Bose is synonymous with top-notch noise-cancelling headphones, and the QuietComfort 35 are no exception. The difference lies in the fact that these are Bose's first active noise-cancelling headphones alongside the QuietControl 30 that feature wireless capabilities. Now that more and more smartphones are doing away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, it seems a rather timely move.
Being released from the leash makes the QuietComfort 35 more versatile than ever. With a refined design, clear and balanced sound and impressive battery life, these are some of the best over-ear noise-cancelling headphones you can buy and a great follow-up to the wired QuietComfort 25.
Video: Bose QuietComfort 35 review
There's no great departure from previous Bose headphones when it comes to looks – in fact, barring some minor trim and colour differences, the QuietComfort 35s are almost identical to the wired Bose QuietComfort 25s. These headphones are designed for an understated palette – and I’m more than happy with that.
The outer shell of the ear cups is made of metal, while the frame and headband are of a thick plastic. They're covered in a beautiful faux-leather that manages to stay quite cool, even in muggy weather. There’s good reason for Bose to have put the word "Comfort" in the name of these headphones.
The QuietComfort 35 headphones are available in two colours. There's the classic Bose silvery-grey, of which I'm not a fan – the two-tone trim doesn’t work for me – and the more austere black, which in my opinion is better looking.
All the controls sit on the right ear-cup. A switch turns the headphones on and sets up Bluetooth connections – you can connect up to two devices at the same time, or change between multiple devices using the Bose app. Buttons on the side let you adjust volume and control your phone. The multi-function button that plays or pauses music accepts calls and initiates voice commands, too. Everything is in reach and easily accessible with your right hand.
The QC35s are surprisingly lightweight, weighing just 234g without the wires. By comparison, TrustedReviews’ wired headphones of the year in 2015, the Sennheiser Momentum 2, weigh only a little less at 220g without the cable. The low weight combined with a stiff but comfy fit means I’ve been happily wearing the QuietComfort 35s for hours at a time.
Those who travel will be pleased to discover that the headphones are supplied with a hard case, into which they fold down and fit snugly. The case will easily fit in a bag and comes with an aeroplane adapter and 3.5mm cable for use when the units are out of juice.
Bose has made minor changes to what was already a solid design and managed to create a luxuriously comfortable pair of wireless headphones.
Bose headphones traditionally offer the best active noise cancellation (ANC) around and the QC35s are no exception – the units are brilliant at keeping noise out.
Their close-fitting over-ear design in itself blocks some noise, but with ANC turned on, pretty much all sounds disappear to leave you alone with your thoughts. It’s a little eerie at first, but you soon become used to it – and then learn to appreciate it.
Bose’s noise cancelling works best with low-frequency machine drones. It entirely blocked the engine noise of a ferry, as well as the clatter of trains and general cacophony apparent at train stations during rush hour. This means you can enjoy music in busy environments, even at low volumes.
While the QuietComfort 35 are excellent at low frequencies, the headphones won’t block out all high frequencies. I found this more of a benefit than a problem, as I could continue to hear ambulance sirens while walking around London and train announcements for platform alterations.
One scenario in which the noise cancelling feature struggles is when it's windy. In such circumstances the noise cancelling mics cause a little crackle, but this is an issue with all ANC headphones.
Since the noise cancelling is so aggressive on the Bose QuietComfort 35, you will feel a sensation of pressure on your ears. This is evident with all noise-cancelling headphones, but it can feel a little odd to the uninitiated.
It’s a shame then that there’s no option to turn off noise cancelling when you don’t need it. At home, in the quiet, you still have full-on silence whether you want it or not. I found myself switching to another pair when I needed to keep half an ear on the sleeping baby in the next room.
I’ve never been a huge fan of noise-cancelling headphones because they tend to affect the quality of the sound. As such, I've only ever used my Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 headphones on long-haul flights.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 offer a huge improvement over the Audio-Technica headphones. They have a wide and encompassing soundstage, even though they’re close-backed units, and lack any hiss or white noise that may muddy the sound.
