The champ is here. Using a mix of technical and audio wizardry, Bose managed to shrink everything I love about the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and put them into a pair of truly wireless earbuds. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279) deliver the same excellent adjustable active noise cancelling technology, simple touch interface and great audio quality as their over-ear brethren. But unlike the 700, the QuietComfortEarbuds offer sweat resistance in case you want to go for a jog.
Yes, they are rather big for a pair of earbuds and have a massive charging case to match. And the 6 hours of battery life might give some music lovers pause. But these are things you’ll overlook when you pop them in your ear and alternate between rich, balanced audio and near silence. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds has more than earned its way onto our Best Wireless Headphones and Best Wireless Earbuds pages.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds pricing and configurations
There’s only one model of the QuietComfort Earbuds available and it’s priced at $279.99 However, the earbuds are available in two colors: Triple Black and Soapstone, which is like a light gray.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds design
Damn, these are some big earbuds! No seriously, measuring 1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches, the 0.3-ounce QuietComfort Earbuds are bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live (0.2 ounces, 1.1 x 0.6 x 0.6 inches) and AirPods Pro (0.2 ounces, 0.8 x 0.8 x 0.7 inches). And the case is absolutely massive, at 2.7 ounces, 3.5 x 2 x 1.3 inches. It simply eclipses the Galaxy Buds (1.5 ounces, 2 x 2 x 1.1 inches) and AirPods Pro’s (1.6 ounces, 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches) cases.
But don’t equate big with ugly. On the contrary, like most Bose products, the QuietComfort Earbuds are modern and sophisticated. The front of the buds are made of a pearlescent white plastic with Bose written in gray. The earbuds rear housing is a glossy white plastic, while the bottom has two rows of vents for microphones. The portion of the earbuds that reside in your ear canal have a pair of black IR sensors to detect when you take the buds out of your ears. And at the very top is the grille. A pair of gold connectors sit towards the back of the earbuds to secure the buds in place when put inside the charging case.
The QC Earbuds are IPX4 rated, which means the buds are sweat-resistant and can withstand a light rain.
The charging case is made of matte light gray plastic with rounded corners. The lid is stamped with a dark gray Bose logo. A button positioned at the center front of the case acts as a clasp that must be pressed to gain access to the interior. Five battery status lights reside just below the button and light up when the case is opened to let you know how much battery life is left.
The bottom interior of the case is made of glossy gray plastic and features a Bluetooth pairing button in between the two indentations for the earbuds. The interior of the lid is made from a soft touch material that I really wish Bose used on the exterior. At the rear of the case you’ll find the USB Type-C charging port.
Bose ships the buds with three additional pairs of silicone eartips and a 12-inch USB Type-C cable for charging.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds comfort
Since the QuietComfort Earbuds are so big, I was a little worried about how they’d fit in my weirdly small ears. And I was right to worry at first. The default StayHear Max silicone eartips that the Bose shipped with put serious pressure on the entrance to my ear canal. But a quick switch to the smallest tips in the box allowed me to comfortably wear the earbuds for two hours.
Like most wireless buds, you secure the QuietComfort Earbuds by rotating them into place in your ear. The StayHear Max eartips tuck comfortably into the fold made by your concha. Not only does the silicone create a nice, tight seal that lends a measure of passive noise isolation to the earbuds, but it also makes for a secure fit with the StayHear Max. I endured 30 minutes on my BowFlex Max Trainer, and even though I was sweating buckets while the trainer pushed me to go harder, the buds stayed firmly in place.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds setup
Pairing the QuietComfort Earbuds to a mobile device is quick and straightforward. Once I opened the charging case’s lid, the buds immediately went into pair mode. From there, I went to the Bluetooth menu on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, selected the buds and voila, I was ready to rock and roll.
In order to use the earbuds with the Bose Music app, you have to pair the earphones a second time. Only this time, you’ll have to hold down the pairing button in the case for several seconds to initiate the process. From there, it takes about 10 seconds for the app to recognize your earbuds, but when it does you’ll gain access to all of the app features.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds controls
With a surface that large, it’s no surprise the Bose earbuds have integrated touch panels. What was surprising is the fact that it’s a tap-based system -- not a swipe to be seen. Most of the controls are located in the right earbud. So a double-tap on the right earbud will play/pause whatever you’re listening to or to answer/end a call. To decline a call, you press and hold the right bud. That functionality is also how you activate your device’s digital assistant.
If you want to skip a track, you touch and hold the left earbud. However, you can also switch it so you can hear the battery level instead. You just have to switch the functionality in the app. The left bud is also where you adjust your noise cancellation levels. A double tap allows you to cycle through your Favorites settings, which are by default set to 10, 5 and 0. This can be adjusted in the app.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds app
Just like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the QuietComfort Earbuds use the free Bose Music app (Android, iOS) as its companion app. When the app is connected to the earbuds, you can check out the battery status, adjust the noise cancellation level, change the earbuds’ name and check out a tutorial, among other things. You can also control whatever you’re listening to and set how much of your own voice you can hear on a phone call.
The app has a clean design and an easy-to-navigate interface. I just wish that Bose had the foresight to add a Find My Earbuds feature like the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, and an equalizer is another nice to have.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling
I don’t know how they did it, but they did it. When Bose said the QuietComfort Earbuds would have the same quality active noise cancelling you get with the 700 headphones, I chuckled. To date, it’s just been a brass ring, but Bose has seemingly made the impossible possible and with half the microphones.
