on 1 July 2015
I'll be quick because there are already so many reviews.
Positive points, about the noise cancelling per se
You are here because you want noise cancelling. In this case put your mind at rest, buy these ones, stop reading reviews and move on with your life.
I've owned and extensively tried 8 different models of high end noise cancelling headphones. These ones are by far - I mean it, by far - the best.
Have a look at the measurements:
They achieve a -35db reduction in some frequencies, which is on par of the most isolating industrial ear protectors.
Subjectively, the effect is better than the QuietComfort 15 and 25, because having a shell around your ears produces a resonance chamber effect.
Also, the fact that they are so lightweight is a stark change after having used over-ear headphones for years.
The ear plugs are almost perfect, stable and comfortable.
Finally, and this is something that will interest who wants to use these headphones in a noisy office with lots of chatter, they are remarkably more effective at muffling the voices than the over-ear models.
General considerations as a headset
The core noise cancelling technology is very very good, there is little to no competition in the consumer market, but that is not enough to make a product that delights.
There are several serious design flaws here, that make using the headphones feel like a hack.
Keep in mind that the following criticism accounts for the outlandish price tag.
- Position of the microphone: despite what anyone could say, having it in front of your solar plexus is completely useless. Effectively the QuietComfort 20 cannot be used as a hand-free operator headset, you have to hold the mic close your mouth. You will need a separate microphone, or some tape to stick the mic to your neck.
Other Bose models have the microphone on one side and close to the throat. Why not here?
- Clicking noise on change of air pressure: You will notice when in a train in a tunnel, or in a car with open windows, that sudden changes of pressure jam the noise cancelling processor, which produces a sustained irritating, almost painful clicking+scratching noise. Bose engineering is great, but here it really drops the ball. There was nothing like this on the QuietComfort 15. and it's clearly a regression, maybe a result of more aggressive noise cancelling.
If commuting is your use case, you will be reminded every day that £260 are not enough to buy a fully satisfying noise cancelling experience.
I'm also waiting for feedback from Bose, could this be a defect of this particular specimen?
- No bluetooth + The Brick(TM): from a consumer perspective is really difficult to understand how Bose could even consider not having bluetooth connection on a headset of this level.
You've got to put up with battery brick dangling at the end of the cable, so at this point you could as well accept a few more grams in exchange of not having to plug the cable into your devices.
If the brick was also a bluetooth receiver, you could at least clip it onto your jacket or shirt, but there is no such provision.
I understand that many people are keen to convince themselves that their money has not been wasted on a product that looks like has been designed in the '90s, but make no mistake: if you plug the cable in your phone, handling your phone *will* be an unspeakable annoyance.
The cable might also be too short for tall people to be suitable to keep the phone in their pockets.
The only viable alternative is a separate bluetooth headset, like the Samsung HS3000 or the Sony SBH50.
I'm also wrapping the brick with velcro and holding it on my neck with a lanyard. It feels terribly fiddly, but it does the job, and I really want the noise cancelling.
Are these the best noise cancelling headphones available today? Yes.
Are they perfect? Far from it, in fact they look like a product from the '90s - don't get me started on the striped cable.
Noise cancelling headphones are a very important accessory for me, and I will be on the lookout for even better solutions, especially from the usability perspective.
I suspect however that as noise cancelling goes, I will have to wait until the next generation of in-ear Bose noise cancelling headphones.
on 26 April 2015
Edit: I need to add this. I've had these now for some time. They have stood up to everything I have thrown at them; been stuffed into jacket pockets and so on. I still love them. The bass is outrageously clear, not muddy and booming at all and the treble is so crisp. Mid tones are rich and fulfilling and drums are not splashy and bitty. You genuinely enjoy music with these, even in the noisiest environments.
One thing I really like about them is the ability to be aware of your surroundings at the touch of a button via the mics. Crossing the road? Just hit the button to hear the traffic then tune it back out again. You are genuinely getting what you pay for.
Original: My mind is blown. tl;dr: these are the best earphones you will ever hear with amazing noise cancelling and bright, full spectrum audio but at a scary price.
I've got a pair of Bose over ear (non-noise-cancelling) headphones that I thought couldn't be surpassed in terms of audio quality in a quiet room. I'm now revising my opinion. I've always found in-ear-canal phones a bit uncomfortable and prone to either feeling like they're going to fall out or they're rammed in too tight and uncomfortable so I've never really invested heavily in them, preferring to just get by with them as a pocket solution when the big headphones would be too much. However, my cheap as chips ones broke the other day due to a pocket/bunch of keys interface problem.
