With their QuietComfort 45, Bose are committed to a consistent product: these new over-ears come with active noise cancelling (ANC, noise suppression), long battery life and great sound. Compared to the competition, however, they lack some important features. Will it be enough?
Upgrading a legend
Bose’s QuietComfort headphones are among the best-selling noise-cancelling headphones. With the new Bose QuietComfort 45 (QC 45) model, the manufacturer are not looking to change that anytime soon. We were, therefore, curious to see what improvements had been made compared to their predecessor, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and whether it would be worth changing the brand, if not the model. Let’s find out.
Bose QuietComfort 45: differences from the QuietComfort 35
The housings are the same, which is a definite advantage because hardly any other headphones in this class offer such pleasant wearing comfort at a weight of 240 grams. Bose has not made any changes to the velvety-soft leatherette ear pads, the mechanically adjustable headband, or the arrangement of the controls. Also unchanged is the ability to fold the headphones into the smallest possible space, making the QC 45 an ideal travel companion.
New and already better on paper is the battery life of up to 24 hours, Bluetooth 5.1, an additional microphone for better speech intelligibility and newer driver architecture.
Differences to major competitors
The Bose QuietComfort 45’s functionally is much more streamlined than, for example, a Sony WH-1000XM4 : the QC 45 do not have air pressure sensors, Auto Pause or Hi-Res audio. The Bose Music App (iOS, Android) offers only the most essential setting options, so it is by no means overloaded. This is almost as spartan as the Apple AirPods Max, which depend on you having an Apple audio device in terms of operation.
As before, the 2021 edition of the QuietComfort are operated via buttons and – as briefly alluded to above – they are not equipped with sensors. When you put the Bose QuietComfort 45 down, they continue to play. Nor can they create a binaural experience, as Apple do with head tracking. Some people might miss this, but the Bose fan base probably won’t.
In terms of Bluetooth codecs, Bose also give the feature hunters the cold shoulder. AptX and LDAC are not provided, so HD audio is only supported via AAC. As with Sennheiser and Sony, analogue audio can be fed in via an included 3.5 mm to 2.5 mm cable, and noise-cancelling can be activated. This is good news for travellers who want to use them on the move.
The sound of Bose QuietComfort 45
Bose has optimised the drivers of the QuietComfort 45, according to their own somewhat vague statements. For example, the built-in Triport sound architecture is said to increase the acoustic volume of the headphones to produce a deeper, fuller sound while maintaining the same sound dimensions. In addition, an always-active EQ is said to optimise the sound depending on volume and genre.
When listening to our Spotify playlist, the Bose QuietComfort 45 initially seemed neutral, even a little lacking in character. It played through various genres without any particular problems and always with really good sound texture. With electronic music, the bass was tight at the bottom without being overpowering. With classical tracks, space and depth matched the stage, and with rock classics like Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades”, the QC 45 pushed into the mid-range, as befits guitar styles.
I was able to make a direct comparison between the Bose QuietComfort 45, the Apple AirPods Max and the Bowers & Wilkins PX7, which I always like to use for reference purposes. The Bose QC 45 struck me as a product that wants to sound as perfect as possible. The texture is just right; corners and edges are alien to it. As a result, the kind of finer nuances which a PX7 is capable of delineating was less perceptible. The ultra-deep bass that the AirPods Max can boom into the ear without much effort was not particularly impressive with the QC 45. A degree of understatement was definitely present here, and so the Bose QuietComfort 45 reminded me of a model in a perfect outfit who is trying to impress everyone.
How good is the Bose QuietComfort 45’s noise-cancelling?
Bose’s noise cancelling is among the best on the market, as the QC 45 prove impressively. Consistent ambient noises, such as city background noise, are simply pushed away by these headphones. And even the squeaking of a tram is perceived at most as a quiet noise. When music is playing, you hear almost nothing at all. With Bose’s QC 45, this was partly due to the high passive attenuation. But the quality of the ANC electronics also does a good job here. Compared to the AirPods Max, the QC 45 is slightly ahead here; unfortunately, the Sony WH-1000XM4 was not available for us to compare in this case. However, both models seem to me to be on a par. One thing was striking: even without music, the Bose QuietComfort 45 provide an almost eerie silence. The slight inherent noise of these headphones was reduced to the bare minimum, but it was perceptible.
The QC 45 naturally also offers a transparency mode, which the manufacturer calls “Aware Mode”. Here, to my ears, the Apple AirPods Max was the absolute front-runner. But: The Bose also opened the acoustic barrier in such a way that both music listening and conversations were possible, and – above all – a real acoustic ambience was transmitted via the closed headphone system.
As a universal accessory, the QC 45 were able to master various everyday situations and did so surprisingly well. The low weight and compact dimensions were pleasant. The foldable headphones are supplied in a sturdy case and take up little space in hand luggage. In terms of energy, in my experience, the QC 45 lasted two to three days on a full charge during normal use. In the case of this test, normal meant: the odd walk, video calls, snooze time with music and doing some light housework with my favourite podcasts – in total, maybe four hours per day.
You should be careful when activating the automatic switch-off because the lack of any sensor technology means that the QC 45 remain in operation even when you put them down and when you pack them away until the battery is empty.
Bluetooth pairing was smooth, with the Bose QuietComfort 45 also able to establish two Bluetooth connections so that, for example, incoming calls can be accepted via a smartphone even if a connection to a computer has also been established.
The voice quality during video calls was very good. Longer Google Meet sessions were clear and understandable for both the participants in the call and me. After about an hour, I wanted to ventilate my ears and headphones, at least for a short time. As light and comfortable as they are, the almost hermetic air seal makes them a little warmer on the ears in the long run.
As travel headphones, the QC 45 were also very pleasing. Train journeys with noise-cancelling activated were comfortable, and speaker announcements could be picked up and perceived very well via the Aware function. When moving around in the city, this should always be left on. The environment was acoustically well reproduced by the QC 45, but the Apple AirPods Max are much more powerful and sound more natural in the same setting.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 are available in both black and white. I found both aesthetically pleasing. The Bose was very comfortable to wear, even when moving around a lot. The arms of my glasses did not get in the way of the ear pads, and peaked caps can also be “worn over” without any problems.
The Bose Music App offers all the important additional info as well as a few basic functions. You don’t necessarily have to set up an account and can use the QC 45 anonymously as much as possible, which I found to be an advantage.
The voice prompts are multilingual and can be selected via the app. If you find the English version funny, the artificial German lady’s voice raises a smile. You can – and should – simply switch it off, because the battery charge level and information about which device you are currently connected to can also be viewed via the app.
Bose works with Google Assistant, but the QC 45 gives Apple Siri the cold shoulder. Using the corresponding Google app, you can ask to hear the weather or information about the nearest restaurant. The voice commands are triggered by pressing and holding the middle button on the right earcup.
I still find control via buttons to be the best way. I never like the waving and tapping necessary on touch-sensitive headphones. I prefer the Bose QuietComfort 45, which, after only a short “training period”, allowed me to handle this small but technically sophisticated device with confidence.
Listening longer, charging faster, sounding better – Bose has made a good product series even better, and with the Bose QuietComfort 45, they have taken care of it.
For pure music enjoyment, everyday listening tasks or as a work tool in the home office – if you’re looking for great-sounding, compact, easy-to-use and reliable everyday headphones, you will find them with the Bose QuietComfort 45.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cable240 g
What's in the box
- 3.5 mm to 2.5 mm audio cable
- USB-C charging cable
- Carrying case
- Available in black and white
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC
- BT version: 5.1
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