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It’s been a long wait, but the first pair of Bose wireless earbuds with QuietComfort active noise cancelling are here. But can the Bose QC Earbuds compete with Sony, AirPods and others?
QC (QuietComfort) headphones have long offered among the best noise cancelling performance so it’s great to see it finally arrive in a pair of true wireless earbuds.
While they have a couple of small downsides, they don’t stop them from being one of the best pairs of true wireless earbuds you can get.
Design & Build
We’ve seen wireless earbuds from Bose before and I tested the SoundSport Free back in 2018 – which are still on sale now.
The QC Earbuds have a relatively similar design due to being the same form factor. The ear tips are recognisable as Bose thanks to the integrated StayHear Max wingtip. This part sits along the ridge of your ear to hold things steady.
It’s a clever design, but as I found with the Huawei FreeLace Pro, the smallest size that I need for my ear canal means the wingtip is too small to really do much. We all have different shapes and sizes of ears so the fit will be personal.
Despite the wingtip issues, I found the QC Earbuds very comfortable and they never came dislodged despite head banging to music or running around the house after the dog while wearing them.
To be honest, that was a surprise considering how bulky these earbuds are. They don’t particularly look like a modern pair with the size of each unit more reminiscent of a Bluetooth earpiece of yesteryear.
They are lightweight though, although they don’t look it, at 6.5g per earbud which saves them design-wise as long as you’re ok with how they look. I tested the ‘Triple Black’ colour but you can also get ‘Soapstone’.
Unlike the SoundSport Free, the QC Earbuds have touch sensitive controls. However, they don’t work quite as intuitively when compared to rivals. Rather than tapping to play/pause your music, they require a double-tap which would normally be used to skip track. Touch and hold will activate your voice assistant.
The left bud controls are focused on ANC with the ability to cycle through three different settings (which you can customise in the apps) with a double-tap. You can also long-press to access your custom shortcut. Luckily this can be used to skip track or get a read out of the battery level but there’s no way to adjust volume which is a shame.
The QC Earbuds have an IPX4 rating meaning it’s safe to use them out in rain, snow, sleet or hail.
As usual, there is a charging case supplied to store and, well, charge the earbuds in. While the underside is covered in information and logos, the rest of the case is fairly plain. A set of five LEDs indicate battery level and the lid is sprung-loaded so automatically opens for you when you press the button.
Adding to the luxury is support for Qi wireless chargers. Otherwise, there’s a USB-C port on the back.
Inside, the earbuds are easy to remove and snap back into place for charging. There’s also an unusual Bluetooth pairing button making it simple to connect the QC Earbuds to devices. However, this becomes useless if the charging case is dead.
Sound Quality & Features
The Bose QC Earbuds might have a bulky design and unusual touch controls, but you’re really going to be buying them due to the sound quality and noise cancelling on offer.
The firm doesn’t list any specs for things like driver size and frequency range but it doesn’t matter a whole lot when they sound great.
Although the Bose Music app (iOS and Android) can do a lot of things, there’s no manual EQ. Instead, Active EQ aims to do it for you by boosting the lows and highs so things remain balanced as you change the volume.
How well it works is hard to say without the option to switch it off, but the QC Earbuds sound rich and clear in all areas. Tuning stays balanced when listening to a wide range of genres and there’s limited distortion at high volume levels.
Settle in for some classical music and you can hear every instrument with astonishing clarity. Thrown on some drum and bass and you’ll feel like you’re in a night club. James Blake’s ‘Limit To Your Love’ is a notoriously difficult track to reproduce effectively due to its deep sub-bass combined with mid-range piano and plenty of high-end percussion, but the QC Earbuds do a great job of it.
They are certainly one of the best sounding pairs of true wireless earbuds you can get. And the same is true when it comes to active noise cancelling with the ability to put you in an eerily quiet bubble at maximum level without too much pressure on the eardrum.
It’s adjustable in the app with 11 levels to choose from and, as mentioned earlier, you can set three favourites to quickly cycle through via the touch control on the left earpad. This means you make it more subtle depending on where you are.
Setting it to the lower end gives you awareness or transparency so you can hear important things going on. You can have a conversation, although I prefer to just take one earbud out for that as the QC Earbuds have sensors to automatically pause music when you do. The music then resumes when you pop it back in.
The QC Earbuds can’t quite match some rivals on battery life, although things aren’t bad either with more impressive figures than the AirPods Pro. So, the earbuds can last up to six hours on their own and the charging case holds two charges.
A total of 18 hours is decent but nothing particularly special in the wider market. The WF-1000XM3 can go for 24 hours.
Granted I haven’t tested them on a long-haul flight and they won’t last that long with ANC switched on, but it’s a similar story elsewhere if noise cancelling is important
Quick charging them in the case saves the day a bit as you can get 2 hours runtime from a 15 minute charge.
At £249.95 – or $279.95 in the US – it’s not a huge surprise that Bose has matched the QC Earbuds price with the AirPods Pro.
You can buy them from Bose, Amazon, John Lewis and Very.
That does make them one of the most expensive pairs on the market, though and you can get cheaper pairs with ANC.
Sony’s WF-1000XM3 and Jabra Elite 85t are both £219 and you can go even cheaper with the £179 Libratone Track Air+ and the Huawei FreeBuds 3i are just £89.
Note that if you’re not fussed about ANC then Bose has also launched the Sport Earbuds, which are £179.95.
Check out our best true wireless earbuds chart to see our current top 10.
I was worried about the bulky design of the QC Earbuds, and while they don’t look as good as many rivals, the lightweight and secure fit means that it doesn’t have significant downsides.
If you don’t mind the look, then Bose has made one of the best sounding and best ANC performing pairs of true wireless earbuds you can buy.
They are expensive, but no more than AirPods Pro, and have slightly unusual touch controls. However, much of this is alleviated by automatic play/pause sensors and the ability to cycle through three ANC settings is very useful.
Battery life isn’t amazing but it’s also not bad either and the charging case is luxurious, complete with soft open lid and wireless charging.
Overall, a worthy rival to the like of Sony and Apple in this space.
Bose QC Earbuds: Specs
Frequency range: Undisclosed
Active Noise Cancelling: Yes
Wireless: Bluetooth 5.1, SBC, AAC
Range: Up to 30ft
Voice control: Yes
Touch controls: Yes
Battery life: 6 hours
Charging case: Extra 12 hours
Ear tips: Three sizes
Design: IPX4 sweat and weather resistant
Dimensions: 39 x 36mm
Weight: 8.5g per earbud
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