BOSE QC35 Review: The Best Headphones I’ve Ever Used

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UPDATE: Google Assistant-Powered Bose QC35 II’s Now OFFICIAL

Bose and Google have just announced the world’s first pair of Google Assistant-powered headphones. They’re called the Bose QC35 II and they will cost $349.95.

Here’s the official line via Bose:

“The SoundSport Free is the closest thing to what people have always wanted in a sports headphone – a technology-packed solution that’s stripped down to just two rugged earbuds that feel great, stay connected, stay in, and sound amazing,” said Brian Maguire, director, Bose on-the-go products. “And the QC35 is already the world’s most celebrated wireless headphone, and a survival tool for modern life. We didn’t change anything that people already love – with the Google Assistant built in, and new choices for what you hear, we made it better.”

The specs for the Bose QC35 II headphones are more or less the same as the original models. You get 20 hours of battery life, excellent overall sound production, and brilliant noise canceling technology.

Bose has updated the Bose app to include more control over noise cancellation with three modes: High, Low, and Off.

“Bose and Google worked together on the exclusive experience in the QC35 II,” the company added, “making it the first integration of Google Assistant in a headphone. Press and hold the Action button, and your own personal Google is ready to help – no waiting, looking, swiping, or typing. Just start talking, and your Assistant will help you manage your music and get things done – like play a playlist or a favorite song by a favorite artist, and add appointments to your Google calendar. It can help you stay connected – from simple things like making a call, to notifying you about incoming messages, events and reminders, and reading them back to you. And it can answer questions and find information – so you can check a score, the latest headlines, whether your flight’s on time, what movie’s playing downtown – and more.”

Read on below for our full review of the QC35II’s predecessor. 

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I’m not an audiophile, in the truest sense of the word. I love music and I like headphones, but the idea of spending almost £300 on a pair of kind of scares the bejesus out of me.

Put simply, that’s a lot of money. And that stings even more when you’re talking about something that, relatively speaking, is as superfluous as a pair of headphones, which are not essential items by any stretch of the imagination.

If I am going to spend £300 on something, whether headphones or some other kind of peripheral technology, the product in question has to be pretty special, perform exceptionally, AND mean that I won’t have to spend any money on headphones for a good five years – at least!

I’ve spent the past two weeks living with the Bose QuietComfort 35 Headphones. Initial impressions were very good indeed, but it was only after a week or so of solid use that I discovered just how special these headphones actually are.

Latest BOSE QC 35 deals:

I got very attached to them, more attached than I ever believed I could be to a pair of headphones. I didn’t want to give them back; knew I’d miss them so much once they had gone.

Traditionally, I’ve always preferred wired headphones. I find Bluetooth incredibly annoying and infuriating to work with, but these headphones converted me. Like, completely converted me. I didn’t see this happening, either.

Read below to find out how I got on with the BOSE QuietComfort 35 Headphones

BOSE QuietComfort 35 Headphones Review: Design

As it happens, I already own a pair of Bose QC25 headphones. These are noise-cancelling over-ear headphones and, throughout the past 12 months, they have followed me everywhere.

I loved these headphones, as they were the first pair of “premium headphones” I’d ever bought. Design-wise the QC25’s are decent looking, well-built headphones. My only complaint about the QC25’s is that they need a battery for the noise-cancelling to function (and the battery does not last very long).

The BOSE QuietComfort 35 headphones, as the name suggests, are a different beast altogether. These ear cans are next-generation – and you can tell almost as soon as you unbox them. The design has been refined and now looks and feels more solid and premium.

Bose has also gotten rid of the requirement for batteries; the noise-cancelling is built into the actual headphones and cannot be deactivated. This means when you use these headphones you will not hear anything around you, so be careful, particularly when out and about, and make especially sure to look out for those sneaky silent bastards; electric cars.

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Electric cars aside, I nearly got hit by a regular petrol-powered car and a bus while testing these out! The noise canceling is very powerful and essentially blocks out the outside world, even without any music playing. Crank up the tunes, and you’re more or less in a world of your own.

How Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?

You ready for some science? Good. Noise Cancelling headphones are fairly complex pieces of kit, which is why up until very recently most noise cancelling headphones required additional batteries for the actual noise-cancelling unit.

The Bose QC35’s are special because the noise-cancelling is handled by the headphone’s charge – no need for batteries. Bose has managed to do this and still average around 24 hour’s of battery life for its headphones. Impressive stuff, all round.

Several components are required to create a noise-cancelling effect.

  • The first is a Microphone, which lives inside the ear cup and listens for external sounds;
  • The second is noise-cancelling circuitry, which analyses the noise and creates a map of it;
  • The third is a speaker which, after listening to the noise captured by the microphone, creates an “anti-sound” which erases the background noise by destructive interference.

“Until now, great wireless noise cancellation and better wireless workouts have been more of a dream than reality,” said Bernice Cramer, General Manager of Bose Wireless Headphones.

“Like the QuietComfort headphones before them, the performance of the QC30 and QC35 are way ahead of where the market is right now. And for the millions of people who run, bike, hike or hit the gym, SoundSport headphones offer a new kind of alternative, because they’re not just named for exercise — they’re made for it.”

This makes them great for plane rides, noisy shopping centres and focusing on work in the office but potentially lethal for anyone that is prone to not paying attention to what they’re doing whilst walking around towns and cities.

