Bose took a long time — maybe too long — to release its first pair of wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation. But the Bose QuietComfort (QC) Earbuds are finally here. And at $280, they are definitely on the more expensive side. They also come at a time when Apple, Sony, Sennheiser and a host of other audio companies have had their own noise-canceling wireless earbuds out in the wild for a while. So why get the Bose QC Earbuds when you can get other noise-canceling wireless earbuds for significantly less? Well, the noise-cancellation of course.
I've been testing the Bose QC Earbuds for the past few weeks, and while there are other wireless earbuds with excellent noise-canceling abilities, most notably Apple AirPods and the Sony WF-1000XM3, Bose just simply does it better. The Bose QC Earbuds have the most powerful active noise-canceling abilities of any wireless earbuds that I've tested. Better yet, the noise-canceling is very customizable and easy to control.
The Bose QC Earbuds are compatible with the same companion app as the Bose Headphones 700, and the two pretty much have the same noise-canceling features. There are 11 levels of noise-cancellation — 10 being the most powerful and zero being the lowest, which is actually full transparency mode — and you choose three favorite noise-cancel levels as presets; you can then quickly switch between those three presets by double-tapping on the left earbud. Better yet, you can have the noise-cancellation be turned fully-on (at level 10) without any music playing, which is something that a lot of other noise-canceling wireless earbuds don't natively allow.
The QC Earbuds use similar StayHear silicone eartips that Bose has used with all its previous in-ear headphones, like the Bose QuietComfort 20, and past wireless earbuds, like the Bose SoundSport Free. There are two advantages to this. First, it means that if you've used Bose's earbuds in the past, you know that the new QC Earbuds will fit in your ears, too. And secondly, the design of the StayHear eartips does a good job at passively blocking out ambient sounds. The combination of great active and passive noise-canceling just really makes these the best noise-canceling earbuds out there.
On top of all that, the Bose QC Earbuds are just really good sounding wireless earbuds. Part of this has to do with size of the drivers — they're big, which is also why the earbuds look so big in your ears — and the fact that the QC Earbuds get louder than most wireless earbuds I've tested. Unlike the company's over-ear Headphones 700, there's no in-app way of customizing or adjusting EQ settings on the QC Earbuds. But Bose has integrated something it calls Active EQ that boosts low and high frequencies when you're playing the QC Earbuds at lower volumes. This helps them deliver a great sound dynamic and not just when you're blasting them.
Another thing that I love about the Bose QC Earbuds is that there's also very little learning curve with them. You basically use the Bose Music app once to set them up and customize your noise-cancellation presets, but then you really don't have to use it ever again. There are a few on-earbud controls, but Bose really kept them at a minimum. You can tap the earbuds to play/pause, summon your voice assistant or skip a song, but there's no on-earbud swiping to adjust volume — you have to do that on your smartphone.
If we're in the business of nitpicking, there are a few things that I wish Bose did differently with the QC Earbuds. They can only pair via Bluetooth to one device at a time, unlike Apple's AirPods Pro. Multi-connection is a super convenient feature if you want to watch videos on your laptop and also your smartphone without having to take out your earbuds or opening Bluetooth settings. The charging case is borderline huge and not really conducive to slipping in your pocket. (Although the charging case supports USB-C and wireless charging, which is nice.) And they don't support Dolby Atmos, which is a big feature (along with spatial audio) that Apple gave its AirPods Pro via the latest iOS 14 update.
And even though they have IPX4 water-resistance rating (same as AirPods Pro), I wouldn't recommend exercising with them because they're rather large earbuds; if you're looking for workout earbuds and want Bose's signature sound, go for its new Bose Sport Earbuds, which lack active noise-canceling but are smaller, lighter earbuds — and at $180, they're significantly cheaper too.