Although Bose headphones are often much-admired by their owners, they are frequently criticised as offering fairly poor value for money in the sound quality stakes. At £299.99, the QuietComfort 3 compete on price with the Sennheiser HD 650, Denon AH-D2000 and Beyerdynamics DT880.
It's not a direct comparison of course though because these rivals are not noise-cancelling sets, and in some cases are completely unsuitable for use on public/communal transport. Wear the completely open-backed Sennheiser HD 650 on a plane or train and you won't make many friends. However, the high price is hard to ignore. Do they sound every penny of that £299.99?
Not quite. The Bose QuietComfort 3 are warm, bassy and offer a pretty wide sound for what's at heart a closed-back headphone, apart from the bit cut out of the back. It's lush and thoroughly pleasant to listen to. But it's not on the same level as rival £200-300 sets.
The sound isn't muffled, as we heard in the warm 'n' bassy Monster Beats Solo, but it lacks the top-end detail we expect at the price. Bass tones can sound slightly bloated too, without the taut discipline that needs to be part of any high-end bass-heavy headphone.
We absolutely are not saying the Bose QuietComfort 3 sound bad - while they are a little soft-sounding, they're involving and very easy on-the-ear with all kinds of music thanks to the warm signature. But how can we chop off the price tag, in light of the noise cancellation feature, to work out what should be their sonic contemporaries?
The answer is "not enough". We find it very difficult to reconcile the mid-range sound quality with the high-end price, so unless you're a buyer Bose is directly targeting with its inclusion of six power plugs and a neat adaptable airplane adaptor we'd suggest saving some money and buying something else. Within its largely self-imposed niche though, they're very solid performers. If noise isolation just won't do it for your sixth transatlantic flight of the year, the Bose QuietComfort 3 are more comfortable, and sound better, than the Goldring NS1000 or Panaonic RP-HC700E.
The Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones are very comfy and boast excellent noise cancellation, but the middling sound quality doesn't quite match up to the high price. If noise reduction is your main concern, these are the bees' knees (not that you'll be able to hear said bees buzzing). If it's merely a neat addition, your wallet would be better served by opting for a standard on-ear or over-the-ears model.