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Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: Silence is golden, and pricey

The best ANC available

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II brings comfort, durability, great audio quality and unrivaled ANC, but with a few missing details

Pros

  • +

    Smaller, more comfortable design

  • +

    Amazing active noise cancellation

  • +

    Excellent audio

  • +

    Great battery life

Cons

  • -

    Expensive

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    No Find My functionality

These are the best Bose earbuds ever. Stop. That’s the review. That’s it. Okay, okay. There’s more to it than that, but seriously. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II take everything the company has learned from its last two generations of buds and headphones, refined it down and found the diamond in a rough we didn’t know existed. The buds are smaller, the audio warmer and more powerful and the battery life is longer. 

And the ANC? Chef’s kiss. Combined with the companies proprietary CustomTune technology is some of Bose most powerful to date, drowning out even the most annoying noises, dulling them to negligible whispers. 

There are a few missteps however, namely the lack of Find My functionality in case an earbud goes AWOL and a way to control how much ambient noise enters the soundstage. And the $299 price is sure to be an obstacle for those of us on a budget. But if you can look past those roadblocks, you have some of the most powerful truly wireless earbuds on the market and the latest entrant on our best wireless earbuds page. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II pricing and availability

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are a pair of premium earbuds. As such, they don’t come cheap. At $299, the QC Earbuds II sit at the higher end of the spectrum. The first-gen buds debuted at $279, but are currently available for $199. Meanwhile, the upcoming AirPods Pro 2 have a price point of $249. The Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro and Sony WF-1000XM4 cost $229. 

If the price tag didn’t scare you off, you can get a pair now.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II design

When I popped the QC Earbuds II out of their rather large charging case, I was relieved to see that they were smaller than their predecessors. The newbies weigh 0.2 ounces and measure 1.2 x 0.7 x 0.9 inches compared to the originals (0.3 ounces, 1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches). That’s about the same size as the new AirPods Pro 2 (0.19 ounces, 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches) However, they’re still bigger than most earbuds on the market. For instance, the Galaxy Buds2 measure 0.4 x 0.9 x 0.7 inches and weigh 0.19 ounces. The WF-1000xM4 weigh in at 0.26 ounces.

The QC Earbuds II are available in two colors: Triple Black and Soapstone which is similar to a very light gray. I’m reviewing the Triple Black and as the name suggests, they are very black. The top part of the earbud that sits outside of the ear is made of matte black plastic with Bose prominently stamped in white. 

With the exception of the black silicone ear tip and stability bands, the majority of the QC Earbuds II’s housing is made of glossy black plastic. Three metal charging connectors sit on the back of the arm, While ports for the mics and speakers] reside along the thicker end of the earbuds which have a white L or R stamped on it depending on which bud you’re holding. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review

(Image credit: Future)

If Triple Black or Soapstone aren’t your bag, fear not, Bose is launching other colors down the line. 

I wish the QC Earbuds II’s charging case got a size reduction. It’s one of the biggest cases I’ve seen from this latest generation of truly wireless earbuds. The matte black plastic with the Bose emblem shining along the front measures 1 x 2.3 x 2.6 inches and weighs 2.1 ounces. The Galaxy Buds2 Pro’s case weighs 1.5 ounces and measures 1.98 x 1.96 x 1.1 inches compared to the AirPods Pro (1.9 ounces, 1.2 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches). The WF-1000XM4 case weighs 1.5 ounces. 

The QC Earbuds II have an IPX4 rating, making them sweat and water resistant which will protect them against a particularly sweaty workout or a heavy rainfall. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II comfort

Since writing this review, I've worn the QuietComfort Earbuds II multiple times for over five hours. That covers my commute and several hours in the office before I need to recharge. The entire time was spent in supreme comfort which is saying a lot since my ears tend to be on the smaller side. 

