Having a good set of active noise-cancelling headphones can make the difference between a peaceful commute or flight and a chaotic one. Enter the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, which keep the sleek design, best-in-class noise-canceling and crystal-clear audio quality and add a dedicated button to activate Google Assistant. I actually looked forward to my daily commute to and from the office and to everywhere in between.
Editor's Note: While we still recommend the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones as one our top picks for Best Headphones and Best Noise Cancelling Headphones, the new Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are our new top pick for Best Bose Headphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is just as stately the previous QC 35. The headphones are available in a matte black, but I preferred the silver finish, as it has a certain modern look I prefer.
Like their predecessors, the QC 35 IIs are made of a glass-filled nylon with a leather-cushioned outer headband. The built-in swivel cup design is constructed with similar material on the outer cups, which have the letters R and L printed in them, ensuring that you'll always know how to put them on.
The QC35 IIs are almost identical to their predecessors, with one major difference: a dedicated button for Google Assistant located on the left side of the headphones. The volume and skip/pause buttons are located close by the power/pairing switch on the right ear cup, making it easy to navigate without fumbling around. I really liked the button design and the ease with which I was able to control the headphones.
Comfort and Stability
Once I removed the QC35 IIs from their comfortable protective pouch, it was clear that these headphones were ready to take on my long and noisy train ride to and and from work, as well as on the loud and busy streets of New York City.
They felt right at home atop my head and snug against my ears, sealing out the distractions from people who might want to ask for directions. The QC35 IIs measured 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches and weighed a mere half a pound without the cable attached. The lightweight design and comfortable build of these headphones made me forget that I had been wearing them for about 3 hours in one session.
Setup: So easy, a 5-year-old can do it
Paring the QC35 IIs to a device couldn't be simpler. In fact, my 5-year-old did it twice without any assistance from me. You can download the Bose Connect app, tap your smartphone against the NFC chip in the right earcup (if you own an Android device) or just pair your phone the old-fashioned, way via Bluetooth.
I preferred pairing via the app, as I could also configure the headphones by, for example, naming the units and adjusting the level of noise canceling to fit my environment.
Pairing via Bluetooth yielded a cheerful female voice that informed me when the process was completed and popped up if I happened to wander out of pairing range or if the battery level dropped too low. The entire process of setting up the QC 35 IIs took under 10 minutes and completed without requiring me to restart my device or the headphones.
Bose Connect App
Bose went back to the lab on the Connect app and added a few useful utilities. The free app (Android, iOS) is well-designed and easy to use, whether you're pairing the headphones to your smartphone or creating a custom listening experience. The app is a Swiss army knife of sorts, allowing you to perform a number of tasks designed to optimize your listening experience.
The features that I enjoyed the most were the abilities to name to my headphones (Pope of Mope), adjust the noise-cancelling levels and set up Auto-Off, as I forget to turn off my headphones way too often
Bose also added a less "sexy" feature, but one that is worth mentioning: the ability to update the firmware of the headphones. This would allow Bose to deliver new updates or possible new features.
Google Assistant on Board
It was only a matter of time before digital assistants made the jump from the home and office straight to your ear. Bose added a dedicated Action button for quick access to Google Assistant, which is great for those of us whoown current Android phones. I found myself tapping the button to ask about the weather, find nearby restaurants and set up daily reminders.
The Google Assistant experience on the QuietComfort 35 IIs is similar to that of using the Alexa button on the OnVocal OV intelligent headphones. Before purchasing either unit, you need to ask yourself what ecosystem you use most and if this is a feature you need on your headphones.
Sorry, iPhone users, the Action button doesn't work with Siri, but you can activate Siri by holding the play/pause button. You might be better off with the regular QC 35s, which are the same price as the QC 35 IIs.
Active Noise Cancelling: Best in the business
Bose didn't change much about the active noise-cancelling (ANC) technology from the previous QC 35s, and that's a great thing. Bose continues to be the gold standard for this technology, using a set of microphones and proprietary algorithms to block out the world around you, helping you create your own fortress of solitude even in aurally chaotic settings. Once I flipped that switch on the NYC subway, I couldn't hear much of anything besides my music. I could hear faint murmurings of conversations between songs, but that was about it.
Unlike on the previous model, Bose found a way to eliminate that subtle hiss that sometimes interfered with the overall audio quality. And I'm a big fan of being able to control the level of ANC. On High, I could enjoy my commute in relative silence, and on Low, I could still hear traffic as I crossed the street. The level of control is not as in depth as that provided by the Plantronic BackBeat Pro 2s' adjustable knob and OpenMic button, but it's still a pretty handy feature to have.
I played everything from rock to hip-hop, solo artists and, yes, even country music. In each genre, the QC IIs delivered extremely crisp, clean, wide sound to my ears. The tracks that featured heavy bass, such as DJ Khaled's "For Free" and Gucci Mane's "I Get the Bag" (featuring Migos), didn't skimp on the low end, even at higher volumes.
When I listened to Alessia Cara's “Know-It All," I picked up the bright, airy highs of the singer's vocal, without any distortion. The audio was so precise on the Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc." that I could clearly make out scratchy record sounds, which was quite impressive.
My favorite Radiohead classic track, "Creep," came alive while I was using the QC35 IIs. The midrange was accurate and blended especially well, while providing enough room to let the rest of the track shine.
I listened to the QC35 IIs in both Wired mode and Active modes. While in Wired mode (powered down, connected using the included audio cable), the QC IIs delivered respectable audio quality and good noise isolation. I should note that this mode should be used only when the battery is depleted, as both active noise cancelling and Active EQ do not function due to lack of charge.
When I switched to Active mode (powered up, connected wireless via Bluetooth to my iPhone), the headphones went into full throttle, producing louder audio with noticeable active noise-cancelling effects. I would strongly suggest using the units in active mode to achieve the full benefits of the sound-design technology that Bose has worked many years to perfect.
Similar to the battery performance of the previous model (QC 35), the updated QC35 IIs delivered on their claim of 20 hours, with room to spare. I got about 22 hours of use before I needed to plug the headphones back in to recharge. The QC IIs required only about 2 hours to get their full charge back, returning me to my happy place.
I had them powered up using active noise canceling, streaming my music and taking a lot of phone calls in between. If you want to reserve the charge and play it safe, you can choose to use the included wire and enjoy over 40 hours of listening time (without noise cancelling and Active EQ), but what's the point of that?
The QuietComfort 35 IIs' integrated microphones deliverd crystal-clear call quality. It was nice to make calls and not have the person on the other end complain that I sounded like I was inside a soup can. Most of my calls were made from the home or office, but I was brave enough at times to call from the windy streets of NYC and was pleasantly surprised to hear the same clear sound quality.
I was able to leave my iPhone about 35 feet away without losing the call or my music in between calls. This was a welcome feature, especially when I worked from home and needed to retrieve something I left downstairs. I found myself sending a lot of voice-to-text messages and interacting with Google Assistant, because the built-in microphone technology was excellent. I didn't need to repeat myself often when speaking. I just wish that this technology were built into young kids.
With the QuietComfort 35 IIs, Bose continues to deliver superior active-noise cancellation, accurate sound reproduction and a lightweight design. The addition of Google Assistant provides a nice-to-have feature for potential new Bose consumers. However, current QC35 owners don't necessarily need to fork over another $349 for the pleasure; you have a smartphone that does the same thing already.
If you just can't part with that kind of money for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, check out a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Quietpoint headphones ($199). Overall, though, the QC35 II is one of the best pairs of headphones I have tested in a long time, and I would recommend this set for anyone who is serious about keeping their inner peace on the daily commute.
Image Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide