Review: Bose QuietComfort 35

This time, I’m reviewing Bose’s latest and most popular audio noise-cancelling headphones.

Summary

tl;dr I'm giving these an 8/10. Buy *only* if you've tried it yourself.

Bose QuietComfort 35s are Bose’s top-of-the-line headphones with noise-cancellation technology. They’re the best at it, and things get very interesting once it all goes wireless.

  • These are expensive. $350 in the US, and a lot more in other countries.
  • Sound quality is decent. I believe it doesn’t match its price, but it’s good enough to use, nor is it “bad” in the first place.
  • Noise cancellation and wireless is where it’s all about.
  • With noise cancellation, you literally get a button that turns everything around you into a library, and cars sound like bicycles, if not nothing. It’s not 100% noiseless, but it’s very, very good. Once music is playing, it’s just you and your music.
  • Wireless freedom is so pleasing in many ways in comfort and convenience. You’re missing out on a lot if you’ve never had good Bluetooth headphones in recent years.
  • Battery life is superb. It lasts days, if not weeks of casual use and charges very quickly. You won’t feel inconveniences in batteries, unless you suck at charging them.
  • It’s a pair of closed headphones, which means you’ll have to take them off from time to time as sweat forms on your skin. The exposed holes for the mic and noise-cancelling also means it’s not a good idea to run under the rain with these on.

What’s this all about?

Silence is golden.

Once again, the Internet has succeeded at persuading me to buy stuff. When it comes to YouTube creators, podcasters, review sites and audiophiles, these headphones have somehow earned their place in a lot of good feedback all over the internet. As my life went on, things got really tempting when I realized that my music sessions were not as fun as I had hoped

I’ve viewed the QuietComfort 35s (and Bose in general) in three things: It’s expensive for what it’s worth, it’s got the best noise-cancelling technology out there and it’s wireless.

After seeing one in a Bose store in a mall and trying it out for a few minutes, I decided that I should buy them anyway, despite having a good set of audio gear already at home.

How does it feel?

My very first impression of it was woah. All I did was turn on the headset and placed it on my ears. From then on, I decided to buy a pair because of what I felt – pristine silence. I just had to compare putting them on and off and the noise difference felt so strange and good at the same time. It felt like the air was noisy after turning them off, and there’s that feeling of a vacuum whenever I wore them again.

I then decided to pair it with my phone and tried listening to my music. So far, so good! There weren’t any glaring issues from what I can tell. My ears fit well enough on the cans, the band fits my head comfortably and I can appreciate the music playing through my ears in complete silence on anything outside the cans.

A Quick Rundown

Okay, on the surface, you’re getting these things when you buy one:

  • You can adjust the band of the headphone, as per usual.
  • It’s all wireless, so it uses a non-removable battery that you can charge through MicroUSB.
  • The right ear contains the power and bluetooth switch, three buttons (volume pair + multipurpose button) and an NFC spot.
  • The left ear has a 2.5mm jack (note, NOT 3.5mm jack) for wired input in case you want to use them like a normal pair of wired headphones
  • Typical faux-leather ear foam.
  • A Velour-like Alcantara cushion at the top of the headpiece for some added comfort.
  • The cans swivel at 90 degrees, and you can fold one side or the other, but not both, nor does it collapse to compact.
2.5mm jack, a microUSB port for charging and a spot for NFC pairing. 2.5mm jack, a microUSB port for charging and a spot for NFC pairing.

Oh and the box comes with a hard protective case, a microUSB wire, a 2.5 mm to 3.5mm wire and an airplane headphone adapter – perfect for its main use case at cancelling noise.

As I wrote this article down, I felt like it’d be great if I listed where I stand on these headphones:

  • I’ve never tried active / acoustic noise cancellation headphones before, so I cannot compare nor see how bad / good they were in the past.
  • These are my first Bluetooth 4.0 headphones.
  • It’s also my first Bose purchase.
  • My current best headphones are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x although I use it at home. My on-the-go earbuds are the IM50s.

Noise Cancellation

As I described in my intro, the noise cancellation kicks in the moment you turn these headphones on. You don’t need to have music playing in the background for some sweet silence.

I will point this out though: the noise-cancellation feels like magic BUT it isn’t completely magic. It’s perfect for muffling background noise, but you will still hear loud background noise. Things like the constant hum of an air-conditioner, a slight breeze or a lot of the ambient noise you hear in the streets or a shop are more or less gone, but louder, more direct sounds like people talking (say, a TV or just really close), a fan aimed towards you and other noises may still be heard with these on.

The nice part though? Once you have music playing, nearly everything around you DOES go away even with low music volume. Since these are headphones, it feels great to have only you and your music without feeling silicone tips from an IEM.

Is it worth it? Why not jack up the volume on a normal closed pair of headphones?

Honestly, after I used my old setup again after I wrote this review, I realized that yeah, I can get away with background noise once I focus enough on my music or increase the volume to the point that it becomes indiscernible. I think it’s worth it if you’re a) constantly in noisy environments, b) prefer to listen to low volume music WHILE keeping background noise to a minimum and c) appreciate the plain silence it brings you, without blocking your ears entirely.

Audio Quality

As per before, this entire section is subjective. I highly recommend that you give these headphones a try first on their stores before buying one, and try it with your music.

Personally, I’m fine with how this thing sounds. However, I am disappointed with it whenever I’m looking at the price tag as others have exclaimed in the Internet.

Comparing against the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

For its price, I was expecting it to sound better than my Audio-Technica ATH-M50x cans, but from what I can tell it’s either par or worse when comparing the two. That said, I can live with this audio quality and I think it is slightly better compared to my IM50s while on the go.

So yes, I prefer Audio-Technica’s performance over the Bose headphones. However, I’m rating them differently because the features brought by the QC35s provide a ton of convenience and comfort it brings with its noise-cancelling and wireless capabilities.

Finally, Bose claims an Active EQ feature when using these headphones. I guess I’m adjusting my volume less frequently than I should, but I’m not really noticing it well.

Wireless Freedom

Okay, first off – these are my first ever Bluetooth headphones in my life. My memories on Bluetooth and audio came in the form of those single earpieces meant for calls and while I owned a receiver-to-3.5mm before, it’s not exactly fun to use with its added latency and worse audio quality.

Now that the year is 2016, Bluetooth 4.0 is here and I guess I’ve been missing out on a lot.

  • Wireless is taken for granted - There’s a LOT of hidden benefits that I never appreciated before now that I’ve gone wireless. I can choose to leave my phone charging or in my pockets while I can continue listening on with these headphones. I can stand up, walk around and come back with zero interruptions and with my phone silently charging in the corner of my desk. I can change tracks while lying down and even switch between devices without having to fiddle with settings (or for wires, replugging them)
  • Multipoint - I like how I can connect to two devices at a time. I can actually hear my phone beeping with notifications while my laptop is playing the audio.
  • Pairing History - I’m used to Bluetooth devices only associating themselves to a single device – juggling between pairing setups and all that. This thing actually remembers the devices you’ve connected with so you don’t have to do that often (I still do out of habit, but at least the process is faster nowadays without codes thanks to the NFC tag or the discoverability switch.)
  • Google Now + Microphones - The QC35s come with a pair of microphones on either side, so it’s nice when I found out that I can trigger Google Now by holding the multipurpose button.
  • Interference - It still happens and it sucks when it does, but I have observed that it does this a lot less compared to what I remember in the past.

Battery Life

Bose has nailed down the battery life on this thing. It’s generally a tough deal for me when batteries aren’t user-replaceable, but that got settled with great performance from daily use and charging. They advertised these headphones with a 20-hour battery and I honestly think it can do that since I can only consume 10-20% of battery life in my day’s worth of listening to music.

The best part for me is how fast it charges. I can charge 30% in under 30 minutes to an hour, and if that’s enough for a day then I see no reason to feel hobbled with batteries on a wireless headset. Finally, if you’re really desperate for audio and you’re bad at charging your devices then you can opt to bring the wires anyway (although you won’t have the noise-cancelling tech without power.)

Sweat and Rain

There is but one huge caveat about the QC35s that’s common in headphones.

Water.

For me, the QC35s are very bad at handling sweat. I’m used to it now, but it’s quite a nasty issue since your ears do get stuffy over time with these on. Sweat WILL form on those earcups and over time, I’m sure it’ll ruin the faux-leather or even the cushion on top of the headband. Knowing that just sucks, really.

I also want to highlight rain because the QC35s have multiple holes that’s used for noise-cancellation and microphones. I just can’t risk these things in the rain with all those. Then again, it’s my fault for not bringing an umbrella in the first place.

Conclusion

They’re a good pair of headphones. I was hoping for better audio, and it’s just good enough compared to what I currently have. This thing shines with its noise-cancellation and wireless capabilities, and those features DO change the way you listen to music in many pleasant ways – especially when it comes to convenience and comfort.

Do I recommend them? YES (810) but ONLY if you actually try them out on a store. It’s up to you to decide whether noise-cancelling is actually important to have in your life, and if the audio quality of the QuietComfort 35 actually fits your musical lifestyle.

I answered yes for those two questions, so here I am enjoying them.