Bose is the best-known name in noise cancelling headphones, bar none. Step onto a train anywhere in Greater London on a weekday morning and you’re like to see a pair of them, probably aboard the bonce of a suited gentleman. But do the QuietComfort 15 deserve their popularity, and are they really worth almost £250?
In audio snob circles, brands like Bose rarely get much of a break. Spending a fair old whack on marketing and the technology that goes into their class-leading noise cancellation tech, many say the sound quality doesn't match up to the hefty price. More on our view later, but where the QuietComfort can stand up to any rival is comfort.
So carefully-managed is the light pressure the leather pads apply on your head that we could almost believe Bose spent millions in R&D working just on this element. It's not firm enough to make running with the QuietComfort 15 a good idea, but they do all-but disappear on your head - while taking on the extra weight of an AAA battery, to power the noise cancellation feature.
It provides all this comfort without anything too ostentatious-looking too. The ear pads are around an inch thick, as is the headband padding, but manage to feel softer than almost any other we've tried. Next to Sennheiser's commuter staple HD-series on-ear headphones, they feel sumptuous.
As the QuietComfort name implies, to us at least, these headphones are much more about comfort than a cool look, though. Their conservative silver and black design has long been associated with a middle-class, middle-age demongraphic. And while that's as much down to Bose's marketing as their actual look, they offer little of the stylistic elegance of the similarly popular Monster Beats range.
The headband sticks a little too far out from the side of your head, and the seams across the back of the cups don't seem to have been cared by for an aesthetic pedant - as all seams should be.
From a more technical perspective, though, the QC 15 design is excellent. The single AAA battery that powers the noise cancellation is kept under a plastic flap on top of the right cup, hidden by the headband while you're wearing them, and the cable is removable. It uses a proprietary cable system, predictably enough, but builds-in a high/low gain switch in to boost output when using a lower-output media player. However, these headphones aren't hugely difficult to drive - an iPod Classic fares just fine on the lower setting.
The cups swivel 90 degrees for easier storage
Although not beautiful, something we'd argue the QuietComfort 15 have in common with most of Bose's products, they are nevertheless brilliantly-designed, with more concessions to practicality and comfort than we'd usually expect.
The accessory package is also good. There's a high-quality protective carry case, an airline adaptor and a secondary cable. One of the cables features a microphone/remote housing, the other doesn't.
There is one thing we don't like, though. Inside the case is a business card holder jammed full of business cards to give admiring onlookers, telling them where to find out more about your amazing headphones - because apparently all QuietComfort 15 owners are that smug.
Unlike the £20-more-expensive QuietComfort 3, Bose's top on-ears headphones, there are no rechargeable batteries included. As the QuietComfort 15 run off a standard AAA battery, there's no need for the EU/US/SA power adapters and spare battery of that model. Whether you prefer a proprietary lithium ion solution or the universal style here is a point of preference, but it's something to consider. Never one to dump scores of products on its fans, Bose is yet to produce a li-on powered over-ears model.