Bose uses a digital equaliser that automatically tweaks the sound on the fly so that one aspect doesn’t overpower at any volume. It works well: the QuietComfort 35 provide smooth and accurate sound, even at low volumes where I’d expect some elements to vanish.
The bass is meaty but remains under control, and doesn’t drown out the detailed mid-range or treble; nor does it go missing at low volume. Any music by the bass-heavy Massive Attack drips in lovely low-end gooeyness.
Audio purists might flinch at the equaliser, but I found the balance it provides works well regardless of whether you're listening to smooth jazz or thumping electronica. If you’re an audiophile then, chances are, ANC and Bluetooth streaming will be enough of a turn off anyway. For most others, the QC35 will be spot on.
In all, the QC35 offer great sound considering they’re streaming over Bluetooth. Still, it’s a shame that they're not compatible with aptX, a codec that allows for higher-quality audio streaming over Bluetooth. Phones such as the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7 take advantage of aptX for higher bit-rate audio.
That said, the QuietComfort 35 come with a 2.5mm jack in the left cup and a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable to attach via wire when needed. You also get a two-pronged aeroplane adapter in there.
The adapter and wire are useful, since some airlines don’t allow Bluetooth to be used during takeoff and landing. It also means you can use the QuietComfort when the battery dies, although the ANC and equaliser won’t work without power.
With both those features off, though, the Bose QuietComfort 35 become a bit more of a handful. Rough edges begin to appear and the mid-range becomes a little peaky. On or off, there are other headphones that provide superior sound quality, but nowhere near the QC35's noise-cancelling prowess. The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless are a good example of this, but cost significantly more.
The QC35 aren't only headphones; they work as a headset too. As a result, you'll be able to pick up a call and talk to your friends (or Siri, if you're an iPhone user) with all the benefit of noise cancelling. I found this a great way to have phone conversations in the hustle and bustle of London. I could hear the person on the other end of the line perfectly – and vice versa. The QuietComfort 35 use their awesome noise cancelling to clear up your voice too, so calls are a clear as a bell.
Bose claims the QuietComfort 35 can survive for 20 hours on a single charge, which I found played out in real life. It isn't bad at all and matches the best rechargeable noise-cancelling headphones out there, such as the Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear on Wireless or the Sony MDR-1000X.
Annoyingly, the QC35 don’t turn off automatically when you stop listening, which meant that they ended up totally out of juice after leaving them on overnight by mistake. Thankfully, the Bose Connect app has auto power-down settings where it's possible to pick a range of times from five minutes to three hours.
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It takes about two hours to fully recharge the built-in battery of the QC35 via a Micro USB port. Some people might prefer headphones that run on AAA batteries, such as the Bose Soundlink headphones, because it’s easy to pop in replacements if the units runs out of juice. I’m not a fan, however, if only because of cost to your pocket and the environment.
Happily, Bose uses a lithium-ion battery and that means it should be good for a number of recharges.
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After a long time using the QC35, I’ve fallen a little in love. I’ve found myself listening to music on the go far more frequently, because I was enjoying it more. I put this down to the awesome noise-cancelling feature, but also to quality of the sound and comfort of the headphones – the QC35 are easy on the ears, in more ways than one.
However, if you want the best noise-cancelling performance in a wireless set of cans then the Sony MDR-1000X manages to pair superb ANC with fantastic sound quality. The Sony headphones also throw in some really smart tech allowing you to hear your surroundings. An adjustable level of ANC is something that was missing from the QuietComfort 35, but is available in Bose's other QuietControl 30 wireless ANC headphones, but not everyone will get on with their collar-style form factor. If, however, you're on a tighter budget, the QuietComfort 35 are the ones to go for as the Sony cans are pricier. They certainly won't disappoint.
Bose may have arrived late to the wireless party, but the QuietComfort 35 headphones combine unequalled noise cancelling, great sound and a 20-hour battery life in a package that’s as quiet as it is comfortable.