Bose QuietComfort Earbuds beat AirPods Pro in terms of sound and noise cancellation - not in design (2023)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds beat AirPods Pro in terms of sound and noise cancellation - not in design (1)


$199 at Amazon

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  • Premium noise cancellation with transparency mode
  • First class sound
  • Comfortable, secure fit
  • Solid wireless connection
  • Decent battery life for noise-cancelling earbuds (up to 6 hours)
  • Wireless charging (and USB-C)
  • Decent voice calls with "Self-voicing" sidetone feature.
  • IPX4 splashproof

don't like

  • Buds are quite large (they stick out of your ears)
  • Noise cancellation on calls could be better
  • Quite expensive

product details

  • Battery life Rated up to 6 hours
  • noise cancellation And (ANC)
  • multipoint no
  • headphone type Wireless Earbuds
  • Waterproof Yes (IPX4 -- splashproof)

It's taken Bose quite a while to get them into stores, but the new $279 (£250, AU$400, AU$400) noise-cancellation does.QuietComfort earplugsare finally here. In many ways they are excellent true wireless earbuds, especially when it comes to their sound and noise cancellation, which is arguably the best in a set of earbuds right now.

In terms of performance, they clearly have the edge over Apple's bestsellerAirPods Protrue wireless buds with noise canceling. However, the AirPods Pro's smaller design, slightly more comfortable fit, and superior voice calling capabilities make it difficult to explainBosethe straight champion. Ultimately it comes down to what your priorities are. That said, they've held up compared to other true wireless headphones that have arrived since we originally reviewed them in October, and their noise-cancellation remains best-in-class. As such, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds deserve a CNET Editors' Choice.

Best-in-class noise cancellation

Let's start with noise cancellation. Bose has been the gold standard for active noise cancellation, but Sony and others have upped their noise-cancellation game in recent years. The QuietComfort Earbuds, formerly known as theBose Noise Canceling 700 Earbuds, do not disappoint in this department. As said, they are arguably the best true wireless earbuds out there for blocking out noise around you.

You can cycle through three customizable noise-cancelling settings, including a transparency mode that lets sound in - it's the number "0" in the settings - by tapping the left earbud with the touch controls. At their highest setting, these dampened sound better than the AirPods Pro andSony WF-1000XM3, a leading noise cancellation system in this category.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: Bigger design has pros and cons

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I haven't taken the Bose earbuds on a plane — I just don't travel on planes like a lot of people these days — but I have an air conditioner in my apartment, which is pretty loud and does a decent job of simulating airplane cabin noise. The QuietComfort Earbuds almost completely eliminate fan noise. While the Sony and AirPods Pro did a good job of muffle the sound, Bose did a better job.

I've also used them on the streets of New York to impressive effect. They don't eliminate all noise, but they do make you feel quite isolated from the world, and it's worth noting that many people use transparency mode when walking around the city to hear traffic for safety reasons. This would also come into play if you were running in traffic areas.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds beat AirPods Pro in terms of sound and noise cancellation - not in design (5)

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As an aside, I think Bose should label "0" as transparency because some people might just read it as meaning noise-cancellation is off. It would also have been nice if Bose had a negative number that boosted the sound from the outside. This feature was available in the limited versionheadphones(now discontinued), which should improve the sound. "The goal of transparency in our QuietComfort headphones is to faithfully mimic what the world would sound like without the buds in your ears," a Bose spokesperson told me. Apple has the same goal for the AirPods Pro's transparency mode.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds beat AirPods Pro in terms of sound and noise cancellation - not in design (6)

Rich sound

The QuietComfort Earbuds also sound better than the AirPods Pro. They just sound richer with better detail and more powerful bass that's also well defined. The Bose tops the list with the best-sounding true wireless earbuds and goes toe-to-toe with themSennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, which retail for $300. They work well for a variety of music genres, but fans of hip-hop and EDM will find that they have plenty of kick in their bass.

The Sennheiser is a bit more relaxed than the Bose. The mids (vocals) are a bit more forward with the QuietComfort Earbuds, which is a bit more aggressive overall with more energy in the bass. You can hear each instrument clearly on well-recorded tracks like The Police's Spirits in the Material World, Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill, Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues, and Frank Zappa's Night School, which have a whole host of instruments playing simultaneously, so these are fairly articulate ones Headphones. Bob Dylan's Man in the Long Black Coat sounded clean and open.

On contemporary tracks like Major Lazer's Know No Better and Travis Scott's The Plan (from the Tenet soundtrack), the Bose sounded more dynamic than the Sennheiser and had more powerful bass that hit harder. Some people might prefer the tonal balance of the Sennheiser - after all, everyone's ears and brains are different - but the point is that the Bose delivers quality sound. For better or worse, there's currently no equalizer in the Bose Music app for iOS and Android that you can use to tweak the sound.

