The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones excel with their noise-cancelling and equally impressive transparency mode. In addition to their good sound, they are easy to use, lightweight and very compact – earning our recommendation in the premium market!
- Very good sound
- Very good noise cancelling
- Impressive transparency mode
- Light and compact
- Intuitive operation
- No USB audio
Recently the Bose QuietComfort Headphones only managed to impress us with a few features when compared to their predecessors the Bose QuietComfort 45, so it is solely due to their further optimised noise cancellation and great transparency mode that the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones stand out and put Bose at the top of our lists of the best headphones.
Differences from the Bose Quiet Comfort
The things we criticised in our test of the “normal” Bose QuietComfort Headphones are now being delivered. With the addition of Bluetooth 5.3 and aptX Adaptive Codec, not only are connections now faster and more comfortable, but Bose is also back in the top class in terms of sound. In the current Android environment equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon sound technology, at least aptX Adaptive HiRes audio formats can now be played back as they were meant to be heard.
Thanks to more powerful DSPs, Bose has not only been able to improve noise cancelling, but they have also surprised us with the excellent Aware mode (transparency mode). Bose now offers its own spatial audio format with “Immersive Audio”, which also supports head tracking. At this point, it is “good form” for headphones to adapt to a user’s circumstances, and the new Bose also does this well.
An additional highlight was the completely redesigned housing, including a touch-sensitive strip on the right side of the earpiece, which allows you to change the volume with the touch of a finger.
Wearing comfort of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra
The compact design and clever folding mechanism are appealing, allowing the QC Ultra to be stored in the supplied case to save space. At 250 grams, these earphones are also ultra-light and, thanks to good padding, can be worn for long periods. The ratchet-less size adjustment can also be operated comfortably while they are on your head. In addition to aluminium, imitation leather and plastic materials are used, and everything seems sophisticated and of high quality. The high quality of the carrying case is also a sign of good manufacturing.
Audio connections via Bluetooth and cable – but no USB audio
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones connected very quickly and reliably to my MacBook Pro, my iPhone and a Google Pixel, and two connections can be made in parallel via Multipoint. The mini-jack cable supplied also allows connection with analogue sound sources, although a high impedance in connection with smartphones or computer audio outputs can lead to the volume being too low. On the positive side, noise cancelling, as well as the Aware mode, can be used with the analogue connection.
However, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones can’t make a USB audio connection.
Very good noise cancelling – great Aware mode
Bose’s noise cancelling is always one step ahead of the competition. During our week-long test, the QC Ultra Headphones had to filter out various inner-city sounds. Things like squeaky trams and screeching stone saws from road construction work, but also office chatter, vacuum cleaners and the joyful shouting of children in the playground. The QC Ultra Headphones could comprehensively eliminate or reduce these to a barely perceptible level when you are listening to music at the same time. Compared to the Apple AirPods Max, the Bose ANC is even more effective, and this also applies to the transparency mode.
As with the current QuietComfort – the Bose Music app now offers different modes that can be saved in up to four individual settings. The main focus here is on the Aware mode, which can be adjusted in ten stages. For example, this means that everyday noises can be slightly muffled, which in many cases is useful, right and proper if you’re using the headphones while in traffic.
Bose QuietComfort Ultra and Spatial Audio
The manufacturer offers its own Spatial Audio feature – which can also be found on their new true-wireless top-of-the-line Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. As a result, these Bose headphones’ immersive sound is similar to those with Dolby Atmos, though it doesn’t necessarily require Atmos mixes for you to experience this enhanced audio. In addition, the QuietComfort Ultra Headphones support head tracking; tracking is maintained as you turn your head. If you turn your head to the right, the audio signal moves to the left side on the same axis, which can be very useful for audio dramas or podcasts. I often find immersive audio more enjoyable than pure stereo when listening to spoken content.
The sound of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra
Nearly all headphone brands feature a range of sound-tuning functions that help to deliver the best possible sound from a variety of sources – whether classical, electronic, speech, high-energy rock productions or delicate acoustic music. With its CustomTune technology, Bose have a kind of automatic sound improvement built-in which would explain why the QC Ultra always sounded great in our test. But they sounded even better when you use the full available audio spectrum, but we were unable to test this due to our lack of a Snapdragon-compatible Android smartphone.
However, good sound is also dependent on how the headphones behave when making telephone calls or video/audio calls. We tested the Bose QC Ultra in everyday office use as an audio communication device, and here, the noise cancelling came into its own. The noise cancellation of outgoing signals was impressive, with the voice quality of the user’s own voice coming through with virtually no background noise during mobile phone connections. Video calls using a computer via Zoom or Google Meet were also transmitted with very good audio quality and speech intelligibility.
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra in practice
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones were excellent for use as everyday all-rounders. In addition to their very good sound, they were simply fun to wear thanks to their very good noise cancelling and – there’s no other way to put it – the great Aware mode, coupled with their high wearing comfort. I used these headphones for an entire 8-hour day without taking them off, even if it was just to enjoy a few minutes of silence. The listening capabilities were impressive: the built-in microphone technology made it possible to listen to conversations 1:1 with the headphones on, and the press of a button on the right side of the earpiece enabled me to switch through the Aware mode to highly efficient noise cancelling, or immersive ANC.
I also liked the way I was able to control the volume via the touch-sensitive strip on the right earcup. This saved me from having to reach into my pocket for my mobile phone.
The battery life is stated as being up to 24 hours, and I can largely confirm this, as at the end of my office day, the QC Ultra had 35% energy left.
The Bose Music App helps with set-up, but it is especially good at the convenient management of various devices. The connection worked seamlessly via Google Fast Pair, but it was also smooth in the Apple environment, and switching, e.g. for calls on a mobile phone, happened without a murmur. Unfortunately, there were a few problems when using Android: the app crashed, and this included connection problems, which could only be solved by restarting the app and terminating the Bluetooth connection.
We should not leave the shortcut function unmentioned: there are only two buttons on these headphones: the on/off or pairing button and another one for start/stop/skip commands on the right side of the earpiece. If you use a longer press on these, you can switch between the ANC modes “Quiet”, “Immersive” and “Aware” on the headphones themselves. However, you can trigger four other commands by touching and holding the volume strip.
A wearable sensor stops playback when the headphones are removed or turns them off within five minutes up to a maximum of three hours, depending on how you configure this function in the Bose Music app.
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones are particularly appealing due to their very good noise cancelling and their almost more impressive Aware mode. In this respect, they even push the Apple AirPods Max slightly off their throne. The very good sound was particularly impressive with Snapdragon sound smartphones, but also via AAC codec on Apple devices. A superior Bose performance, where the price seems justified by these qualities.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cable250 g
- Cable length30,5 cm
What's in the box
- Audio cable (3.5 mm to 2.5 mm)
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- Travel case
- Available in black and white
- BT version: 5.3
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
- BT profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP