Top positive review
Full of compromises but not when it comes to ANC.***Update***
Reviewed in the United States on November 5, 2020
There is an awful lot to like about the Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Earbuds. I will break down the good and the bad below but, suffice to say, these are possibly the most polarizing ear buds I have ever had on. I guess that makes it the perfect set of buds for 2020. Here is the breakdown:
-Active Noise Cancellation (ANC): We can just get this out of the way. If you want best in class noise cancellation on an earbud, these are the set to get. Period. I have the class leading Sony ANC earbuds, the new Technics, the Samsung Galaxy Live, and have spent extensive time with the Airpod Pros. All have solid ANC but none can approach a good set of over ears. My over ear Sony WH-1000XM3's put them all to shame when it comes to turning off the outside world. I am not ready to say that these Bose buds can duplicate that level of ANC but it is close. When you get a good seal and have the adjustable ANC level on 10, the world is gone. I was out hanging Halloween decorations a couple weeks ago and my neighbor across the street was mowing his lawn. It looked comical. It appeared that he was mowing with the mower turned off. I couldn't hear it. Once I realized the trick the ANC was doing, I strained my ears to really focus and try to hear anything. Nothing. Finally, I plucked an earbud out and there it was, loud lawn mower. If great ANC is the mission, stop right now, and just buy these.
-Sound: Like all Bose products, these sound great. A few years ago, I would be raving about them. They have the classic signature Bose warm tonality, nice solid bass, a full mid section, and crisp resonating highs. However, after using products from Klipsch, Sennheiser, B&O, and my other afformentioned ANC earbuds, either my taste in sound has changed or my expectations have. I recently received a set of new wireless earbuds from Shure and they sound unbelievable. The detail and sound stage are amazing. These just don't sound as good. They are better than any of my buds from Samsung or Jabra for sure and in the same arena as the others. For this price, I guess I was hoping for more. One challenge may be that Bose doesn't give you the ability to customize your sound. You can customize your ANC experience just not your sound. It has to be the way Bose wants you to hear them. Frankly, this is a stunning omission. They have a great app. Just not sure how or why you leave that out. Maybe someday an update can remedy this. In the meantime, these buds sound great. Just know that at this price, there are earbuds that sound a bit better out there.
-Connection / Pairing: As you would expect, these come with the latest and greatest chip set as well as Bluetooth 5.1. To pair just download the Bose Music app and follow the directions. You will be all set in maybe ten seconds. Range is great. 30 plus feet through walls. All is exactly as you would expect from a high end set of buds.
-Intangibles: Bose gives you a very fancy auto pause they call auto transparency. Pluck a bud from either ear and the others ANC turns off. Pretty slick but there isn't a regular touch pad transparency mode. Weird. You get quick charging (5 minutes on nets 2 hours use) via USBC and Qi wireless charging. Good stuff.
-Form factor: There is no other way to put this. These Bose buds are big. HUGE actually. While everyone else is going small, Bose went big. Some of this must be to accommodate the internals of the buds themselves. I am also guessing that, in order to get a good seal, like an over ear, they determined that they needed the extra size. Oddly, in spite of this size, they are quite comfortable and lightweight. So, while I am hitting Bose for an overall negative here, if you can live with the look, you will not mind how they feel. One more note here, you really need to try all three sets of wings as you need to get a good seal in order to experience their magical ANC.
-Battery life: Not a negative but definitely NOT a positive. Less than six hours on bud for me. That's in line with my other ANC buds but you would think Bose could squeeze a little more out of these since they are like satellites hanging out of your ears. Further, the case is large. I took a couple pictures next to my other buds for perspective. You only get two more charges there. Should be at least three. There is an external LED battery life indicator which is well done. All and all just should be better.
-Controls: For buds this big, Bose should let you control everything here. Instead, you have very limited pause/play, ANC controls, etc. No volume. No track control. These are big omissions. Pretty much means your phone always need to be at your side. Just not acceptable.
Listen, I have been pretty hard on these. I feel like at $279, I should be. However, I will say this. After a few days, I 100% planned on returning these. Yet, here I am a couple of weeks later and they haven't left my side. I am not sending them back in spite of all of their shortcomings. They sound great but, more than anything, when you hit the ANC on these, the world around you vaporizes. These days, I can live with an awful lot of compromises in order to make that happen. Cheers to the Bose team on making a classy yet odd looking set of buds that give you world class ANC.
***Update*** I have lived with these now for a few weeks. The things I hit these for still bother me but my original 4 star review is being moved to a 5 star. There are a few reasons for this. First, while huge, I just love wearing these. They are super comfortable for long sessions. They don't jam into your ear canal but simply push against it. The Bose design team deserves a lot of credit here. They are just really well made. Something I didn't fully grasp when I wrote my initial review. Plus, they actually look kind of cool. Secondly, as I said originally, the ANC really is amazing. Every day I use them I am more and more blown away. They just literally make the world disappear. Lastly, they sound great. I still long for an EQ option in the app but I don't really miss it in real world use. Here is the bottom line; I have a drawer full of high end earbuds and headphones. For the last few weeks, I grabbed my Samsung Live Buds once. Every other day I have reached for these. They are just simply the best buds I own. That doesn't mean that my prior criticisms aren't reasonable. It just means that everything these do well they do really well. They aren't inexpensive but, if you can pull it off, I highly recommend making the investment.
***Update 2.0***So one of my major gripes just got a little better. Bose just updated their app and it now includes a toggle to add volume controls on bud. You will find this toggle in your settings. Simply flip volume control on and you can now swipe up and down on the right bud to control volume. It is very well done. There is still some work to do on this front but we are getting there. Keep up the support Bose.
One more update here that I think is relevant. In the last few months, I have added both the Master and Dynamic MW08's and Bowers and Wilkins new buds to my arsenal. Both cost more. The Bose represent themselves very well in this premium group. Both the M&D's and the B&O's sound a bit better. The B&O's are actually shockingly good in the way they sound. However, none of them hold a candle to what these can do with ANC. They are just so good at removing the world around you. Of ANC is the objective just buy these. You deserve it!