The Bose QuietComfort 25 are active noise-cancellation headphones. Not only are they superb at eliminating the low-register noise that is the bedrock of any city soundscape, but they also cut out the frequencies that tend to trample all over your music, often resulting in you having to turn up the volume to compete.
Active noise-cancellation headphones are a Bose staple, with the company responsible for some of the very best pairs in this class. With the QuietComfort 25, Bose offers up a new design, one sporting a more youthful edge than the older QuietComfort 15.
Sound quality is much the same as ever: very good, but not quite at the level of the best non-cancelling headphones at the price. So the question is: do you want headphones that will lower your blood pressure, or ones that will really dig deep into your favourite tunes?
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Until the launch of Bose's latest range, most of the company's headphones were grey – and not exactly the height of style. However, this was in keeping with the staple Bose audience of slightly older, fairly well-off buyers.
Now that it seems just about everyone is willing to spend a few hundred pounds on headphones, that's changed. The Bose QuietComfort 25 is the result.
While the design isn't radically different from what went before, the grey plastic has been swapped for cooler-looking silvery-black, and the headphone’s curves are far more sleek than the classic Bose sets. It’s a definite improvement, if a surface-level one.
We tested the black version of the headphones, which feature some blue accents on inner parts, but there’s a white/silver version with tan splashes available too, which doesn't stray too far from Bose's past models.
What hasn’t changed is comfort.
The Bose QuietComfort 25's squidgy pads and low weight make for a pair of headphones we'd be happy to wear for hours at a time. Bose seems to have increased the headband tension a little to offer a more secure fit to your head. It’s good news for runners and those who want to use these headphones in the gym.
Another minor change is the actual design of the headband, which flattens out at the top. The inner padding is made from Alcantara – a synthetic form of suede that’s both hard-wearing and comfortable – rather than synthetic leather. It’s used by Sennheiser in some of its high-end sets such as the Sennheiser HD 800, and we like it.
There’s been an upscaling of the materials used throughout, in fact. Where the outer parts of the cups were plastic in the QuietComfort 15, the Bose QuietComfort 25 feature metal-topped cups. They’re the most luxurious-feeling Bose headphones to date.
The only issue is that when you fold them up – the cups fold inwards for portability – the cups can scrape against each other, which could damage the metal finish.
Bose has dumped the semi-proprietary cable system it used in the old QuiteComfort 15. Where its sets used to have a plastic moulding that slotted into the earcup, the QuietComfort 25 use a much plainer 2.5mm cable that should prove easier to replace should you accidentally dip it in a toaster while browning up a crumpet.
The supplied cable has a three-button remote, and there are versions for both iPhones and Android handsets. It’s particularly useful to see an Android-compatible remote that isn’t just a single-button version, and we found it works perfectly well with the Motorola Moto G3.
So far with the Bose QuietComfort 25 the company has made surface-level changes and improvements that won't affect its more mature brand image. And Bose doesn’t seem to have messed with its noise cancellation either.
Bose headphones offer some of the best active noise cancellation among headphones. You turn the feature on and off using a switch on the right cup: there’s been no attempt to hide the switch as is common in Sony headphones.
This makes the Bose QuietComfort 25 supremely easy to use – although you do need to remember to switch them off; there’s no auto-off function here.
During testing we left them rolling overnight on at least one occasion, although the excellent battery life means this won’t necessarily kill them. You’ll get up to 35 hours of from a battery.
And yes, we do mean a battery – not a charge. The Bose QuietComfort 25 use a single, non-rechargeable AAA battery, which slides into a slot located on the top of the right cup. If you want to use rechargeable batteries, you'll need a separate charger.
Unlike the QuietComfort 15, though, the QuietComfort 25 still output sound when ANC (active noise cancellation) is turned off. It’s flatter-sounding, but we’d rather that than have them die mid-way through a 20-hour flight.
These are some of the very best headphones for frequent fliers too, because the ANC is extremely effective at zapping low-frequency hums. It’ll turn the roar of passing cars into Jetsons-like whooshes, and eradicate the noise of crowds entirely.
This make it much easier to listen to your music in noisy environments at low volumes. At times we even used them without music, just to tone down the noise of a coffee shop, to make concentrating on work easier.
There are some hurdles to overcome with the QuietComfort 25, however. The noise cancellation is good because it’s aggressive, but this also means it increases the pressure in your ear; ANC works by introducing extra soundwaves that cancel out those of the ambient noise.
This can feel odd, and some of you may be sufficiently put off by the sensation of increased air pressure to not want to use the QuietComfort 25. With time, though, it is possible that you'll get used to it.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 also aren't particularly good at eliminating much higher-frequency noise, such as conversations between those with much higher voices. A good IEM earphone is actually better at getting rid of these frequencies.
Of course, in certain situations this is handy: being able to listen to announcements on the train or plane, for example. For dealing with public transport such as the London Underground, the QuietComfort 25 comfortably outperform any passive isolation headphones.
Noise cancellation is the main reason to buy the Bose QuietComfort 25. However, their sound is pleasant too.
The soundstage is wide and well defined, offering a satisfying "big" sound for a closed-back headphone. Bass is powerful, but doesn't muddy up the sound. They have good treble clarity too, giving a good impression of detail.
It’s a sound style that matches the relaxation of both the comfortable hardware design and cancellation: there’s a focus on scooped treble/bass here, but neither is so pronounced to become scene stealing or testing for the ears. We’d be happy to listen to the Bose QuietComfort 25s all day.
However, they don't offer the sound quality of the best non-ANC pairs in this price class. We pitched the Bose QuietComfort 25 up against the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 and Denon AH-M400 and found that both offer substantially better mid-range detail and texture. These headphones offer a more rich and involving sound, with greater dynamics that make close listening more rewarding.
We’re not damning the QuietComfort 25 sound here. Just note that noise cancellation doesn’t come for free, and that a good proportion of the price goes towards implementing that technology.
If you want the very best sound you can get for £270, then the Bose QuietComfort 25 probably aren't for you. While they sound good, the appeal of these headphones is absolutely tied to their excellent active noise cancellation.
They take a lot of the stress out of busy, noisy environments and stop you from having to turn up your music to compete. While some models may be slightly better at delivering music in quiet rooms, there are few better that the QuietComfort 25 for doing so in loud ones.
The one stumbling block is the AKG N60, a pair of active noise-cancelling headphones we recently reviewed and loved. They’re slightly cheaper and well worth checking out if you're not too concerned that they leak sound more than the Bose QuietComfort 25.
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The Bose QuietComfort 25 are great noise-cancelling headphones for taking the stress out of the city.