Bose first pair of noise-canceling true wireless headphones, the QuietComfort Earbuds, were released two years ago. Since then, Bose has occupied a prominent position in the market for in-ear active noise cancellation (ANC), but Sony has given it a run for its money with the $279.99 WF-1000XM4, and many more competitive models at lower price points from companies like Anker, Jabra, JBL, and Sennheiser aren’t as far behind as they once were. But the brand-new QuietComfort Earbuds II ($299.99) raised the bar significantly. Simply said, they provide incredibly good noise cancellation for both strong low-frequency sounds and higher-frequency noise. Anyone who enjoys deep bass and clear highs should enjoy the Bose audio characteristic, which is still expertly crafted. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II easily receive our Editors’ Choice award for providing the greatest in-ear noise cancellation we’ve ever experienced. We reward items for being the best at what they do.
A SECURE FIT AND DECENT BATTERY LIFE, image 1, The QC Earbuds II protrude from the case in a way that so many truly wireless earphones don’t (they come in Triple Black or Soapstone variants, which are, respectively, black or grayish-white). Each earpiece’s body is encircled by silicone stability bands, which come in sizes S, M, and L. These bands form a type of ridge that makes it simple to remove the pair from the case. This will be a relief if you’ve ever struggled to remove the shiny AirPods from their slick casing.
IMG4IMG9IMG10IMG11IMG12 JABRA ELITE 7 PRO Each earpiece’s stem has a capacitive touch control panel on the wide outside strip. To control playing and answer or switch calls, simply tap one of the earbuds. Double taps advance a track (or end or reject incoming calls). Triple taps advance a track backward. Finally, swiping up or down will raise or lower the volume, correspondingly. These controls, which are identical on both sides, are simple to operate.
A shortcut, as described by Bose, can also be activated by touching and holding either earpiece. In essence, you may individually designate this gesture to either activate your voice assistant (just the default one on your device; no third-party ones) or switch between the various ANC modes. We don’t see why Bose didn’t just make this part of the default control structure as there are just two alternatives available and you may give a separate shortcut to each earpiece. It’s sad that the only control modification option available in the program is to choose what this gesture accomplishes.
You shouldn’t worry about wearing the earpieces during exercise or a small rain shower because they have an IPX4 classification, which indicates they can survive minor splashes and mist from any direction. Although Bose claims it delivers a minimum amount of resistance to any remaining sweat that may be on the earpieces when you dock them, the case is not IPX4 rated. The Jabra Elite 7 Pro, which has an IP57 rating, is far superior, but this level of water resistance is about average.
The new case is a huge improvement over the old one, but it’s still fairly big by most people’s standards, and the battery life isn’t that great either. A front LED shows the charging state, an inside LED flashes a variety of colors depending on pairing mode, and the flip-top lid reveals the charging stations. Although most pairing procedures are automatic, there is a reset/pairing button on the back of the device and a USB-C charging port on the bottom (you get a USB-C-to-USB-A cable in the box). At this price, it’s surprising that the case doesn’t support wireless charging.
According to Bose, the QuietComfort Earbuds II have a six-hour battery life on a single charge and an 18-hour battery life in the case. Of course, depending on your preferred listening volume, your results may differ. According to Bose, a 20-minute charge can provide up to two hours of listening time and that a fully charged battery takes three hours from empty to full. These projections are all quite typical. Not low enough to be laughed at, but yet not outstanding (particularly in light of the strong ANC).
MUSIC APP EXPERIENCE WITH BOSE One of the better companion apps we’ve tried in terms of visual design is the Bose Music app, which is available for iOS and Android. It’s easy to use and navigate. A picture of the QC Earbuds II and a battery life indicator for each earpiece (but not the case) are displayed on the home screen after the first time you pair them. Below that is a horizontal volume control fader. From the home page, you can also access a number of customizable hubs.
There are two ANC modes available by default in the Modes section: Quiet (full ANC) and Aware (full transparency). The ActiveSense component of the Aware mode can be switched on or off, but the Quiet mode cannot be altered (which we discuss in more detail a bit later). For a total of four modes, two more can be added. The scope of a mode is constrained, yet it is simple to build one. The app only allows you to change the ANC level, which is essentially a combination of changing the Quiet and Aware levels, or choose from a menu of pre-set alternatives (such as Home, Focus, or Outdoor). The aforementioned shortcut command cycles through all additional options when you add more.
3 (Credit: PCMag) (Credit: PCMag) The EQ part is similarly constrained, and the Source section only provides information about the device the QC Earbuds II are connected to. You can at least make some fundamental adjustments in the latter. You may change the bass, midrange, and treble of its three available bands. Additionally, you receive four presets that you can modify but which cannot be saved as custom presets (Bass Boost, Bass Reduce, Treble Boost, and Treble Reducer). Drawing an EQ curve is the final option; it cannot be saved as a custom preset, but the curve remains constant until changed.
The EQ part is next to the Shortcut portion (which we covered previously). The home screen is completed by the Tips section. Everything from voice assistant support, touch controls, call controls, ANC modes, and charging can be found here. However, a comprehensive guidebook would have been more helpful and is not the same thing.
3 (Source: PCMag) There are some redundant choices in the Settings menu. Almost everything we just covered appears here as well. In addition to these choices, it provides an ear tip fit test—this is the same chime test you hear when you first put in the earbuds. Additionally, you can modify how much of your voice you hear during calls by using the Self Voice page (off, low, medium, or high). You can change a number of automatic features using the in-ear detection setting, such as auto play/pause (on by default), auto call answer (off by default), and auto transparency (in which ANC switches to the full transparency mode when you have only one earbud in, which on by default). Voice prompts can also be modified; for example, you can fully disable them or alter their language. Additionally, you can configure the app to remember the most recent ANC Mode.
During testing, I occasionally had to end and restart the app for a variety of reasons. The Modes section occasionally failed to add a new mode, and the volume fader occasionally had no effect. Every time, restarting the program resolved the problem.
Customer-specific customizations You must comprehend Bose’s new (rather novel) strategy before we can talk about how the QuietComfort Earbuds II perform in terms of ANC. Bose has redesigned how it applies ANC to your ears using a procedure it calls CustomTune. Adaptive ANC might be all the rage, and even Bose here depends on it to some level.
The QuietComfort Earbuds II produce a welcome chime each time you insert them after removing the cover; smartly, this serves as an acoustic test and determines your ear canals’ shape depending on how sound waves react to them. Thus, a baseline ANC level is established for each listening session. From there, the earbuds gradually increase their use of ANC, as needed. The earpieces immediately establish a fresh ANC profile when you take them out, dock them, and then someone else puts them in their ears.
To be clear, several applications for rival devices now include tests that analyze the inside of your ears for a variety of purposes, such as greater ANC or perhaps a unique sound signature. Bose merely emphasizes it more heavily in this design.
4 (Credit: Tim Gideon) According to Bose, it encrypts this ear data before storing it, preventing anyone from linking your ear canal measurements to you. When the test yields a poor result (maybe because you were talking or eating when the chime conducted its measuring test), Bose can identify an issue and make adjustments based on previous data. This is why the firm maintains this data in the first place.
CANCELLATION OF CLASS-LEADER NOISE Let’s begin this part with a tiny gripe: It’s challenging to compare the results of the noise cancellation mics to a baseline because ANC cannot be turned off. Additionally, since the earbuds automatically turn on when you insert them into your ears, you cannot simply wear them while they are off. But considering how well they performed, this is a minor problem.
The QC Earbuds II are the best earphones we’ve tested at effectively reducing loud low-frequency rumble (like you hear on a flight). In the majority of our low-frequency testing, they decisively outperformed the WF-1000XM4 pair, which has always been one of our top ANC recommendations. The Bose model is the closest to being fully free of those really low noises. In my testing room, I occasionally felt vibrations from strong low-end sources, but I could hardly hear them.
The noise from a recording of a busy restaurant with clanging dishes and loud talk was also greatly reduced by the Bose earbuds.
The QC Earbuds II aren’t quite as good at decreasing the highs and high-mids as the deep lows in this test, which is far more difficult. However, they outperform all rivals when it comes to high-mids and highs. In certain situations, some of the highest frequencies can slip through a little bit more, giving the impression that the earphones are adding a little hiss, although the latter is more a byproduct of so many other frequencies being successfully filtered out. This tone is not nearly as annoying as what you occasionally hear on less expensive ANC devices, but it may annoy you if you’re in a noisy environment or one with few distractions.
5 (Photo by Tim Gideon) Notably, we haven’t been able to evaluate the second-generation AirPods Pro because they aren’t yet available. However, we can claim that in terms of ANC, the QC Earbuds II are far better than the original AirPods Pro.
A brand-new transparency option is available on both the upcoming AirPods Pro and the QuietComfort Earbuds II.
The ActiveSense button may be seen by pressing an icon to the right of the Aware modes app area (on by default). In this setting, loud noises are muted while you can comfortably listen to the noise outside. The AirPods Pro’s active transparency mode hasn’t been tested by us, but the QC Earbuds II sound natural in this setting. However, because the mics distinctly take a moment to adjust to loud noises, not everyone might like it. Additionally, ActiveSense performs better against persistent loud noises, such as someone blaring death metal, than against transient loud noises, such as a large truck passing by. ActiveSense generally muffles sounds to the point that it appears as though you are in full Quiet mode rather than Aware mode when the ambient noise is really loud. It could be improved, however in some circumstances it can be helpful.
The four-mic beam-forming array performs effectively. Every syllable from a test recording on an iPhone was easily understood. The microphones focus on human speech, which can provide a fairly equalized sound, but this improves call clarity.
CUSTOMIZABLE, BUT SCULPT SOUND We don’t completely understand whether the ANC influences the sound signature because you can’t turn it off. The only thing we can do is compare how music sounds in the Quiet and Aware modes, and while there is a brief volume drop when switching between the two, we didn’t hear a significant difference between them. It is the same in ActiveSense Aware mode. Due to the absence of differences, we examined audio quality in each of these settings.
The earphones produce a serious low-frequency rumbling on tunes with heavy sub-bass content, such The Knifes Silent Shout. Bose’s digital signal processing, or DSP, prevents distortion at maximum volume levels, and the bass depth is still potent even at very low volumes. Bose makes a point of balancing the bass-heavy sound with some really brilliant highs.
A tune by Bill Callahan called Drover, which has far less deep bass in the mix, offers us a clearer idea of the sound’s character. On this song, the drums come close to sounding tremendous but never quite make it. The lows are turned up, and the snaps and hits of the higher-register percussion feel almost as bright. There is enough of low-mid richness in Callahan’s vocals, but we were hoping for a little more high-mid presence. To Boses credit, if you want to lessen the sculpting, the earphones are extremely adaptable to modifications via the EQ, but we still wish there were more than three bands for customization.
6 (Credit: Tim Gideon) While the kick drum loop on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s No Church in the Wild receives sufficient high-mid presence to maintain its punchiness, we’re used to hearing a little bit more from the high-mids in this context. Another example of sculpting in the high-mids and highs is the vinyl crackle and hiss, which typically remain in the background. Although the sub-bass synth hits are loud, they don’t overpower the mix. The bass boosting still sounds powerful at low volumes. This song’s vocals sound clear and unencumbered by extra sibilance.
While some substantial bass anchoring propels the lower-register instrumentation forward in the mix, orchestral compositions, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, are often bright. Despite not being accurate, the presentation avoids sounding outrageously out of the ordinary. Once more, EQ settings in apps can make a big difference.
ANC’S NEW LEADER Instead of being an incremental upgrade, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are a true advancement. The app has a few new capabilities, the earpieces and case have a new design, and the active noise cancellation is the best we’ve ever experienced from a set of headphones. The typical bass-forward and bright Bose sound profile will appeal to the majority of listeners, but if you’re seeking for the highest audio quality, we still recommend the Sony WF-1000XM4 because it supports LDAC and has better in-app EQ. The ANC performance here, though, is undeniably a significant improvement for the overall category, earning the QC Earbuds II our Editors’ Choice award for noise-cancelling earbuds.
Editors’ Pick: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Benefits of Bose QuietComfort II Earbuds audio performance that is captivating and has brilliant highs and deep lows Exceptional low- and high-frequency noise cancelling Active Aware mode is helpful. waterproof construction See More Negatives There is no way to completely turn off noise cancellation. Wireless charging is not supported by the case the conclusion The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are truly wireless and give a strong, bass-forward music experience while revolutionizing in-ear active noise cancellation.
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