Bose wants to outdo the rest of the ANC competition from Apple and Sony with the new QuietComfort Earbuds 2 for just under $300. The US audio professionals equipped their earbuds with a total of eight microphones. You can find out where you have to cut back despite the high entry cost, just how good the new Aware mode is, and whether the earbuds are convincing in everyday use in the NextPit review!
- Fantastic ANC performance
- Cool ambient mode thanks to the Aware feature
- Powerful, clear sound
- Extremely comfortable in the ear
- Mediocre battery life
- No multipoint Bluetooth
- No HD codecs
- No wireless charging supported
- (Worst computer voice I know)
The Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds 2 in a nutshell
The Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds 2 are available in stores at a recommended retail price (RRP) of $299.99. This places them in the upper league of in-ear Bluetooth headphones, going up against the likes of Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX, the second generation Apple AirPods Pro, and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3.
In fact, the active noise cancellation including Ambient mode proved to be particularly convincing. There is also hardly anything to complain about in terms of sound, and the sound quality can be reliably adjusted thanks to the 3-band equalizer. However, Bose made a few technical mistakes.
For example, the earbuds lack multipoint Bluetooth, and the sluggish in-app control of up to five stored devices can hardly compensate for that. The fact that the earbuds only work with SCB and AAC is almost outrageous in this price range. Android users in particular will hardly be able to get the most out of the QC Earbuds 2.
Design & Operation
The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 is a classic pair of in-ear Bluetooth headphones. However, in addition to the silicone tips that sit in your ear canal, there is also a retention fin that nestles in your ear. Since Bose is thinking of placing attachments in different sizes in the box, everyone should find a snug fit with the earbuds. Controls are performed via touch gestures and through the intuitive companion app.
What I liked:
- High wearing comfort and good fit.
- Precise recognition of touch gestures.
What I disliked:
- Insertion into the charging case can be a bit fiddly.
- Touch gestures are susceptible to erroneous inputs due to water or being pushed out of place.
Bose sent us the white version of the QC Earbuds 2 for this review. Personally, I would have preferred the black variant, but the earbuds are still stylish and discreet in nature. Unlike the 2nd generation AirPods, for example, the stem that peeks out of your ear is significantly thicker. This is a matter of preference, but it is beneficial for the operation and positioning of the buds.
However, you will not have to adjust the earbuds too often in everyday use. The QC Earbuds 2 sit very firmly in the ear thanks to the combination of a replaceable silicone tip and the likewise replaceable retaining fins. I never noticed the earbuds negatively during a train ride of several hours, and just as little while watching a movie in bed. Bose has really done a good job here!
Also impressive is the reactive touch control on both earbuds. A tap pauses your music, a double tap advances to the next song, and swipe gestures control the volume. With the press-and-hold ANC control, I have all the functions I need in everyday life. You can configure voice assistant control in the Bose app if needed.
The only thing that bothered me during my review was how the touch control, as usual, remains susceptible to incorrect input when wet. Although the earbuds are protected according to the IPX4 standard, I do not recommend them for use while swimming or in the rain. Inserting the earbuds into the otherwise chic charging case can also be a bit fiddly. You will have to get used to this a bit.
Comfort functions & app
Something that Bose neglected compared to other manufacturers: smart features and comfort functions that make life with the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 easier. As a consolation, there is a pretty and intuitive companion app that allows you to create effective equalizers as well as different ANC profiles.
What I liked:
- Useful 3-band equalizer.
- Individual ANC profiles can be created.
What I disliked:
- Bose's voice is the reincarnation of evil (hear the audio sample!).
- Hardly any smart features.
- No multipoint Bluetooth support.
In my opinion, high-priced earbuds s in 2022 no longer need to merely play music and suppress noise. Models like the WF-1000XM4 from Sony (review) or the Galaxy Buds Pro 2 from Samsung (review) show how smart earbuds can be. The ANC is automatically turned down when you show up at work or even deactivated as soon as you begin start talking.
With wearer detection and individual ANC profiles, the Bose QC Earbuds 2 are therefore lacking in terms of functionality. The ANC profiles only determine how much ambient mode and the powerful ANC are mixed. The detection of particularly loud background noise, which Bose advertised in Ambient mode, cannot be adjusted in terms of sensitivity. The only positive aspect is that you can cycle through the profiles directly after the setup by pressing and holding the touch surfaces.
Besides ANC, you can also change the sound of the earbuds. This is done via a 3-band equalizer: You change the volume of the bass, mids, and treble. Even though other earbuds allow even more precise settings here, the equalizer is nice and effective and makes the earbuds much more flexible for the user's listening preferences.
Aside from that, the QC Earbuds 2 only offer a transparency mode for your voice when on the phone, as well as automatic activation of the same when a single earbud is removed. And there's app integration for changing the connected device. The earbuds have enough memory to remember five devices, which you can then select with a tap. This is apparently supposed to compensate for the missing Multipoint Bluetooth connectivity, but this solution is much more complicated in practice. Multipoint Bluetooth allows one to connect multiple devices at the same time with seamless transitions. Here, the QC Earbuds 2 lag behind the competition.
In everyday use, however, the biggest annoying factor - and this may sound like a triviality - was the terrible computer voice from Bose. This has not evolved in recent years and sounds like a robot from an '80s sci-fi flick. It makes the headphones sound dated and gets on your nerves with its slow speech tempo. Here, I don't understand why Bose doesn't just replace its text-to-speech engine.
