Bose QuietComfort35 II vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones: Face-Off

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Microsoft Surface Headphones are two of the market's most coveted noise-cancelling headphones.

Both feature attractive designs, stellar sound quality and smart features for a premium $349 price. Their noise-cancelling capabilities are also among the best, making either one a great purchase for those who enjoy listening to music in peace.

But choosing between the two isn't so easy. Our last face-off, which featured the Bose QC35 II versus the Sony WH-1000xM3, was a close battle. Now, it's time to find out where Microsoft's latest creation stands, as we pit it against Bose's hero product to determine the true noise-cancelling victor.

Bose QC35 II versus Microsoft Surface Headphones: Specs compared

   Bose QC35 IIMicrosoft Surface Headphones
Price$349.00$349.99
ColorsBlack, Silver, Midnight Blue and Triple MidnightGray
What's In the BoxAux cable, carrying case, micro USB cableAux cable, carrying case, USB-C cable
Battery Life20 hours (NC on); 40 hours (NC off)15 hours (NC on and off)
Size7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches8.03 x 7.68 x 1.89 inches
Weight8.2 ounces10.2 ounces
  

Design

The Surface Headphones are assembled with comfy materials, sleek aesthetics and striking details that pay homage to their notebook counterpart, the Surface Laptop 2. A blend of aluminum, plastic and steel make up their frame, which is flexible and sturdy for long-term use. Plush padding ensures a cozy, snug fit. Furthermore, the arc above each ear cup and unibody chassis gives the headphones an ultramodern look.

Credit: MicrosoftCredit: MicrosoftThe QC35 II displays notable craftsmanship as well, borrowing the same silhouette as its predecessor and swapping out plastic for corrosion-resistant stainless-steel-and glass-filled nylon. The synthetic protein leather used on the ear pads is pleasant, plus the reflective Bose logo adds more pop to the cans.

Color availability is the one design element Bose has Microsoft beat, as the QC35 II comes available in four colors – Black, Silver, Midnight Blue and Triple Midnight – with the option to create your own colorway for $50 extra. The Surface Headphones might be available only in light gray, but they're well-built and have more swagger to them.

Winner:Microsoft Surface Headphones

MORE: Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Controls

Microsoft flexed some creative muscle when developing its control scheme for the Surface Headphones, which features dials for noise cancellation and volume and a touch interface on both earcups. Answering calls and playing music on either side through simple tap gestures is super-convenient. The left (volume) and right (noise cancellation) knobs are also responsive and work without a hitch.  

Credit: MicrosoftCredit: MicrosoftOutside of voice commands, which both headphones support, the QC35 II keeps functionality traditional with physical buttons on each ear cup. On the right, is a power/pairing toggle with firm recoil, along with pause/play and volume buttons on the side. The left houses a dedicated Action button to change the noise cancellation settings or fire up Google Assistant. All the buttons work well and offer great tactility.

The QC35 II provides uncomplicated operation, but the Surface Headphones just take call, playback and ANC management to the next level.

Winner:Microsoft Surface Headphones

Setup

When it comes to pairing either model to an audio source, listeners aren't short of options. You can connect the QC35 II and Surface Headphones via Bluetooth or by downloading the accompanying app. The only difference is the QC35 II has NFC, meaning you can pair them by tapping your Android smartphone against the right ear cup.

I recommend going through the app for either headphone, as you can jump right into personalizing the audio and digital assistant settings. Both connect fast and have great wireless reliability, but the QC35 II gets cool points for NFC support.

Winner:Bose QC35 II

Active Noise Cancellation

The QC35 II and Surface Headphones set high standards for noise cancelling. Microsoft's adaptive ANC technology is something we've never experienced, and while effective, is still a few notches below Bose's noise-cancelling circuitry.

With two noise-cancelling modes – Low and High – the QC35 II creates a silent environment better than any other set of cans on the market. Low mode is ideal for drafty conditions; the headphones have phenomenal wind-resistant performance. High mode, which we recommend, increases ANC levels and enhances the sonics. Sporting the headphones in rowdy environments like airports and construction sites will block out almost all noise.

The Surface Headphones are no slouch at hushing your surroundings, either, programmed with 13 levels of active noise cancellation to get the job done. Its four beamforming microphones not only boost audio clarity when enabling Ambient Mode, but also help ward off wind interference. Enabling the highest ANC settings will mute nearby chatter and busy street traffic, although the technology could benefit from a tune-up to better deal with high-pitched sounds such as fire alarms and whistles.

Winner:Bose QC35 II

Audio Performance

Clear, dynamic audio is something you can expect on both headphones. However, the QC35 II is more versatile, with a wider, balanced soundstage that makes it more pleasant to enjoy all types of content, including audiobooks, music, podcasts and videos.

Regarding the sound profile, not much has changed from the QC35 I to the QC35 II, which is fine since the headphones still deliver a full range of sound. You'll be able to hear distinctive instruments and voices on live and studio performances. There's also plenty of bass to feed your eardrums just the right amount of oomph that won't impair your hearing. The only legitimate knock against the QC35 II is that the treble could be higher.

The 40-millimeter, free-edge speaker drivers on the Surface Headphones are some of the most powerful out there. Bass levels are dialed up, giving listeners head-banging lows that blend nicely with crisp-sounding mids and highs, but only on certain tracks. Distortion is noticeable on guitar-heavy tunes, while background vocals are muffled on analog records.

Using the aux cable on the QC35 II slightly increases the volume, while doing the same with the Surface Headphones brings it down, along with the bass. Clarity is equally good on both headphones in wired mode.