You can operate the headphones via controls located on the right headphone bin. Features include: call-answer, volume control and an on/off switch. There is also a Bose application for iPhone and Android that you can use to set up the headphones and amend settings and features.

Set-up is very straightforward and takes less than 30 seconds. Simply pair the headphones to your phone and you’re done. It really is that simple. And if you don’t want to use them wirelessly, Bose has thoughtfully added in a wire, so you can run the QC35’s wired as well.

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Everything is stored inside an attractive, hard-bodied leather carry case which comes in handy when you’re on the move and want to keep your £300 headphones nick and scratch free!

BOSE QuietComfort 35 Headphones Review: Performance

Let’s talk about noise-cancelling first – or, active noise cancelling (ANC) as its known in more formal circles. If you haven’t used ANC headphones before you’re in for an experience. Nearly everyone I demonstrated these headphones to was quite freaked out by the effect ANC has on your senses and perceptions.

It’s like having your head underwater, and, because of the ANC, you do feel a slight pressure on your ears. It’s weird, but you quickly get used to it. And with Bose’s new headphones, you have some of the best ANC in the business, most notably when dealing with low frequency sounds.

It is extremely aggressive, though, so be warned. Once you’ve got these headphones on and music is playing you cannot hear much of what’s going on around you.

If you fly a lot though these headphones are a god send. They completely block out the sound of jet engines and, when combined with some sleeping tablets, result in some of the best flights I have ever had.

Simply pop them on, whack on an audio book, pop a sleeping pill, and, BOOM, you’re asleep, traversing the skies en route to your destination. I’ve used tons of headphones over the years, but these were by far the best travel headphones I have ever owned.

I liked them so much that, after testing, I actually went out and bought a pair and that very rarely happens.

High-pitched frequencies do break through, but anything low simply disappears, which makes them perfect for plane and train rides, as well as falling asleep when traveling as a passenger in a car (at least we hope you’re in the passenger seat!).

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Bose incorporates a digital equaliser inside the Q35’s that adjusts the sound on the fly, depending on what you’re listening to. The overall sound is very rich and full of detail – even with the volume very low.

The digital equaliser might not be to everybody’s tastes, but in my experience it worked beautifully, managing to always find the perfect balance and clarity. The Q35’s are never too bass-heavy, nor are they lacking in this department.

If you’re coming from a cheaper pair of headphones you will likely be dazzled by the additional details you can hear. Whether you’re listening to Hank Mobley, Eyehategod, Aphex Twin or Wilco, the Q35’s sound spot on.

Sadly the Bose Q35’s are now aptX compatible, which is a real shame. aptX if you’re not familiar is codec that allows for higher quality streaming over bluetooth and is available on some Android phones like the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7.

Still, the sound you get here is very impressive all the same. It beats the QC25’s by quite a margin and pretty much everything else I have ever tested. But this level of audio is to be expected when you’re talking about a brand as established as Bose; and one of their more expensive, premium grade models to boot.

And what’s most impressive is that the Bose QC35’s do all this over Bluetooth, which, for me, was quite a pleasant surprise as I have avoided wireless headphones like the plague pretty much my entire life.

Bluetooth can be a little iffy at times, though this is more down to the technology itself and the phone you’re running than the headphones. NFC is an option as well, though, which is handy. And, if you’re truly not ready to go completely wireless, you can simply connect the wired-jack.

BOSE QuietComfort 35 Headphones Review: Battery Life

Battery life is one area where wireless headphones lose a lot of fans. In a world where you have to regularly charge your phone, tablet, laptop, kindle and, in some cases, your watch, adding yet another thing is often off-putting.

This is how I feel about wireless headphones. It is the main reason I have avoided them; I just cannot be bothered to remember to charge them. I’d rather just use a wire and never get caught short. Have the Bose QC25’s converted me?

In a word: yes. These headphones are just wonderful and actually have very impressive battery life – way better than any other wireless headphones I have tested.

Bose says they’ll do around 20 hours of solid-listening. This is about right, though in some cases they’ll go a lot longer. If you remember to turn them off when you’re not using them you can stretch the life even longer.

Case in point: I was back at my family home over Christmas for over a week and I didn’t charge them once, despite using them every day, intermittently.

I gave the Bose QC35 headphones a full charge before leaving and that was it. Now, a week and half later, they’re still going, albeit with about 30% battery life left.

I really, really love these headphones. I tried to find faults with them but save for the aptX and occasional Bluetooth glitch they’re more or less seamless. Battery life is excellent with correct management and the sound is immersive and highly detailed.

They’re also exceptionally comfortable and can be worn for hours on end without getting sore ears. Interestingly, this wasn’t the case with my Bose QC25’s, which always make my ears sore after prolonged listening sessions.

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BOSE QuietComfort 35 Headphones Review: Verdict

Excellent sound, brilliant ANC technology and beautiful design combine to make the BOSE QuietComfort 35 headphones one of the most compelling propositions inside the wireless headphone market right now.

If you’re looking to spend around £300 on a pair of quality headphones and you, ideally, want wireless ones that will last you the next five or so years, do yourself a favour and check out the Bose QC35’s. You will not be disappointed.

    I’m so upset I have to return my review unit to Bose! 🙁

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