Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review

Can Bose push itself back to the top of the noise cancellation heap?

Verdict

At £350, the Bose NC 700 headphones are more expensive than their immediate rivals and don't best them in terms of performance, either. However, audio quality is still very good, as is noise cancellation, plus they look great and feel comfortable on the head. They're good – sometimes, great – but not the best around.

Pros

  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Very good noise cancellation
  • Easy to use app
  • Great looks

Cons

  • Not particularly portable
  • Lean audio character
  • 20 hours battery life is a bit low

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £349.95 
  • Bose AR
  • 20 hour battery life
  • Bluetooth 5
  • Built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
  • Weight: 250g

What are the Bose Headphones 700?

The Bose Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones – or Bose Headphones 700, for short – are the American brand’s answer to the Sony WH-1000XM3 and B&W’s PX,. They boast Alexa and Google Assistant support, adjustable noise cancellation and, intriguingly, functionality for alternate reality (AR) apps.

“Hell is other people, and nobody shuts them up more effectively than Bose.”

That line opened our Bose QuietComfort 35 II review, and while it was true then, Bose’s rivals have since launched efforts that have surpassed the capabilities of the QC 35 II.

Bose’s response hasn’t been to bring out the QC 35 III, but a brand-new pair of headphones instead. The Bose Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones sit above the QC 35 II as Bose’s premium noise-cancelling headphones of choice.

But not only do consumers now have far more choice at this premium price point, the quality on offer rises too. So do the Bose Headphones 700 have what it takes to make Bose king of noise-cancellation once again? Let’s find out.

Related: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 to go on sale in June

Bose Headphones 700

Bose Headphones 700 design – A beautifully sculpted pair of headphones

The QuietComfort 35 II looked… rudimentary. The same can’t be said for the Bose NC 700 Headphones.

The Bose Headphones 700 look positively space age compared to the QC 35 II. They sport a sleek, minimalist look, the focal point of which is a seamless stainless-steel bar that encompasses the headband.

The headband can be adjusted, sliding up or down for best fit, although the mechanism highlights one design issue. As a result of the way it integrates with the ear cup, the Bose Headphones 700 can’t be folded inwards, swivelling flat at the ear cups instead.

Bose Headphones 700

Is that a big miss? More often than not, I hang my headphones around my neck when they’re not in use – but this may vary from person to person. Drop the Headphones 700 into a rucksack and they can be easily marked, but this is the reason they come with a hard case.

The Bose Headphones 700 are one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones to wear. At 250g, they don’t merely sit on your head – they float; such is the cushy comfort of the ear pads. This makes them an ideal partner for long-distance travel.

Available in two finishes – silver and black – I’m rather partial to the silver model, which is the more striking of the two.

Related: Best headphones

Bose Headphones 700 features — Everything you’d expect from a noise-canceller, with the promise of Bose AR too

Located on the right ear cup are touch capacitive controls. Double-tap on the ear cup’s right-hand side for playback; swipe up or down to control volume, and swipe left or right for skipping tracks. The placement of the headband makes it slightly awkward, but it’s nonetheless intuitive, smooth and responsive.

There are three physical buttons: two on the right ear cup and one on the left. On the right ear cup, a single press of the top button turns the headphones on, while a long press ushers in Bluetooth pairing.

Bose Headphones 700

The button beneath activates your voice assistant of choice, with the Bose Headphones 700 optimised for Alexa and Google Assistant. If you’re an Apple user then it will be Siri, obviously.

The button on the left ear cup modulates noise cancellation levels. Default noise cancellation is Full (10), press the button and you can cycle through to the next level (5), before another press turns it off completely.

Related: Best wireless headphones

You can adjust noise cancellation settings further in the Bose Music app, which is fairly clean, concise and straightforward to use. And it’s here that you’ll be able to gauge battery life, connect to new sources, control playback, fiddle with voice assistants and update the headphones’ firmware. Despite issues noted regarding connectivity to the app, I haven’t encountered any problems with it.

