There’s a great, ongoing trend when it comes to noise-canceling headphones: they’re getting cheaper. Once focused solely on the high end, more and more manufacturers are releasing noise-canceling headphones that are $200 or less. But one major player appears to be sitting out the fight: the historical king and originator of the category, Bose.
Sennheiser and Sony are the two biggest players in the premium noise-canceling headphone market, that are taking this swing. Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless headphones have a list price of $400, and Sony’s WH-1000XM3 cost $350 — though both can be found on the second-hand market for much cheaper. And perhaps to bring those buyers back into the fold, the brand-new Sennheiser HD 450BT and the Sony WH-CH710N both cost $200 and have similar acoustic and noise-canceling qualities of their flagship siblings, but with a larger percentage of plastic than their more luxe cousins.
Meanwhile, if you wanted to buy a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones for less than $200 right now, you’d have to buy a pair of Bose QuietComfort 25, which aren’t wireless and are over five-years-old. Or you’d have to go the refurbished route, but even then you’re still unlikely to find a pair of QuietComfort 35s (Series I or II) that are under $200.
Instead, Bose has turned in a different direction. Last year’s Headphones 700 ($400) mark the first time in the company’s history that Bose’s flagship noise-canceling headphones weren’t in its QuietComfort line. It’s a move that has relegated Bose’s QuietComfort line to a position of “great-but-not-best.” Except those “great-but-not-best” QuietComfort 35 IIs still cost $350.
So far there are no indications that Bose is working on a pair of sub-$200 noise-canceling headphones but with more manufacturers of noise-canceling headphones, Bose has more competition today than ever before. If it were to release a pair of $200 noise-canceling headphones, like Sennheiser and Sony, there’s little doubt the large, legacy brand could throw some serious weight around. But it seems like the giant may be content to leave that ground to its competitors, at least for now.