Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II provide an entire new stage of silence

MSRP $299.00

“Quiet and cozy actually are one of the best phrases to explain Bose’s newest buds.”

Professionals

  • Very comfy
  • Excellent sound high quality
  • Excellent noise cancellation
  • Excellent transparency
  • Adjustable EQ modes

Cons

  • No wi-fi charging
  • No Bluetooth multipoint
  • Poor out of doors name high quality

If there’s one firm that has turn out to be synonymous with noise cancellation, it’s Bose. And with the corporate’s newest earbuds — the $299 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II — Bose is clearly seeking to solidify that fame. It claims that the brand new wi-fi earbuds aren’t simply higher at canceling noise than the first-gen product (which it’ll nonetheless promote whereas provides final) — they’re higher than another energetic noise-canceling (ANC) headphones or earbuds you should buy.

That could be sufficient to win the corporate quite a lot of return enterprise within the type of upgrades, and probably some new clients too. However there’s extra to a set of noise-canceling wi-fi earbuds than simply ANC — much more — so let’s see how the QuietComfort Earbuds II stack up, and if they need to be your subsequent wi-fi earbuds.

What’s within the field?

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Along with the QuietComfort Earbuds II (or QCE II), their charging case, and a brief USB-C charging cable, you’ll additionally discover two further sizes of oval silicone eartips and what Bose calls “stability bands” — small silicone gaskets that match across the physique of the earbuds to provide a safer match.

What you gained’t discover within the totally recyclable cardboard field is any form of actual directions. As an alternative, Bose needs you to obtain and use the Bose Music app for iOS and Android, which is designed to stroll you thru the setup, along with offering a wide range of settings and customizations.

Design

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If you happen to usually favored the design of the first-gen QuietComfort Earbuds however discovered them a bit cumbersome — as we did once we reviewed them — the brand new mannequin is an enormous step in the fitting path. Every thing about them is smaller and lighter, together with the charging case. The massive, locking clamshell from the primary era has been changed with a smaller, rounded, flip-top design that appears just a little just like the Google Pixel Buds Professional case, albeit nonetheless considerably bigger.

With out the press-button latch, it’s means simpler to open even should you run a barely elevated threat of getting it open by accident. It’s nonetheless cumbersome when in comparison with the Apple AirPods Professional, Sony WF-1000XM4, Pixel Buds Professional, and Jabra Elite 7 Professional, however now you can (simply) match it in your pocket.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (left) and first-gen QuietComfort Earbuds. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (left) and first-gen QuietComfort Earbuds. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (left) and first-gen QuietComfort Earbuds. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (left) and first-gen Apple AirPods Professional. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Gone are the StayHear Max eartips, which built-in an oval tip with an inner ear fin — the brand new design separates match and stability into two items, letting you combine and match till you discover the fitting mixture.

Bose saved the lozenge-like form of the earbuds themselves, so that they nonetheless protrude out of your ears a bit, however nowhere close to as a lot as earlier than, and it additionally preserved the first-gen’s contact controls — you’ll be able to faucet and swipe anyplace on the elongated outer floor.

One other constant characteristic is the IPX4 ranking. Meaning the QCE II are able to dealing with sweat or some rain, so long as you wipe them clear after a exercise.

With the default suggestions and stability bands put in, I discovered them extremely comfy.

However the QCE II lack wi-fi charging, an odd omission contemplating the first-gen mannequin had this characteristic and price much less too (Bose launched them at $279). After I requested why, a Bose spokesperson informed me it was partly due to the smaller case design, and since wi-fi charging doesn’t matter to many individuals.

Each of these factors really feel odd, nonetheless, not solely as a result of merchandise just like the AirPods Professional and Pixel Buds Professional handle to do wi-fi charging in instances which might be smaller than the QCE II but additionally as a result of if wi-fi charging doesn’t matter, why does each different set of flagship wi-fi earbuds provide it?

Consolation, controls, and connections

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

For me, with the default suggestions and stability bands put in, the QCE II are extremely comfy. If you happen to don’t like the sensation of in-ear buds, they gained’t change your thoughts, however they do an excellent job of a typically difficult balancing act: getting an excellent seal whereas preserving an excellent match, and staying put once you stick them in.

If you happen to’re undecided in regards to the seal, the Bose Music app has a match take a look at that may affirm once you’ve acquired it locked.

Having the ability to swipe your finger up and down for quantity is extra intuitive than utilizing a single button.

I took them to the health club, out for walks, did a couple of video conferences, and customarily saved them in place for a number of hours at a time, they usually by no means bothered me. They aren’t as rock-solid and safe because the ear-fin-based first-gen earbuds, however I’m OK with that — I discovered the soundness bands to be a wonderfully acceptable substitute, they usually have been safe sufficient for all of my each day wants.