The QC Earbuds II sat snugly against my ears’ conchas. And thanks to the removable silicone stability bands, the fit was secure enough to endure my heavy panting and sweating on my Bowflex elliptical machine. 

Something else to note, I didn’t notice any pressure changes when switching between Quiet (ANC) and Transparency modes. This is big when traveling as you already have to contend with the pressurized environment that an airplane presents. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II controls

The QuietComfort Earbuds II are controlled by a series of taps and swipes. Like other earbuds, one tap controls play/pause, while two taps skips forward and three skips backwards on a track. If a call comes in, a single tap answers the call while a double will reject or end the call. 

Long pressing either bud will trigger a shortcut that can be designated in the app (more on that later). For instance, I set my right earbud to switch between Quiet and Transparency modes and my left to summon my virtual assistance. 

Finally, swiping up on the earbuds will turn the volume up while a downward swipe will turn the audio down. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II app

Similar to other Bose products, the QuietComfort Earbuds II work in tandem with the free Bose Music app available on Android and iOS. The app is the place to go when you want to pick up some pointers on your new purchase, tweak equalizer settings, rename the earbuds and run firmware updates. 

You can also run the ear tip test to find your ideal fit, manage Bluetooth connections as well as switch up your touch controls. 

The app offers a clean and easy-to-navigate interface. However, I’m still left wanting for Find My functionality. There’s a low grade panic that I’ll lose one of these $299 earbuds in one of the many crevices in my house that things like these love to hide in with no way to track it down. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Quiet and Aware modes

Hands down, this is some of the best Active Noise Cancelling technology that I’ve encountered to date. And it’s totally by design. It’s all a part of the company’s proprietary CustomTune technology. It starts with that cheerful chime you hear when you place the earbuds into your ears. The small noise is actually the way the earbuds check out your unique ear shape. As the sound bounces back, it gets picked up by the integrated microphones. 

From there, the noise reduction is calibrated to your ears with a focus on reducing those previously hard-to-handle frequencies –– think of those chatty folks in your office that always stop for their tete-a-tete right by your desk. It also does well with crying babies and other irritating distractions. Even better, the technology is continuously adapting to the noises in your environment, ensuring optimal ANC.  

What that means is that the QuietComfort Earbuds II are scary good at keeping things whisper quiet, borderline silent. Like a “it’s quiet, too quiet” kind of silence. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review

(Image credit: Future)

Wearing them in my house, my central air was immediately muted as was my boyfriend as he was animatedly telling me a story that I heard not one word of. I was expecting some muffled dialogue, but I heard nothing. When I turned on LG TV, the QC Earbuds II blocked out Craig of the Creek with the volume turned on 17, matching the Bose 700 Noise Canceling Headphones. That’s some rare air when it comes to wireless buds. 

I went for a walk and instead of the normal din of my Brooklyn, NY neighborhood, I was greeted with near silence. Sure, some things like sirens got through, but it was a dull whine rather than an ear-piercing shriek. It was surreal. No honking horns, no loud conversations. It was like the earbuds had erected a forcefield of quiet around me. The sounds that remained were so minimal, I didn’t feel a need to turn on the music. 

But if ever you should want to pay attention to the world around you, there’s Aware mode, Bose’s take on Transparency mode. When activated, the embedded mics allow the outside world into the soundscape. I didn’t notice any pressure changes when switching with modes. However, it is a bit jarring to go from near silence to hearing your coworkers chatting around you. 

As cool as aware mode is, I don't need the ambient noise coming in at full blast. You can control exactly how much of the outside world comes into your quiet bubble by creating your own personal modes in the Bose Music app. You can create modes based on use case such as Work or Exercise and adjust the ambient noise levels there. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II audio performance

Sometimes the things that make you great can also hold you back. Such has been the case for many Bose products that trade cold, somewhat distant audio for its powerful ANC. Not this time. The QuietComfort Earbuds II’s powerful 9.3-millimeter transducers ensure a warm, punchy performance with pleasantly deep lows. 

