While Apple’s AirPods and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds may be the benchmarks for greatness in the true wireless earbuds world (evidenced by our own testing), Bose is coming for that crown with a new, redesigned take on true wireless earbuds.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279.95; bose.com) have all the necessary tropes of true wireless earbuds (no wires, multiple ear tips, a carrying case that doubles as a charger and easy pairing), but they also have an X factor: the Bose legacy. While that does come at a premium, it also comes with the expected balanced sound and class-leading noise cancellation that block out way more sound over AirPods Pro.
We’ve been wearing the QuietComfort Earbuds for 10 days as our main pair of earbuds. Let’s dive into what we like about them and what we don’t.
Not the lightest or most discreet build
The best way to describe the QuietComfort Earbuds’ build: noticeable.
They’re quite large and have a long oval build that sticks out of your ear. There’s a Bose logo splattered across the front on the matte finish. The portion facing your ear has an ear tip and a wingtip that fits snugly in your ear. Bose includes three sizes of the StayHear Max Tip in the box; we recommend trying out all three (and don’t be alarmed if one ear is a different size than the other).
So they’re a little large, but if anything it gives you more surface area to work with when placing them in your ears. You’ll place the ear tip in and then push the wingtip into your ear; it should all happen pretty naturally. Interestingly enough, like stems on AirPods or AirPods Pro, the QuietComfort Earbuds’ oval outer plate sits vertically, facing down. It’s quite comfortable, but you’ll definitely notice them in your ears, as they’re pretty heavy for true wireless earbuds. Each bud is 0.3 ounces, or 8.5 grams. AirPods, for instance, are nearly 3 grams lighter, and the same goes for Galaxy Buds Live. It’s harder to forget these are in your ears; after the first few wears, you’ll also feel that something was in your ears after removing them.
But Bose paid more attention to staying power. The big feature here is the StayHear Max Tip. Essentially, it’s the ear tip and wingtip that are molded as one piece. First off, they feel very sturdy, though they do have some stretch to them. And once you find the right size for your ear, they’ll fit snugly and provide a bit of passive noise cancellation, thanks to the tight seal. That seal is critical for sound performance but also to make sure the QuietComfort Earbuds stay in your ear.
We put that staying power to the test (and the IPX4 water resistance), performing jumping jacks, jumping around, speed walking and cycling on a Peloton bike. Though they did stay put, we will say that it took a bit of time to feel like they were safe on our ears. We still prefer an ear hook design for a workout like the Powerbeats Pro, but this will likely come down to personal preference.
That oval surface on the QuietComfort Earbuds features capacitive touch sensors for controls. You can pause playback by taking a single earbud out or by double-tapping on the right earbud. A touch and hold on the right earbud will trigger the voice assistant on your connected device. If you hold the left earbud, it can trigger a shortcut that you customize in the companion Bose Music app for Android or iOS. Additionally, a quick double tap on the left earbud will cycle through noise cancellation levels. The QuietComfort Earbuds have 11 levels of noise cancellation. Our only qualm is that there are no volume controls on the earbuds directly; you’ll need to use the connected device for that.
There are a bunch of microphones built into these earbuds that stick out of the ear so they can pick up your voice. Most call experiences, either on cellular or VoIP (Duo, Skype, Teams or FaceTime) worked just fine, but these don’t offer the crystal-clear clarity for calls that the AirPods Pro offer.
Really good noise cancellation
The QuietComfort Earbuds are, quite frankly, the best noise-canceling earbuds we’ve used to date — even better, in this regard, to the AirPods Pro. They fully block all background noise from a room in an instant.
In an apartment with a noisy central air system that was set to high, putting the QuietComfort Earbuds in and setting noise cancellation to 10 resulted in serenity. The QuietComfort Earbuds remove all tones, while AirPods Pro remove most tones but still leave some.
There are also levels to the noise cancellation — 11, to be precise — and as you go up on the scale, the earbuds, microphones and algorithms work to block out environmental noise. You can even have no music playing and noise cancellation turned on to help you focus (a pretty handy work-from-home hack if we say so ourselves). Level zero is a transparency mode, similar to the mode on AirPods Pro, as it allows environmental noise in.
Reliable battery life
The QuietComfort Earbuds fall slightly ahead of other earbuds with six hours of battery life — no matter if noise cancellation is on or off. Higher volumes and higher levels of noise cancellation do result in that falling closer to five hours and 30 minutes, though. The battery case provides two additional full charges, and it delivers a neat quick charge function. A quick 15-minute journey in the case delivers two hours of playback. For comparison, AirPods Pro delivered five hours with no noise cancellation and four hours and 30 minutes with noise cancellation on.
You can easily monitor battery life and noise cancellation levels from the Bose Music app for Android and iOS. Unlike on previous Bose products like the Headphones 700, where we encountered some pairing issues, none of that happened here. It was easy to first pair the QuietComfort Earbuds, as they start casting a Bluetooth network as soon as you open the case. The Bose app discovers them and also prompts your device to pair with them via Bluetooth. It was stable and constant during our testing period.
Balanced sound with some strong bass
Expectedly, sound quality from the QuietComfort Earbuds is in line with previous Bose earbuds and headphones. It’s a rich and balanced mix that doesn’t shy away from delivering an energizing audio experience, which is ticked up a few notches here with a more powerful bass and focus on lower tones.
EDM and pop genres absolutely shine with the QuietComfort Earbuds. “Wake Me Up” by Avicci starts with a simple guitar strum that sounds quite wide, with deep vocals overlaid. It comes through clear, with no distortion or cracking, even at full volume. About 38 seconds in you get a strong kick drum, which delivers a rousing bass beat that delivers in full force before more instruments, higher vocals and an electronic beat mask over the track.
The remastered version of “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen comes through vibrantly, and the QuietComfort Earbuds deliver an invigorating wall-of-sound effect, allowing you to clearly hear the drums, piano and guitar at the opening.
All in all, it’s one of the best mixes Bose has produced, and those who like EDM, pop or strong bass will be exceptionally happy here.
If you can look past the not-so-discreet design, along with the $280 price tag, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds bring a lot of features. Namely, they deliver the best noise cancellation on any pair of true wireless earbuds — besting the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3s.
Overall, Bose’s take on true wireless knocks it out of the park with class-leading noise cancellation and a balanced sound.