Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones review

The Bose QuietComfort 45 offer simplicity, longevity and great audio

Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones review
Editor's Choice
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Laptop Mag Verdict

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones bring strong ANC, 24 hours of battery life and great audio quality in a familiar design.


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    Comfortable, sturdy design

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    Great audio quality

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    Good ANC

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    Excellent battery life


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    Expensive for non-flagship headphones

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    Missing a few features

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For a long time, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones ruled the roost in the active noise cancelling world. However, all good things come to an end. And as we say sad goodbye to the QC 35 II, we bid a fond hello to the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones. A step below the lauded Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the QC45 are for mobile professionals and music lovers who want the Bose ANC pedigree without all the bells and whistles. However, for what amounts to a lower-than-flagship pair of headphones, the QC45 are a bit on the pricey side. Still, the Bose QuietComfort 45 have earned a spot on our best wireless headphones page for everything they bring to the table. 

Bose QuietComfort 45 pricing and availability

The Bose QuietComfort 45 are currently available for $329. It’s what you’d expect from a pair of Bose headphones as its high-end cousin, the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 headphones, cost $379. The QC45 is slightly cheaper than the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones ($349) and Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition ($399). And compared to the Apple AirPods Max, which are currently on sale for $499 ($549 normally), the QC45 almost seem like a bargain.

Bose QuietComfort 45 design

The QuietComfort 45 aren’t going to win any design awards. No, that prestige goes to the Bose 700. Instead, the QC45 returns us to the reliable plastic design that kept its predecessors firmly in the dad-ware category. Bose tried to convince me that the QC45s were deserving of DILF status, coloring most of the headphones’ body in what they’re calling White Smoke. It’s nice, but it’s not doing it for me. I’d much prefer the Triple Black, but c’est la vie. 

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The headphones’ arms and earcaps are made of matte plastic while the extenders are plastic, reinforced with custom cast metal. The top and bottom of the headband are lined in a supple synthetic leather with squishy strips of memory foam. The band is reinforced with glass-filled nylon to protect against falls while maintaining the shape. Both earcaps bare a semi-sparkly Bose logo on their center. Look in the caps’ interior and you’ll see either a large silver L or R to let you know the proper positioning when placing them on your head. 

The QC45 sports a fair amount of buttons housed on its earcaps. For example, you’ll find the power/pairing button centered towards the top of the right earcap just above the Bose logo. At the bottom, you’ll find the USB Type-C port and a trio of buttons –– two for volume control and one multifunction. The left cap has a 3.5-millimeter audio jack in case you want to go wired and the Action button switches between Quiet and Aware modes (more on that later). The earcups can swivel 90 degrees, allowing them to lay flat against your clavicle when not in use. They also fold upward for easy storage in its hard shell black carrying case. 

Bose QuietComfort 45 comfort

No one can ever say that Bose makes uncomfortable headphones. I wore the QuietComfort 45 for an entire workday with no ill effect. The memory foam wrapped in synthetic leather was plush, sitting comfortably against the sides of my head. The closed circumaural cups surrounded my ears in a ring of comfort. 

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Weighing 8.5 ounces and measuring 7.3 x 3 x 6 inches, the QC45 are lighter than both the AirPods Pro Max (13.6 ounces, 7.4 x 6.6 x 3.3 inches) and the Sony WH-1000XM4 (8.9 ounces, 9.9 x 3 x 7.3 inches). 

Bose QuietComfort 45 setup

Getting the QuietComfort 45 ready to rock is a quick and painless process. Simply slide and hold the button to the pairing position for two seconds. The status light by the lower volume button will start flashing and a voice will instruct you to download the Bose Music app to continue the pairing process. From there, my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra received a pairing request which I approved. You can go through a quick tutorial of the app or hit skip and get to rocking out.

Bose QuietComfort 45 controls

The QuietComfort 45 aren’t as fancy as the 700, relying on old-school buttons instead of touch controls. Nevertheless, the buttons are punchy and responsive. As mentioned, the sliding power button on the right cup also acts as the pairing button. The two volume buttons serve that singular purpose while the central multifunction button performs several functions.

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Play/pause is performed with a single press as is answering a phone call. A double press skips a track forward or mutes/unmutes a call while performing a triple press skips the track backward. Pressing and holding the button cues up the digital assistant and declines a call. The Action button on the left doesn’t have nearly as much to do as it just switches between Quiet and Aware modes. 

Bose QuietComfort 45 app

The free Bose Music app (Android, iOS) offers a clean interface and easy-to-navigate user interface. Upon opening the app, you see a list of all your Bose devices. Selecting the currently connected product takes you to a screen that shows you the battery status, allows you to control the volume, modes, connected devices, play/pause the track and access the tutorial. 

If you hit the Settings icon, you’re taken to another screen where you can give the headphones a nickname, set your favorite mode, enable the auto-off feature, adjust how much of your voice you can hear on a call, enable/disable voice prompts, and change the language. You can access the technical info and a quick path to any common questions you might have about the headphones in case of an issue. 

A few features are sorely missed, namely the ability to adjust the level of active noise cancellation and an equalizer. I don’t know about you, but I like twiddling around with the EQ to listen to my music the way I want. Instead of the traditional EQ, the QC45 use Bose’ proprietary Active EQ. The technology maintains its performance by adjusting the highs and lows depending on the volume. This way, listeners will have the same fidelity whether you’re listening at higher or lower volumes. 

