With their QuietComfort Earbuds, Bose are seeking to demonstrate that even in the cable-free class, True Wireless in-ears are extremely effective at reducing noise and delivering high-quality sound. We test whether they actually manage it.
Even though miniaturisation advances at a remarkable rate and many of their competitors see “smaller”, “lighter” and “longer lasting” as the ultimate goal for headphones, Bose are clearly bucking the trend with their new QuietComfort Earbuds. They make a statement in favour of more luxurious design: With dimensions of 8.9 cm x 5.1 cm x 3.2 cm, the charging case is anything but pocket-friendly, and with in-ears that measure 3.9 cm x 2.6 cm x 2.7 cm, the first question that arises is how to keep these comparatively huge devices in your ears. Just for comparison: The Jabra Elite 65t are only about half the size of these Bose Earbuds.
Now Bose would not be Bose if they didn’t include their patented StayHear ear inserts with wings, which in the case of the QuietComfort Earbuds have been upgraded and are now called “StayHear Max”. They come in three sizes (S, M and L) and if you find the right inserts, then these initially somewhat frightening giant in-ears really do fit easily, comfortably, firmly and – most importantly – tightly. For effective external noise suppression, this purely physical benefit of the ear inserts should not be underestimated. Especially when the Bose seal is just right, namely that there is no acoustic bridge between the ear and the rest of the body, as is often the case with ear inserts that are too tight.
Which brings us to the waterproofing: Wet weather and sweaty sports are no problem thanks to IPX4 protection class. Initial connection of the headphones is established straight out of the box via Bluetooth 5.1, and there are no problems. Later on, a button on the charging case helps to search for other devices. After the first connection, you will be asked to download the “Bose Music App” (for iOS as well as Android), in which you can adjust the in-ears and a device list can be maintained, this allows you to quickly switch between different players: The QuietComfort do not connect to more than one source at the same time. Or once again in plain language: There is NO Multipoint!
SBC and AAC are supported, which is not an excessively lavish configuration, but also not the end of the world, as the first impression on listening with these headphones is a very good one. A rich sound, which gives the bass a wide range and thus provides a deep and broad foundation, which doesn’t boom or rumble too much. The mid-range reproduces voices and tunes naturally and softly, and in turn provides a good basis for the clear and defined trebles, which assertively and transparently add to the pleasantly warm and clear sound image of the QuietComfort. The QuietComfort have a wide and open sound, which is not affected by rough guitar sounds nor does it get weary of more complex orchestrations. Bose intervene in the action with a so-called “Active EQ” technology, consistently adjusting the bass range so that the overall effect is neither too flat and nor too dull, even at low volumes. Some might call this trickery, maybe even sound distortion. I found it pleasant to retain some bass even with soft music, and overall I liked the fatigue-free tuning. A short voice check to finish off: During telephone calls, the called party was very satisfied with the voice quality via the microphone on the right-hand side.
Operating concept and app
Control via sensor surfaces on the back of the in-ears is somewhat limited: Start/stop/call control can be done on the right by tapping twice. The same gesture on the left side cycles through the three intensity levels of the ANC, which are factory preset to 100%, 50% and 0%, but can be changed in the app and saved as favourites. A tap and hold on the right either calls up the battery level as an announcement or advances a track in the playlist. On the right side, you can call up your digital assistant.
The volume can’t be regulated, just as jumping back a song is not possible – and for me, this was not enough.
In the app you can change some settings for wearer recognition and manage Bluetooth connections. Volume and the degree of noise suppression can also be adjusted here with two sliders.
All this can only be done after registration with Bose, without this the app is not usable. In addition, the in-ears can be renamed; Bose itself suggests you give them names like “Panther” or “Black Heart”. The app gave me the impression that you can do a lot of things and personalise it, but in the end, there are only very limited possibilities. For example, an equalizer was completely missing.
The StayHear ear moulds already play a major role in (passive) isolation. Both that added by the built-in electronics, and by the microphones directed inwards and outwards, is very impressive. First of all, the noise level of the ANC is very low when in operation. The diving bell effect, on the other hand, is decent. In terms of outside noise very little comes through. Conveniently for our test, there was a large construction site in front of the office and large areas were being compacted with a huge vibrating machine. When the ANC was switched from 0 to 50 to 100%, the monstrous noise of the belligerent construction machine, which included some strong vibrations, was turned into a slight rattling of completely ignorable volume. The active noise suppression filtered out quite a lot and a real silence of the kind that is usually only expected from over-ear models was created. Very quiet cinema!
And if you want to get a quick sense of your surroundings, just tap twice on the left and the ANC will be shut down. At 50% the background noise increases gently, at 0% the noise was quite loud.
But there is a catch that comes with Bose’s concept: Either the ANC is 100% activated, including excellent noise reduction, or the ANC is reduced and the transparency mode comes into play. That means: 100% ANC and 0% transparency; 50% ANC and 50% transparency or 0% ANC and 100% transparency. So you end up hearing more and more through the microphones – unfortunately, this is noisy, sounds artificial and is very, very wind sensitive. It’s not possible to switch both off completely and these circumstances take some getting used to; it might have been better to just reduce the ANC without increasing the transparency mode – therefore less diving bell effect AND less noise. Perhaps in the future, Bose could make it possible to switch off all electronic modes completely. In any case, I think this would be desirable.
All the more so as disabling both the ANC and transparent mode helps to save power and would increase the runtime of the in-ears, which is not bad with the six hours you’re already given. The QuietComfort Earbuds can be recharged twice in the large charging case. If the in-ears are completely empty, after 15 minutes of charging you can have music for two more hours. The charging case itself can be charged wirelessly according to the Qi standard or via a USB-C connection.
The QuietComfort Earbuds from Bose are massive True Wireless in-ears, both in terms of their physical dimensions, their sonic characteristics and their really good active noise suppression. Bose doesn’t promise too much, especially with the ANC, and only their over-ear models actually deliver a similarly effective reduction in ambient noise. As far as the concept of a thoroughly effective interplay between ANC and transparency mode is concerned, I was a bit dissatisfied with their wind sensitivity and the artificial sound produced by the microphones. But an on/off switch for these functions would quickly remedy this. I would also be critical of the remote control and App, which both offer too few options.
- Ear couplingIn-Ears
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cableeach 8,5 g
- Cable length30 cm
What's in the box
- Ear tips in S, M, L
- USB-C charging cable
- Charging case
- available in grey, white and blue
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC
- BT version: 5.1