Best Bose Headphones 2021 | Android Central
Bose is known not only for comfortable headphones, but for excellent sound quality, so getting a pair of the best Bose headphones might be worth the investment. Bose’s Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are the company’s most innovative option to date. They feature 11 different steps of active noise cancelation, great battery life with up to 20 hours on a single charge, USB-C charging, and solid sound quality.
Best Overall: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 aren’t the newest headphones the company has to offer, but they’re still, by far, the most innovative.
The headlining feature here are the NCH 700s’ active noise-cancelation (ANC) capabilities. The outgoing Bose QC35 II had solid ANC but were clearly showing their age. However, the NCH 700 now feature some of the best ANC available on the market today. With new ANC algorithms, they’re able to block out nearly all bass/low-end noise and a decent amount of midrange and treble. They also feature 11 steps of ANC, allowing you to choose how much (or how little) ANC you want or need.
In terms of comfort, Bose is still the best in the business. The ear cups on the NCH 700 are super soft and extend deep with no issues in regards to fatigue or pain from the ear cups or the headband. Soundwise, Bose has refined the QC35 IIs’ already great sound signature. They feature an overall balanced sound signature throughout, reducing the boosted treble issue with the QC35 II.
The NCH 700 features USB-C for charging and up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge. You’re also able to charge and listen at the same time. The NCH 700 are fast charging capable, giving you two hours of listening time with a 10-minute charge.
The only real downside with the NCH 700 is that they don’t fold up in any way, making them slightly annoying to stow away in your bag while traveling.
- Sold, balanced sound
- USB-C charging with fast charging
- Excellent comfort
- 11 steps of ANC
- Can’t be folded for compact storing
- Soundstage is mediocre
Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
Bose’s Noise Canceling Headphones 700 feature excellent comfort and sound, great battery life, and a customizable ANC mode.
Best Value: Bose SoundSport Wireless
If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, look no further than the Bose SoundSport Wireless.
Overall, the sound quality is good. There’s a small boost in the bass and a more substantial boost in the treble, giving them a “bright” sound signature. This means that hi-hats from drums, horns, and some female vocals will sound louder than the rest of the sound. Still, the SoundSport Wireless sound excellent for their form factor.
Comfort is excellent as well. You get several ear tip sizes in the box to help with sizing and fit. Similar to other buds in the SoundSport line, the wings and ear tips are a single piece, adding extra stability when you have them in your ear.
Battery life is pretty decent with the SoundSport Wireless with up to six hours of usage on a single charge. Not quite a full workday’s worth of listening, but they make up for it with up to an hour of listening time when you plug them in for 15 minutes. A full charge will take roughly two hours and the SoundSport Wireless charges over the older Micro-USB connector.
- Solid sound with boosted treble
- Fast charging capable
- Excellent comfort
- Comes with several ear tip sizes
- Great price
- Micro-USB for charging
- Treble boost can be fatiguing for some
Bose SoundSport Wireless
Great all around
The Bose SoundSport Wireless offer solid sound, fast charging, and extremely great comfort.
Best True Wireless Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central
Sony’s WF-1000XM3 were the best true wireless earbuds when it came to active noise cancelation for a while, but Bose has answered with its own salvo in the QuietComfort Earbuds. Their performance in that regard is a cut above the WF-1000XM3, which is why they can be considered an elite choice.
Bose stuck to a neutral sound profile, so the bass won’t be heavily pronounced, but the mids and highs still come through warm and detailed. Unfortunately, the company still hasn’t included an equalizer in its app to customize the sound, which makes little sense for a pair of earbuds in this range.
To squeeze in all the tech inside, Bose made these earbuds bigger, so comfort will be relative. It’s not so much that they won’t fit comfortably, but more that their very size means they’ll stick out more. The same goes for the case, which is considerably bigger than most other true wireless earbuds.
Battery life is decent, where you’ll get about five hours when ANC is on. There’s an additional 18 hours with the charging case. Like most ANC headphones, the QC Earbuds also have an ambient sound mode that lets in background noise to make it easier to hear your surroundings and talk to people without removing the earbuds.
- Superb sound quality
- Outstanding ANC performance
- Solid ambient mode
- Comfortable fit
- Wireless charging case
- Earbuds are big compared to competition
- Case is big
- App needs an EQ
Best True Wireless
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose made its earbuds bigger, yet make up for it by delivering effective sound and ANC performance.
