Although Bose has been a leading player in the audio space for decades, they still have a lot to prove regarding wireless earbuds. It’s a relatively new category for them and one dominated by tech brands like Apple and Sony, Sennheiser and Master and Dynamic on the high end, and Jabra and OnePlus on the lower-price end.
The QuietComfort Earbuds were first released in late 2020 and retailed for $279. Currently, they’re available for $199 from Bose, Best Buy, Target and Amazon. At full retail, they’re a relatively costly pair of earbuds. I’ve been wearing them for over four months to see if they’re worth it.
About the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
- Battery: Rated up to 6 hours
- Charging: Qi-charging compatible, USB-C wired charging
- Bluetooth: 5.1 SBC and AAC
- Water Resistance: IPX4
- Size: 60 (1.54″ H x 1.02″ W x 1.06″ D = 1.66)
- Weight: 0.3 oz per earbud
Included in the Box:
- QuietComfort earbuds
- Charging case
- Small and large silicone tips (with size medium already attached)
- USB-C charging cable
- Safety information and start guide
Bose QuietComfort Earbud Design
Compared with brands like Sony and Apple, Bose’s earbuds are big. Though they have a matte black design and simple shape, they protrude from the ears quite a bit, making them pretty noticeable. When I first put them on, my girlfriend commented that they reminded her of those Bluetooth call headsets people used to wear. I didn’t take this to be a compliment, and I also agreed. They’re by no means ugly, but they could use refinement and a more slimmed-down package.
In terms of comfort, these earbuds shine. Despite their large size, they feel light in the ears. A lot of that has to do with the excellent silicone ear tips. Medium fit me right out of the box, so I didn’t try the other ones, but I suspect the three total included tips should fit most wearers.
The silicone wings that tuck into the antihelix of the outer ear make them comfortable yet secure. These wings allow for a fit nearly as secure as sport earbuds that hook around the outside of the ear, minus the obtrusiveness that brings. I’ve worn them on bike rides and while playing basketball and never once worried about them falling out. That said, these wings can start to press on the inside of the ear, causing some discomfort. But that’s only after wearing them for several hours on end.
These headphones are not explicitly marketed as being for sports; for that, you can turn to Bose’s Sport or Sport Open earbuds. But their secure fit and IPX4 water resistance make them an excellent option for the gym, running, cycling, and most other athletic endeavors.
The case is sleek, with five lights on the front for checking the battery level. The case has a Bluetooth button for easy pairing with new devices. The problem is that it’s enormous. Not only is it wide, but it’s also 1.25″ tall. In short, it’ll fit easily in a bag, but you’re not likely to want to carry it in your jeans’ pocket. The case also opens and closes with a latch, which is surprisingly noisy for a product called QuietComfort.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Controls
The controls are pretty intuitive, though, like any tap controls, they might take some time to get used to. You can double tap the right earbud to play and pause the music. Double tapping also works to answer and end phone calls. Holding the right earbud will activate your device’s assistant. You can set different controls for when you hold down the left earbud, including battery status, skip forward and skip back. Double tapping the left earbud cycles through different noise cancellation modes, of which you can set up to four presets. One of those presets is Quiet, which is maximum noise cancelation and Aware, which is minimum. You can add two more and play with the different levels from the app.
In addition to tap controls, removing one earbud will automatically pause the music and turn the noise canceling mode on the other to Aware. This feature is reliable; the delay between taking a bud out and the audio stopping is very brief. The least reliable feature is volume control. Sliding up the right earbud is supposed to turn the volume up, and sliding down turns the volume down. It’s easy to pause the music accidentally and difficult to make fine adjustments, so I stick to my phone’s controls when I want to change the volume.
Noise Cancellation on the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Many brands offer active noise cancellation (ANC), but Bose has been in the game for decades. They’re constantly improving, too, and the ANC on these earbuds is exceptional. You can choose between 10 levels of noise cancellation for your personalized modes from the app.
