Bose QuietComfort 45 review: excellent noise canceling headphones

Are the new Bose QuietComfort 45 wireless noise canceling headphones really a giant leap from the QuietComfort 35 II it replaces? And is the inventor of the noise-canceling headphones (dreamed of over 30 years ago for military and commercial air pilots) still in command with his state-of-the-art audio technology?

The upgrades to be found in the QC 45 (which, at $ 329.99, cost $ 20 less than its predecessor) are incremental, but they add up. And while I wouldn’t say the changes are big enough for owners of the QC 35 to trade, anyone else desiring high-quality audio reproduction, as well as significant relief from the noisy distractions of the world, should compare the QC 45 to the usual suspects, including the $ 350 Sony WH-1000XM4. We are talking about a fight to the end here.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best noise canceling headphones, where you’ll find reviews of the competitor’s offerings, as well as a buyer’s guide to the features to consider when buying this type of headphone. product.

Some things shouldn’t change

bose qc45 shot 5 Jonathan Takiff / IDG

The comparisons are revealing: Bose QC45, left; custom color Bose QC35 II, center; and the Sony WH-1000XM4, right.

The best news is that Bose didn’t feel pressured to change what was right about the QC 35 II that preceded this new headset. Multipoint connection via Bluetooth 5.1 means you can have two connected iOS or Android devices – a phone and a tablet, for example – connected simultaneously. If a call comes in while you are watching a movie on the tablet, the headset switches sources to take the call and automatically reverts to the movie soundtrack when the call ends. And Bose SimpleSynch works through the Bose Music app to pair the QC 45 with compatible Bose soundbars. Once paired, the soundbar will mute and divert its audio stream to the headphones.

This signature Bose sound, tuned for easy listening and long-term use, remains an essential part of the Quiet Comfort package. Of course, there isn’t much to do here. The automatic equalization circuit adjusts the tonal balance to the chosen volume level. If that doesn’t suit you, equalizer adjustments are only possible through the sound or music settings of your smartphone or tablet.

What’s the reward for getting off pretty well on your own? The QC45 delivers a consistently pleasant, well-tempered sound, with a moderately articulate (never excessive) bass response, a natural presence in the mids, and crisp, slightly rounded highs. While it certainly sounds less bright and vibrant than Sony’s premium offering (a feature that draws many people to this brand), the Bose QC 45 allows me to listen for very long periods of time and at a reasonably high volume without itching in the ears (my first sign of impending hearing fatigue).

bose quietcomfort 45 modeled Jonathan Takiff / IDG

The QuietComfort 45 has the comfortable fit that Bose noise canceling headphones are known for.

I gave these phones a good test with repeated listening to Tedeschi Trucks Band Layla revisited (live at LOCKN ‘), a magnificent new concert album remake of the double disc of Derek and the Dominos Layla and other matching love songs. Sometimes as many as four guitarists jammed here (guests Trey Anastasio and Doyle Bramhall II being the other two), developing the flowery solos and harmonizing duets created by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. While this southern blues rock is often sickening and emotionally piercing, my ears have never complained. So I kept coming back for more.

What has changed with the QC 45?

A first choice for air travelers seeking comfort, Bose noise-canceling headphones have been eclipsed by upstarts better suited to other environments. With the QC 45, Bose claims to have improved their playing with a recalibrated active noise cancellation system that also tackles the “unwanted mid-frequency sounds typically found in commuter trains, busy offices and public buildings. cafes “.

Bose qc45 vs a leaf blower Jonathan Takiff / IDG

Bose noise cancellation technology muffled that noisy leaf blower.

Bose engineers also recalibrated the on-board voice isolation circuitry, adding another microphone and adjusting its beamforming algorithms in an effort to better capture the user’s voice and reduce ambient noise transmitted during calling or barking orders to your connected virtual assistant (Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri). It becomes more important in this post-COVID environment when you can hold a business call or participate in a Zoom chat anywhere corn a typical quiet office.

