Enduro ANC (60 hours) have longer playtimes.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: Call quality and connectivity

Outside of ANC, the other thing that Bose does perfectly for the most part is call quality. The 700 and QC35 II are considered two of the best headphones with a mic for voice calls. It hurts to say this, but I was somewhat disappointed with the QuietComfort 45 as a calling headset. Don’t get me wrong, because it is still a far superior option compared to most other wireless headphones. However, the noise-rejecting mic system struggles with wind and whisking effects.

My wife could barely make out anything I said when walking in gusty conditions during rush hour. That’s about my only complaint. Using the headphones in quieter settings produced loud and clear results. Indoor testing was even better, as vocals sounded crisper and more pronounced. These also became my go-to headphones for video chats with clients and friends, all of whom had positive feedback to share.

The reviewer wearing the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones and looking at a smartphone, against a backdrop of the sea

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The QuietComfort 45 comes with Bluetooth 5.1 for expanded range and stronger connectivity. I enjoyed 50 feet of wireless listening, which was perfect for moving around the house, while my smartphone charged in the office. Pairing to new devices was fast and the headphones’ auto-connect capabilities were even faster, immediately recognizing and connecting to my last paired device.

Multipoint technology returns to pair the QuietComfort 45 to two devices simultaneously, and it operates flawlessly. Being able to take calls on my Samsung Galaxy Note S20 Ultra and Zoom calls on my MacBook Pro without having to disconnect from either device was sweet. More important is how seamless Bose makes activating the feature; just hold the power toggle to the right for 3 seconds until you hear the prompt.

Note: You may encounter a voice prompt bug that states the headphones are connected to devices that have Bluetooth disabled. This is hopefully something that will be fixed in future.

Bose QuietComfort 45 review: Verdict

The QuietComfort 45 is a no-brainer for Bose fans who want to swap out their older QC headphones for something more modern, or shoppers who want first-class Bose noise cancellation for a cheaper price than the 700.

ANC is top of the line, eliminating close to 90 percent of ambient noises. These cans also have a remarkable transparency mode that increases awareness without compromising sound. Speaking of which, audio is given a nice boost in frequency range to complement most music genres. An extra 4 hours of ANC playtime is appreciated, granted there’s no way to turn off the feature. Design and comfort are also kept intact, with minor tweaks that make for a slightly fresher appearance. 

Some may be displeased with specific omissions (e.g., adjustable ANC/Transparency, EQ, touch controls), as well as the small dip in call quality. Those are legitimate complaints. 

At the same time, to get this much functionality, specifically top-tier ANC, for less than the Sony WH-1000XM4, Apple AirPods Max, and the sibling 700, makes the QuietComfort 45 praiseworthy.

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.