Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you won’t find on the average About page.
Bose is one of the most popular audio companies in the world; it makes a little bit of everything, from portable speakers to sleep and hearing aids, home theaters systems to professional installations like for concert venues. And then, of course, there are its headphones.
The company is well known for bringing noise-canceling headphones to the general public — the QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones were released in 2000 — and since then, it’s only continued to churn out industry-leading noise-canceling headphones. Its most recent iteration, the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, might just be the best noise-canceling headphones, ever.
While noise-canceling headphones are what it’s best known for, Bose makes plenty of other high-quality headphones and earbuds for people who don’t want or need noise cancellation, which degrades audio quality and costs a premium. From true wireless AirPod competitors to old-school wired earbuds, to just cheaper wireless over-ear cans, Bose makes a headphone for every style and, more importantly, for every budget.
Below, you’ll find a list of every consumer-facing headphone that Bose currently makes (we skipped out on the aviation headphones because, well, we’re not pilots). Each headphone has a brief description, where you can find out how old it is and what it’s good for, as well as a short suggestion as to who should buy it.
The Headphones 700 are the best wireless over-ear headphones that Bose makes. They combine best-in-class noise-cancellation with great audio quality. Other than the design overhaul, the biggest difference from the company's QuietComfort 45 and QuietComfort 35 II is that the Headphones 700 have a significantly upgraded microphone array. This allows the headphones to have a wonderful transparency mode (or ambient listening mode), and makes maybe the best headphones you can buy for call clarity.
Who Should Buy? Anybody that wants Bose's best noise-canceling headphones. Also, if they talk on the phone while wearing headphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 are the company's newest noise-canceling headphones and they're a mid-range between its flagship Headphones 700 and the QuietComfort 35 II. They share a very similar design to the QuietComfort 35 II, but boast improved noise-cancellation and sound quality, as well as add a transparency mode and USB-C charging.
Who Should Buy? If you want to get great noise-canceling headphones for work and travel, and don't want to spend quite as much on the Headphones 700.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the predecessor to the new QuietComfort 45, and they share a mostly similar design — making them still some of the most comfortable noise-canceling headphones you can buy. But they don't sound as quite as good, nor do they have the same noise-canceling skills. They also charge with an older micro-USB charging port. That said, Bose is end-of-lifing these headphones so you could get a killer deal on them.
Who Should Buy? If you want to get a good deal on some older (but still great) noise-canceling headphones.
Released in 2015, the SoundLink Around-Ear II are Bose’s wireless over-ear headphones that don’t have active noise cancellation. They’re lighter and slightly more travel-friendly than a lot of the company’s other offerings, and they could sound quality at the forefront. At the time, the big selling point for the SoundLink Around-Ear II was their sound quality — Bose claimed that they sounded as good as wired headphones, which admittedly doesn’t hold up in 2019 (streaming and Bluetooth have gotten too good).
Who Should Buy? If you're looking for affordable (yet older) wireless headphones without active noise-cancellation.
Released in late 2020, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are the company's first (and only) wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation, yet they have a familiar fit as they still have the StayHear eartips that Bose's earbuds have become known for. The noise-canceling and transparency modes are also extremely customizable, just like with Bose Headphones 700. The only downside is that they're substantially more expensive than closest rivals, the AirPods Pro.
Who Should Buy? Anybody who wants some of the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds with Bose's signature sound.
The Bose Sport Earbuds were released in late 2020 at the same time the company announced its flagship QuietComfort Earbuds. They are smaller and sleeker versions of Bose's previous SoundSport Free earbuds (and significantly smaller than the QuietComfort Earbuds) so they're more comfortable and secure for workouts. Each earbud has up to five hours of battery life, with a charging case that provides up to 10 extra hours, and they are available in three different colors (black, blue or white).
Who Should Buy? Anybody who wants some of the best wireless earbuds for running and working out.
Released in early 2021, the Sport Open Earbuds are wireless earbuds that have an open-ear design. This means they don't sit deep in your ears (and therefore don't cover them up), which allows you (the wearer) to hear your surroundings as you run or bike. They have an earwing design that wraps around your ear for added security while you move, similar to the Powerbeats Pro, and they're actually Bose's first earbuds that don't have their trademarked StayHear silicone tips. Aside from design, they are actually very similar to the Bose Sport Earbuds.
Who Should Buy? Runners or bikers who want wireless earbuds that let them hear their surroundings.
The SoundSport Wireless are wireless sport earbuds that are very similar to the SoundSport Free. Instead of being true wireless earbuds, however, the two SoundSport Wireless earbuds are tethered together by cable. Aside from that, the two wireless earbuds have similar audio performance and use the same Bose Connect app. The SoundSport Wireless will last longer on a single charge (as opposed to the SoundSport Free which recharge every time they go back in their case).
Who Should Buy? These are good wireless earbuds, but they’re several years old so unless you really don’t want true wireless earbuds, I’d make sure that the SoundSport Wireless are on sale before buying them.
The Bose Frames are non-polarized sunglasses with special speakers built into each arm. The idea is that they look (and function) like regular sunglasses, but act as Bluetooth headphones, as well. Since there’s no earbud that actually goes into your ears, the speakers have been engineered to shoot audio down into your ears; the neat thing is that the Bose Frames do a very good job at masking your audio so that the people around you can’t really hear what you’re listening to. They are available in four different frame styles (these are the Alto).
Who Should Buy? Anybody looking for the best audio glasses that you can buy.