Winner:Bose QC35 II

Apps

The QC35 II and Surface Headphones have free companion apps (iOS, Android) for download. Bose Connect and the Cortana app let you personalize sound settings and other features such as auto-off timers. Microsoft gains the upper hand with a plethora of features that make its headphones more serviceable for users.

Credit: MicrosoftCredit: MicrosoftCortana lets you link to different email clients, play NPR news and stream music from different services – directly through the headphones. You also have the ability  to pick from five sound presets, create and tweak your own sound profile that can be used on another media device, which is pretty sick. And that's only about 50 percent of what you can do with the headphones.

Bose Connect has its own skill set, like calibrating ANC levels. Unfortunately, it's not enough to compete with Microsoft's advanced cans.

Winner:Microsoft Surface Headphones

Digital Assistant Support

Siri and Google Assistant are available on both headphones, but Microsoft managed to integrate Cortana into its cans, which broadens the AI capabilities on the Surface Headphones.

For instance, you can access LinkedIn updates, join Skype meetings, monitor stocks and create voice shortcuts to execute commands more quickly. The Cortana experience runs more smoothly on Android than on iOS, as Apple’s assistant often misinterprets commands and words. Still, you can use Siri and Google Assistant to perform common tasks, like checking your calendar or reading text messages. In addition, the mics do a solid job of hearing queries in rowdy environments, much like the QC35 II. You’ll be able to create reminders and make hands-free calls minus any interference.

Google Assistant is programmed into the QC35 II and works just as well as it does on the Surface Headphones. Despite lacking Cortana support, the latest update (version 6.2.2) brings Amazon Alexa to the QC35 II, along with many Alexa skills.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Headphones

Connectivity

In a perfect world, both of these headphones would feature Bluetooth 5.0. For now, you'll have to work with Bluetooth 4.1 (QC35 II) and Bluetooth 4.2 (Surface Headphones).Althoughboth headphones deliver stable connectivity, the Surface Headphones are slightly stronger, with the ability to pair 10 devices simultaneously.

Credit: MicrosoftCredit: MicrosoftPowering on the Surface Headphones for the first time instantly enables Pair Mode, which is a cool way of expediting the setup. The connectivity range is solid, as the headphones maintain connection around the 35-foot mark before dropping out, similar to the QC35 II. Regardless, Microsoft's multipoint technology is far superior, and makes switching between audio sources seamless.

The QC35 II has its own perks, such as automatic pairing when powering on the headphones and connecting to 2 devices simultaneously. But two does not hold a candle to 10.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Headphones

Battery Life

The QC35 II blows away the Surface Headphones, generating almost triple the battery life when NC mode is turned off.

Bose promises 20 hours with noise cancellation on and 40 hours off. For us, this equated to 4.5 hours daily for five days. That’s plenty of listening time, no matter which way you go. Surprisingly, the QC35 II surpassed its claimed length in NC mode, providing an extra 2 hours of playback. Listening at high volume and streaming videos didn’t affect the battery as expected. The headphones also have quick-charging to provide 2.5 hours on a 15-minute charge.

The Surface Headphones are rated at 15 hours, which is below the standard for today’s noise-cancelling models. Oddly, the projected battery life is the same  whether noise cancelling is turned on or off. During our testing, the battery lasted around 13 hours, with Cortana and NC mode sucking up most of the juice. It's enough to keep you entertained on a weekly commute to the office or on an international flight. USB-C charging powers up the headphones faster: 1.5 hours gets you 100 percent battery.

Winner:Bose QC35 II

MORE: Best Wireless Headphones - Bluetooth Earbuds and In-Ear ...

Call Quality

The QC35 II is the better calling headset, as it neutralizes ambient noise better and produces crisp sound. It performs especially well in windy conditions; the mics do a great job of preventing wind interference. Taking calls outside on a blustery day won't be a problem, nor will jumping on Skype calls from the privacy of your own home.

The Surface Headphones have decent call quality at best. On occasion, you'll notice some amount of hissing. The mics are also sensitive to background noise.

Winner: Bose QC35 II

Value

Falling under the sub-luxury price point, the QC35 II and Surface Headphones are equally priced at $350.  


Based on features and specs, the Surface Headphones provide more value. Microsoft blesses consumers with more than enough high-tech and mobile-friendly features. Great noise cancellation and sound also add to its merit — granted the QC35 II outperforms it in both areas.

Winner:Draw

Bottom Line

   Bose QuietComfort35 IIMicrosoft Surface Headphones
Design (10)810
Control (5)35
Setup (5)53
Active Noise-Cancelling (20)2010
Sound Quality (20)2015
Apps (5)25
Battery Life (10)105
Digital Assistant Support (5)35
Connectivity (5)35
Call Quality (5)53
Value (5)55
Bottom Line7976

Overall Winner: Bose QC35 II

The QC35 II might not be as feature-laden or futureproof as the Surface Headphones, but the cans crush the marks that matter most for those seeking a headphone in the categories of noise cancellation and sound quality. Hence, we're declaring them the winner.

We've said it before and we'll say it again, Microsoft's headphones are an excellent debut – one that projects a look into the future of sound silencers, at least in design and engineering. But, while the Surface Headphones are well-adept at neutralizing noise and producing great audio, the QC35 II cans are just more polished in both areas.

Weighing the benefits of each one, they cater to specific crowds, which makes both of them solid options, depending on preference. Those loyal to the Windows ecosystem who desire great-sounding, reliable ANC headphones can't go wrong with the Surface Headphones. Others who want top-of-the-line noise cancellation and audio performance should go all in on the QC35 II.

Credit: Tom's Guide