As I type this review I am sat next to the washing machine on full spin and I can't hear it. At all. Like spookily cannot hear it. Even in the interlude between two songs just then, I can't hear it. Obviously if I strain to the very limits of my hearing I could just about make it out, but by make it out I mean at the barest whisper. Pull out an earplug and there it is. Put it back on and it's gone. I really am not exaggerating. It's reducing rather than drowning out the clatter of my computer keyboard as I type. The only sounds left are the very high trebles. Again, if I take out the plug it's instantly massively loud. I am testing them a little later next to the tumble dryer. To say this is a source of random clatter is an understatement. You can just about make it out if you listen for it but the reduction is profound even with such an extremely noisy and intrusive din.
Now here's the thing - as soon as I switch off the noise cancelling it's glaringly obvious that it's not the physical barrier or the sound of the music that's doing it. Switch it back on again and the noise is gone. You genuinely do not have to turn up the volume to simply drown out the ambient noise.
At first you are conscious of the faintest hiss - way less than the hiss you used to get listening to a cassette pre-Dolby reduction. Your brain quickly tunes that out. I can't say I'm noticing it at all as I listen.
Audio quality is amazing. Right across the range I'm getting just the right levels. It's not swamped by too much bass nor is the treble piercing and tinny. Listening to a drum solo you get a good thumping bass without it punching your eardrums in while high hats are crisp and precise. Treble most definitely is not splashy or mushy and the mid range is clear as a bell.
I'm listening on a Galaxy S5 and cranking the volume up to the max isn't wrecking my ears at all but boy oh boy do you feel your brain full of sound. Now for the best bit. Even on full blast these things do not leak any sound. Not one bit. I mean literally none. You are not going to be annoying the person next to you on the train at all.
They are extremely comfortable to wear. I don't feel like they are going to randomly drop out of my ear but at the same time there is negligible uncomfortable sideways pressure. I strongly recommend trying out the sizes of earplugs provided for best fit, of course.
There is a button on the side of the remote for briefly allowing ambient sound in should you feel the need (aware mode), say if you were crossing the road. This is a handy feature to have so you don't have to keep getting the whole unit out of your pocket.
I genuinely do not work for Bose but I can honestly say that if you feel like audio perfection is worth paying through the nose for these are the best earphones I have ever listened to. Bar none. However, the price is high. I don't know if I'm going to ever be comfortable with the amount these cost and it was like going off a high dive board ordering them and it's the only thing that bugs me. But you most definitely are getting a quality product.
Having the power unit dangling from the wire is a little disconcerting at first but you soon get used to simply tucking it behind the phone and holding it there if in hand. In pocket it's very easy to slip in behind your phone and there it stays. Having it so close to the audio jack actually makes a great deal of sense once you have used it for a little while.
Highly recommended if you can afford it.
on 1 November 2015
Although these headphones come with a rather large price tag, the overall quality of the product is extremely good and is arguably worth the price. The headphones come with a USB charger, a handy travel case and also different sized ear pieces to ensure maximum comfort when in use.
As somebody who regularly listens to music on-the-go for long periods of time, this product is almost perfect. The ear pieces are very comfortable and can be used for hours on end without any irritation. The noise cancelling feature is also incredible and completely wipes out any background noises that you'd usually experience when listening with earphones in noisy environments. I've even used this feature without any music playing as it's so good!
Although the main features are pretty flawless, I've given the product 4/5 stars as I believe there are a couple of small downsides.
When listening to music quietly there is a slight audible hiss due to how the technology works using outside frequencies, but this can be fixed by turning the noise cancelling setting off. My main problem with the product is that the battery pack is not detachable. Although it's essential for the noise cancelling feature, it's not always convenient to have a battery pack attached to your headphones and iPod, and so there are times when I'll use different earphones for certain activities. In my opinion, this feature would definitely bump rating up to a 5/5 and make this product generally flawless!
Either way, this product is still extremely good and they'll blow your mind when you first use them. Both the sound quality and physical quality of the product is excellent and I'd definitely recommend!
on 21 February 2016
Review for newer QC20 in ear headphones:
Fairly good noise reduction, but voices, PA announcements and loud chav music can still be heard! On the London underground it greatly reduces the loud train noise which is good. However you constantly feel like you are on an aeroplane taking off or descending in the sea whilst scuba diving. You get a strange pressure sensation in the ears which is uncomfortable.
There is a noticeable hiss noise when using the headphones in a quiet room with the noise cancelling feature on. It is unbearable and I have to turn the noise cancelling feature off to listen to music. I am not sure whether the hiss is there or not when I am out and about because I don't notice it. It is possible that the hiss is still there but drowned out by the ambient background noise (people talking, cars, buses). Also you can hear the hiss when listening to music if you listen out for it. This is unforgivable for a £260 pair of headphones.
Another point is that the battery pack is in the wrong place and is annoying. Everytime I take my iPhone out to change the song I have to fiddle around for a bit to get hold of the battery pack behind the phone before changing music. It is inconvenient to say the least.
Finally as other reviewers have said, the mic is way too low down from the throat. You have to physically hold it to take calls, unlike with the generic apple headphones. No idea how Bose got this so wrong!
I will probably be returning these as there are too many flaws to justify the £260 price bracket. Hopefully they will improve upon the design in their future iterations to justify the cost, but as it is, I wouldn't recommend these.
I highly recommend that you buy from bose directly and take advantage of their 30 day trial period. You can then get a feel for how this performs in the real world and return it for a full refund if you are not happy.
on 1 January 2014
After having owned a pair of Bose IE2s for over 3 years (and having been heavily impressed by them), I decided it was time to perhaps try the new in-ear Bose Quiet Comfort 20 for Android and Windows. This review will be interesting since I will be comparing the QC20s with the IE2s (which I have also reviewed recently)!
First things first, the USP of this product is the in-ear noise cancelling. The real question which many of you will ask is, do they work and how effective are they? I am writing this review on an airplane with my QC20s on and I can safely say that 85% of the background noise has been cancelled (yes that includes the aircraft's engines) - pretty good if you ask me. These QC20s excel and are the first true in-ear noise cancelling earphones in my opinion. When compared to other supposed noise cancelling in-ear earphones which currently exist, Bose have quite frankly thrown them out of the park! I have tried both the IE2s and the QC20s on the flight and it's very clear that the QC20 is clearer to hear at a low volume... rather obviously, thanks to the noise cancelling.
As I had written in my IE2 review, Bose have retained the crown when it comes to comfort. The QC20 is just as, if not more comfortable than the IE2s. The StayHear®+ tips are an upgrade from the original StayHear® tips as seen on the IE2, and these new ones are still a joy once in your ear and stop the earphones from falling out, all whilst giving you the best sound possible (but please ensure you choose the correct tip for your ear size to optimise sound quality).
Wow, simply brilliant! Now I was amazed by the quality of the sound with the in-ear IE2s and the QC20 has rather unbelievably upped its game. The bass is even deeper (I did not think this was possible!) and everything is just as clear to listen to. There is a big downside however; this quality comes only when noise cancelling is switched on. Without the control unit switched on, the quality is good... but not as good as the IE2s unfortunately. If you intend to always use the noise cancelling (I'm sure you will since you're reading this review for a pair of noise cancelling earphones), this should not be an issue. The battery lasts about 16 hours as stated (and charges in about 2 hours) and so unless you use these nonstop throughout the day, you should be able to live on almost a single charge per "work week", depending on your personal use, understandably.
The "aware" mode on the QC20s work really well too. One touch of a button and you're able to let some noise from your surroundings into your ears (great to hear traffic when crossing busy roads) - alternatively, leave aware mode off and let your noise-cancelled music take you away from the busy world!
The noise cancelling produced by this control module is great yes, but I cannot help but wonder why the control module for this is so large and positioned in such an awkward position. I do feel as though I need to take extra care with it since it does feel like the wire could get damaged easily. I mean if I'm listening to music and typing on my phone at the same time, I have this big box thing which is dangling off the top of my phone... Even when placing my phone in my pocket, I take care in ensuring the cable doesn't get bent or damaged. Having said that, Bose have compensated for this by giving us a noticeably thicker cable with the QC20 - this does make the product feel stronger and well-built.
The battery is also located within this control module and one downside of this is that it is non-replaceable. As we know, lithium-ion batteries eventually run out of juice and after about 500 odd recharging cycles, the battery will lose the energy to hold the full 16 hours charge. Although this is the case, I believe it'll probably take a good few years for the battery to become almost unusable.
UPDATE (07/01/13): Having used my QC20 for about a week on roads and when travelling, I must say I need to change what I've said in the above. What Bose have done is actually rather clever; the positioning of the control module means that you naturally fold the module to rest on the underside of the device which you get used to rather quickly. This makes typing and using your phone a hell of a lot easier and certainly more comfortable than when the module dangles off. I guess placing the module anywhere else would mean that the module would be dangling around which is in fact, even worse!