As mentioned, the pre-set modes are Quiet and Aware, which are maximum and minimum, respectively. On Quiet, ambient noises like wind and electrical humming disappear entirely, as do most conversations. Very loud noises can still be heard, but they’re taken to a manageable level.
I can listen to a podcast and vacuum with an old canister vacuum without increasing the volume. I rarely use “Quiet” mode because it’s almost eerily quiet. Instead, I use my personalized modes: “Focus” when I’m in noisy places and “Home” or “Aware” most of the other time.
The ability to quickly cycle between ANC modes is also very helpful. Many times, someone starts a loud conversation near me, or I turn onto a busy street and a loud truck roars by. In these situations, it’s easy to quickly find the noise-canceling mode that best combines awareness with quiet.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds’ Sound Quality
Bose’s high cost and focus on slick design and marketing often invite the ire of self-professed audiophiles, but to most listeners, the warm sound of Bose’s earbuds will satisfy. Cocteau Twins’ Cherry-colored Funk sounds as fuzzy as it should, while Kendrick Lamar’s “m.A.A.d city” sounds booming and clear.
But if you’re not happy, you can play with the equalizer in the Bose music app. Tap the bass boost and reduce button, or do the same for treble. Or, you can drag the bass, mid and treble levels yourself and hear how the sound changes right before your ears. Beyond music, the powerful ANC makes for easy podcast listening without turning up the audio, and every person I’ve asked has told me I sounded clear when using these for phone calls.
The Verdict: Should You Buy the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds?
Though they’ve proven themselves in headphones and Bluetooth speakers, Bose is still building credibility in the true wireless earbud space. There’s a little work to do, but these earbuds deliver on Bose’s reputation for superior ANC and audio quality. They also deliver on Bose’s reputation for price, clocking in north of AirPods Pro at full price and in line with Sony’s Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds.
One standout feature is the excellent fit. Despite the earbuds’ considerable size, they feel fairly light in the ear and are very secure, even through rigorous sweat sessions and bike rides on bumpy roads. The in-app EQ allows for a personalized audio profile, and the sound is clear for podcasts and phone calls. They have an attractive matte black look, though their big size can be a turn-off for some.
Overall, would we recommend these earbuds? Definitely, especially if you want something that can deliver ANC, audio quality and a secure but comfortable fit.
- Great active noise canceling and good audio quality
- A secure fit, including for athletic use
- Clear calls and audio when listening to podcasts
- Wireless charging, Bluetooth 5.1, and USB-C wired charging
- Reliable in-ear detection for auto pausing and playing
- Steep price
- The earbuds are big, and the case is huge
- The battery is good but on par with smaller earbuds
- Some controls could be improved
What Are Some Alternatives?
There are a lot of alternatives worth considering in a similar price range, as well as more affordable ones. These are several options that were well-regarded in our hands-on reviews.
The Verdict: “Sony’s XM4 earbuds are an absolute game-changer in the noise-canceling earbud space. Bolstered by a high-fidelity, long battery life and a comfortable fit, the XM4s are now the high-end earbuds to beat.”
Read the review: After 30 Days of Testing, Do Sony’s New Earbuds Live Up to the Hype?
Apple AirPods Pro
The Verdict: “Even with some slight drawbacks, the AirPods Pro is an absolute must for Apple diehards looking for earbuds with noise-canceling.”
Full Review: Apple’s AirPods Pro Are Still a Must for Apple Users
Sony LinkBuds S
The Verdict: “The Sony LinkBuds S may not be the most stylish pair of earbuds I’ve checked out, but they are still incredibly comfortable to wear and offer an excellent audio listening experience complete with noise cancellation and custom equalizer settings.”
Full review: Best-in-Class Comfort at a Reasonable Price
Ultimate Ears Fits Earbuds
The Verdict: While the Ultimate Ears Fits leave out a few premium features we’d anticipate seeing in such a high-end set of earbuds, they’re undeniably worth the truly customized fit you get.
Full Review: The Ultimate Ears Fits Earbuds Are Seriously the Most Comfortable Earbuds I’ve Ever Tried
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