I recorded my audio example using my smartphone's microphone, but the quality of the TTS engine still comes across as very authentic!
Sound & ANC
Bose advertised the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 as headphones with the "... world's best noise reduction". At the same time, the manufacturer integrated an Ambient mode that filters both external noise and loud noise. Regarding the sound quality, Bose advertised the automatic measurement of your ear canal and a "true-to-life top sound". However, the earbuds technically lag behind right here.
What I liked:
- Powerful and detailed sound image.
- Impressive ANC.
- Practical transparency mode.
What I disliked:
- Perceptible noise in ANC mode.
- No HD codecs for Bluetooth transmission.
Although Bose definitely sees itself as a manufacturer of hi-fi audio products, they hold back on specifications for the technology of the QC Earbuds 2. The headphones are supposed to offer a "true-to-life top sound" that adapts itself to the user's ear canals. The latter happens without the need for an initial calibration; you can only measure the fit of the earbuds in the ear in the settings.
Technically, you are only stuck with two specifications when you look at the earbuds' spec sheet: SBC and AAC. Unfortunately, Bose does without HD codecs like AptX, which allow higher bit rates during the transmission between the smartphone and earbuds. This is less of a problem for my iPhone 13 mini - you can find out why in my guide to Bluetooth codecs, but Android users with more exacting demands will be annoyed by the poor codec diversity. In a comparison test of listening to music using an iPhone and a Galaxy S22 Ultra, a tiny but noticeable difference was audible. "Rose Darling" by Steely Dan, a rather playful jazz-rock track, sounded a bit thin and compressed.
Sound-wise, however, the Bose QC Earbuds 2 still managed to convince me. With the equalizers properly configured, the bass penetrated nicely deep into the cerebellum and you quickly find a setting where the trebles resolved nicely without clashing. The earbuds also manage the separation of different instruments in complex tracks very well, but it does perform better in iOS than Android. Despite these technical limitations, the earbuds are convincing in the listening test.
The strongest ANC on the market?
A special feature of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 is the powerful ANC. Bose stated that it is the world's most powerful variant in their device range, and indeed, I would back this marketing statement. That said, I have been able to try about 50 models across all price ranges over the past few years. When cranked to the maximum, the ANC sounded as though you were in a room behind heavy steel doors, locking out all external sound sources.
For the first time, I put on the earbuds when I was on a full Flixtrain - making this the perfect test scenario. I briefly had the feeling that I couldn't hear anything until soft voices and sounds reached my ears. Mind you, this is without any active music playback. In a quiet environment, I could no longer understand the words of my sister, who was sitting about five meters away from me, and only heard a quiet mumble. If you were to also turn up the music, the environment completely disappears into the background.
However, there is one point of criticism: without music, a quiet murmur remains perceptible, which reminds us a bit of a white noise generator. It is not really disturbing and could even have a calming effect on some users. However, there are models on the market that deliver ANC effectively without background noise. However, it is by far not as effective as with Bose.
The feed-through of ambient noise was also convincing in the review. The Aware mode is based on Bose's Active Sense technology, which detects excessively loud ambient noise and reduces it to a comfortable volume. I used the fantastic YouTube video "10-hour Air Horn" to simulate noise in a quiet room. In Aware mode, the earbuds picked up the noise and slowly turn it down. Other noises in the room, in my case, repetitive finger snapping, were only reduced at high volumes during this process.
The technology is really interesting and worked nicely and discreetly in the background. If you want to manually mix ambient noise into your music or into the active ANC, you can do that via the Bose app. The adjustment range offers up to ten levels to suit your preference.
Battery and charging
Bose specified the battery life of the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 at six hours. You can recharge the Earbuds three times via the charging case - bringing the total runtime to 24 hours. Quick-charging is also available, with a 20-minute charge letting it last for two hours. You have to live without wireless charging despite the high price tag.
What I liked:
- Useful quick charging function.
What I disliked:
- Average battery life.
- No wireless charging support.
As effective as Bose's ANC may be, it seems to consume a lot of power. This is because the QuietComfort Earbuds II do seem to belong to the larger in-ear Bluetooth headphone family with a battery life that is six hours at most. It is a pity that you cannot turn off the ANC to extend the runtime. Heavy duty users who want to block out annoying colleagues for the entire workday have to recharge during their lunch break.
However, you still benefit from effective quick-charging with this pair of earbuds. When inserted into the charging case, the earbuds offer another two hours of runtime in just 20 minutes. A full charge of the charging case, which extends the runtime to 24 hours, takes three hours according to the manufacturer. Charging is always done via USB-C; wireless charging support is not available for this model.
So, once again, turn up the ANC full blast and enjoy the world around you in perfect, quiet bliss: Bose seems to have focused a bit too much on noise cancellation in its new QuietComfort Earbuds 2. Although this feature is subjectively more powerful than in all other earbuds available on the market, the $300 earbuds do disappoint somewhat in other aspects.
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The battery life of six hours falls behind the competition, you have to live without wireless charging completely, and the Bose headphones probably do not meet hi-fi demands without AptX support. With such a hefty price tag, I find that it is almost outrageous to charge that high. In any case, Bose's neglect in these departments is a shame.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are actually very good earbuds that offer a great sound, almost perfect wearing comfort, and currently, the strongest ANC performance. Even after several days of testing, I can't explain why an audio professional like Bose would fall flat right before the finish line. However, if your focus is completely on ANC, then the QC Earbuds II are a very good alternative!