Bose QuietComfort 45 review: comfortably familiar

Boses Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 were released in 2019. They are a fine pair of premium, noise-canceling headphones. Boses is trying to outdo Sony and other rivals with a sleek, new design and stronger active noise cancellation. For some Bose fans, the headphones are a bit too different from what they have come to expect. They don't offer the same feather-light comfort of the QuietComfort line, can't be folded for easy transport, and it feels like Bose has tried to fix something that wasn't broken.
The new QuietComfort 45 noise cancelling headphones are $329. Bose will be sticking to the same formula as the QuietComfort 35 II and 35 II. This model was essential for coping with the noise of the city or the train commute. You can see them on every flight. Although the QC45s may not be Boses flagship headphones, some people still want them.

Bose QuietComfort45 Verge Score 8.5 of 10 Good Stuff Best in-class comfort

Great active noise cancellation

Transparency mode that works

Battery life is longer Bad Stuff They cannot be used while charging

There is no way to disable ANC without turning on aware mode

Boses app cannot adjust EQ

Audio over USB-C not supported Buy from Bose for $329.00 at Best Buy Buy for $229.00 at Amazon

Bose has decided to abandon the flashy, modern design of the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 with the QC45s and go back to what works. The steel headband was seamlessly integrated into the metal rods, which made it easier to adjust the fit. We are back to the plastic QuietComfort aesthetic, which feels extremely durable thanks to the metal pivot points. The familiar ratcheting sound when the ear cups are extended has also returned.

History also includes the slick touchpad controls on the NCH 700s. Bose has essentially copied and pasted the buttons on the QC35 IIs. On the right earcup, there are dedicated controls for volume as well as a multi-function button that summons a voice assistant and tracks. The button on the left switches between ANC (anonymity) and Boses aware mode (transparency); this feature was missing from the QC35s.

Both the QC45s II and QC 35 IIs look very similar. The USB-C port located at the bottom right earcup is the only thing that differentiates the new headphones from the older models. The Bose logo has been reduced to a simple stamp on the ear cups. It is difficult to distinguish them by looking at the labels. Although the newer headphones are slightly heavier (8.3 ounces as opposed to 8.3), it is not noticeable in my experience.

The QC45s remain true to their predecessors and are incredibly comfortable. They have been comfortable for me for three to five hours with no aching or soreness on my head. Even if you have a large head, the clamping force is gentle so they won't squeeze on your dome. Bose claims it has reduced the gap between components and eliminated some puckers. But, most importantly, these small tweaks have not had any negative effect on comfort.

The QC45s and Noise Cancelling Headphones700 approach noise cancellation in a different way. Bose headphones are more expensive, but they offer precise control over how much ANC is applied. The newer headphones only offer two options: the standard ANC mode is quiet, and the transparent feature pipes in environmental sounds. Bose uses voice prompts that tell you which mode you are in. The quiet option sounds funny like someone is telling your to shut up.

It seems that there is no way to turn off both transparency and noise cancellation. It's impossible to listen to the QC45s with a simpler mode that relies only on passive noise isolation. It seems strange to leave this out. I hope Bose will offer an easy ANC off option.

The QC35 IIs' noise cancellation has improved and is now comparable to the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the Sony WH-1000XM4s, or the Apple AirPods Max. These headphones do an amazing job at quieting the outside world and placing you in a private space with your music, podcasts, or other media.

Boses aware mode is designed to not overwhelm you with sudden noises from outside. According to the company, it was designed to provide a balanced volume so that you can hear your surroundings without affecting your music. Although I understand the intent and the mix works well, it is one area where more control over the ambient sound level would have been helpful. Again, this is something that the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 can provide, but not these. Wind noise can be very annoying and aggravating if you are in aware mode. However, it is much easier to manage when ANC is enabled.

Bose also chose to give up other features such as automatic pausing when the headphones are removed. The company isn't interested in matching Sonys chat to chat feature where headphones temporarily pause audio when they detect you are speaking.

They are unnecessary, but I am more annoyed at other omissions. The QC45s can't be used while they are plugged in or charging. The only way to charge the QC45s is by attaching a USB-C cord. Bose does not support audio over this connection, which is disappointing considering that they cost more than $300. The included 2.5-to-3mm Bose audio jack is still available for wired listening. ANC can be used in wired mode as long as the battery is not dead. Boses ActiveEQ can be used without power, but it won't cancel out noises and produce a worse sound quality.

Bose currently doesn't allow you to customize the EQ on the QuietComfort 45s. However, you can do so on the Noise Cancelling headphones 700. EQ adjustments are possible for these headphones, considering the high price of the QC45s. This feature is too important to be used as a differentiator, especially when the QC45s are so costly. The NCH 700s are distinguished by the adjustable noise cancellation. Bose told me that there are no plans to update firmware or add new features to the QC45s.

The sound is another thing. According to the company, it hasn't changed in any way from the QuietComfort 35 IIs, at least not intentionally. Bose may have made some technical adjustments to the sound, but they still sound very close to what I hear and what I've seen from those who tried them. That's a great result. Bose headphones are remarkably easy to listen to, that's the one constant. The headphones have a more subdued bass than the 1000XM4s from Sony, while the high end is just as relaxed and not too sharp.

These headphones won't fill your ears with stunning detail or a sophisticated soundstage. However, unless you require a lot of bass from the bottom, the audio is very good. Bose supports multipoint for up to two simultaneous connections. The QC45s have Bluetooth 5.1 for increased range and better performance. They stick with the status quo SBC, AAC and LDAC for codecs.

AGREE TO CONTINUE: BOOSE QUIETCOMFORT 45 Before you can use your smart device, you must agree to certain terms and conditions. These are contracts that nobody actually reads. We are unable to review and analyze all of these agreements. We started counting how many times we had to agree to use devices as we reviewed them. These are agreements that most people don't read and can't negotiate. Boses QuietComfort45 headphones can be connected via Bluetooth without having to agree to any terms. The Bose Music app on iOS and Android is required to access certain settings and update firmware. You agree to the following: Bose privacy policies

Bose Music terms of use Bose Music records diagnostic and usage data. However, you have the option to opt out from this via the settings menu. Bose does not require you to create an account in order to use its mobile app. Final numbers: Two mandatory agreements and one optional agreement for data collection.

Bose has made improvements to the microphone's performance, although sound quality is not likely to change. Bose now offers a fourth microphone that improves voice pickup. Bose also claims that a noise-rejecting algorithm removes background sounds to make clearer calls than on the QC35 IIs. Everyone agreed that I was clear and heard every word when talking over Zoom or making phone calls. The battery life of the headphones has been slightly improved, going from 20 to 24 hours. These headphones can be charged in just 2.5 hours. In a pinch of low battery, you will get three hours of listening time with a quick 15-minute top off.

Bose's QuietComfort 45s headphones are Bose at their best. They are not a radical departure and so closely follow the precedents that it is easy to see them as less ambitious than Noise Cancelling headphones 700. Bose has made a strong foundation even more appealing with the enhancements to noise cancelling, a new aware mode and other tweaks. You won't just find a better pair of noise-canceling headphones. I hope that the company will unlock their full potential by releasing firmware updates over the next few months.

Photography by Chris Welch/The Verge