This is the ultimate question - are these worth the price? For me, I do feel as though they are (only just about). Only thing about this which bugs me is the fact that you get inline remote volume controls on the Bose QC20i (Apple version). I have to say that the Android/Windows QC20 should be priced a tad cheaper for this missing feature. Back to the main point anyway; overall for me, these are just about worth the price since they are a unique, one of a kind product. If you don't take my word for it, you could grab a pair of these from the official Bose store as they have a 30 day risk-free trial with a 100% money back guarantee. Please make sure you buy directly from Bose or a Bose dealer to avoid being hustled.
The overall verdict:
As a flagship audio company, Bose have done extremely well in producing these. Although I am giving these 4 stars, don't get me wrong, they are amazing. I just feel Bose will need to make improvements to the Quiet Comfort 20 in the future when they decide to bring out a mark 2 model. I.e. for me, the non-replaceable battery, control module and inline remote for Android and Windows needs some work before I give these 5 stars. Regardless, Bose have done amazingly well to produce something of such remarkable quality. Yes it feels a little overpriced but hey, you get what you pay for - these cannot be compared to anything else on current market! Are you looking for quality in-ear noise cancelling? For me, these are the ONLY earphones on the current market which does the job!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you :)
Happy buying :)
on 8 January 2016
Although the noise cancelling is great and for me they sound excellent, I use them for commuting to and from work. I assume most will be bought for this purpose owing to the cancelling technology. However, on a train where the air pressure changes regularly, there is a very loud pop that is almost painful. If you are on a busy line with lots of trains or tunnels this makes these headphones almost useless. Really poor design from BOSE. I have a few products from BOSE and all are excellent. However, for commuting I simply cannot recommend these. I have emailed BOSE and await their reply.
on 9 September 2013
[UPDATE: Below review still stands, but just to add that after 20 months of fairly regular use, the cable has frayed where it attaches to the battery compartment, exposing the wires within. I think this is due to how I fold the cable when it goes in my pocket, but that is a bit unavoidable as you have to put the battery compartment in your pocket with your phone. Some sticky cable tape seems to have fixed it for now, may try some sugru, and may contact Bose to see what they say. If they say 'it is out of warranty, tough, then they are essentially admitting I'll need to buy new headphones every 20 months or so, which isn't going to happen]
The bottom line is that these are fantastic at noise cancelling but may not be incredible sound quality, but are still worth the money if noise-cancelling is that important to you. In other words, you should only buy these headphones if noise-cancelling is your absolute priority over everything else.
Here are my observations that may be of interest:
* The in-line microphone resides at the "Y" split in the cable, i.e. lower than the Apple headphones microphone which is in-line half way up the right-hand earbud cable. I used to run the headphone cable inside my shirt so it popped out at the neck so it was more subtle (and would still have access to the in-line remote/mic), but doing it this way now means the microphone/remote is under my shirt, no good for calls, changing volume etc without fishing it out from underneath. Might mean I have to keep the headphone cable outside of my clothing dangling. Not ideal, but I will experiment to find what works best.
* Cable is a rather weird black/grey twisting design, and is noticeably thicker than normal headphone cables.
* There is an audible electronic hiss when noise cancelling is enabled. It is quite quiet so is completely unnoticeable when you are out and about listening to music, but in a quiet room it is noticeable. Don't buy these headphones to sit at home on the sofa all day - these are designed for noise-cancelling and that is the scenario in which they excel.
* Audio quality is average when noise-cancelling is not switched on. Should be treated as a backup rather than a normal way of using them.
* They are really comfy! I really like the rubber extensions that fit within your ear; comfy and also secure, even if you yank on them.
* Noise-cancelling is excellent. Works best on constant low-frequency sounds, but I commuted on the tube today in London and wasn't disturbed by ambient noise once - it was fantastic. Just don't expect *silence*.
* The in-line remote is very large and fairly ugly
* The clip that holds the cable to clothing etc easily comes off. I lost mine after abut two weeks. It should really be permanently, or more securely, attached. I emailed Bose and they sent me a replacement free of charge :)
* Wind noise is more noticeable than you'd expect
* On the underground, I occasionally hear a popping sound. I think it is due to air pressure going in and out of tunnels. It is very rare and not something to be bothered by, but thought it worth mentioning.
Overall I'm really pleased with them as I mainly listen to music on the underground/commute and was getting fed up of my Apple earbuds constantly falling out and not really being able to hear the music when they were in anyway.
Highly recommended if you don't mind the price.
on 21 July 2014
I have now had these for about 6 weeks after buying them directly from a Bose shop.
- The noise cancelling works well. For example on a commuter train, most background is drowned out and conversations are dulled to an easily ignorable level. The train rumble almost goes.
- Although they look odd, the earbuds are comfortable and come in three sizes. The Bose shop will let you try them with your own device in store should you wish.
- The aware mode is good for announcements etc.
- The battery life is as advertised.
- They work fine as normal headphones when the battery is dead
- The volume/pause controls work well
- The battery pack is surprisingly little of an issue.
- Significantly more portable than the over ear or on ear alternatives.
- Unpredictable sounds get through: mobile phone calls especially.
- There is a slight hiss whilst used without music
- If charging these whilst using them – at least on my MacBook – the USB induces an extra background hiss
- For some reason, the 3.5mm jack seems to come out of the the side of my MacBook easily – not a problem with my phone or iPad, but a bit of a surprise when it goes quiet for you but everyone else can hear your music.
- The cable is ugly, a bit too long and gets snagged because of the particularly grippy plastic/rubber around it.
- It's quite easy to leave them powered up in your bag, although I can't really see a solution for this except for perhaps a powered up only when there's music mode?
Overall, very pleased to have them for my long daily train commute
on 23 November 2014
I've just returned home from a long-haul trip abroad and these headphones very quickly became my favourite item. In fact, without them, the flights would have been miserable!
So, noise cancelling first, these are amazing and this is why I love them so much. It's where Bose remain so, so far ahead of the competition. They managed to block out all background noise of the flights I was on, not just from the plane but people chatting around me, children crying and everything else too. With no audio playing and just these plugged in with noise cancelling on, it allowed me to sleep peacefully. It's not 100% noise cancelling, nothing will be, so without audio playing you'll hear things very quietly... but the moment you take them out you'll realise the huge, huge difference they make. Very impressive indeed.
In terms of sound quality, this is a very personal choice, but I find them just right. Not too bright, not overly bass heavy (as is so often the preference for headphones these days), but a very well balanced sound. They are on the softer side of headphones, so if you want a bright, sharp sounding audio profile you will want to listen to them first, but there is still a huge amount of detail and clarity. Stereo separation is good, dialogue and vocals are clear and don't get buried in noise and music has a life to it that never becomes tiring to listen to.
Let's be honest though, if you want the absolute best audio quality you wouldn't be looking at these. There are studio-quality headphones out there which will be better. But these are so good, with such great balance, that the vast majority of ordinary customers will be delighted with them. Most people looking at these will be doing so for the same reason - they want noise cancelling headphones for use with a portable device in a noisy environment, which offers clean and clear audio and a good sound profile. These are your headphones.
The tips are comfortable to wear for extended periods. They are very soft and they don't insert too far into your ear like some headphones do. As they are active noise cancelling, they don't need to go so far in to create the perfect isolation, which adds to the comfort greatly. I can be quite fussy and some tips really annoy me, but straight out of the box I wore these for many, many hours in absolute comfort and they never felt close to falling out, even while sleeping with them in!
Battery life is very good. My last flight was over 15-hours in total and they went through that just fine. They recharge via a MicroUSB cable (same as most non-Apple smartphones) so if you are in any way worried, a simple battery pack will recharge them, as will laptops and in-flight USB power sources that are more common these days.
The overall package you receive is very good. The only thing lacking, in my opinion, is an in-flight adapter (which comes in other over-the-ear Bose headphone packages). Otherwise you get three sets of tips and a short recharging USB cable, plus a very nice soft carry case which also stores the cable, spare tips etc.
Price aside, which isn't at the budget end, I would dare say these headphones will please the vast majority of people.
on 29 May 2014
After my husband raved about these and then my sister agreed I finally bit the bullet. Already had bose headphones and as there is nothing wrong with them could not see the point - that is until I used on a plane. They were fantastic. We had a crying child for almost the entire flight and I was shocked when I turned the cancelling part off how loud the aircraft noise and child were. I actually fell asleep on both journeys which is a first.
Another plus is the fact I have small ear canals and the small buds fit inside comfortably and stay put, the only downside is when my husband is using his it is difficult to get his attention and I am a little worried about the wire that connects to the device having to be constantly bent as so short. Hoping this will not be an issue in the long run.