Where the 700 has eight integrated microphones, the QuietComfort Earbuds have only three microphones in each earbud. One mic is dedicated to cancelling out noise while another focuses on picking up your voice during calls or summoning the digital assistant. The third microphone pulls double duty and switches between the two as necessary. In practice, the earbuds are almost as good as their over-ear counterparts. They put an immediate damper on the hustle and bustle of my Brooklyn, NY neighborhood.
With no music playing, I could barely make out what song the car cruising down the street was playing and what was probably meant to be an angry car honk instead sounded like a gentle bleating. It even managed to nearly drown out my boyfriend’s loud phone conversation. When I tested the earbuds inside, they silenced my LG TV with the volume set to 15, which is slightly below what the 700 headphones were able to block out, at 17.
Best of all, the buds did it without any harsh white noise that typically comes from the microphones pumping negative noise to cancel out ambient distractions.
Similar to most truly wireless earbuds on the market, the Bose also features a transparency mode. You can activate by double tapping the left earbud or by removing one of the earbuds. It really comes in handy when you want to be aware of your surroundings and still listen to music. For instance, I jumped on a work call and proceeded to bop my head to Digital Underground’s “Doowutchyalike” at approximately 40% volume while discussing article edits.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds audio quality
Surely you weren’t expecting a Bose audio product to have bad audio quality. If that’s the case, prepare to be disappointed. The QuietComfort Earbuds use Bose’s proprietary drivers and the company’s Active EQ, which electronically tunes the frequency curve to come as close to the 700’s curve as possible. The result is warm, relatively balanced audio with rich bass and a generous soundscape.
At least that’s what I heard when I listened to the Master version of Ari Lennox’s “Chocolate Pomegranate” on Tidal. The pleasantly distorted sound of the Electric Wind Instrument was punctuated by crisp cymbals and deep bass. Lennox’s vocal was sultry and lush, like acoustic velvet. I heard a similar performance on the AirPods Pro, except towards the end of the song when the track is submerged, giving way to a trumpet. I found that details were a little fuzzier on the AirPods than on the QuietComfort Earbuds.
For my next track, I went with the Mastered version of Black Thought’s “Good Morning” and was immediately awash in dank bass and gritty horns. Black Thought and the rest of the guest rappers on the track came through loud and clear, serving up serious bars. The horns and bass on the AirPods Pro was more diffused and almost had a monotone quality against the siren in the background. The vocals from the featured artists were fine, but those instrumentals were a bit of a distraction.
I wrapped up my testing session with “Children’s Song No. 10 (Live in Paris/2018)” by Chick Corea. The piano was playful and lively on the Bose and was so clear I could just make out the hammers hitting the strings and the ever-so-slight reverb. And while the AirPods Pro came close to matching their rivals, some of those finer details I heard on the Bose were lacking.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds battery life and Bluetooth
Bose has given the QuietComfort Earbuds an estimated battery life of 6 hours with Noise Cancellation turned up to the max. I wore the QuietComfort Earbuds while working, jumping on video calls, watching a few movie trailers and, of course, listening to music. I got the low battery indicator after about 5 hours and 49 minutes.
After popping the earbuds into their case for 15 minutes, the quick charge took the buds from 5% to 40%, which is roughly 2 hours worth of battery. The case can deliver 2 additional charges of 6 hours each, bringing the total battery life up to 18 hours. That’s shorter than the AirPods Pro’s 24 hours, but the QuietComfort Earbuds lasts longer out of the case (6 hours vs. 5 hours).
The QuietComfort Earbuds use Bluetooth 5.1, which has an approximate range of 30 feet, allowing me to leave my phone in the living room when I went to the backyard to check on the grill. There was a little sputter in the connection, but it quickly straightened itself out. I could also go downstairs into my office and still listen to music. The connection only cut out once I actually left my apartment building.
If you’ve connected the buds to a variety of devices, you can switch between them using the app.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds call quality
Thanks to those magical microphones, the QuietComfort Earbuds delivers crisp, clean audio quality when on a call. During testing, I sat on three work video calls. My colleagues’ voices came through loud and clear as if I was using my MacBook Pro’s speakers. Some of my coworkers couldn’t tell that I was talking to them through a pair of earbuds, while others could tell immediately and said the experience was better than okay.
I also made some calls as I ran some errands. My mom couldn’t tell that I was on a pair of headphones or even outside until a train passed overhead. And since the earbuds do such a great job of blocking out ambient noise, I never had to strain to hear her voice over the usual New York City din.
Bose thought small and it paid off big. The company managed to gather all of the winning qualities of its flagship headphones, shrink them down and put them in a pair of truly wireless earbuds. All of this without sacrificing the audio quality and gold-standard active noise cancelling we’ve come to expect from the brand.
That stated, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are a truly wireless revelation. For $279, you get a pair of earbuds that are ounce for ounce as good as its headphone version. The noise cancelling is as excellent as the audio quality, and the touch controls are easy to learn. They are huge for wireless earbuds, rivalling the Microsoft Surface Earbuds, and the battery life could be better (particularly the charging case). But for those searching for Bose-quality sound and ANC in a tiny package, you can’t beat the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.