Bose QuietComfort 45 active noise cancellation

Bose is known for its powerful, near vacuum-quality active noise cancellation technology. The QuietComfort 45 live up to the pedigree. Are they as powerful as the more expensive Bose 700? No, but they still do a pretty good job of creating a bubble of peace and quiet. 

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Instead of the 10 levels of ANC the Bose 700 use, the QC45 employ two modes: Quiet and Aware. Quiet mode taps into the six mics and a proprietary chip to cancel out most noises in the mid-range frequency which is where trains, planes, loud offices and cafes tend to reside. Aware mode is basically a transparency mode and allows ambient noise to filter into the soundscape. 

I took the QC45 on a few errands with me. And as soon as I engaged Quiet mode, the world seemed to fade into the background. Without any music playing, I could hear some more intrusive sounds like a passing ambulance siren, but it sounded more like an afterthought than something moving right in front of me. Switching to Aware mode restored the familiar, urgent wail. 

When I took the QC45 back home to do some work, it successfully blocked out the low whirring from my central air system. Without any music on, the headphones muted out my LG TV when the volume was set to 11. It’s respectable, but both the Sony and the Bose 700 blocked out my television with the volume at 17. Comparing the Transparency modes, I preferred the QC45 as I heard one of my favorite guilty pleasure judge shows clearer than I did on the WH-1000XM4.

Bose QuietComfort 45 performance

As advertised, the QuietComfort 45 deliver balanced, clear audio no matter the volume from its 40mm dynamic drivers. I wouldn’t recommend pushing the volume beyond about 60% in the interest of preserving your hearing. 

To kick off my testing, I played Savannah Cristina’s “Self Love” on Tidal at Master quality. The first thing I noticed was the gentle plucking of harp strings that wove itself into the more electronic portions of the track. The vocalist’s alto adlibs that accentuated her airy soprano while the cymbals clashed were nice and sharp. 

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The Sony WH-1000XM4 volume is much greater than the QC45, with the former’s 40% matching the latter’s 60%. The lows on the WH-1000XM4 were thunderous, toeing the line of submerging the rest of the instrumental. The cymbals weren’t as clean, but the vocals and harp were pristine.

My next song was the late Pop Smoke’s “Dior.” The electric violin on this song stuck out the most to me on the QC45. The rapper’s opening line was warm and inviting, almost like he was saying it right in my ear. The low-end was dynamic without becoming overbearing which allowed for a more pronounced high-hat and adlibs. 

But if I have to choose, I prefer the bass on the Sonys on this track. Is it boomy? Yep, but it gives the song an extra boost of dank that just suits the track. The electronic strings, high hats and subtle beats making up the rest of the instrumental still stand out, and Pop Smoke’s gravelly voice dominates the track. 

I closed out my test with the somber “Factory Girl.” On the QC45, I heard a fluttering banjo, accompanied by a mournful fiddle and a powerful set of drums. The artist’s rich vocal was clean enough that I heard the faint pops of her ps and ts. On the WH-1000XM4, the individual plucks of the guitar strings had a warmer timbre and the drum sounded more present in the arrangement. 

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Overall, if you prefer a more precise, balanced listen, you’ll want to go with the QuietComfort 45. If you want a warmer, richer presentation, the WH-1000XM4 is the way to go. 

Bose QuietComfort 45 battery life and Bluetooth

Bose rates the QuietComfort 45 for 24 hours of battery life and I can’t debunk that claim. Out of the box, the headphones were at 60% power and after two full 8-hour workdays, listening to music, conducting meetings and finishing up The Squid Game, I still have 20% remaining. The Bose’s 24-hour estimate puts it ahead of the WH-1000XM4, AirPods Max and Bose 700.

When it’s finally time to recharge the cans, the QC4 has quick charge functionality, allowing the headphones to gain three hours of juice from a 15-minute charge. 

The QC45 are working off of Bluetooth 5.1, which has a range of 30 feet. That was enough to let me leave my Note 20 Ultra on the dining room table while I went downstairs to work out. I also managed to make it outside my building’s door without the music cutting out. 

Bose QuietComfort 45 call quality

Thanks to the myriad of mics, the QuietComfort 45 offer great call quality. I asked the customer service representative on a random Asurion call how I sounded, and she reported that I sounded nice and clear. It was the same on my end for the most part. However, there were a few instances where the call quickly dropped out.

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During my second call to my mother, she reported that at first, the call sounded a bit muffled, but it quickly cleared up on her end. From there, she heard me loud and clear and didn’t hear the television blaring in the background. For me, the sound was clean enough that I could tell my mother was driving. Her voice sounded rich and full and there wasn’t a hint of distortion.

Bottom line

As the world reopens, mobile professionals are getting back on the road and they’re going to need a reliable, easy-breezy pair of headphones that sound great. The Bose QuietComfort 45 are those headphones. For $329, you get a comfy, sturdy pair of cans. They’re not the most stylish, but they bring solid active noise cancelling, great sound quality and excellent battery life to the table. And they do it without making you engage with too many tabs, buttons and dials in the companion app. 

If you’re looking for the best ANC in the business, you’ll want to go with the $379 Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 or the $349 Sony WH-1000XM4. But if you want simplicity, longevity and great audio, the Bose QuietComfort 45 is the way to go. 

Sherri L. Smith
Editor in Chief

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for 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.