You can also view compatible Bose AR apps that add, quite literally, a different dimension to you fitness regimes, entertainment and journeys, with Bose saying there are further updates in the pipeline.

Bose Headphones 700

Battery life still isn’t in the ballpark we’d expect from a premium pair of cans at only 20 hours, but a 15-minute charge provides 3.5 hours of extra battery. If the battery is completely dead then it will take 2.5 hours to get back up to full strength.

Bluetooth has been bumped up from the QC 35 II’s 4.1 to Bluetooth 5, which also allows for two (Bluetooth 5) devices to be connected to the headphones at the same time. Surprisingly, there’s no sign of the high-quality aptX Bluetooth with AAC but SBC codecs are covered.

Related: What is Bluetooth 5?

Bose Headphones 700 performance – Smooth and reliable, but audio performance isn’t as free-flowing as other efforts

B&W and Sony have pipped Bose in the audio stakes, with Sony taking the lead in noise cancellation; this leaves Bose lagging behind. Suffice to say, the Headphones 700 do a fine job in both areas, but they’re not a match for the aforementioned headphones.

But that’s no bad thing when it comes to noise cancellation, which remains very good. In office environments it’s enough to dampen the general office hubbub and voices, although not sufficient to exorcise them completely. Drop down the noise cancellation levels – or just take the headphones off – and you’ll never fail to be surprised at just how much noise they block out.

For daily commutes on the tube the Bose Headphones 700 do fairly well to stem the tide of the raucous underground. There’s still the sense that Sony’s WH-1000XM3 – our go-to noise cancelling headphones – beat them, but the NC 700 HP aren’t far behind.

Related: Best noise cancelling headphones

Bose Headphones 700

Wireless performance is resolutely solid, with the only issue being brief interference in busy areas affecting the connection strength. This has happened only in packed train stations such as Waterloo and Canary Wharf, and is something that afflicts most wireless headphones.

The audio signature remains fairly close to the QC 35 II. A play of Major Lazer’s Pon the Floor and the Bose Headphones 700 are a bit reserved, the snare drums feeling a bit harsh when compared to the playback in the Sonys. The same can be said about the bass, which feels a touch neutered. Nevertheless, it still comes across as satisfying.

Vocals are also held a bit further back in the sound mix, as a play of Paul McCartney and Wings’ Live and Let Die demonstrates. But treble frequencies do feel like they reach out a more than displayed by the Sony headphones, although separation between the mid-range and treble isn’t as finessed with a tiny bit of detail lost.

Bose Headphones 700

Where the gap between the Bose and the Sony becomes apparent is in how they deal with busy tracks. A cacophonous track such as Threshold from the Scott Pilgrim vs the World album and the Sony’s better bass performance and smoother sound stands out. The Bose’s tendency to push the treble makes it sound harsh, lean and more chaotic, producing a less enjoyable sound.

But, for the most part, the Bose Headphones 700 are smooth, clear performers. Dynamics are decent but not quite as far-reaching, and timing is solid with very little, if anything, standing out as being tardy. The soundstage is fairly wide and spacious for a closed-back pair of headphones, and with the opening 30 seconds of Kendrick Lamar’s These Walls, the Bose’s stereo imaging proves to be the pinpoint in creating an immersive soundscape.

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Should I buy the Bose Headphones 700?

At £350, the Bose Headphones 700 are expensive, more so than any of their main rivals – save for B&O’s Beoplay H9 . They offer plenty of features, from integrated Alexa and Google Assistant to excellent build and comfort, as well as fine audio quality and noise cancellation. Battery life isn’t as generous as immediate rivals, but 20 hours is enough for a few days’ use and the app is simple to operate.

However, the Bose Headphones 700 still don’t manage to edge out the Sony WH-1000XM3, either in terms of noise cancellation or audio. You can find the Sony’s being discounted for less than £300, and even though they’re a year older than the Bose, they haven’t lost any of their potency.

If you’re after a stylish-looking and comfortable pair of headphones with very good noise cancellation, fine audio and useful features, the Bose Headphones 700 are worth considering. But they’re not the best noise-cancellers on the market.

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