Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones review: Bose’s QC35s have only been on the market for a short time, but have fast become some of the most talked about noise cancelling headphones around. We test them out to find why that might be.
Bose QuietComfort 35: Design
You could call the aesthetics of the QC35s divisive. Some will look at these all-black cans (although they do also come in silver) and think they’re bland and uninspiring, whilst others may see them for what they are, understated, but precise and thoughtfully engineered. In the hand, there’s a nice contrast between the cold touch of the hard metal elements and the soft (synthetic protein) leather pads surrounding the earcups. To up the comfort factor even further, Bose has also clad the peak of the headband in Alcantara; the same material you’d find throughout the interior of a luxury car.
As with a growing number of on-ear cans built with mobile use in mind, there are a pair of hex screw-based hinges on either side, letting you fold your QC35’s ear cups up to stow in the included hard carry case, which also has enough room for a 1.2m 3.5mm jack-to-jack audio cable (for wired playback) and a 30.5cm USB to microUSB charging cable.
Sure, they’d probably come last in a beauty pageant but as with Kinder Surprise, lobster and the ‘dead’ cellmate from Saw, it’s unquestionably a case of ‘what’s on the inside that counts.’
Bose QuietComfort 35: Comfort
Considering the premium nature of the QC35s, they’re surprisingly lightweight (310 grams) for their size, with those soft leather cuffs ensuring a snug and comfortable fit, even after prolonged wear. During our time with them, there were moments where readjustment was needed as pressure against the ears built up, but these instances were few and far between.
Their effectiveness as your full-time headphones also depends on your lifestyle; as although they’re lightweight, they’re probably not best suited to rigorous amounts of movement. They should be fine for your typical gym session, jogging, a running machine or some weight training, but you might want to opt for some more secure in-ears if you’re a fan of Zumba or CrossFit.
Bose QuietComfort 35: Functionality
The QC35s can be paired up to any mobile device via Bluetooth or NFC and the pairing process is very straightforward, even allowing for two devices to be paired at the same time. Switching between devices is as easy as pausing one and starting up the other too.
The QC35s also tries to keep you on top of your power consumption by reporting how much battery you have left (in percent) every time you power them up. There’s also a battery indicator on the right cuff that flashes green, orange or red depending on remaining charge.
Physical playback controls reside on the right cuff, with the play button (that also acts as a skip and back button) indented in between the volume buttons, making for easy, tactile navigation. The headphones’ dual microphone arrangement also lets you make and take calls via Bluetooth.
Bose QuietComfort 35: Audio quality
When it comes to describing the audio quality of the QC35s they’re, in a word, phenomenal. There are a wealth of rich tones, with sharp, clear highs supported by a deep, meaty low end. Some report that at maximum volume the bass response degrades, reaching a level of unbalanced distortion, but during our time with these cans, they never put a foot wrong.
There’s a small amount of sound leakage but it’s negligible and should you notice mean spirited looks the noise cancelling comes through in a pinch, letting you drop the volume down without letting in too much of the background din.
Being wireless-first headphones you’d expect the audio of the QC35s to improve when physically plugged into your phone, however, just isn’t the case. Over a wireless connection, they sound much stronger than when wired, which is likely down to the fact that the noise cancelling (along with the integrated media controls) only work over Bluetooth.
For the most part, the QC35’s noise cancelling tech is faultless, but there is one notable exception. When trying to use such functionality in a windy environment you’ll likely encounter warped, distorted sound, but this appears to be the only noticeable chink in these headphones’ armor.
Bose QuietComfort 35: Battery Life
Bose claims that the QC35s can last up to 20 hours on a single charge. In our tests, they always fell short of the mark, but never by much. Expect to get through a working week’s worth of commutes (an hour each way, plus lunch each day for five days) with the cans finally giving up the ghost sometime over the weekend that follows.
Bose QuietComfort 35: App Functionality
You can also pair the QC35s to the company’s free optional app – Bose Connect. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was no more than a glorified volume control. Dig a little deeper though and you’ll find an app that is both clean in design, but surprisingly rich in functionality. The app not only allows for management of all of your connected devices (past and present), but it also comes packing an online manual so you can more readily acquaint yourself with the various nuances of the QC35s at a moment’s notice. Bose Connect is by no means an essential part of the QC35 recipe, but it does enhance the product overall.
Bose QuietComfort 35: Verdict
Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones are a magnificent offering from the American manufacturer. Everything about them oozes quality; from the materials used to the intelligently leveraged technology in play. Yes, some may say their design isn’t all it could be, but when they’re over your ears you’ll be too immersed in the auditory experience to analyse how on-trend they are.
If you’re still worried about such things, however, then take (quiet) comfort in the fact that they most likely sound better than all the garish cans that lack substance at the expense of style in the same vein. At around £280 they serve as a competitive option in a fiercely contested market and one that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.