Hands-on review: Bose QuietComfort 35


Bose’s QuietComfort 25 noise-cancelling headphones are perhaps the most popular noise-cancelling headphones available on the market today.

In fact, it’s hard to take a plane ride without seeing at least one pair protecting the listening experience of a fellow traveller from the background noise of the airplane.

Now with the QuietComfort 35, Bose is combining this same noise cancelling with the added convenience of wireless Bluetooth.

The headphones will retail for US $349/£289.95 when they launch on June 5th. TechRadar will fully review the headphones when they’re officially released, but I was able to get some hands on time with them at a recent event.

Design

The QC 35 manage to retain a very similar form factor as Bose’s previous QuietComfort 25 headphones, albeit without a cable.

On the right earcup is an on-off switch as well as a three button remote to raise and lower the volume as well as play and pause the music.

Bose QuietComfort 35

Now that the headphones are wireless this remote will work with both Apple and Android devices, so you don’t have to worry about replacing your headphones if you switch sides.

But with the microphone now built into the earcups themselves, this prevents it from being as close to the user’s mouth as a cable-mounted mic would otherwise be.

We weren’t able to test the microphone when we tried out the headphones, so it remains to be seen how this change in form factor affects its performance.

The left earcup meanwhile has a simple 3.5mm jack which you can use to turn the QC 35s into a wired pair of headphones for occasions when the wire is less of an inconvenience.

Using the headphones in a wired configuration will also extend the device’s battery life since it results in the device’s Bluetooth transmitter being automatically disabled.

Although if Bose’s promise of 20 hour battery life is to be believed, then needing to use the cable for battery reasons shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.

Performance

Considering the headphones are limited to standard Bluetooth connectivity rather than the higher resolution Bluetooth AptX standard, I was skeptical that the headphones could maintain the same level of sound quality as their wired brothers.

The decision not to include AptX connectivity is unfortunate, but it’s not surprising given Apple’s lack of support for the standard.

When I spoke to a representative from Bose, he was unable to give an exact reason for the omission, other than that Bose’s “qualitative assessment as to what the performance benefits were [of AptX]” meant that supporting the standard “didn’t make sense”.

Bose QuietComfort 35

Bose have however decided to include NFC pairing functionality in the headphones despite Apple not openly supporting this standard. This allows you to pair the headphones by simply tapping them on your compatible device without having to navigate through to the Bluetooth menu.

Starting up a recording of Butterfly Effect by Fox Capture Plan I was immediately struck by the sheer breadth of the soundstage. It was incredibly easy to place the drums, double bass and piano within the physical space in which they were recorded.

The bass drum had kick, the bass was well-rounded, and it was easy to forget I was listening to a wireless pair of headphones. Only when I took a step to one side did I suddenly realize there was no wire connecting myself to my phone.

I switched to Kraken by Three Trapped Tigers to test out the variable EQ that alters with the volume you choose to set the headphones to.

According to a Dan Gauger, Bose’s Senior Research Engineer, different listening volumes tend to be biased toward certain frequencies.

“If you have a completely laboratory-accurate sound system, as you turn things down the bass is going to become softer. You lose sound. You lose response in low frequencies faster than mid frequencies, and a little in high frequencies.”

Bose’s solution then is to boost the frequencies that suffer more from the volume being turned down.

The result is a slightly surreal sensation and one that I might have to spend some more time with before fully passing judgement.

You turn down the headphones expecting the sound to turn down uniformly across the spectrum, only to notice that the bass has subtly increased in volume relatively to the mids and trebles.

As a result at lower volumes the bass seemed to take up more than its fair share of the mix.

Of course it could have been the case that after having spent half an hour discussing the variable EQ with Gauger that I was listening out for this change that would otherwise be very subtle.

Bose QuietComfort 35

This being a QuietComfort pair of headphones, the real draw is the noise cancellation, which continues to be as exceptional as ever.

This is achieved through the use of microphones both in and outside of the headphones which send the background noise to the two integrated processing chips located in each of the earcups to be removed.

Bose had a recording of a Boston subway carriage to simulate the experience of using the QC 35 on public transport and the results were similar to what we’ve come to expect from Bose’s noise cancelling efforts.

Bass frequencies see the biggest reduction in noise with trebles leaking through slightly more, but the music remained as crisp as ever.

Bose also claims that this same noise cancelling functionality will be enabled on the headphone’s mic when you’re using it to make phone calls or even with Siri and Google Now, but we unfortunately were not able to test this functionality at the press event.

We’re looking forward to being able to more fully test out the headphones in a real world setting to really push the noise cancellation to its limits, as well as trying out the microphone now that it’s been moved from the headphone cable to the earcups.

Early Verdict

It’s great that Bose has finally gotten into the wireless headphone space, and from the brief time I managed to spend with the headphones it feels like this has been achieved with a minimal impact to sound quality.

We’ll be reviewing the headphones in more detail when they launch later in June, but what we’ve seen so far suggests that Bose has managed to get the best of both worlds in taking their flagship wireless.



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