Bose has loads driving on the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Lengthy the dominant participant on this area, the corporate has confronted formidable competitors from Sony’s 1000X-series headphones lately; the 1000XM3s lastly bested the noise cancellation of Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II headphones, and many individuals desire the audio high quality of the Sonys. Even Microsoft made a formidable entrance into the class with the Floor Headphones and their creative dial controls for altering quantity and adjusting NC.
However Bose has lastly returned with its personal new pair of headphones. At $400, they don’t come low-cost, however Bose tries to justify that price with a premium construct, much more efficient (and adjustable) noise cancellation, much better voice name high quality, and sure, a long-awaited transfer to USB-C charging. The NCH 700s aren’t with out points — and Bose has made some irritating unforced errors that I’ll cowl in a while. However they ship the sturdy message that Bose is again, and in some ways higher than ever.
The NCH 700s mark a brand new path for Bose headphone design, and you may sum up that course with one phrase: clear. There are not any seen hinges or screws, and the result’s a way more trendy look in comparison with the early-2000s industrial design of the QC35s. A stainless-steel headband is the muse of all of it, operating down and shrinking to a cylindrical form that cuts by way of the center of every earcup. You alter match by sliding the earcups up or down that metal pole. It’s a easy motion with none clicks or suggestions. I’ve received an infinite head, so for me the match is simple: I simply put the headphones on and pull the earcups on both sides so far as they’ll go. However some folks would possibly miss the clicky slider type of different headphones.
The froth cushioning between your head and the steel headband has a silicone texture — not the identical Alcantara cloth because the QC35s — and there’s extra silicone alongside the highest of the scarf. Talking of the QC35s, at 0.56 kilos, the NCH 700s aren’t fairly as feather mild as Bose’s earlier noise-canceling headphones (0.518 kilos), however I nonetheless discovered them to be extraordinarily comfy. The artificial leather-based ear cushions really feel nice. I’ve seen complaints from just a few early patrons concerning the clamping drive on the top being too tight, however I didn’t have the identical expertise and by no means handled discomfort even throughout prolonged use. Others have talked about that they’ll hear the scarf clanking in opposition to the earcups (that are not constituted of steel) when strolling round, however that is one other problem I failed to note. Possibly each are extra of an issue for folks with smaller noggins. I believe the QC35 IIs nonetheless win out at total consolation, however these are simply on par with Sony’s 1000XM3s.
The tradeoff to this sleeker type from Bose is that these headphones can’t fold away for compact storage. As a substitute, one of the best you get are earcups that may swivel flat when put into the carrying case. Sony has the effectivity benefit there — the 1000XM3s can fold down — however different rivals just like the Floor Headphones are in the identical boat as Bose. I discovered that Bose’s included onerous case nonetheless match completely superb in my backpack, and there’s a useful little compartment that holds the USB-C charging cable and a pair of.5mm-to-3.5mm headphone cable.
Following the traits of recent over-ear headphone design, Bose did away with bodily buttons for controlling your music on the 700s. As a substitute, the entrance half of the suitable earcup can detect your index finger’s faucets and swipes, and this method works fairly effectively when you grasp the muscle reminiscence of the place to succeed in. You faucet twice to play or pause, swipe as much as elevate the quantity, all the way down to decrease it, ahead to skip tracks, or again to return to the earlier track. A double-tap solutions calls, whereas tapping and holding rejects an incoming name. You can too maintain down on the contact space to get a studying of remaining battery life (in hours, not proportion).
Sony bumped into some issues with its earpad controls, which may behave erratically in chilly climate. I raised this level with Bose was advised that the NCH 700s have been examined completely, and the corporate jogged my memory that it’s based mostly in Framingham, MA, a metropolis that will get lots chilly in winter. It’s the center of summer time right here in New York, so it’ll be just a few months earlier than I can decide whether or not these headphones are extra cold-proof than Sony’s. In both case, they’ll most likely show to be extra of a problem if you’re sporting gloves in comparison with Bose’s older fashions.
There are nonetheless just a few precise buttons round again: on the left earcup is one which adjusts noise cancellation, and on the suitable is an influence/Bluetooth pairing button and one other that prompts your most well-liked voice assistant. One small gripe is that I usually discovered myself urgent these by chance when selecting up the headphones, they usually activate the second you achieve this. Even implementing a split-second delay would assist negate this annoyance and forestall false presses from inflicting frustration.
Bose helps all three main voice assistants: Siri (on iOS), Google Assistant (on each Android and iOS) and Amazon Alexa (on each). The benefit of selecting Google Assistant is that you just’ve received the choice of proactive voice notifications, the place your messages and different essential alerts can be learn to you the second they arrive in. Amazon additionally will get a degree: Alexa is the one assistant that may be accessed with out urgent a button; you simply need to say “Alexa.” The NCH 700s don’t help hands-free “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” activation phrases. However Alexa is of restricted utility on headphones. You possibly can change quantity, management your sensible house gear, and ask the same old Alexa inquiries, however even instructions like “subsequent track” or “skip this observe” don’t work. I largely caught with Siri and it labored nice — and its recognition was slightly extra correct than typical on account of the spectacular mics.
Two gadgets might be paired and linked with the Bose NCH 700s at a time, so you possibly can continuously hold them linked to your telephone when listening to audio on a laptop computer or pill. If a name is available in, the headphones are sensible sufficient to mechanically pause music on that different system so you possibly can rapidly reply. Sony’s headphones shouldn’t have this characteristic and it’s irritating to make use of them with multiple system consequently.
Voice calls are one of many stellar strengths of those headphones. Bose constructed a completely new mic system from the bottom up, and it reveals: the NCH 700s are higher at isolating your voice from background noise than simply about some other headphones I’ve ever tried.
In all, the headphones comprise six microphones for noise cancellation. However Bose pairs two of these microphones with two others for a four-mic system that’s optimized for voice pickup.You possibly can speak to folks at a traditional quantity on loud streets they usually’ll nonetheless hear you clearly. Identical goes for voice assistant instructions: the mic array does an astounding job staying in your voice and ignoring environmental noise and even different folks close by. Should you speak on the telephone loads, this can be a enormous promoting level for Bose’s new headphones and would possibly justify the additional $50 over the QC35s, that are solely so-so at voice calls. The folks you’re chatting with will be capable to inform the distinction. Should you don’t, you may not care concerning the progress Bose has made.
Bose says it has improved each noise cancellation and total sound high quality with the NCH 700s, and that checks out with my expertise utilizing them to date. When the adjustable noise cancellation turned as much as 10 — this may be completed by tapping the NC button or by way of the Bose Music — the isolation is extra highly effective than the QC35 IIs and neck and neck with Sony. I’ve by no means been delicate to the “ear suck” phenomenon or uncomfortable strain that some folks expertise with noise-canceling headphones. In case you are, I’d positively advise attempting these in a retailer first.
If you drop NC all the way in which all the way down to zero, Bose truly pipes in surrounding audio as an alternative of leaving you with muffled sound. It’s a extra lifelike “ambient mode” than I’m used to with different headphones and earbuds. The corporate advised me that the purpose was making it sound such as you’re not sporting headphones in any respect, and Bose got here fairly near nailing that sensation. There’s additionally a dialog mode that’s activated if you maintain down the NC button: music is quickly paused and out of doors audio is amped up till you press a button or faucet the gesture space.
Generally, audio playback does appear slightly richer than the QC35 IIs. Bose has by no means been a head-rattling bass monster, as an alternative favoring a clear, balanced low finish that may span many various kinds of music. There’s ample separation between vocals and devices and an engrossing depth to the soundstage — even when it’s not as huge or detailed as non-noise-canceling headphones at this value level. The audio tuning of the NCH 700s may be very Bose, not fairly as heat as Sony’s cans, but it surely’s refined, crisp, and energetic. There’s no capability to regulate EQ at the moment, however Bose says it plans so as to add that possibility sooner or later.
I want I had equally good issues to say about Bose’s smartphone app, which is a vital utility for controlling the NCH 700s. Proper now it’s a little bit of a multitude. For one, you possibly can’t use it with out making a Bose account. You’ll by no means get past the splash display screen. There’s little cause for Bose to drive its clients into creating accounts for a headphone companion app. These are $400 headphones, and requiring a login to make use of the Bose Music app — with none option to skip ahead with out one — leaves a nasty style in my mouth. This firm has discovered itself in controversy over information harvesting earlier than, so the dearth of a “simply let me use my headphones” possibility is slightly disconcerting.
Should you open the app on a aircraft with out Wi-Fi and also you by some means received signed out, you received’t be capable to entry settings for the NCH 700s. And early patrons of the headphones have discovered themselves randomly signed out of the Bose app; I’ve run into the issue myself quite a few occasions with the iOS model of the app. (Tip: to keep away from logout points, make sure that your headphones are linked to each the common and Bluetooth LE itemizing of the headphones in your settings.) There are issues you are able to do within the Bose Music app that aren’t accessible in your telephone’s common Bluetooth menu. With the app, you possibly can simply leap between your whole paired gadgets with a faucet, alter the quantity of your personal voice you hear when on calls, or customise the three presets of noise cancellation that you just toggle between when urgent the NC button. By default it’s 0, 5, and 10, however it can save you whichever three choices you want greatest.
Bose must make its app extra dependable no matter whether or not there’s an web connection, and clients ought to actually be capable to bypass the entire account course of. The Bose Music app is the worst a part of utilizing the NCH 700s, and it’s in pressing want of enchancment. (It was up to date on the identical day as this assessment with bug fixes, so the corporate is actually attempting.) You need to use the headphones and their noise-canceling powers with out ever putting in the app, however you’ll be left with out some superior choices.
Bose estimates the NCH 700s at 20 hours of battery life, which is nice, however about 10 hours in need of what Sony is ready to obtain. You’ll be advised how a lot time is left everytime you flip them on, and the app clearly shows battery standing as effectively. I’ve been utilizing them for slightly over every week and have solely wanted to plug in as soon as. Charging them up over USB-C takes round two and a half hours, however even a 15-minute cost is sufficient to get you over three hours of listening time should you can’t wait that lengthy.
With the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, Bose has efficiently performed catchup with the sturdy competitors it now faces in a class that this firm helped create. My solely reservation is value: I perceive Bose’s reasoning for maintaining the QC35 IIs round, however I want these had seen a value lower and made means for the NCH 700s at that $350 mark. Should you already personal Bose’s earlier pair of noise-canceling cans (and assuming the noise cancellation remains to be sturdy), you need to keep put with these. Identical goes for the Sony 1000XM3s. However should you’re looking out for brand spanking new NC headphones proper now and might spare the money, you possibly can’t do significantly better as a whole bundle. The consolation is there, Bose’s noise cancellation is about one of the best you may get, they sound good, and multi-device pairing is one thing you’ll rapidly recognize. And also you’ll by no means need to return to speaking to folks on different headphones.
However Bose, please, please repair the app.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. For extra data, see our ethics coverage.