Call quality rating

The QuietComfort earbuds are also good for making phone calls and have a side noise feature (Bose calls it "proper voice") that allows you to hear your voice in the earbuds so you can modulate it and not shout. But they're not quite as good as the AirPods Pro for calls, mainly because their noise cancellation (the ability to reduce background noise) isn't as strong. Even so, they're significantly improved in this area over Bose's earlier onesSoundSport freethat had only mono sound in a bud for calls.

The QuietComfort Earbuds effectively reduced a certain amount of ambient noise on the streets of New York during calls and callers said they could hear my voice just fine, although they could hear some background noise. My voice was clear and I could hear callers really well (the noise isolation is great while on the phone). It's possible Bose could tweak the firmware to improve background noise cancellation, although for now it's only good, not outstanding. It's not on par with the full-size BoseNoise canceling 700 headphonesorSamsungs Galaxy Buds Plusand even someSub $100 earbuds I've reviewed lately.

You can use a single bud - either left or right - for calls or listening to music, and when you pull out one bud, the other automatically switches to transparency mode, so you don't have any weirdness listening to a bud with hissing announces.

(Video) Bose QuietComfort Earbuds VS AirPods Pro! Best ANC Earbuds?

You get up to six hours of battery life on a single charge, which is about an hour more than the AirPods Pro. The buds are sweat and weather resistant, with a splash guardIPX4 rating- the same as the AirPods Pro.

Possibly thanks to the fact that the Bose includes the latest Bluetooth 5.1 standard, my wireless connection was rock solid and the buds paired with both my iPhone 11 Pro and a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 with ease. But there's no multipoint Bluetooth pairing, making switching between a few devices, including a Windows or Apple PC, a seamless affair. You have to switch between the devices manually and this doesn't always go according to plan, especially with Windows PCs.

Size matters

As I indicated in the intro, the QuietComfort Earbuds have a few downsides. The AirPods Pro and popular Android-focused buds like Samsung's Galaxy Buds Plus andGalaxy Buds liveare significantly smaller and lighter and have really compact charging cases. You have to love that. In that sense, these buds are more akin to the Sony WF-1000XM3, and perhaps the moral of the story is that to get really good sound and noise-cancellation you simply need to get a bigger earbud. Packing the electronics, high quality driver and a battery large enough to power the bud for at least five hours is a technical challenge.

I found the QuietComfort Earbuds comfortable to wear. They use Bose's new StayHear Max tips with an integrated wing. With the largest tip I got a tight seal and really secure fit. And while they're smaller than Bose's previous SoundSport Free, the QuietComfort Buds stick out quite a bit from your ears. And when you put the case in the front pocket of skinny jeans, you leave, shall we say, a noticeable bulge.

That means the case is smaller than the case for theBeats Powerbeats Pro, so not huge. It has wireless charging capabilities (as well as USB-C charging) and gives you two extra charges. There's also a quick charge feature that offers two hours of battery life on a 15-minute charge.

The question of value

I can't compare Bose to everything out there and some people will irk me for talking so much about the AirPods Pro but they are (as far as we know) the best selling true wireless noise canceling Earbuds, and Apple just released a new - and downright impressive -Spatial Audio Virtual Sound-Funktionto them. And despite a list price of $249, the AirPods Pro have more or less leveled outStreet price of $219, and they've recently been on sale at major retailersas low as $199. In other words, they're an attractive alternative to the QuietComfort Earbuds for around $30 to $80 less.

I guess it comes down to whether you can live with the larger size and overall design of the Bose. For many people the answer will be no. The AirPods Pro's smaller and lighter design (yes, they're a little more comfortable than the Bose) will outweigh the Bose's performance advantages. As I said, the QuietComfort Earbuds sound significantly better and have better noise cancellation. It's not a competition. Still, the AirPods Pro don't sound bad at all (they sound good, but not great). They also don't lack effective noise-cancelling (it's good, too).

After speaking to a few people who have both the AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort buds (with the long delay for the arrival of the next-gen Bose buds, some Bose fans couldn't wait and went and bought the AirPods Pro), it seems they both could have a place in the headphone arsenal. "I'll be using the AirPods Pro for everyday use and calls, and the Bose for movies, more critical listening, and airplanes," one dual owner who finds the AirPods Pro more comfortable told me.

Personally, I lean toward better sound, so I've gravitated towards the Bose for everyday listening, even with the AirPods Pro sitting on my desk.

The sports alternative from Bose

The other Bose alternative is the cheaper oneSport earplugs($180, £180, AU$300) which have the same IPX4 water resistance rating but no noise cancellation and an hour less battery life. They don't sound quite as dynamic and their bass doesn't go quite as deep as the bass of the QuietComfort Earbuds, but they are well balanced with nice detail and punchy bass. Overall, they sound excellent and are also good - if not great - for making phone calls. Although they protrude from your ears, they are smaller and lighter than the QuietComfort Earbuds and their body is around 30-40% smaller.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds beat AirPods Pro in terms of sound and noise cancellation - not in design (9)

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I found them to be a bit more comfortable and while you can use the QuietComfort Earbuds for exercise, the Sport Earbuds are better for runners. When cycling, both the Sport Earbuds and the QuietComfort Earbuds protrude from your ears and create wind noise - the Galaxy Buds Live are better for cycling. If you don't need active noise cancellation or don't like the feel, the Sport Earbuds will surely fit more people's budgets. They hold up well against other earbuds in their price range and sound slightly better than cheaper models like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. However, the Buds Plus are more discreet.

As for whether it's worth shelling out the extra $100 for the QuietComfort Earbuds, I think you shouldn't hesitate if you're looking for great noise-cancelling. They're pricey at $279 and will hopefully be available soon. It would also be helpful if Bose could improve the noise reduction when making calls with a firmware upgrade. Other companies, like Jabra with itsElite 75t, have done just that. Oftentimes, advanced earbuds like these and the AirPods Pro improve over time.


Why is my noise cancelling weak AirPods Pro? ›

Put both AirPods Pro in your ears and check that Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is turned on. Clean the mesh located on the top of your AirPods Pro. Sometimes Active Noise Cancellation can be affected if debris or earwax builds up in the area shown below.

Why are my Bose headphones not noise cancelling? ›

Be sure the earcups are tightly seated against the head.

Glasses, earrings and hats may prevent the headphone cushions from forming a tight seal around the ear. Remove any of these items and retest the noise cancelling feature.

Does noise cancellation really work on AirPods Pro? ›

With Active Noise Cancellation, an outward-facing microphone or microphones detect external sounds, which your AirPods Pro (1st or 2nd generation) or AirPods Max then counter with anti-noise, canceling the external sounds before you hear them.

How do you adjust noise cancellation on Bose Quietcomfort earbuds? ›

Adjusting noise cancelling in the Bose Music app

In the Bose Music app, select your product and then swipe the Noise Cancellation slider: Swipe right to increase noise cancellation. Swipe left to decrease noise cancellation.

How do I make my AirPods Pro more noise Cancelling? ›

Press and hold the Control Center volume bar (a pair of earbuds will be visible inside of it to indicate the ‌AirPods Pro‌ are connected.) Use the strip of buttons at the bottom of the screen to switch between Noise Cancellation, Off, or Transparency, depending on your preference.

Does noise Cancelling get worse over time AirPods Pro? ›

Yes and no. If you're around cars, trains, or planes for a good chunk of your day, you might notice a reduction in noise-cancellation with AirPods Max. If you're commuting by subway daily or work near a highway, it'll likely be a noticeable issue. Otherwise, it's unlikely you'll hear a significant difference in ANC.

How can I improve my Bose noise cancelling? ›

To turn up or down the amount of noise cancelling:
  1. Open the Bose Connect app and find your product. ...
  2. On the cirle that surrounds the image of your product, tap and hold the black dot and rotate it clockwise or counterclockwise to increase or decrease noise cancellation.

Why is noise cancelling not perfect? ›

It's not perfect. these headphones don't “create” silence, nor are they able to eliminate noise. The crests and troughs do not perfectly cancel out. The absolute best noise-canceling headphones merely reduce noise, and work best with low-frequency droning sounds.

Why are my earbuds not noise cancelling? ›

Make sure the earbud tips fit snug in your ears.

If the tips do not fit your ears, the Noise Canceling function may be significantly affected. Here are some important factors to consider: Make sure that the headphones are worn properly and the earbud tips slide deep into your ears.

Why do my AirPods Pro pick up background noise? ›

This has to do with the ridiculously amplified gain on the AirPod mic that makes it so "hot" it causes every little background noise to be transmitted multiple times louder to the person(s) on the other end... definitely much more sensitive than the built-in microphone on the iPhone itself.

Is noise cancelling supposed to cancel all noise? ›

Unfortunately, they're not great at blocking sounds that are high-pitched and fluctuating. A classic example of this is people talking. While noise cancelling headphones definitely reduce noise, you shouldn't expect absolute silence from them.

How do I stop Bose headphones from picking up background noise? ›

Choose a noise cancellation setting in the Bose Connect app.

After you power on your headphones, you can turn noise cancellation down or off using the Bose Connect app. When you power your headphones off and back on, they will return to providing maximum noise cancellation.

How do you EQ noise cancelling Bose earbuds? ›

To adjust the equalizer of your headphones:
  1. In the Bose Music app, select Settings.
  2. Under SOUND, select Equalizer.
  3. Use the + or – buttons to adjust the bass, mids or treble levels in increments of 1 (from -10 to 10)
  4. You can also tap the number to scroll to a selection.

Why are my AirPods Pro so quiet all of a sudden? ›

Improper settings from your phone or music app can result in lower volume from your AirPods. Accidentally changing the equalizer, turning on volume limits, and going to low-power mode can cause your AirPods to sound quieter than they usually are.

Why can I still hear with noise Cancelling headphones? ›

Noise-cancelling technology cannot completely isolate sound due to the air trapped between your audio device and eardrum.


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