The controls are also superb. I usually choose bodily buttons, however I admit that having the ability to swipe your finger up and down the QCE II’s floor is a far more intuitive course of for adjusting quantity than utilizing a single button. Apparently, Apple thinks so, too, because it has added the identical characteristic to its second-gen AirPods Professional.

First-gen Bose QuietComfort Earbuds charging case (high) and QuietComfort Earbuds II case. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

First-gen Bose QuietComfort Earbuds charging case (high), QuietComfort Earbuds II case (backside left) and first-gen Apple AirPods Professional charging case. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Google Pixel Buds Professional charging case (left) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II charging case. Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Bose doesn’t allow you to modify fundamental controls like play/pause, monitor skip ahead/again, or name reply/finish, however you’ll be able to resolve what the long-press (Bose calls {that a} shortcut) does on every earbud. You may choose between altering ANC modes and activating your voice assistant.

There may be, nonetheless, glorious management over the damage sensors. By default, they’ll auto-pause and resume your music (which works rather well) or you’ll be able to flip them off solely. It’s also possible to select to allow auto call-answer, so in case your telephone rings, you’ll be able to merely insert an earbud to select up the decision.

The QCE II use the most recent chips from Qualcomm, with the most recent Bluetooth model, and the connection could be very steady, effectively previous the 20-foot level indoors and as much as 30 toes exterior. That’s the nice half. The not-so-good (or maybe simply odd) half is that Bose is barely using what Bluetooth 5.3 can do. There’s no help for LE Audio and its corresponding new codec, LC3, there’s no Bluetooth multipoint for simultaneous machine connections, and no Google Quick Pair or Microsoft Swift Pair. There’s a workaround for multipoint, nevertheless it’s not as elegant: the Bose Music app allows you to change between beforehand paired units with out having to dive into your machine’s Bluetooth menu.

Granted, the earbuds’ firmware could be up to date, and Bose hasn’t dominated out including these options sooner or later. However there’s no phrase on if or when that may occur.

Sound high quality

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The large new technological innovation on the QCE II versus the primary gen is a characteristic known as CustomTune. As quickly as you pluck the earbuds from their case and put them in your ears, they carry out an almost instantaneous take a look at of your ears, measuring how they channel sound to your eardrums. In accordance with Bose, this lets the QCE II successfully reply to the small variations in everybody’s ears, each time you put on them, and also you don’t should create an account, undergo a listening take a look at, or carry out any duties in any respect to be able to profit from it. It simply occurs.

You get 4 useful presets (Bass Increase, Base Reducer, Treble Increase, and Treble Reducer), to fit your tastes.

CustomTune is meant to enhance ANC and transparency (extra on these in a second) in addition to sound high quality.

Does it work? I can’t let you know, and I believe nobody else can both as a result of there’s no solution to disable it to be able to do an A/B comparability. Do you have to care? I don’t suppose so, as a result of the underside line is that these earbuds sound actually good, whether or not CustomTune will get the credit score or not.

As with the primary gen, Bose has given the QCE II a enjoyable and vibrant sound signature that balances heat, resonant bass with clear highs and fairly detailed midtones. I feel there have been enhancements too (perhaps it’s the CustomTune?), with much less noticeable distortion at decrease volumes. What hasn’t modified is that these buds probably gained’t have audiophiles singing their praises — I feel you’ll get a extra correct efficiency from different fashions just like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wi-fi 3, the Sony WF-1000XM4, the Technics EAH-AZ60, and the Astell & Kern AK UW100.

The truth that Bose hasn’t ventured past SBC and AAC codec help reinforces that it’s not after that crowd anyway.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II provide one of the best noise cancellation I’ve ever skilled.

However what’s new, and what I feel makes all of the distinction, is that Bose now consists of the power to regulate the earbuds’ EQ contained in the Bose Music app. You get 4 useful presets (Bass Increase, Base Reducer, Treble Increase, and Treble Reducer), however you may as well modify every of those (or begin from a impartial EQ) to fit your tastes utilizing a three-band set of sliders. Sadly, there’s no solution to save these customized settings, one thing I feel Bose ought to think about including now that it has come this far.

With these changes, you now not want to only settle for the manufacturing facility tuning, so bass-heads get extra of what they like, whereas followers of podcasts or diva vocalists can emphasize the sounds they like. I nonetheless discovered myself sticking with the impartial EQ more often than not, nevertheless it was good realizing I might change it up if the temper struck me.

