Hail to the new king. Bose has released the QuietComfort 25, a sleeker, sexier headphone that will replace the QC 15 in the Bose pantheon. Priced at $299, the QC 25 boasts sophisticated good looks, impressive active noise-cancellation technology and great audio quality. The heir-apparent headphones also offer a comfortable fit and up to 35 hours of battery life — with the ability to play music after the battery dies — making the QC 25 the new ANC headphones to beat.
It was never hard to pick the QC 15s out of a crowd. You just looked for the most boring pair of black-and-silver cans. By comparison, the QuietComfort 25 are like an invigorating splash of water. My review unit had a black-and-dark-blue color scheme, but Bose also offers a version in white, tan and turquoise, as well as customization options.
My favorite part of the QC 25s is the top of the band, which is wrapped in a soft-touch black canvas cloth with squeezably soft, jet-black faux suede. The lower part of the headphones, including the outer earcups, is made of matte plastic.
The earcups are gray and feature a ridged chrome Bose logo. It's a great visual contrast to the black middle ring and the thin dark-blue band, which hold the black pleather earcups.
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Bose added a splash of color to the cups’ interior, a large R and L in a striped turquoise-and-black pattern to help listeners wear the headphones properly. The cups have the ability to fold upward or lay flat, thanks to the zinc hinges.
Toward the bottom of the left earcup, you'll find the 3.5-mm audio port. The power switch is located above the Bose emblem on the right earcup. There's a large panel at the top of the right cup that when pulled back, reveals the compartment for the AAA battery, which powers the noise cancellation.
Similar to the QuietComfort 15s, QC 25 owners searching for a unique-looking pair of cans should check out the customization tool. Bose has teamed with ColorWare, which specializes in tricking out consumer electronics with a cornucopia of color.
Using the customization tool, audio fashionistas can tweak nine specific points on the headphones, including the earcups, outer headbands, spacers and domes. The tool offers 52 colors in either gloss or matte paint finish. However, creating a pair of pretty headphones isn't cheap — it adds another $100 to the $299 tab.
One thing Bose didn't change is how comfortable the QuietComforts are to wear over long periods of time. I wore the headphones for more than three hours, reveling in the way the pleather earcups nestled gently against my skull and created a sound-muffling seal. The headphones' 6.9-ounce frame was so light, I almost forgot I was wearing anything at all.
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The Dr. Dre Beats Executive headphones also deliver a pleasant fit. The wider padding on the earcups left my ears feeling like they were resting on two pillows. However, the Executive's 11.6-ounce aluminum and stainless-steel frame felt somewhat heavy; it wasn't uncomfortable, but I could feel their presence more than the QC 25s.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones ship with a 56-inch audio cable that features an in-line mic with an Apple-centric, three-button remote. Nevertheless, the remote worked well with my Samsung Galaxy S4, letting me skip tracks, adjust volume, answer or ignore calls and pause or play music. I wasn't as lucky with my Nokia Lumia 925, as I discovered that the play/pause button was the only button that worked.
Bose has somehow managed to improve upon awesome. Similar to the QC 15s, the QC 25 have strategically placed microphones along the interior and exterior of the earcups, which detect and measure outside noise. From there, the information is relayed to a proprietary digital chip inside the cups that creates an opposite noise-cancelling signal.
The proof is in the silence. In a head-to-head sound-off, the QC 25's ANC was quieter than the QuietComfort 15s and blocked out more background noise. The QC 25s immediately rendered my colleagues' conversations virtually mute. I could still make out remnants of sentences when I switched to the QC 15s. The insistent clicking of neighboring keyboards sounded distant, leaving me in an oasis of quiet.
The QC 25 performed just as well outside at a busy New York City intersection. As I sat at the pedestrian plaza across from the Flatiron building, the QC 25s effectively reduced the honking horns, blaring sirens and loud conversations to a dull, muffled roar.
The biggest difference between ANC on the QC 25s and the QC 15s is what I like to call the vacuum effect. Wearing the QC 15s can feel like you're on an airplane preparing for ascent or descent. It's not painful, but the pressure can be disconcerting. I didn't feel any of that with QC 25s; there was only serene silence.
Just like Meghan Trainor, the Bose QuietComfort 25s are all about that bass — as well as the highs, mids and everything in between. The company's TriPort technology returns to handle the lows, creating deeper bass. Additionally, the QC 25s feature an Active EQ, which Bose claims produces a smoother sound across frequency. Together, these technologies delivered a more refined audio performance than their predecessor.
When I listened to Meghan Trainor's popular ditty, the titular bass was rich and warm and accompanied by a crisp snare and crystal-clear vocals. The same track on the QC 15s was noticeably harsher, delivering a shrill performance on the vocals that slightly muddied the bass. The Executives, like most Beats headphones, focused on the bass too much, delivering a rather wooly, undefined effect that carried over into the rest of the song.
Listening to John Coltrane's rendition of "My Favorite Things" on the QC 25s delivered spacious audio with smooth saxophone and lush accompaniment. The piano was a stand-out feature on the track, delivering a clear, almost bell-like quality. I noticed a subtle hiss on the Beats Executives that distracted me from an otherwise inoffensive performance. When I focused on the music, the piano chords on the Executives were surprisingly clear. The same chords were borderline piercing on the QC 15.
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Attempts to overwhelm the QC 25s with ridiculous amounts of bass were met with failure. The cans held up against Kanye West's synth-heavy, low-end assault during "Love Lockdown," ably producing satisfying knock, punchy percussion and lively piano. The track wasn't as kind to the Beats, as the track congealed into a muddy din when Kanye took it to the chorus. The QC 15s didn't fare much better, further distorting West's heavily autotuned vocal.
The QC 25s can also be used without active noise-cancelling technology. Without ANC, the headphones were noticeably quieter and lost a lot of definition. It's a passable listening experience, but not one I would recommend.
According to Bose, the QuietComfort 25 headphones can last up to 35 hours on a single AAA battery, just like the QC 15s. In a huge upgrade from their predecessor, though, the QC 25s can continue to play music after the battery has died — you just lose out on the active noise-cancelling and the Active EQ technology.
The Beats Executive headphones can only last up to 25 hours on a battery. The party's over once that AAA dies, since the Executives need power to play.
Street noise, what street noise? Answering and receiving calls on the QC 25s was crystal-clear on both ends of the call. The headphones' ANC effectively shut out all the ambient noise of New York City traffic, allowing me to chat away without having to stop when passing by a construction site.
Since their introduction in 2009, the Bose QuietComfort 15 have been the premier headphones for anyone who wanted the best in active noise-cancelling headphones. Even as many competitors tried to take the crown, the QC15s remained on top. So it’s only fitting that the headphones that finally unseat them are their successor, the QuietComfort 25. Not only do these $299 cans look better, but they sound better and block out more noise. Plus, you can now use them even after their battery dies. They're a little pricey, but the QC 25s are simply the best there is.