Best Sport: Bose Sport Earbuds
True wireless earbuds are still relatively new on the market and don’t always land in terms of sound quality. Bose has been down this road before, particularly with making activity-focused earbuds, but the Sports Earbuds cut out all cords and stick to the basics as much as possible.
When it comes to fit and comfort, there are real similarities here to Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds. Both were clearly designed using similar metrics and engineering specs, only their respective objectives are different. Bose includes wings and ear tips with the Sport Earbuds to help keep them in your ear, and their weight can slightly pull on the wings depending on how snug they sit in your ear. This could potentially cause issues for folks where the wing tips don’t sit snug.
The Sports Earbuds also retain a fair bit of the same soundstage, right down to the subtler bass response. Unlike other sporty earbuds out there, Bose tuned these to offer more balance, which is why the bass doesn’t give audio a deep feel with everything you listen to. The brighter treble pushes up a bit as well, though not to the point of inviting sibilance to at the highest notes.
With no ANC onboard, battery life is ultimately average at about five hours per charge. The included charging case nets you an additional 19 hours of battery life, allowing up to 24 hours of total listening time. A 15-minute fast charge through USB-C will net you up to two hours of playback, but to fully charge them from empty to full, you’re looking at two hours altogether.
- Great sound quality
- Smaller size
- Different color options
- Comfortable fit
- Moderate IPX4 rating
- No noise cancelation
- No wireless charging case
- App needs an EQ
Bose Sport Earbuds
The Bose Sport Earbuds are solid true wireless earbuds with great sound, mobility, comfort, and pretty good battery life.
Best Over-Ear: Bose QC35 II
Source: Android Central
The Bose QC35 II are easily the best over-ear headphone Bose makes aside from the just-released Noise Canceling Headphones 700. They’re a few years old, but they still hold their own.
Let’s start with sound quality. The QC35 II are relatively balanced in their bass and midrange response, however, the treble region is boosted quite a bit, providing an overall bright sound signature that can often be sharp and piercing. The QC35 can be fatiguing for some thanks to the treble boost.
They feature decent battery life with up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge. If your battery dies, you can simply plug them in using the included Micro-USB cable for charging. You won’t be interrupted in doing so as the QC35 II can simultaneously play audio and charge at the same regardless if it’s over Bluetooth or analog wired connection.
By far the biggest selling point for the QC35 II is comfort. The QC35 II are easily the most comfortable over-ear headphone created within the past five years. They’re designed for long-term use and fold up super quickly when you need to stow them away. The ear cups and headband are super soft and the clamping force isn’t too strong, allowing them to simply rest on your head and ears.
The active noise cancelation (ANC) on the QC35 II is really good given how old they are. The QC35 II are a few years old now and have a tough time competing against more modern competition. Don’t get me wrong, the ANC is still solid on the QC35 II and most people will be content with them. Just know that there are better options out there.
- Good, treble forward sound
- Excellent comfort
- Great battery life
- ANC is still great in most cases
- Fold up for portability
Bose QC35 II
Over-ear lovers dream
The QC35 II are solid over-ear headphones that also provide excellent sound quality, comfort, and solid battery life.
Best Wearable: Bose Frames
Every now and then a headphone company will do something new and unique. In some cases, it’s a total flop, but in other cases, it can turn out to be really useful. Enter the Bose Frames, a pair of sunglasses that also pump audio to your ears.
Comfort depends on how well the sunglasses fit over your ears. The Frames don’t actually have a bud of any sort and rely on little speakers that live on the stem to project audio to your ears. Yes, the audio quality isn’t going to blow your mind, and yes audio leakage will be apparent, but they are great for those who struggle with traditional earbuds. If you have no issues wearing glasses, the Bose Frames will be as comfortable as any other pair of glasses.
In terms of sound quality, the Frames are good for what they are. The bass is pretty mediocre due to their design, with basically no bass at all. The midrange is balanced and the treble is recessed quite a bit. This means that the Frames are best for those who take a ton of phone calls or listen to a podcast.
Battery life is as expected for a relatively new product line, coming in at around 3.5 hours of usage on a single charge. It could be better but there’s only so much you can stuff into the frame of the glasses before they become too heavy. Unsurprisingly, the Frames use a proprietary magnetic charging connector instead of something like Micro-USB or USB-C as those connectors would add too much depth to the Frames. This also means that if Bose decides to ax the Frames, you’re SOL if your charging cable stops working.
- Great sound for phone calls and podcasts
- Great comfort
- Super discreet design
- Battery life is poor
- Audio is still only OK
- Proprietary charging connector
The Bose Frames are designed to hide the fact that you may be listening to audio if that’s what you want.
Best Wired Buds: Bose QuietComfort 20
These wired earbuds have been out for years now, but Bose keeps making them. They may seem out of place with how ubiquitous wireless earbuds are these days — not to mention headphone jacks are disappearing on mobile devices — but they’ve been sticking around for a few reasons. If you prefer a wired pair so you don’t have to worry about charging, or still have a phone with a headphone jack, these may be worth putting in your ears.
They do still sound good despite Bose having generally improved audio quality on its headphones in the last several years. The soundstage is pretty neutral, with the bass partially dependent on how tight a seal you can manage to get for your ears. The mids and treble are nicely balanced as well.
Much of the sound is also contingent on the very obvious battery pack that houses the ANC. It adds some weight and heft to everything, especially when dealing with a dangling cable, but at least you have the option to block outside noise. You can still listen to tunes with it turned off, but when you do have it on, it can work for up to 16 hours per charge. While you do get a nice case to keep these earbuds handy, the downside is you’ll have to charge the battery through Micro-USB.
You also won’t get any sort of adapter for USB-C in case your phone has no 3.5mm jack. Moreover, pay close attention to the version you’re looking at because the QC20 earbuds also come in an Apple-focused variant.
- Good sound quality
- Standard media controls
- Good comfort
- Standard 3.5mm cable
- Solid ANC battery life
- ANC battery pack adds weight
- Micro-USB charging
Best Wired Buds
Bose QuietComfort 20
The Bose SoundSport In-Ear feature great wired audio with awesome media controls and comfort despite lacking bass.
Most Unique: Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Source: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central
In an attempt to make a sporty set of earbuds with a unique design, Bose chose to make the Sport Open Earbuds something very different. These aren’t your typical earbuds in that they don’t actually make any contact with your inner ear or ear canal. They simply hook over the ear and rest the speaker reasonably close to the canal to pump sound in. The reason for all this is to let ambient sound in while the music plays while avoiding any potential discomfort by plugging your ears.
It’s an acquired design for an acquired taste, and that’s how you might see other aspects of them, too. Sound quality is surprisingly good for how they fit, except you sacrifice a fair amount of bass to get there. If you’re into genres that rely on good bass response, you may want to think about it before going for these earbuds. There is no flexibility in the ear hooks, so however they fit is what you have to accept.
The open concept lets you hear your surroundings at all times, which is why there’s no ambient mode. Nor is there ANC support, so you can’t do much to block out outside noise, either. Physical button controls simplify how to play/pause or skip and repeat tracks. The Bose Music app offers some support, except there’s no equalizer to adjust sound or make any other customizations.
Battery life is okay, with Bose rating it up to eight hours per charge, though you can expect less when using them in noisier environments where you have to raise the volume. Unfortunately, Bose also separated the case from the charger, so you can use the case to transport them, but need to keep the charger handy to get extra juice when you need it.
- Good sound quality
- Natural ambient listening
- Physical button controls
- Decent water and sweat resistance
- Decent battery life
- Separate charger from case
- Lacking in bass response
- No flexibility in fit or comfort
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Keep your ears open
Bose took a different approach with the Sport Open, and you will either really like it, or not dig it at all.
Our top pick, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, are among the best wireless headphones out there, let alone Bose headphones, and for good reason. They offer the best comfort out there, whether you’re taking an 18-hour flight or a 30-minute commute to work.
The NCH 700 also features some of the best ANC performance on the market, now offering up to 11 different levels of ANC. This means you can block out everything around you, or just enough to block out nearby chatter but still be able to hear oncoming traffic. The sound quality is excellent as well with a relatively balanced tone.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Peter Cao spends most of his days listening and analyzing music through headphones or speakers. Off the clock, he can typically be found listening to even more music, playing video games, or playing basketball.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.
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