Noise cancellation and transparency

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Apple’s second-gen AirPods Professional weren’t out there on the time of this writing, so it’s potential I might want to re-evaluate this assertion. However as of proper now, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II provide one of the best noise cancellation I’ve ever skilled. Higher than the first-gen QC Earbuds, higher than the first-gen AirPods Professional, and higher than Sony’s flagship WF-1000XM4 earbuds and WH-1000XM5 headphones. It’s really excellent.

Whereas on a brief flight from New York Metropolis to Toronto aboard a De Havilland Sprint 8 — a fairly noisy twin turboprop plane — I acquired an opportunity to place the QCE II in a direct comparability with the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the lately launched Google Pixel Buds Professional.

The Sony providing, whereas glorious for a set of ANC headphones, couldn’t contact the QCE II. They let in what I perceived as roughly twice the quantity of sound. The Pixel Buds Professional faired higher, as you would possibly anticipate from earbuds that completely seal your ear canals, however they too couldn’t fairly obliterate these engines the way in which the Bose might.

That was earlier than attempting to play music. As soon as I added in some tunes, even at average volumes, I used to be blissfully unaware of any cabin sound in any respect. Curiously, you’ll be able to typically detect the ANC algorithms doing their magic as new sounds turn out to be a part of your atmosphere — they could be extra noticeable at first however then recede into the background over the subsequent second or two.

As superior because the ANC is, you would possibly need to reap the benefits of the power to cut back its energy beneath sure circumstances. First, at most energy, I discovered that I used to be conscious of the “sucking” sensation that some of us are delicate to. Backing it down a stage or two eases that feeling. Second, should you’re already in a comparatively quiet place and also you’re not listening to any music or different content material, you’ll hear a slight background hiss.

Transparency mode, or “conscious” mode as Bose calls it, additionally is superb. It nonetheless falls simply shy of the not-wearing-any-earbuds sensation you get from the first-gen AirPods Professional, nevertheless it’s completely able to letting you hear the skin world. With Bose’s non-compulsory ActiveSense system, any sudden loud sounds that happen whilst you’re in conscious mode might be mechanically lowered. This could save your listening to, but additionally your coronary heart fee — as I used to be strolling previous a building web site final week, a sudden, very loud bang made me virtually bounce off the sidewalk. I want I’d been carrying the QCE II.

A giant enchancment over the first-gen is the power to cycle between ANC and conscious modes with out going by way of a 3rd mode. You may nonetheless do that if you need — the Bose Music app truly allows you to outline as much as 4 modes of noise cancellation — however you don’t should,

Name high quality

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Earlier than I focus on the QCE II’s name high quality, I want to deal with what we stated in our unique overview of the first-gen earbuds, as a result of it wants some context. When Caleb Denison carried out his name high quality take a look at of the QCE, he did it indoors solely. On the time, it appeared like the fitting, ahem, name.

And after I examined the QCE II for this overview, I additionally discovered the indoor name high quality to be glorious. Nonetheless, I then took them exterior and repeated the take a look at, with very totally different outcomes. Exterior, relying on the quantity of noise from visitors or wind, your voice can sound distant, compressed, and at instances very troublesome to listen to. Worse nonetheless, these background noises are nonetheless fairly audible.

I used to be shocked by this (particularly earlier than I noticed Caleb’s feedback have been primarily based on indoor utilization) so I grabbed the first-gen QCE buds and took them exterior as effectively. They carried out extra poorly than the second-gen, so a minimum of Bose has achieved some enchancment in out of doors high quality, however actually not sufficient that I can advocate them for outdoor use. The truth is, I’m undecided they are often reliably used for any scenario with quite a lot of background noise — a reasonably large disappointment given each their value and their very good ANC.

Battery life

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Traditionally, Bose hasn’t positioned a heavy emphasis on battery life. The corporate’s flagship Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones solely get 20 hours of use (inserting them close to the underside of the headphone heap together with the AirPods Max) and the first-gen QC Earbuds solely possessed as much as six hours per cost and a complete of 18 hours once you included their charging case capability.

There hasn’t been any change on the earbuds’ facet of the equation (the QCE II nonetheless solely rise up to 6 hours) however the charging case now holds three full prices as a substitute of two, for a complete of 24 hours, which a minimum of brings them into AirPods Professional territory for complete time.

However surprisingly, it truly takes longer now to quick-charge them: 20 minutes will purchase you two further hours, whereas, on the first-gen, that solely took quarter-hour.

The underside line

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are an up to date set of wi-fi buds that completely ship on the 2 guarantees that Bose makes proper within the product identify: They’re very comfy and supremely quiet — quieter than anything on the market. And perhaps that reality alone justifies their greater $299 value, however their lack of now-common options like wi-fi charging and Bluetooth multipoint, plus disappointing out of doors name high quality prevents them from incomes our unqualified Editor’s Selection ranking.

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