With the QuietComfort Earbuds II, Bose makes an impressive comeback and they want to show us what is technically feasible: The active noise cancelling (ANC) cancels out broadband and works extremely effectively, the transparency mode sounds very natural and thanks to clever measurement technology in the ear, the balanced sound is automatically adjusted to your ears. However, all this comes at a price…
The US manufacturer boldly claims that the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have the world’s best noise reduction. Anyone familiar with their products knows that their noise cancelling is indeed among the best the market has to offer. It’s no coincidence that models like the Bose QuietComfort 45 received top marks from us when it comes to successful noise cancellation. And this model’s predecessors, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds I (review), also impressed us in that respect.
Bose therefore has to deliver, because as we all know, the competition never sleeps and they also have some strong selling points when it comes to noise cancellation: The Apple AirPods Pro, the Sony WF-1000XM4 or the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 also do a very good job of cancelling out distracting noise.
Charge case including in-ears, three pairs of silicone ear cushions, three pairs of earbands (also called “ear fins”), plus a 30 cm USB A-to-C charging cable and a thick booklet with safety instructions can be found in the small square box.
Design & wearing comfort
One criticism of the previous model was their design, and in contrast, the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are smaller and lighter. Still, they are not among the most delicate in-ears. Compared to the Apple AirPods Pro, they seem almost bulky because of the wide stems. These in-ears, which weigh about 6.5 grams, have stabilising earbands (fins) in addition to their oval earpieces, which provide additional support in the ears. To ensure that the headphones fit properly and properly seal in the ears, you should take some time to try out the different combinations of EarTips and ear fins and complete the corresponding fit test in Bose’s app. As each ear is different, you may well need different sizes on the left and right.
Once you’ve found the right “grip”, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II fit super securely in your ears: Short sprints, vigorous head shaking or simply working for hours in a home office did not bother the wearer.
Thanks to the IPX4 rating of these earbuds, they can also withstand short rain showers, while the charging case has to make do with a simple IPX1 rating (protection against dripping water).
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II can be controlled via their touch-sensitive exterior. Press once to start/stop media playback, twice to skip forward a track, and three times to skip back a track. A long press switches between ANC and transparency mode or activates a voice assistant. Swipe up or down to increase/decrease the volume – they earn a thumbs up for that!
Thanks to the Bose Music App (iOS, Android), the QuietComfort Earbuds II can be configured and adjusted. Bose follows a similar route to Google with their Pixel Buds Pro and does not allow too many personal adjustments. For example, you can’t disable the touch surfaces to protect yourself from making mistakes when you need to straighten an earbud. Unfortunately, this happened to us frequently.
A simple 3-band equaliser including four pre-sets is available, but without the possibility to save your own pre-sets. In addition, various modes can be created, but in principle, these are nothing more than pre-sets where you define how strongly the ANC or the ambient/transparency function should work. Templates such as “Work”, “Focus”, “Running”, or “Music” can be used as starting points, modified and saved. The in-ears can remember up to four modes and switch through them via touch gesture.
In the app, you will also find a fit test, which carries out “CustomTune measurement” to start with and suggests other ear moulds if necessary. Firmware updates, all kinds of info stuff and help topics complete the app’s range of functions.
According to the manufacturer, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II should last six hours, and we can confirm this from our practical test. The charging case, which for us looks too big, can charge the in-ears three times before it has to be refuelled itself via USB-C cable. Unfortunately, the option to carry out wireless charging via a Qi charging mat is missing, but fast charging is not: 20 minutes in the case provides about two hours of music enjoyment.
There are few surprises here – apart from the current Bluetooth version 5.3, Bose is once again extremely cautious; with SBC and AAC, the QC II, unfortunately, does not support any high-quality or low-latency codecs. Why the manufacturer, who works so closely with Qualcomm, still does not offer aptX codecs is incomprehensible. AAC does not work with the same high quality on all Android devices, and it can also lead to a noticeable delay between picture and sound, and our tests proved this. On an iPhone 8 Plus, a clear offset between picture and sound was noticeable when playing games (Apple Arcade)
Up to seven devices can be stored in the earphones’ device list; multipoint, i.e. the simultaneous connection of two devices, however, is not supported by this Bose model.