However, the low-end could be a little diffused on some tracks. For those occasions, head over to the EQ in the Bose Music app and hit Bass Reducer. Or, if you want to take a deep dive into those dank lows, engage Bass Boost. And if  you want more (or less) from the highs and mids, there’s buttons for Treble Boost and Reducer, respectively.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review

(Image credit: Future)

I started my testing with Kirk Franklin’s “Just For Me” on Tidal at Master quality. I was immediately impressed with the low end and how it established itself without blowing out the keyboard and synthy electric wind instrument and high-hat. Detail was so clean I could hear the slight twang of the guitar strings while the choir soothed my soul with beautiful harmonies. But imagine my surprise when I listened to the same track on the AirPods Pro and had to turn up the volume to approximately 55% to match Bose’s 50%. And while the song sounded great on the Apple Buds, the bass was as powerful. 

I cued up Chapel Hart’s  “You Can Have Him Jolene” as my next track and was immediately hit with a raucous electric and acoustic guitars with punchy percussion that still made room from the subtle piano and three-part harmony. The AirPods Pro had a more restrained performance, although the piano was easier to hear. However, the cymbals weren’t as dynamic.

Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar closed out my test with “family ties.” My ears welcomed the triumphant horns that soon gave way to a playful flute to a fluttering violin all the while handily supporting the deep bass and the artist’s hot bars. The lows on the AirPods Pro weren’t as pronounced, but otherwise, the audio reproduction was nearly identical.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II battery and Bluetooth

Bose rates the QuietComfort Earbuds II for six hours of battery life. And in case you were wondering, the ANC can’t be disabled so you can’t squeeze out an additional hour. During several days of testing, the earbuds lasted an average time of 5 hours and 49 minutes. It’s a respectable time that keeps the first-gen AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) at bay as well as the Galaxy Buds2 Pro (5 hours). It couldn’t hold a candle to the WF-1000XM4 which has an estimated time of 8 hours. 

The QC Earbuds II’s charging case brings three full charges to the mix, bringing the penultimate battery life to 24 hours. 

The earbuds use Bluetooth 5.3 to connect to wireless devices. The technology is a minor update designed to improve power usage and overall device performance while boosting signal quality. Whether I was out and about in the city or downstairs in my office while my phone was lost in the couch upstairs, the earbuds maintained a steady connection. It’s only when I left my phone during a quick trip to the bodega on the corner that the connection finally severed. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II call quality

It’s almost eerie how good the ANC is on the QC Earbuds II. Each bud has four mics: an exterior and internal mic working on the noise cancellation with the remaining two beamforming mics focused on picking up your voice during calls. I called my brother for a quick test chat. He stated that I sounded amazing, noting that he couldn’t hear anything in the background. I mentioned that was probably because I was sitting in my recliner in the house. But then, I took a walk around the block. 

My brother didn’t hear anyone but me, even though there was a couple yelling across the street from me. Hell, to be honest, I barely heard them. He reported that he heard a faint whooshing and asked if a car just went past me. In actuality, it was the loud, rumbling motor of a New York City bus. 

Bottom line

Silence is golden, but so is great audio. Thankfully, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II don’t make you choose. The audio is bold and dynamic with great detail, easily standing toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters in the space. And while Bose’s active noise cancelling technology should never be slept on, this time the company has really outdone itself using proprietary software that analyzes each ear, tailoring both the audio and the ANC for a unique, yet optimal listening experience. Plus, the earbuds are super comfortable and last nearly six hours on a single charge. 

However, for $299, I want a definitive way to track down my buds in the event one gets lost and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to adjust how much ambient noise is let in when Aware mode is enabled. If you want to save $100 and pick up spatial audio, you should check out the first-gen AirPods Pro (or wait for the upcoming model). But if you want supreme ANC and audio performance with great battery life, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are the way to go. 

Sherri L. Smith
Editor in Chief

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.