During my testing in various environments, the QC 45 blocked extraneous noise at least one a little better than the QC 35 II. As I walked around and listened to noiseless music in the busy city streets, I wasn’t even put off by a noisy leaf blower; was only frightened of my personal reverie by one bad bored motorcycle; and while enjoying a last summer day in an outdoor swimming pool, the QC 45 especially allowed me to listen to the intense splashing of the children and the incessant cries of “Marco!” “Polo!”

bose qc45 application 7 Jonathan Takiff / IDG

The Bose Music app doesn’t give you much to play or worry about.

Satisfactory results were also recorded during virtual trips. I blew up ambient recordings (from Apple Music) of airplane cabin noise, the clatter of coffee, and the hubbub of Times Square. In general, newer Bose phones do a great job of suppressing high-frequency noise (clattering of cutlery and cups, frenzied barking, whining of airplane engines, etc.), while Sony’s best noise boxes have been found to be more effective at eliminate low frequencies. frequency noise of coffee grinders and grunts of jet engines. Like I said, we have a real horse race.

Likewise, taking the example of its rivals, the QC 45 adds a new “Aware” mode intended to keep the wearer of the helmet connected to the world. Easily activated with the Action button on the left cup, Aware works by temporarily turning off noise cancellation and actively importing outside environmental sounds using its built-in microphones.

But in its current state of development, I found the Aware tool to be only half awake. It is effective in sharing external sounds and voices when music is played at volume level below 30%, but it cannot meet more intense music competition. So, could you please work on a software update, Bose, by applying amplification to those outside sounds picked up and / or temporarily lowering the music playback level when the Action button is pressed? I know you can.

Battery life, a key decision factor for buyers of wireless headphones, has been increased to 24 hours (up from 20 previously) on these new Bose babies. Even after several long listening sessions, the pleasant voice whispering in my ears (and the bar graph in the Bose Music app) told me I had 40% charge left. When it comes time to power up, no problem: the charging port has been redesigned to accept a nearly ubiquitous USB-C cable (and just about any phone charger). A fill takes two hours, while a 15 minute charge keeps these things going for three hours (albeit at 50% volume).

Other details

Bose QuietConfort 45 3 Jonathan Takiff / IDG

The QC 45 has physical buttons: an Action button on the left earcup switches to Aware mode (you will also find a headphone jack there). On the right mug you’ll find a dual-function Power / Bluetooth slider switch, volume up and down buttons, and a multi-function button.

Product tooling is also familiar, but subtly altered in the Bose QC 45: Thinner spaces between the side sections and smooth (more pleated) vegan leather now envelop the super comfy ear cups and headband. The color options, the two matte finishes, are Triple Black and White Smoke, which my girlfriend, after trying them out, warned might not be practical for a woman coloring her hair and applying makeup. The included carrying case for storing these neatly foldable items (and their accessory cables) is just as compact as ever and even a few millimeters thinner. Bose tells me that they currently have no plans to offer a version with custom color components, as was possible with the QC 35 II.

On the comfort side of the equation, the new headphones grab my noggin with just the right amount of tension, staying comfortable over extended periods of wear and barely squeezing the temples of my reading glasses in my temples.

And congratulations, Bose, for not eliminating the physical buttons on the right ear cup for power, Bluetooth pairing, volume, play, pause, skip, and answer calls. While today’s most fashionable headphone alternative – a smooth, touch-sensitive, non-marking control panel – improves the appearance of high-end models from Sony and Bose (the Sony WH -1000XM4 and the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700), I find these invisible controls confusing and difficult to use. They’re driving me crazy, frankly; well, crazier than I already am.

In the end, having touch controls that I could easily manage on the fly was the deciding factor that ultimately put the QC 45 back into the noise cancellation winner’s circle for me; Because if they’re not easy to use, you’re less likely to use them.

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About Marion Alexander

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