Bose shows it’s still the king of all-day noise-canceling comfort with its QuietComfort 45
For nearly 60 years, Bose has delivered audio excellence, driven by a mission to invent new technologies that would truly benefit people and create a culture where innovation and teamwork are valued above all else. The founders of Bose were determined to play for the long haul. It paid off, and in 2012 Bose was the top-selling company in the United States for retail home theater systems and third for portable audio products.
Bose became such a household name — and such an ambitious brand — that it featured in pop culture, like Adam Sandler’s neighbor touting his dad’s stereo is a Bose, in the 2006 movie Click.
Of course, Apple’s entry into portable audio in the form of AirPods has led to a strong push towards smaller headphones and recent research from tradingplatforms.com indicates that Apple has 34.4% of the headphone market. in the USA. Yet that same research shows Bose taking third place with 12.5% of the market, followed by Samsung at 12.2%, leading both JBL and Sony at 11.4% each.
Whichever way you look at it, consumers have benefited the most from the massive increase in sound engineering – but even though technology has advanced across the board, you still want the best value. -price. With the QuietComfort 45, Bose shows that it is still king.
First of all, these are not headphones. While headphones have their place – they’re small and unobtrusive and come in at a lower price than good headphones, they ultimately have an audio experience limited by their size and power, and their inability to fully enclose your ears. Headphones block outside noise more and are less likely to cause hearing damage than headphones because they are placed outside the ear.
The Bose QC45 is aiming hard at fixtures such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bang & Olufsen Beoplay 8i, as well as the Jabra Elite 85h, among others. In iTWiresight and test, Bose has surpassed them all.
To be fair, the Jabra Elite 85h has an attractive aesthetic with copper and black compared to the all-black (or all-white) Bose QC45, but ultimately our experience is that Bose offers superior sound isolation. That’s also the case when compared to the Sony WH-1000XM4 – which is no slouch by any means, but putting on the Bose QC45 for the first time almost transports you to another world. Even without power or without any input, the headphones immediately dampen the outside world. Connecting to a source and listening to music is an experience you have to listen to, to truly savor it. It becomes you and your Bose soundstage with everything else melting away.
Apple Music provides a huge range of spatial audio content, built into the regular Apple Music fare, and the Bose QC45 lets you pinpoint the precise location of performers and their instruments as they dance around your forehead and from your room – waving here, calling there, moving from place to place in a wonderful audio presentation you’ll never experience with stereo sound or less capable headphones.
Bose has equipped the QuietComfort 45 with four microphones, isolating and focusing on your voice during a conversation, and helping with its amazing noise cancellation. A quick press of a button lets you switch between silent and aware modes, the difference being whether you want an idea of what’s going on in your surroundings. With Silent Mode activated, you’re cocooned in plush, plush cushions concentrating on your music or podcasts, or perhaps concentrating on your work with an ambient soundtrack that propels you to greatness.
You can be connected to two devices at once, and sure enough, I was playing music on my laptop when my cell phone started ringing. The first time it happened, I didn’t immediately realize what was happening. I couldn’t hear my phone, of course, because all outside noise was blocked out by the headphones, but my music stopped. For a split second I wondered what was wrong when I heard the ringing in my ears, the headset automatically switching to my mobile. I answered the call by pressing a single button on the headset, wondering if I should tell him I was using a new headset and asking if he could hear me well – but all fears subsided, as my caller naturally engaged in the call, listening and reacting to my responses without any cues, they couldn’t hear me perfectly. I then tested the microphone using a voice recording app and the mic was fine despite there being no visible microphone on the QC45, like a boom microphone on typical gaming headsets.
In fact, I set myself the task of literally using the Bose QuietComfort 45 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. non-stop, to see how it fared. I played music continuously, pausing only to join Teams, Zoom, and similar meetings on my laptop, and to take and make multiple calls on my cell phone. I had started the day with 80% battery – not on purpose, but after charging to 100% the night before I couldn’t bring myself to leave the QC45 alone, using it in the evenings and at night when I had my period from being unable to sleep. So, I started the day at 80% and by noon it was around 60%. After non-stop use, paired to two devices, playing music, taking calls, I was still at 20% at the end of the workday. I had noise cancellation turned on all the time.
Bose says its tests indicate you can expect 24 hours of operation with noise cancellation and continuous audio playback, but at 50% volume, which I certainly wasn’t limiting myself to. As you’d expect, battery life will vary depending on usage and circumstances. I wouldn’t normally wear headphones all day, but I was on a mission. In fact, it was a great experience. I felt energized and focused, yet able to collaborate with others without worries. In the past, when using Bluetooth headphones for calls, I tended to turn them off when not in use, which became a problem when jamming to get them back on when an incoming call came in. So, I switched to wired headphones for calls. Now, with Bose, there’s no need to compromise. You really can have your headphones always ready for calls and confidently use the battery will last all day.
This highlights a difference from Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay H8i. Although this model also provides clear and crisp sound, I never found its voice pickup terribly impressive and everyone I spoke with found me weak and distant. In contrast, the Bose QuietComfort 45 allowed me to work seamlessly with colleagues as if I were in the same room.
Some things could be better; new firmware had been released since my Bose QC45s were manufactured, so the first thing I did was update the firmware. Even though it was 80% pre-charged, I plugged the headset in thinking it would provide stability during the update. Well, as I quickly found out, you can’t update the QC45 or connect to it through the app, while it’s charging. Although unexpected, this is not a deciding factor in the grand scheme of things. Leave it to charge overnight or, if needed, use its quick charge capability to get three hours of playtime in 15 minutes. The other thing that I don’t like so much is the somewhat cheesy, robotic nature of the in-ear voice prompts. The accompanying Bose Music smartphone app lets you change the language but doesn’t provide any subset voice options such as accent or gender.
Nevertheless, these are largely not problems. What I like is the use of physical buttons rather than touch controls. I’m not a big fan of absolute minimalism when it means having to remember exactly where I’m supposed to tap or swipe for something to happen. Fortunately, the QC45 has a Bluetooth switch, volume up and down, and two multi-function buttons. A switch switches from conscious mode to silent mode and vice versa; the other pauses music, answers calls, skips tracks, hangs up the phone, and does other things quite naturally and intuitively.
The app also provides an equalizer feature, allowing you to adjust your bass, midrange, and treble to your preference. The setting is fixed in the headset and remains until you change it again. However, at the moment the app does not allow you to save EQ combinations for later recall, but hopefully this can be added as a simple software change.
Where the QC45 stand out is in the headphones themselves; the richness of detail, instrument separation and soundstage are breathtaking. The noise cancellation is truly next level, beyond the experience of the competition products I’ve used. Comfort is also exceptional with soft, padded, plush ear cups and a flexible headband. You can wear them for hours and hours…and hours and hours without hurting your ear or feeling heavy or rushed.
In addition to the music I regularly enjoy, I put the QC45 through its paces with an eclectic mix of music designed to separate quality sound systems from the ordinary. This includes Sunglasses at Night by Corey Hart, with its bouncy stereo effect, as well as Wilderness by Explosions in the Sky, Symphony No. 1 in D minor by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Stay by The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber for a small spatial effect. Amusing.
Previous Bose headphones have enjoyed a reputation among frequent travelers and others as a commuter’s delight. As other brands and models have come to the fore, Bose has delivered, in the words of Billy Idol, “more, more, more” – more noise cancellation, more comfort, more microphones and voice.
The Bose QC45 are a sensational set of headphones, and ones your ears deserve. It includes a durable carrying case with a 3.5mm jack and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable.
Here is our unboxing:
Here’s the official Bose reveal video: