When you think of noise-canceling headphones, you think of Bose. The company’s QuietComfort line includes the highest-reviewed over-ear and in-ear noise-canceling headphones. The latest model, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, adds built-in Google Assistant to the mix, meaning you can control music, send and receive text messages and get answers to your queries without whipping out your phone.
The Good: The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are the best active noise-canceling headphones that Bose, the industry leader in active noise-canceling headphones, has ever made.
Who They’re For: If you travel a lot on planes, trains and buses, these headphones excel at tuning out the outside world.
Watch Out For: At $350, the QC35 II headphones are pretty expensive. The addition of Google Assistant isn’t a game changer, yet.
Alternatives: If you don’t care about having Google Assistant integrated into your headphones, you can buy last year’s QC35 ($330) and save $20. And if you don’t care about going wireless, you can pick up Bose’s original QC25 ($279) on Amazon. The Sony 1000XM2 are probably the best new alternative, however. They sound just as good as the Bose QC35 II — maybe better — and offer a similar level of noise cancellation at the same $350 price. Bose’s QC35 II headphones remain lighter, more collapsible, and more comfortable, so I’d recommend those for people who travel frequently.
Review: The QC35 II isn’t a revolutionary pair — let’s make that clear — because it’s basically identical to the QC35 II. The headphones have the same sound quality and the same active noise-canceling skills. They look and feel pretty identical to the previous pair, too, save for the dedicated button on the QC35 II’s left ear cup to access Google Assistant. The primary difference is that you can ask the QC35 II to read your last text, call a friend or set a timer.
Do you need a virtual assistant integrated into your headphones? Most people would probably say no. Headphones have been able to access virtual assistants like Siri and Google Assistant for some time, after all, but how often do you use them? The thing to note is that the QC35 IIs are the first headphones with Google Assistant actually built into the headphones (Google’s Pixel Buds are now the second), meaning that you can press the action button and give it commands, like “What time is my flight?” or “How do you say ‘chicken’ in Italian?” and it’ll probably answer you pretty damn quick; no lag time, no hit-or-miss response rate.
When you initiate the active noise-canceling on other headphones, it often gives you feeling of being dunked underwater or having you ears pop — these really don’t do that.
If you have an iPhone and haven’t downloaded Google Assistant, you won’t be able to get the full functionality of the Bose 35 II. Using the Bose Connect app, you set the button to adjust the noise cancellation levels instead (high, low, off). In my testing, this worked without any sort of issue — so if you’re an Apple user who’s only in it for the noise cancellation, you’re in luck.
Now onto the actual headphones, which are nothing short of fantastic. I’ve spent the last few months using Apple AirPods as my commute headphones and V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless ($330) headphones as my work and Xbox Live pair (I have a mic accessory). I had forgotten how lightweight and comfortable Bose’s flagship headphones were. The ear cups on the QC35 II fit around my ear perfectly; after hours listening to them I had virtually zero ear fatigue.
I found its noise-canceling performance was also second to none. When you initiate the active noise canceling on other headphones, you often get a feeling of being dunked underwater or having your ears pop; these really don’t do that. I couldn’t hear the headphones working. I couldn’t really hear anything when the noise cancellation was on its highest setting — and that’s the point.
The QC35 II doesn’t mess with a formula that has a track record of success. If there’s anything to complain about, I’d argue it’s that the design is outdated. Like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which look identical to their predecessors, Bose’s new headphones aren’t different enough to be seductive. Also, one of my colleagues described them as “looking like dad headphones.” So, there’s that.
The addition of Google Assistant is neat and somewhat useful, but I found myself whipping out my phone to adjust volume and change Spotify tracks anyway, perhaps out of habit. The real reason to get these headphones is comfort, sound quality and not having hear the flight attendant tell your neighbor to “buckle up.” Also, if $350 is too rich for your blood, you can find the regular QC35 for $330 on Bose’s website or on Amazon.
Verdict: For years, Bose’s QC25 headphones were considered by many to be the best noise-canceling headphones you could buy. Then Bose released the QC35 in 2016, a wireless version of the brand’s original QC25 with a slimmer design and even better noise cancellation; a new king was crowned. Now, with the introduction of the new QC35 II, Bose has a new best pair of active noise-canceling headphones. However, there’s most competition for the crown; for more
What Others Are Saying:
• “Honestly, it’s pretty hard to explain exactly how useful these Google Assistant features are without experiencing them yourself, and I think that’s one place Google is faltering here.” — Ben Schoon, 9to5Google
• “On the QC35 II you can set the Assistant to read out certain notifications, tell you who’s calling, and more. Voice beats screens for finding music, certainly, and pressing a button and saying “Call Anna” takes a lot less time than getting out my phone, initiating the call, and putting it away since I’m going to talk through my headphones anyway.” — David Pearce, Wired
• “It’s definitely worth the extra cash — the $349.95 price is the same as the original’s when it was released, and it still offers everything that model does. But some readers won’t find the Google Assistant inclusion terribly compelling.” — Tim Gideon, PCMag
Form: over ear
Battery: 20 hours
Colors: black or silver
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Battery Life: up to 20 hours
Recharge Time: 2.25 hours
Ports: microUSB (charge), aux