Sound-wise, there is (once again) nothing to complain about with Bose’s tuning. Thanks to their CustomTune technology, which automatically adjusts the ANC as well as the sound to the individual characteristics of your own ears, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II sound rich, dynamic and surprisingly agile, without excessive bass hype or demanding highs. Basses are reproduced coherently, with presence, and particularly with loud music, nothing radiates into the mids, leaving room for the mid-range to develop freely. Even treble-heavy material doesn’t throw the QC II off its stride. Fresh, airy, wide and open – without annoying harshness, sibilance or exaggerated sharpness. So, we can keep it short: The QC IIs don’t commit any major blunders in any genre.
Another satisfying feature: Even when ANC or ambient mode are activated, the sound image of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II doesn’t change.
How effective is the noise cancelling of the QuietComfort Earbuds II?
Let’s move on to Bose’s main area of expertise, active noise cancellation. Generally speaking, over-ear models are far more powerful at cancelling out mid and high frequencies due to their cushioning and size. According to the manufacturer, the QC IIs were designed with this broad cancellation in mind. And Bose has really succeeded with this because the noise cancelling is simply great and we have never heard anything like this before from any in-ear model.
In practice, this means that traffic noise is reduced to an inaudible level, voices are greatly eliminated and loud, booming music from the kitchen was reduced to a quiet background noise. Even the ringing of the office telephone was drowned out and the clattering of keyboards disappeared completely under light background music.
As luck would have it, the postman delivered a pair of new Apple AirPods Pro 2 while I was writing these lines. A direct comparison shows that the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II work more effectively and the quiet room is a touch larger.
A small criticism of the Bose Earbuds II: The inherent noise of these Bose in-ears is higher than that of the Apple AirPods Pro 2nd generation. Although this is within limits, if you want to isolate yourself from the rest of the family without music in the home office, you might find the noise too loud. For fans of classical music, this may be a knock-out criterion, because the background noise remains distinctly audible even during quiet or silent passages.
It is not just the noise cancelling that is convincing. The “perceptible mode” – as Bose calls it – sounds just as natural as with the Apple AirPods Pro. However, this Aware mode does not amplify sounds. Thanks to built-in ActiveSense technology, noise cancelling is briefly switched on in the event of sudden loud sound events occurring nearby, in order to protect your hearing. If you don’t want this, you can deactivate the function in the Bose Music App.
Making calls with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Finally, we would rate the quality during phone calls as very good. The caller on the other end of the line confirmed a close, extremely intelligible voice, and this was just as true the other way round. In addition, distracting background noise was neatly suppressed.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are great headphones! Right now, they are the True Wireless in-ears with the best noise cancelling you can buy. And not only do they sound fantastic, but their wearing comfort is also great thanks to stabilising straps which means the headphones can be worn for hours without any discomfort. Nevertheless, there is cause for criticism: They lack multipoint and high-quality, low-latency codecs, so we have to deduct half a star from “function”. The bulky charging case could also have been a little more pocket-friendly, and the background noise could have been lower for our taste.
But you also have to be prepared to part with a hefty 300 euros, and it’s worth taking a look at the competitors’ products. Apple AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 or Soundcore by Anker Liberty 3 Pro are still serious alternatives. For a more comprehensive overview, check out our “Best True Wireless In-Ear Headphones 2022”.
- Effective noise cancelling
- Natural transparency mode
- Wearing comfort
- Missing multipoint
- Lack of high-resolution Bluetooth codecs
- Noise floor possibly too high in some situations
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cable7 g each, case 59 g
- Cable length30 cm
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of ear tips (S, M, L)
- Stabilising strips (3 sizes)
- Stabilising strips (3 sizes)
- Charging case
- Available in black or white/grey (Soapstone)
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC
- BT version: 5.3