Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
As an all-round package, the QuietComfort Earbuds II have plenty to recommend them – and as far as noise-cancelling is concerned, they may prove to be the best around
Deeply impressive noise-cancellingHefty, vibrant soundMuch tidier and more compact than beforeQuite elegant control app
‘Smaller’ and ‘lighter’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘small’ or ‘light’
CustomTuneNew feature that optimises ANC and sound quality
It’s a brave brand that chooses to launch a product at the same time as Apple is holding the world’s technology journalists in thrall to its latest minor smartphone upgrade – but Bose is nothing if not intrepid.
So it’s launched its latest true wireless in-ear headphones today, using the New York Fashion Show as a springboard. Apple, it seems, can do one.
Pricing is confirmed at £279 / $299 / AU$429 – which means the QuietComfort Earbuds II are priced right in the heart of the premium true wireless action. And if the time I spent listening to them, and having some of the new technologies explained to me – which wasn’t all that long, to be fair – these # Bose are going to compete with the best alternatives, and compete hard..
New designSmall and lighter
Unlike the original QuietComfort Earbuds – which were bigger and heavier than anyone really thought acceptable – the new QC Earbuds II are altogether more helpfully sized. They have a small stem a la Apple AirPods, but thanks to plenty of eartip and stabiliser fin options, they’re comfortable. A weight of 6g per earbud means they’re usefully lighter than before, too…
Build quality is everything you’d expect from Bose. The QuietComfort Earbuds II are yours in a triple black finish at launch, with a soapstone alternative to follow at some point.
AAC and SBC support24 hours of battery in total
The Bose use Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity, and feature compatibility with SBC and AAC codecs. Bose’s involvement with Qualcomm might have raised hopes for Snapdragon Sound compatibility, but that’s not the case at launch – although the company asserts that even complicated upgrades are achievable over-air.
Sound is served up by a couple of 9.3mm dynamic drivers. Bose never likes to specify a frequency response – but I’d all be very surprised if the actual response is anything less than full range.
The earbuds adapt both their audio response and their noise-cancelling characteristics to the wearer’s specific ear canal using a tone that’s played every time they are taken from their charging case and positioned in the ear. Bose calls this CustomTune.
Battery life is six hours in the earbuds, with three full charges in the (nicely compact) charging case – these are competitive figures, if not class-leading. Charging is via USB-C, and 20 minutes plugged into the mains should be good for a couple more hours of playback.
Impressive noise cancellingPunchy, spacious listen
A full review will follow, of course, after we’ve spent plenty of time with the QuietComfort Earbuds II and listened to them, long and hard, against their most obvious rivals. But it didn’t take much of a listen to establish these Bose have everything they need to compete.
As far as sound goes, the usual Bose preference for hefty, nicely controlled low frequencies, a fairly swift overall attitude, and fine midrange detail is to the fore. The good-looking and logical Bose Music app offers some EQ adjustment via a tidy graphic interface, but left well alone the earbuds are a punchy, open and momentum-packed listen.
Of course, Bose not the only brand that can claim this sort of performance for its premium true wireless in-ear headphones. Where the QuietComfort Earbuds II seem to put considerable distance between themselves and their price-comparable rivals is with the efficiency of their active noise-cancellation.
The Bose seem remarkably adept at cancelling ambient sound of all kinds. Without affecting their audio performance even a little, they deal comprehensively with external distractions in every part of the frequency range, leaving you alone to listen to your music – and they do so without introducing any suggestion of colouration whatsoever.
It’s much too early to say for sure, of course, but the noise-cancellation competence of the QuietComfort Earbuds II seems like a significant advance.
Should you buy it?
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II could prove to have the best noise cancelling performance of any true wireless so far
Still no room for aptX or support for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound (at this moment in time)
It will need many more hours of listening to establish exactly where on your ‘premium true wireless’ shortlist the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II ought to appear. But after today’s demonstration, it seems certain they’re going to be much nearer the top than the bottom.
How we test
We test every headphone we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry-standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Previewed at hands-on event
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At this moment in time, the QuietComfort Earbuds II only feature support SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs.
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